The TikTok ban, bots dominating site traffic, huge changes to location targeting, and more…

April 26, 2024

Hello, My Digital Darlings,

How are you, beautiful people? I hope your week has been smooth so far, you’ve been able to avoid those calls that could be emails, and your boss is recognizing that you’re crushing it. The digital landscape is rocky right now, so stay strong, and stay informed. Everyone who’s anyone is talking about the TikTok ban, so let’s dive into it.

Bytedance has to sell TikTok or it’ll be banned.

Welp, it finally happened. The TikTok ban bill that the US government has been teasing for years actually passed. The bill requires Chinese-owned company ByteDance to sell TikTok and its precious algorithm to an American-owned company within the next 9 months, or face a national ban. 

Ok Biden, I see the vision, but… Bytedance built the most influential algorithm in the modern world. They’re not going to give it up that easily. TikTok executives have pledged to challenge the bill, leaning on the First Amendment’s right to free speech. Plus, who can afford to buy TikTok that’s not already being investigated for monopolistic practices?? I honestly don’t know. I’m not sure where this will go, but for now, I’m going to keep advertising on the platform. But as a consumer, I’m thinking twice about my nightly TikTok scrolls.

One of the major concerns around TikTok is that it has become young people’s go-to source of information, with a growing portion of Gen Z reporting that it’s their #1 search engine. To capitalize on the platform while it’s still around…

Check out this guide to TikTok SEO.

The guide breaks down how to use hashtags, keywords, and content trends to grow your brand organically on the platform. It’s the next frontier for SEO (assuming the ban fails), so read up, search marketers!

Tiktok isn’t the only digital concern top of mind this week. There are a slew of other tech problems to tackle, like the fact that…

Bots made up nearly half of all internet traffic last year.

49.6% of traffic, to be exact. Bad bot traffic skyrocketed from 2018 to 2023. It’s no surprise that this is due to generative AI, which uses web scraping bots to train its models. Marketers now have to assume that ~50% of the traffic to our sites is bot traffic. Yikes! To make matters worse, bad bots target APIs, and were accountable for 30% of attacks on APIs last year. I’ll let article author Erez Hasson explain the impact:

“These attacks exploit flaws within an application's design and implementation, allowing attackers to influence legitimate functionality to access sensitive data or user accounts.”  

Oof, not good! In other not-so-good news…

Google Chrome IP masking could radically impact search ad targeting.

This is part of Google’s court-ordered initiative to protect the privacy of Chrome users, called the ‘Privacy Sandbox’. Users' IP addresses will be batched and masked by region, so for ad location targeting, we’ll only be able to target specific regions designated by Google.

There are a few issues with this - firstly, the regions designated by Google won’t be accurate. Secondly, it will be impossible to distinguish between real traffic and bot traffic per region. And lastly, this process will only be implemented on Chrome, giving Google a total monopoly on location data. This could eliminate competition in the search ads market. Google is certainly making data privacy work for them… 

This is a super technical issue that’s hard to summarize, so my more detail oriented readers can check out this detailed breakdown for more info. Speaking of Google’s tracking…

The depreciation of third-party cookies was delayed AGAIN.

Who’s surprised? Literally nobody. To quote Digiday: 

“Google is delaying the end of third-party cookies in its Chrome browser — again. In other unsurprising developments, water remains wet.” 

Google said that more technical stuff still needs to happen before cookies are deprecated, and that they’re now planning to deprecate them “some time in 2025”. This is the third time they’ve pushed back the deadline, so I’ll believe it when I see it. Please do not let this deter you from transitioning to first party tracking ASAP, though. Anyone who’s anyone will tell you that the cookie-powered web is already dead. And for my final bit of Google news…

Google’s SVP of Search is freaking out because growth is slowing.

Heavy competition in the AI space, tons of money spent on gen AI bots, and the consequences of the Digital Markets Act caused Google to cut costs and lay off staff. Haters like myself are eager to see Google fail, after decades of “putting profit above everything, including its users.” Increasing competition from OpenAI, Microsoft, and Meta is a major cause of the shrinkage. When one queen falls, another ascends, and one has to wonder if the likes of OpenAI or Meta will handle the power any better. Only time will tell. Speaking of AI, maybe I’ve been too negative about it in the past…

Over half of Americans think Generative AI will boost their creativity.

Chatbots are quickly becoming a go-to source of information, with over half of Americans now using generative AI. And I get it. Just yesterday I used chatGPT to generate a list of discussion questions for my book club - why think when the robots can do it for me?? I see the benefits, but I am still afraid that AI may one day replace creative jobs like writing and graphic design altogether. Sigh...

Not me ending on a dark note yet again!! I guess that’s just who I am. But there you have it - all the latest digital marketing tea, summed up in bite-sized pieces for you, my dear readers. Until next week, stay fresh, stay alert, and don’t let the drama get you down.

You know you love me.

Maddie Marinsider

Marin Software
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