Carolyn Lyden – Search Engine Land https://searchengineland.com News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Wed, 01 Sep 2021 18:47:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8 How to write ad copy that actually converts (and 3 major mistakes to avoid) https://searchengineland.com/how-to-write-ad-copy-that-actually-converts-and-3-major-mistakes-to-avoid-374189 Wed, 01 Sep 2021 18:27:46 +0000 https://searchengineland.com/?p=374189 When testing copy, make it worth testing. Use power words or emotional calls-to-action to really analyze what messaging has a stronger appeal and why.

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When it comes to creating ads that convert searchers into customers, many advertisers dive in to structure, testing, and more, and gloss over one of the most important elements of any campaign: copy. Your ad copy is the very basic building block of your advertising. Getting it right can be the difference between a milquetoast conversion rate and driving huge value for your clients and stakeholders.

In her session at SMX Convert, Alyssa Altman did a deep dive into writing ad copy that actually converts including understanding search engines, funnels, intent and more. Check out our recap of her popular session below:

The evolution of search engines

“Google, Microsoft, and other search engines have reversed engineered their search algorithms over time (and re-engineered them) to make sure that they are giving someone the best answer to their ‘question’ as humanly possible,” started Altman. Many pieces of information that used to exist solely on websites are being pulled directly into the search engine results (things like weather, mortgage rates, math problem answers, etc.). That means there’s a lot of competition for clicks in SERPs as a result.

The key to effective ad copy, said Altman, is to understand what your PPC copy is answering in the first place:

Questions to ask yourself about any given topic include the following: “Is someone looking for general company information? Are they doing company comparisons? Are they doing some window shopping?” said Altman. For micro-moments, “people are telling us exactly what they want, so our copy should match that request.” And, of course, some people are just ready to convert, so the ad’s copy should reflect that intent.

This is all easier said than done, right? This is why she focuses on how marketing funnels actually work and figuring out how to align intent.

The reality of funnels and intent

Ad copy that converts starts with narrowing down the funnel, instructed Altman. The traditional notion of the marketing funnel assumes the user does a search to gain awareness of solutions to a problem. From there they consider a company/solution, and then they convert.

But most paid search marketers know it’s not that simple. The conversion process is not as linear for most customers, especially given how cross-channel marketing works. “Our searches don’t actually connote what we are looking for,” said Altman. “There’s this assumption that Google or Microsoft knows what we’re thinking before we think it… but someone could type in a company name and they could be thinking two completely different things.” One person could be looking for a website while another might be looking for a contact form, for example. 

The key to remember is that there are awareness and consideration searches that happen throughout the funnel. Plus, conversion searches might happen on queries that we may not normally consider “bottom-of-the-funnel” type of searches.

”When we’re looking at the reality [of the funnel] it presents the case as to why testing needs to happen or we need to take a deep dive into why a search is happening. Not every search is created equal!” shared Altman in her session. You can have two searchers using the exact same query with completely different intent. That’s where writing PPC copy gets tricky. To determine what people actually mean when they search for something, advertisers have to test.

Testing in action

How to test ambiguous intent. When you’re not sure if your searcher is ready to purchase or just looking, you can test ad copy in a single campaign with dual ad groups and matching keyword terms. Altman also recommends using the same audience for this test. “Starting with a question or a concern that someone may have has the potential to convert at a higher rate,” recommended Altman.

The measure of which ad is doing best for this intent test is click-through rate and conversion rate. “If you’re running this test and noticing that you’re getting more downloads than form submissions than you can estimate that this query might be in the form of more general research,” she instructs. “If you’re getting way more form submissions in this split test, you can shift your messaging to be more primarily geared toward sales.”

How to test obvious intent. When you can tell that the intent is obvious, you can hone in even more and change one variable in an ad. “This testing works well when a user is explicitly telling you what that want to do. ‘I want to purchase this vehicle near me,’” said Altman. The test setup is the same except you’re doing ad variation testing within Google Ads with a 50% split. 

This can give us information about a potential customer. In this example, our lead forms can tell us, “if they’re trying to haggle another deal or they don’t understand a pricing” which we can then use as data to inform our copy, said Altman. “Understanding the content of a submission or a lead is just as important as writing the copy itself.”

Copy mistakes to avoid

If you’ve done your research, created tests to determine intent and then narrow down the messaging when you do know the intent — there still may be some hiccups in your ad copy. Here’s how to avoid them:

Mistake 1: Forgetting the power of your headlines

Your headlines are prime real estate! Use them for unique identifiers, not duplicate information. For example, this ad from a university duplicates the URL in the headline. This is a waste of potential ad copy that could catch a searcher’s eye or convince them to click through on your ad versus a competitor.

Mistake 2: Obvious keyword stuffing

It can be tempting to repeat your main keyword(s) multiple times in your headlines, descriptions and extensions. Altman recommends only doing this if it makes sense in the context of the ad. Quality Score takes your keywords into account as a diagnostic tool for recommendations for improvement. Its three main components are: 

  1. Expected CTR
  2. Ad Relevance
  3. Landing Page Experience

A headline like this doesn’t make sense for this query and likely won’t lead to a conversion — just a wasted click.

Mistake 3: Inconsistency from search > ad > landing page

Ensure that not only the search term is included in your ad and landing page content, but it addresses the larger picture. If you’re paying for a search term, make sure your process is setup for success. In Altman’s example below, we can see that when people search for “primary care doctor near me” a relevant headline is key, but so is a customized landing page experience. 

Taking this searcher to a page that highlights services related to that query will be more likely to lead to a conversion than just taking them to the home page and letting them figure it out on their own.

Next steps

Altman recommended ​​understanding what you are specifically testing before looking to set up an experiment. Testing intent vs. the winning messaging are two very different paths to go down. Clearly identifying what your end goal is will help to drive your upfront testing strategy. 

When testing copy, make it worth testing. Use power words like “free, special offer, now available, in stock, etc.” or emotional calls-to-action such as “explore with us, speak to a person, etc.” to really analyze what messaging has a stronger appeal and why.

