Apple has officially done it: iOS 14.5 is live, bringing with it the contentious App Tracking Transparency feature and giving all users the power to decide if an app should be allowed to track their activity. Maybe “giving” isn’t the right word. With no way to opt out, iOS users are, in fact, being forced by Apple to take control of how their data is being shared. Now, when an app wants to share user information with third parties such as advertisers, an updated Apple device will display a window requesting permission to track user activity.
Will users forego privacy in favor of being served more relevant ads?
It’s too soon to say just yet (the update went live last Monday), but experts predict 50-90 percent of users will say no. If these numbers prove accurate, it would not come as much of a surprise. Online privacy has been a hot topic over the past several months, with a slew of new privacy-focused search engines and browsers in the works and Google itself replacing third-party cookies with the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).
Timing-wise, the Apple update is right in the thick of it, and the current discourse around privacy should have a significant impact on how users respond to the App Tracking Transparency feature.
Apple has always boasted a pro-customer privacy stance, and the mandatory App Tracking Transparency feature makes it clear that the company is intent on walking the walk. Since iOS 10, users have had the ability to opt out of activity tracking, but it was buried deep in the settings where many users would not bother to look (and, perhaps even likelier, didn’t know it existed). With iOS 14, however, the feature is front-and-center.
Many Apple users and privacy advocates have been eagerly awaiting the update. At the same time, companies such as Facebook have had, shall we say, the opposite reaction.
Facebook has been running a very public months-long media campaign, pushing the angle that Apple’s changes will affect the personalized ads that support small businesses. (Apparently, Facebook cares deeply about small businesses.) Now that the feature is officially live, it will be interesting to see how Facebook and other advertisers are actually affected. Social media marketing strategies, for one, might require a few changes. We’ll be keeping an eye out for any potential fallout – right after selecting “Ask App Not to Track.”
More SEO News You Can Use
Google Still Doesn’t Care About Domain Authority (but Brands Really Do): Moz’s Domain Authority (DA) metrics have had a hold on SEO since they were introduced over a decade ago. Marketers and SEO professionals alike place great value on a high DA score – even though many of them know DA has nothing to do with Google. In response to a blogger on Twitter, Google’s John Mueller again reiterated that DA is not important. The blogger explained that, sure, maybe Google doesn’t care, but it also happens to be “the biggest metric brands look at for collabs.” Search Engine Roundtable’s Barry Schwarz – a regular and vocal detractor of DA – posted a blog highlighting the issue with DA as a metric: The only purpose of chasing a high DA is to get a dofollow link (which, in case we’ve forgotten, goes against Google’s guidelines anyway).
A Study Has Revealed That, Across the Board, Core Web Vitals Performance Is … Not Great: Speaking of the Page Experience update, a Searchmetrics study analyzed 2 million URLs and learned a thing or two about Core Web Vitals in the process. In a post on Search Engine Journal (SEJ), Searchmetrics discussed its study and its most interesting findings. Among them is that less than 4 percent of U.S. websites achieved a “good” Core Web Vitals score, and although sites ranking in Top 5 positions on search engine results pages (SERPs) did perform marginally better, many of them had the same performance issues. It also determined that the biggest barrier to success was Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), Google’s measurement of visual stability. At 0.38, the top 20 average CLS was well above Google’s “good” benchmark of 0.1. Clearly, many of us have a long way to go if we’re hoping to benefit from a rankings boost in mid-June. If you’ve left your Page Experience optimization a little late, a comprehensive Google Page Experience Guide can give you a much-needed jumpstart.
Now, You Can Report Indexing Issues Directly to Google: There are many reasons for website indexing issues, and sometimes it isn’t as simple as finding an answer on a community forum or support documentation. For cases like these, Google has added a brand new feature in Search Console allowing signed-in users to report an indexing issue directly to the Google Search team. For any SEO professional, that’s practically a superpower. Alerting Google Search to your plight is as easy as hitting a “Report an Indexing Issue” button found in the footer of the Index Coverage report and URL Inspection Tool article in the Search Console Help Center. A form pops up, taking you through a list of questions to help you try and debug the issue on your end before submitting it to Google Search. Indexing issues are among the most common SEO struggles, so the option to escalate these with Google is a game-changer.
Here’s What the Winners and Losers of Google’s “Product Reviews Update” Can Teach Us: A couple of weeks ago, Google’s “product reviews update” went live, giving a rankings boost to well-researched, in-depth product reviews. While this was not a full core update, for many review sites and affiliate sites featuring reviews, it may as well have been. The rankings shifts have been volatile, with some websites seeing huge traffic surges and others plummeting (without knowing exactly why). An SEJ article by Mandy Oberstein could be just the thing to provide more insight into the “why.” Taking a qualitative, page-level approach, Oberstein analyzes real-world examples of product review pages that benefited from the update and those that didn’t to determine what a good product review looks like in Google’s eyes. The results reveal a number of notable takeaways: Thin content – and thinly-veiled sales pitches – were pushed down, as were reviews missing obviously pertinent information such as product specs. The full article, comparing a few winners and losers, is a fascinating read, so be sure to check it out.
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