Remember back when Google focused on the user? Back before organic results were overtaken with PPC ads and knowledge graphs – and back before ads triggered by last night’s searches? It was a simpler time. Apple’s bold new moves hearken back to this simpler time, and their emphasis on user experience is likely to be a big win.
1. Ad blocking
As mobile has exploded, the rise of mobile advertising has meant big profits for Google. Ads have made the mobile experience somewhat undesirable, with bandwidth usage and speed being the primary factors. It’s no wonder that one of the new “Ad blockers” allowed by Apple was named Peace. Click-through-rates on mobile have long been suspiciously high, thanks to the fingers of users navigating free apps filled with advertisements. We once audited a manufacturing company’s PPC account to find the amazing clickthrough in their app ads were simply toddlers playing a construction game.
This abuse is what prompted change. With one fell swoop, Apple allowed ad blockers at a level that both apps and browsers can be cleansed of ads. Early feedback is that mobile browsing is quite pleasant, and ad blocking is likely to go mainstream.
This isn’t just a big shift for mobile ads, but also for remarketing/retargeting ads. With remarketing, ads can be displayed based on sites you’ve visited, shopping carts you’ve abandoned, or even searches you’ve made. It’s a great way to stay in front of – or even annoy – your audience. With one fell swoop, ad blocking apps are likely to snuff out remarketing opportunities as well.
“Apple’s spotlight is the stealth search engine you’ve been using,” says Jason Calacanis. Spotlight is fueled by Bing, and provides search as part of the operating system. No need to even visit a website to search. And app results are often prioritized above web results! There are also no ads in Spotlight, and no privacy concerns.
It’s hard to say how Spotlight will evolve, but “Applebot” has been crawling the web since Spring 2015. It even follows directives in robots.txt specifically for Googlebot! This is likely to make a small dent in Google’s business, regardless.
Reactions from the advertising industry are across the entire spectrum of responses: Some say users won’t go to the trouble of setting up ad blocking, others see this as an ad-pocalypse. But with change always comes opportunity. And without ads everywhere, where to spend ad dollars?
- SEO (search engine optimization): As long as machines are trying to rank content, there will be place for SEO. Merchants will want their products to come up first on Amazon, Google, Etsy, and everywhere else buyers are searching.
- PPC (pay per click): Most ad blockers are likely not going to block PPC ads. But aren’t Google and Facebook just giant ad networks with search/social features?!
- ASO: App search optimization to get those deeplinks in apps in front of Spotlight. App developers will always want to outrank competitors in app stores, as well.
- Native Ads: Native ads look like content on the site itself. Advertorials, featured and sponsored content can be hard for both humans and software to pick out.
A brave new world lies ahead!