Finally, Altman said that advertisers should make sure they have enough data to run a proper test when it comes to copy. Timeframes for testing mean nothing if an activity doesn’t occur during that predetermined frame. For example, if a 50% split test is occurring, aim for 100-200 clicks before starting to analyze your data.

Want to see the full session? Check out all of SMX Convert here on demand.

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Google to sunset Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) in June 2022 https://searchengineland.com/google-to-sunset-expanded-text-ads-etas-in-june-2022-374153 Tue, 31 Aug 2021 18:05:50 +0000 https://searchengineland.com/?p=374153 This is the latest move that Google is making to push automation through their ad products.

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Beginning in July 2022, advertisers will no longer be able to create new ETAs or edit existing ETAs in Google Ads according to an announcement by Sylvanus Bent, Product Manager, Google Ads . “Your existing expanded text ads will continue to serve alongside responsive search ads, and you’ll still see reports on their performance going forward. Additionally, you’ll be able to pause and resume your expanded text ads or remove them if needed. You’ll also still be able to create and edit call ads and Dynamic Search Ads,” said Bent.

We’re continuing to expand this story as we learn more.

Use ETA info for RSAs in the transition. “To prepare for this change, we recommend that you have at least one responsive search ad in every ad group in your Search campaigns by June 30, 2022,” Bent suggested. Google’s announcement also includes ways advertisers can repurpose their ETA content for RSAs. Recommendations include the following:

  • Repurpose high-performing content from your expanded text ads and focus on Ad strength
  • Pin headlines or descriptions to specific positions in your responsive search ads
  • Evaluate the success of your ads based on incremental impressions, clicks, and conversions your ad groups and campaigns receive

Though take that last recommendation with a grain of salt. “If you’re in an industry where your ad must contain certain pieces of text in very specific locations, pin away! But if it’s not required, we found that attempting to control the machine by telling it what text to pin to certain ad positions was usually detrimental to results,” wrote Frederick Vallaeys, Cofounder of Optmyzr, for Search Engine Land.

The warning of the sunset is now on the ETA help documentation page as well.

This “stinks for anyone in highly regulated fields. Would be nice if the RSA data was usable or scientific instead of a generic ‘Best’ or ‘Good’ & knowing combos that work together would help,” wrote Gregg Finn, Partner & Digital Marketer at Cypress North, in a tweet.

“Don’t love this, but as long as they don’t take away the option to pin headlines/descriptions in RSAs we can at least approximate the control we have had with ETAs,” added Tim Jensen, PPC Campaign Manager at Clix Marketing.

Why we care. This is the latest move that Google is making to push automation through their ad products. The announcement says that, “15% of search queries every day are new searches we’ve never seen before” and therefore “Automation is key to keeping pace with these trends.” Many advertisers do use RSAs, but they also like having the control and capabilities that ETAs offer. The future phase-out of ETAs means advertisers are moving further away from direct control over their accounts and having to work with the Google Ads machine learning and AI.

Before the sunset is complete, we recommend testing your ETA ad pieces in RSAs and figure out what works best so you’re not cut off completely from new ad creation when Google Ads stops allowing new ETAs. “If you’re evaluating RSAs on incrementality, their conversion rates might be lower than ETAs but the efficiency of those conversions might be better — lower cost per conversion, higher margin and/or lifetime value — and come from impressions your ETAs weren’t eligible for. But measuring this is far from straightforward because the reporting on RSAs is limited and there’s no way to easily tie a query to an ad much less an RSA combination,” wrote Ginny Marvin for Search Engine Land around this same time last year.

Read more:

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Cleaning house: how Google and Yelp handle fake reviews; Tuesday’s daily brief https://searchengineland.com/cleaning-house-how-google-and-yelp-handle-fake-reviews-tuesdays-daily-brief-374106 Tue, 31 Aug 2021 14:00:00 +0000 https://searchengineland.com/?p=374106 Plus, four tools to check for your title changes in SERPs

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.


Good morning, Marketers, and how do you use cross-organizational data?

Sharing data between SEO and PPC has probably been one of the easier silos for search marketers to break. It’s pretty simple to go check how your paid search advertising is going and use that data to improve your SEO (check out how Lily Ray did it here). And PPC experts can do the same of SEO data.

But one thing I rarely hear search marketers talk about is data-sharing across the organization. Once a company I worked with told me about how they used their call recordings to improve their SEO and PPC. Not only were they adding in the FAQs to their site that came in over calls, but they figured out where their “leak” in the funnel was.

The company was driving a ton of traffic, but none of it was converting. Not understanding why, they went to their call recordings and quickly found that… no one was answering the phone at certain locations! It’s easy to think that maybe we should tweak a top-of-funnel campaign when the bottom-of-funnel numbers are suffering — but sharing data might show that there’s a step missing in between.

Carolyn Lyden,
Director of Search Content


Four tools to check for title changes in the SERPs

On August 24, Google confirmed that it changed how it creates titles for search result listings. Unfortunately, title change information isn’t available in Google Search Console or Google Analytics. So, SEOs have turned to third-party tools to see whether their titles are being changed. Below is a list of tools you can use to check for title changes and instructions on how to do so.

  • Ahrefs: Viewing title changes in Ahrefs is a manual process. You can check for changes via historical SERPs in Site Explorer > Organic Keywords 2.0. Simply toggle the date field to view the SERPs for that particular day.
  • Rank Ranger: The SEO Monitor tool in Rank Ranger charts rankings over time. Below the chart is a list of all the changes to the page title and description in Google Search. This means if you or Google make any changes to your title or description, it’ll be displayed here with the date that the change occurred.
  • Semrush: Like Ahrefs, Semrush also offers a manual process to check for title changes. For keywords you’ve been tracking in the Position Tracking tool, click on the SERP icon next to the keyword. That will pull the search results page for the date selected in the report. If you suspect a title was changed, you can confirm this by changing the date in the report and repeating this process to compare titles.
  • SISTRIX: In the left-hand navigation, under SERPs > SERP-Snippets, select “Show title changes.” There, in the “Title” column, you can view title changes. The red text indicates words that have been dropped from the title and the green text indicates words that have been added.

Read more here.


ICYMI: Google’s payment to Apple to be the default search engine just keeps going up

Search choice has been a topic of controversy over the past year:

So we’re not surprised to see news about Google paying billions to beat out Bing as the search engine default on Safari.

Google pays $15 billion to be Apple’s default search engine. Google paying Apple to be its default search engine on Safari is also nothing new. In 2018, Google paid Apple $9 billion to be the go-to place that users can find what they need on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. That price has only increased year-over-year, with the latest report. “The amount is likely to increase to about $20 billion in 2022. Those estimates are based on patterns found in the latest available financial documents from both companies,” wrote Florence Ion for Gizmodo.

The most interesting part is many analysts see this as a fee to essentially prevent Bing from being the default search engine. Jane Horvath, Apple’s senior director of global privacy, told the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection conference (CPDP) that Safari defaults to Google because it’s the most popular search engine, but that users still have the ability to change to the search engine of their choice: “We do support Google but we also have built-in support for DuckDuckGo, and we recently also rolled out support for Ecosia.”

Why we care. This move has many marketers asking, “So when will Apple launch their own search engine?” The company has been propelled mostly by hardware, and this deal with ever-increasing payments from Google is one of its moves toward improving its services options. But perhaps the deal with Google is more lucrative than the potential of having to compete with the biggest player in the marketplace for some advertising dollars.


How Google and Yelp handle fake reviews and policy violations: A side-by-side analysis of each 

Both Google and Yelp have implemented automated systems as their first line of defense against fake reviews and bad actors. And, they both use human moderators for tasks that the technology isn’t suitable for. However, their respective policies, approaches and punitive measures (a few of which are outlined below), which inform the deployment of their technology and human staff, are the most important distinctions to keep in mind as you establish your online presence. 

  • Both platforms can remove illegitimate reviews: On Yelp, every user-submitted report is escalated to its human moderators. Google embraces a preventative, machine learning-first approach, but experts have said that “the success rate is very tiny” when it comes to getting Google to remove fake reviews once they’re live.
  • Yelp applies ranking penalties; Google declined to comment: When a business violates one of its policies, Yelp may apply a ranking penalty.
  • Yelp may remove business listings; Google may revoke profile ownership: Violators may be removed from Yelp’s platform. Google stopped shy of outright removal, instead it may revoke profile ownership.
  • Violators can still advertise on Google, but not on Yelp: Businesses are banned from advertising with Yelp for at least one year if they receive a Compensated Activity Alert or a Suspicious Review Activity Alert (including if Yelp finds evidence that they participated in a review ring). Google has no specific ad penalties related to GMB violations.
  • Yelp continues to monitor listings; Google doesn’t seem to: While Google didn’t disclose any details, Yelp went on record, stating that it has a system that monitors for repeated violations.

Read more here.


Shorts: Some questions and maybe some answers

Want to know if Google’s changed your title tags? This bookmarklet checks if the title tag in SERPs matches the one you set on your site.

Could Google’s “Privacy Budget” break the internet? That’s what Kate Kaye asked on Digiday yesterday about Google’s attempt to prevent fingerprinting. 

Would advertisers (and users) switch to a different search engine? If so, here are some non-Google options from contributor John Smith.


What We’re Reading: Despite women’s progress in many parts of society, advertisements still consistently cast women as secondary

“Between 1980 and 2010, women in commercials were shown in workplace settings only 4 percent of the time; frequently they were shown in kitchens, waxing poetic about the products they were selling,” wrote Mara Altman for the NYT. Surely, marketing and advertising have come a long way since then, right? … right?

Sadly, research from Jane Cunningham and Philippa Roberts shows that it really hasn’t, and they say it has to do mostly with who fills the high-level roles at advertising and marketing agencies. 

“The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that ads up for awards at the prestigious Cannes Lions advertising festival depicted male characters working almost twice as often as female characters. Male characters also outnumbered female characters two-to-one and had twice as much screen time and speaking time. Another study conducted by Ebiquity, a media consultancy, found that, of the ads aired in 2016, only 4 percent showed women in leadership positions,” said Altman.

The issue is that marketing isn’t just reflecting what’s happening in real life, but it’s affecting women’s real life, too. “There is a really big body of work around the impact of marketing and just how powerful it is — young women are consuming something like 10,000 messages a day from brands. Think about the collective impact that can have when the same things are being said over and over again, which are usually: Be thinner, be blonder, be more feminine, be hairless, be whiter,” said Cunningham in the interview.

So how can women improve these marketing messages? “The way that women can influence marketing is spending with the brands that are doing the right thing by women and refusing to buy from brands that are very evidently trying to keep women in their place, and/or the place they think women should be,” said Cunningham.

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Trends behind the Google title tag changes; Monday’s daily brief https://searchengineland.com/trends-behind-the-google-title-tag-changes-mondays-daily-brief-374060 Mon, 30 Aug 2021 14:00:00 +0000 https://searchengineland.com/?p=374060 Plus, submit a pitch to speak at SMX Next

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.


Good morning, Marketers, and we need to work on our communication.

I just hopped off a call with the SMX SEO committee and one takeaway I got from the lively conversation we had is that search marketers don’t always get communication right. Whether it’s in the form of setting expectations for clients and stakeholders from the beginning or reporting what’s going on in our campaigns and accounts. 

We all know the key to solid communication is knowing your audience and knowing what matters most to them. Your CEO cares about top-level metrics. Your tech team cares about the details and specifications. And your associate cares about how they can best do their jobs.

This conversation had me nodding my head and thinking of PPC expert Amanda Farley’s SMX Advanced session on approaching your audience in a whole new way. And how to craft your communication to actually answer what matters most to each person involved.

Sure, it’s meant for your PPC campaigns, but we could probably learn a thing or two from it about communicating with stakeholders, clients, team members and our bosses, too.

Carolyn Lyden,
Director of Search Content


The latest data behind the title tag changes in Google

BowTiedWookie (yep) posted a thread on Twitter after analyzing “10 sites for the same 500 keywords” with the Keywords in Sheets tool. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but the data is worth examining (and seeing if the same is true for your sites). What trends did they find?

  • The shorter the title the less likely Google is to change it.
  • Google will change the title ~95% of the time if emojis or weird characters are included.
  • High DA sites are not being forced to include the brand name.
  • If Google changes the title it is pulling in the H1 >50% of the time.
  • The average character count of Google’s title changes were 52 characters.

Check out the thread here.


Calling all future-focused search marketers, submit a pitch for SMX Next!

SMX Next returns virtually on November 9-10, 2021 focusing on forward-thinking search marketing. AI and machine learning have already become part of both paid and organic search performance. Commerce platforms are just as powerful as the traditional search engines for driving sales. And new ways to deliver content across search and social platforms are giving creative marketers more options for driving engagement.

SMX Next will explore next-generation strategies, equipping attendees with emerging SEO and PPC tactics as well as expert insights on the future of the search marketing profession. Whether you’ve been speaking for years or are just dipping your toes into speaking, please consider submitting a session pitch. We are always looking for new speakers with diverse points of view. The deadline for SMX Next pitches is September 24th!

Read our tips for a compelling session proposal and send in your pitch here.


10 powerful reasons to enter the Search Engine Land Awards

The global events of the past two years have made it more important than ever for brands and agencies to stand out against the competition. Being able to call your company “award-winning” is one of the most powerful differentiators you can have. That’s just one amazing reason to enter the 2021 Search Engine Land Awards. Need more?

  1. Showcase exceptional work.
  2. Generate new business.
  3. Dazzle existing clients and customers.
  4. Boost company morale.
  5. Earn international recognition.

Read the other 5 reasons here.

Deadline alert: The final date to submit your Search Engine Land Awards entry is Friday, September 3 at 11:59 pm PST. Begin your application now!


Search Shorts: Local, local, local

How to handle local SEO without a physical address. Yes, your business can rank in search results in cities where you don’t have a physical address. How? By using tools like Google My Business (GMB), by creating content related to the city you want to target, by adding reviews or testimonials from clients in the city you’re targeting, and more.

Google Local Pack without any CTAs. “If you search for [restaurants near me] in Google Search mobile or desktop, you will see the local three pack and map but you won’t see buttons to call the restaurant or directions or a way to order online,” wrote Barry Schwartz on SERoundtable. We’re with Lily Ray on this one: “How is this helpful for users?”

Your Google Posts might start appearing on third-party sites. “Which third party sites would posts appear on?” asked Claire Carlile in a tweet last week. We’re interested to see which types of sites Posts will appear on.


Quote of the Day

“I might be in the minority here, but I think Google has the right to change title tags just like they have the right to change meta descriptions if they think it leads to better experiences for THEIR users,” tweeted Eli Schwartz, author of “Product-Led SEO.”

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Your AI and ML primer — and why it matters for search; Friday’s daily brief https://searchengineland.com/your-ai-and-ml-primer-and-why-it-matters-for-search-fridays-daily-brief-351575 Fri, 27 Aug 2021 14:00:00 +0000 https://searchengineland.com/?p=351575 Plus, the latest trends in local search: personalization and depth of content

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.


Good morning, Marketers, and a lot can happen in a year.

This past Sunday we had one-year photos taken to commemorate my daughter hitting that first birthday milestone next week. Getting the photo gallery yesterday morning sent me down memory lane thinking about how much has changed in 365 days. Babies grow and learn at such a rapid pace during their first years. A little potato human that couldn’t lift her head can now walk, communicate, and sleep through the night (mostly, thank goodness). 

The same is true for us as search marketers. Think about where you were in your career a year ago. Probably stuck at home trying to weather a pandemic. But in the meantime, you may have started your own business, started a new job, learned new skills, executed a stupendous campaign and more. 

As you’re prepping for Q4 of this year, keep that momentum going (or start it back up if you’ve felt stagnant recently). Plan your goals and create a blueprint to execute them. I remember reading a story about someone who wanted to go back to school in their 50s and they were worried that it was too late in life to “start over” and go to a four-year college.

The motivational part was this: Those years will pass by whether you work toward your goals or not. So you might as well get started on them now. 

Carolyn Lyden,
Director of Search Content


The world of AI and machine learning has many layers and can be quite complex to learn. Many terms are out there and unless you have a basic understanding of the landscape it can be quite confusing. In this article, expert Eric Enge will introduce the basic concepts and try to demystify it all for you.

There are so many different terms that it can be hard to sort out what they all mean. So, let’s start with some definitions:

  • Artificial Intelligence – This refers to intelligence possessed/demonstrated by machines, as opposed to natural intelligence, which is what we see in humans and other animals.
  • Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) – This is a level of intelligence where machines are able to address any task that a human can. It does not exist yet, but many are striving to create it.
  • Machine Learning – This is a subset of AI that uses data and iterative testing to learn how to perform specific tasks.
  • Deep Learning – This is a subset of machine learning that leverages highly complex neural networks to solve more complex machine learning problems.
  • Natural Language Processing (NLP) – This is the field of AI-focused specifically on processing and understanding language.
  • Neural Networks – This is one of the more popular types of machine learning algorithms which attempts to model the way that neurons interact in the brain.

Read more here.


Search marketers should remember their power in the Google-SEO relationship

Google has essentially said that SEOs (or those attempting SEO) have not always used page titles how they should be for a while (since 2012). “Title tags can sometimes be very long or ‘stuffed’ with keywords because creators mistakenly think adding a bunch of words will increase the chances that a page will rank better,” according to the Search Central blog. Or, in the opposite case, the title tag hasn’t been optimized at all: “Home pages might simply be called ‘Home’. In other cases, all pages in a site might be called ‘Untitled’ or simply have the name of the site.” And so the change is “designed to produce more readable and accessible titles for pages.”

This title tag system change seems to be another one of those that maybe worked fine in a lab, but is not performing well in the wild. The intention was to help searchers better understand what a page or site is about from the title, but many examples we’ve seen have shown the exact opposite.

The power dynamic is heavily weighted to Google’s side, and they know it. But the key is to remember that we’re not completely powerless in this relationship. Google’s search engine, as a business, relies on us (in both SEO and PPC) participating in its business model.

Read more here.


Search Shorts: YouTube on misinformation, improving ROAS in Shopping and why it’s time to get responsive

YouTube outlines its approach to policing misinformation and the challenges in effective action. “When people now search for news or information, they get results optimized for quality, not for how sensational the content might be,” wrote Neal Mohan, chief product officer at YouTube.

How to improve Google Shopping Ads ROAS with Priority Bidding. “If you feel more comfortable with Search and Display PPC campaigns, manual is a safe bet as you dip your toes into Shopping,” wrote Susie Marino for WordStream.

Forget mobile-first or mobile-only — It’s time to get truly responsive. “If you’re thinking about your website in terms of the desktop site, welcome to the 2010s. If you’re thinking about it mobile-first, welcome to the 2020s. But it’s 2021. It’s time to think about your site the way Good Designers do- it’s time to get responsive,” said Jess Peck in her latest post.


The focus of GMB has shifted in recent years from getting more businesses to sign up for the listing service to getting business owners or managers to add even more information about their companies on the platform. 

“The new GMB mission is to have businesses provide as much relevant information for as many content areas as possible. Beyond basic contact info, these opportunities include photos, action links, secondary hours, attributes, service details, and several other features. The intent is to make GMB as replete with primary data as possible, so that any pertinent detail a consumer might need to know before choosing a local business is provided in-platform, without the need to click through to other sources,” wrote Damian Rollison for StreetFight.

The local trend matches Google’s overall direction in the search engine results pages: answering everything right there in the SERP. It also does this by personalizing the local results to what it believes is the searcher’s intent. 

“The term that has arisen to describe the most prevalent type of local pack personalization is ‘justifications’ (this is apparently Google’s internal term for the feature). Justifications are snippets of content presented as part of the local pack — or, in some cases, as part of the larger business profile — in order to ‘justify’ the search result to the user. Justifications pull evidence from some less-visible part of GMB, from Google users, from the business website, or from local inventory feeds, and publish that evidence as part of the search result,” said Rollison.

So why should marketers care about this? “Personalization represents a broad range of opportunities for businesses to drive relevant traffic from search to store. Answers to questions, photos, website content, and much more can be optimized according to the products and services you most want to surface for in search.“

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Search marketers should remember their power in the Google-SEO relationship https://searchengineland.com/search-marketers-should-remember-their-power-in-the-google-seo-relationship-351542 Thu, 26 Aug 2021 12:30:00 +0000 https://searchengineland.com/?p=351542 Google’s search engine, as a business, relies on us (in both SEO and PPC) participating in its business model.

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Google’s recent change in algorithms that choose which titles show up in SERPs has caused quite a stir in the SEO community. You’ve all probably seen the tweets and blogs and help forum replies, so I won’t rehash them all here. But the gist is that a few people could not care less and lots of people are upset with the changes.

It’s something our PPC counterparts have experienced for a while now — Google doing some version of automation overreach — taking away more of their controls and the data behind what’s working and what’s not. We’ve all adapted to (not provided) and we continue to adapt, so I’m sure this will be no different, but the principle is what’s catching a lot of SEOs off guard. 

What’s going on?

Google has essentially said that SEOs (or those attempting SEO) have not always used page titles how they should be for a while (since 2012). “Title tags can sometimes be very long or ‘stuffed’ with keywords because creators mistakenly think adding a bunch of words will increase the chances that a page will rank better,” according to the Search Central blog. Or, in the opposite case, the title tag hasn’t been optimized at all: “Home pages might simply be called ‘Home’. In other cases, all pages in a site might be called ‘Untitled’ or simply have the name of the site.” And so the change is “designed to produce more readable and accessible titles for pages.”

Presumptuousness aside, someone rightfully pointed out that content writers in highly regulated industries often have to go through legal and multiple approvals processes before content goes live. This process can include days, weeks, months of nitpicking over single words in titles and headers. Only for Google’s algorithm to decide that it can do whatever it wants. Google’s representative pointed out that these companies cannot be liable for content on a third-party site (Google’s). It’s not a one-to-one comparison, but the same industries often have to do the same tedious approvals process for ad copy (which is why DSAs are often a no-no in these niches) to cover their bases for the content that shows up solely in Google’s search results.

When I work with SEO clients, I often tell them that instead of focusing on Google’s goals (which many get caught up in), we need to be focusing on our customers’ goals. (You can check out my SMX Advanced keynote, which is essentially all about this — or read the high points here.) Google says it’s moving toward this automation to improve the searchers’ experience. But I think it’s important to note that Google is not improving the user experience because it’s some benevolent overlord that loves searchers. It’s doing it to keep searchers using Google and clicking ads. 

Either way, the message seems to be “Google knows best” when it comes to automating SERPs. In theory, Google has amassed tons of data across probably millions of searches to train their models on what searchers want when they type something into the search engine. However, as the pandemonium across the SEO community indicates, this isn’t always the case in practice.

Google’s history of half-baked ideas

Google has a history of shipping half-baked concepts and ideas. It might be part of the startup culture that fuels many tech companies: move fast, break things. These organizations ship a minimum viable product and iterate and improve while the technology is live. We’ve seen it before with multiple projects that Google has launched, done a mediocre job of promoting, and then gotten rid of when no one liked or used it.

I wrote about this a while back when they first launched GMB messaging. Their initial implementation was an example of poor UX and poorly thought out use cases. While GMB messaging may still be around, most SMBs and local businesses I know don’t use it because it’s a hassle and could also be a regulatory compliance issue for them.

The irony is not lost on us that Danny Sullivan thought it was an overstep on Google’s part when it affected a small business in 2013. The idea would be that the technology would hopefully evolve, right? Google’s SERP titles should be more intuitive not word salads pulled from random parts of a page.

This title tag system change seems to be another one of those that maybe worked fine in a lab, but is not performing well in the wild. The intention was to help searchers better understand what a page or site is about from the title, but many examples we’ve seen have shown the exact opposite. 

Google and its advocates continue to claim that this is “not new” (does anyone else hear this phrase in Iago’s voice from Aladdin?), and they’re technically correct. The representatives and Google stans reiterate that the company never said they’d use the title tags you wrote, which given the scope of how terrible this first iteration is showing up to be in SERPs, almost seems like a bully’s playground taunt to a kid who’s already down. 

Google is saying they’re making this large, sweeping change in titles because most people don’t know how to correctly indicate what a page is about. But SEOs are often skilled in doing extensive keyword and user research, so it seems like of all pages that should NOT be rewritten, it’s the ones we carefully investigated, planned, and optimized.

How far is too far?

I’m one of those people who doesn’t like it, but is often resigned to the whims of the half-baked stunts that Google does because, really, what choice do I have? Google owns their own SERP, but we, as SEOs, feel entitled to it because it’s our work being put up for aggregation. It’s like a group project where you do all the work, and the one person who sweeps in last minute to present to the class mucks it all up. YOU HAD ONE JOB! So while we can analyze the data and trends, we also need to make our feedback known.

SEOs’ relationship with Google has always been chicken and egg to me. The search engine would not exist if we didn’t willingly offer our content to it for indexing and retrieval (not to mention the participation of our PPC counterparts), and we wouldn’t be able to drive such traffic to our businesses without Google including our content in the search engine.

Why do marketers have such a contentious relationship with Google? To put it frankly, Google does what’s best for Google, and often that does not align with what’s best for search marketers. But we have to ask ourselves where is the line between content aggregator and content creator? I’m not saying that the individuals or teams at Google are inherently evil or even have bad intentions. They actually likely have the best aspirations for their products and services. But the momentum of the company as a whole feels perpetual at this point, which can feel like we practitioners have no input in matters.

We’ve seen Google slowly take over the SERP with their own properties or features that don’t need a click-through — YouTube, rich snippets, carousels, etc. While I don’t think Google will ever “rewrite” anything on our actual websites, changes like this make search marketers wonder what is the next step? And which of our critical KPIs will potentially fall victim to the search engine’s next big test?

When I interviewed for this position at Search Engine Land, someone asked me about my position on Google (I guess to determine if I was biased one way or another). I’m an SEO first and a journalist second, so my answer was essentially that Google exists because marketers make it so. 

To me, the situation is that Google has grown up beyond its original roots as a search engine and has evolved into a tech company and an advertising giant. It’s left the search marketers behind and is focused on itself, its revenues, its bottom line. And that’s what businesses are wont to do when they get to that size. The power dynamic is heavily weighted to Google’s side, and they know it. But the key is to remember that we’re not completely powerless in this relationship. Google’s search engine, as a business, relies on us (in both SEO and PPC) participating in its business model.

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Google Shopping issues in the UK lead to sharp KPI declines https://searchengineland.com/google-shopping-issues-in-the-uk-lead-to-sharp-kpi-declines-351472 Tue, 24 Aug 2021 12:49:37 +0000 https://searchengineland.com/?p=351472 If your accounts or campaigns have been affected by this issue, it's critical to communicate to clients and stakeholders that this change is a glitch in their metrics, and not indicative of other issues.

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Chatter on LinkedIn and Twitter indicates that many advertisers in the UK and beyond are experiencing a bug with Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns. Advertisers have gone to the Google Ads Help forum, Twitter, and LinkedIn to ask if they’re the only ones.

The issue. Impressions and spend have dropped in Smart Shopping for many UK advertisers starting around August 20, 2021. “A high proportion of UK-based advertisers have seen a drop in impressions, cost and revenue for their PLA campaigns since Friday 20th,” tweeted PPCer Liam Wade. Google Ads Platinum Product Expert Emmanuel Flossie posted in the forums that it’s a known issue.

Update: “Our team uncovered a technical issue that prevented some products from being served via Shopping Ads, since 8/20. As a result, corresponding impressions & clicks may have been impacted. The issue is now completely resolved as of 8/24,” tweeted Google Ads liaison Ginny Marvin on Tuesday afternoon.

Some seeing returns to normal. While advertisers initially saw drops as high as 70% to 90%, some are seeing a return to normal in the past week. Wade reported a 75% increase in impressions from the dropped numbers previously.

Why we care. “Assuming it gets fixed, bear in mind that bid strategies will likely be affected and may re-enter learning phases,” tweeted Wade in the initial thread. If your accounts or campaigns have been affected by this issue, it’s critical to communicate to clients and stakeholders that this change is a glitch in their metrics, and not indicative of other issues. It’d also be beneficial to annotate this change in Google Analytics so any KPIs can be caveated in future reports. The bug is also causing advertisers to question the machine learning and automation happening behind the scenes in ads.

This report will continue to be updated as we gather more information.

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Awkward: SMBs think they know their customers; their customers disagree; Monday’s daily brief https://searchengineland.com/awkward-smbs-think-they-know-their-customers-their-customers-disagree-mondays-daily-brief-351379 Mon, 23 Aug 2021 14:00:00 +0000 https://searchengineland.com/?p=351379 Plus, should Google be the content curator AND creator?

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.


Good morning, Marketers, should Google be the content curator AND creator?

Last week Google unveiled its new interactive, in-SERP periodic table. It got a lot of attention, but if you look at the top search result for the query “periodic table,” you will head to the much more extensive resource, ptable.com. While it’s still showing #1 for now and Google’s resource is further down the page, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before the search engine usurps the comprehensive resource with its own version.

Before you email me, I realize that no one owns the content of the periodic table (it’s not like the song lyrics debacle). But it does raise the ever-enduring question: What does it mean for search marketers as Google transitions from a curator to a creator?

We’ve seen the rise of zero-click searches, Google has been involved in many antitrust lawsuits, and it’s held its ground in market share for years. As many people’s main source of information, there’s a chance that Google will overtake these resources built years ago. What does it mean for them if anything at all? Time will tell.

Carolyn Lyden,
Director of Search Content


Soon you can adjust conversion values in Google Ads Smart Bidding 

“You can adjust conversion values based on characteristics like location, device, and audience. By applying a rule to these characteristics, you can adjust conversion values to align more closely with your business outcomes,” said Stephen Chang, Product Manager, Google Ads in an announcement. This added feature means that businesses can use their inherent knowledge of what’s working in their industry to improve their conversion rates in Google Ads. 

Why we care. “This is a great feature addition. Love it because it allows businesses to get their intuitive/institutional knowledge into the machine learning to optimize more accurately,” tweeted Robert Brady, PPC expert at Righteous Marketing.

Read more here.


Facebook launches its “Widely Viewed Content Report”

Sources of News Feed content views in the U.S.
Source: Facebook

Last week, Facebook published the first edition of its “Widely Viewed Content Report,” a quarterly report that provides statistics on the content users are viewing in their News Feeds. The report is seen by many media outlets as a way to counter data from its own CrowdTangle tool that often shows posts from conservative commentators among the 10 top-performing link posts (ranked by total interactions). But, for marketers, the report may also contain useful insights into how users are interacting with content on their News Feeds.

Why we care. There’s a breakdown of News Feed content sources (shown above) and other interesting stats, such as views on posts with links vs. views on posts with no links, the top domains that accounted for News Feed content (YouTube, Amazon and Unicef were among the top three) and more. The “Widely viewed posts” section might also provide social media marketers with a look at the types of content that attract millions of views — there’s no surprise here, the majority of the most-viewed posts contained either a photo or a video.

There is a caveat: The posts that had the most content views during Q2 represented about 0.1% of all content views on Facebook. The company attributes this to personalization: “Given the customized nature of News Feed, most of what people see on Facebook is personalized for them specifically,” Facebook said in the report. Knowing your audience may help you increase the odds that the personalization systems work in your favor.


Small businesses and consumers are on different wavelengths, new survey finds

Source: Constant Contact

Survey data from Constant Contact indicates that “84 percent of small businesses feel confident that they know what their customers are looking for.” But the survey data shows that consumers actually disagree. Some of the top disconnects include the following marketing areas:

  • Small businesses are relying heavily on social media to drive financial results, but consumers say that channel isn’t where they typically buy
  • 47% of small businesses believe emails checking in on a customer’s well-being are the most likely type to lead to a sale
  • But 40% of consumers say emails checking on their well-being don’t influence their purchasing decisions – instead, emails with a clear discount code or coupon are most likely to be opened (77%) and lead to purchase (67%)
  • 35% of consumers say an issue with a small business’s website, or the inability to buy online, would discourage them from shopping with that business

Why we care. If there’s one thing we keep learning from our experts at SMX events, it’s that knowing your audience is critical (and constant testing is mandatory). We always like to claim that we’re data-driven marketers, but, to us, this data indicates that it’s something we need to continue to work on.


Search Shorts: Microsoft pulls a Google, title tags and header in SERPs, and BMM to phrase worries

Microsoft is making it harder to switch default browsers in Windows 11. In a very Google-esque move, “Microsoft’s upcoming release of Windows 11 will make it even harder to switch default browsers and ignores browser defaults in new areas of the operating system,” wrote Tom Warren for The Verge.

Google’s title tag/H1 adjustment is not exactly intuitive yet. Whatever’s going on with the title tags and headers in Google search is bringing up some really wonky results. Some SEOs are upset about it and others are just not worrying about what they can’t control right now. Google says they’ve heard the feedback and are working on it.

“Making major BMM –> Phrase changes right now!! A little worried about how this would impact volume. Anyone seeing worrying stats with their changes yet??” Let Anu (our SMX Convert PPC cohost) know what you’re seeing on the paid search side.


Quote of the Day

“If you ask the C-Suite, they may likely say, ‘Measure everything’. Dig deeper, there’s almost always a north star goal. Whether it’s more customers, brand awareness, signups, etc.,” tweeted Azeem Ahmad in last week’s #SEOChat all about content ROI.

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Advertisers can adjust conversion values in Smart Bidding in the coming weeks https://searchengineland.com/advertisers-can-adjust-conversion-values-in-smart-bidding-in-the-coming-weeks-351361 Thu, 19 Aug 2021 15:55:39 +0000 https://searchengineland.com/?p=351361 "This allows businesses to get their intuitive/institutional knowledge into the machine learning to optimize more accurately."

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“You can adjust conversion values based on characteristics like location, device, and audience. By applying a rule to these characteristics, you can adjust conversion values to align more closely with your business outcomes,” said Stephen Chang, Product Manager, Google Ads in an announcement.

This added feature means that businesses can use their inherent knowledge of what’s working in their industry to improve their conversion rates in Google Ads. For example, if advertisers know certain audiences or people in certain locations are most likely to convert, they can set a rule to multiply the conversion value for the chosen group by two.

“These rules will also be used by Maximize conversion value and Target ROAS to optimize your bids in real time. Conversion value rules will be available for Smart Bidding across Search, Shopping, and Display over the next few weeks,” wrote Chang.

Source: Google

Why we care. “This is a great feature addition. Love it because it allows businesses to get their intuitive/institutional knowledge into the machine learning to optimize more accurately,” tweeted Robert Brady, PPC expert at Righteous Marketing. Having this available in smart bidding also allows advertisers to tweak campaigns for their individual business goals and adjust as campaigns happen in real-time (like for sales, events, or the like).

More Google Ads news:

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The key to more conversions is to stop disappointing your customers; Wednesday’s daily brief https://searchengineland.com/the-key-to-more-conversions-is-to-stop-disappointing-your-customers-wednesdays-daily-brief-351294 Wed, 18 Aug 2021 14:00:00 +0000 https://searchengineland.com/?p=351294 Plus, PPC targeting tactics for every stage of the funnel

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.


Good morning, Marketers, and what’s the linchpin in CRO?

In his keynote at yesterday’s SMX Convert, Michael Aagaard gave us a closer look at disappointment from a neuroscientific and psychological perspective. He dug into what conversion research we can do to understand where/when our customers experience disappointment and how to mitigate that.

The key is really mapping out and managing the expectations of our customers so we can create better and more motivating conversion experiences. One example he shared was that a client was having trouble once customers got to the “enter your credit card” part of their journey. With some research, he discovered that the whole process before that stage had primed these potential customers to think that what they were getting was free. Record scratch! 

Of course they weren’t converting. They were likely majorly disappointed when they learned they weren’t getting something for free after all. The whole process of delighting vs disappointing customers makes sense — people who have a great time every step of the way are obviously going to convert because you’ve made it so simple for them. 

How do you improve your CRO then? One tip: go through your own funnel and figure out where the disconnects are. Remove those barriers and test, test, test!

Carolyn Lyden,
Director of Search Content


Three PPC targeting tactics that power every stage of the funnel

In her hit session at yesterday’s SMX Convert, Amy Bishop, Owner and Marketing Consultant at Cultivative, schooled us on multi-channel targeting tactics to turn prospects into paying customers. Her three-step strategy includes ways to better understand your audience, how to determine their varying paths to purchase, and tips to ensure that you’re targeting them at every stage along that path.

  1. Knowing your target audience. Just like on the SEO side, it’s critical to have your personas handy for this exercise. If you don’t have a set group of personas, Bishop included a few questions to ask yourself about your potential target audience.
  2. Designing your campaigns to support the funnel. “A common question that I get,” said Bishop, “is which channels belong where [in the funnel]. I would really caution against this line of thinking because most channels have different ways that you can reach prospects. It doesn’t have to be ‘YouTube at the top, then display, and then search.’ You can make any channel work for you depending on who your prospects are and which channels they use and which targeting options are available across all channels.”
  3. Considerations for improving your campaign performance. If you’ve taken all the steps above and in Amy Bishop’s SMX Convert presentation and are still having some hiccups, here are some common mistakes she’s noticed in campaigns before: lack of data, not optimizing to a higher funnel conversion, and not testing better qualifying audiences and look-alikes.

>> Want to see the whole session? Sign up to watch the entire SMX Convert learning journey on-demand.

Read more here.


Don’t miss your chance at a Search Engine Land Award

The team here at Search Engine Land wanted to provide a meaningful way to “Celebrate the Power of Search” within the search marketing community. That’s why we created the Search Engine Land Awards program. Winning one of our 19 awards is a unique, and cost-effective way to put your organization a step ahead of its competitors and help to gain new business. 

Additionally, the process of reflecting on a great year of work, its successes, and lessons learned can be a wonderful team-building exercise, and getting nominated (or better yet – winning!) has been a superb morale booster for many past recipients.

The Search Engine Land Awards are dedicated to honoring the best practices of search marketing by recognizing the consultants, agencies, in-house teams and individuals that worked to execute successful programs encompassing organic, paid, local search and more. Applications close on Sept. 3, so if you;’re thinking about applying or haven’t finished your application, get started now!

Apply here before the Sept. 3 deadline.

Want to see what previous Search Engine Land Award winners have been up to? Check it out here:


Social Shorts: TikTok, YikYak? (yes, really) and social media marketing IS content marketing 

TikTok releases Creative Solutions guide for marketers. Some dos and don’ts: Do bet on uniqueness and creativity. Content with its own flair makes TikTok thrive, and is key to great results. Don’t expect that every piece of creative will contribute to a result. Don’t just replicate the same creative used on other platforms. Read the full guide here.

“I don’t really know what to make of this, but if you’re interested, for whatever reason, your favorite anonymous social media app YikYak is back in app stores in the US,” wrote Andrew Hutchinson for Social Media Examiner. “You now have another option to get a feel for what people in your local community are interested in, which could be worth taking a look at. Maybe.”

Content Marketing 101: Reach your audience in many ways. This guide from Mara Calvello with G2 emphasizes that social media is still part of a comprehensive content strategy. “Whether it is Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, or Snapchat, there are many opportunities to share your content, switch up its messaging, and get it seen.” If you’re not including social in your content plan, make sure to go back to the drawing board.


What We’re Reading: A privacy-first approach to personalization: Gaining consumer trust with transparent data collection

We’ve mentioned it before on Search Engine Land, but advertisers are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to personalization and privacy. 

“91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant recommendations to them, and the majority of consumers feel positive (58%) about personalized ads,” Sanam Saaber reports in StreetFight. But at the same time, we’re combatting a wave of distrust from the very same consumers as they don’t completely understand how and why advertisers use their data.

With Google pushing back the FLoC implementation to 2023, Saaber reinforces what we’ve been hearing from many experts in paid search: get your ducks in a row now. If you had a testing plan for first-party data, don’t postpone it! This just gives you even more time to test it out.

The four data types are often conflated, but they’re very different in the eyes of the consumer and the law, wrote Saaber. 

  • Zero-party data is information provided intentionally and proactively by consumers (e.g., surveys, questionnaires, profile information)
  • First-party data is information collected directly from consumers’ actions (e.g., actions on site, social media engagement, mobile app usage) 
  • Second-party data is data collected by another company, directly from consumers
  • Third-party data is information collected from a number of sources and bought from data aggregator firms (e.g., third-party cookies)

One of the keys to making customers feel ok with your data collection practices? Communicate what’s going on to them. Be transparent in what you’re collecting and what you’re doing with it, and give them a reason to share it:

“Too many brands provide long and unreadable privacy policies that aren’t educational. Impress customers at the start of their journey with creative and digestible content. Consumers are generally willing to share their information if they understand the benefits they’ll get in return, like personalized coupons or more relevant recommendations.”

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