Publisher Blocking: How the Web Was Lost


Streaming Apps

Google recently announced app streaming, where they can showcase & deep link into apps in the search results even if users do not have those apps installed. How it works is rather than users installing the app, Google has the app installed on a computer in their cloud & then shows users a video of the app. Click targets, ads, etc. remain the same.

In writing about the new feature, Danny Sullivan wrote a section on “How The Web Could Have Been Lost”

Imagine if, in order to use the web, you had to download an app for each website you wanted to visit. To find news from the New York Times, you had to install an app that let you access the site through your web browser. To purchase from Amazon, you first needed to install an Amazon app for your browser. To share on Facebook, installation of the Facebook app for your browser would be required. That would be a nightmare.

The web put an end to this. More specifically, the web browser did. The web browser became a universal app that let anyone open anything on the web.

To meaningfully participate on those sorts of sites you still need an account. You are not going to be able to buy on Amazon without registration. Any popular social network which allows third party IDs to take the place of first party IDs will quickly become a den of spam until they close that loophole.

In short, you still have to register with sites to get real value out of them if you are doing much beyond reading an article. Without registration it is hard for them to personalize your experience & recommend relevant content.

Desktop Friendly Design

App indexing & deep linking of apps is a step in the opposite direction of the open web. It is supporting proprietary non-web channels which don’t link out. Further, if you thought keyword (not provided) heavily obfuscated user data, how much will data be obfuscated if the user isn’t even using your site or app, but rather is interacting via a Google cloud computer?

  • Who visited your app? Not sure. It was a Google cloud computer.
  • Where were they located? Not sure. It was a Google cloud computer.
  • Did they have problems using your app? Not sure. It was a Google cloud computer.
  • What did they look at? Can you retarget them? Not sure. It was a Google cloud computer.

Is an app maker too lazy to create a web equivalent version of their content? If so, let them be at a strategic disadvantage to everyone who put in the extra effort to publish their content online.

If Google has their remote quality raters consider a site as not meeting users needs because they don’t publish a “mobile friendly” version of their site, how can one consider a publisher who creates “app only” content as an entity which is trying hard to meet end user needs?

We know Google hates app install interstitials (unless they are sold by Google), thus the only reason Google would have for wanting to promote these sorts of services would be to justify owning, controlling & monetizing the user experience.

App-solutely Not The Answer

Apps are sold as a way to lower channel risk & gain direct access to users, but the companies owning the app stores are firmly in control.

Everyone wants to “own” the user, but none of the platforms bother to ask if the user wants to be owned:

We’re rapidly moving from an internet where computers are ‘peers’ (equals) to one where there are consumers and ‘data owners’, silos of end user data that work as hard as they can to stop you from communicating with other, similar silos.

If the current trend persists we’re heading straight for AOL 2.0, only now with a slick user interface, a couple more features and more users.

You’ve Got AOL

The AOL analogy is widely used:

Katz of Gogobot says that “SEO is a dying field” as Google uses its “monopoly” power to turn the field of search into Google’s own walled garden like AOL did in the age of dial-up modems.

Almost 4 years ago a Google engineer described SEO as a bug. He suggested one shouldn’t be able to rank highly without paying.

It looks like he was right. Google’s aggressive ad placement on mobile SERPs “has broken the will of users who would have clicked on an organic link if they could find one at the top of the page but are instead just clicking ads because they don’t want to scroll down.”

In the years since then we’ve learned Google’s “algorithm” has concurrent ranking signals & other forms of home cooking which guarantees success for Google’s vertical search offerings. The “reasonable” barrier to entry which applies to third parties does not apply to any new Google offerings.

And “bugs” keep appearing in those “algorithms,” which deliver a steady stream of harm to competing businesses.

From Indy to Brand

The waves of algorithm updates have in effect increased the barrier to entry, along with the cost needed to maintain rankings. The stresses and financial impacts that puts on small businesses makes many of them not worth running. Look no further than MetaFilter’s founder seeing a psychologist, then quitting because he couldn’t handle the process.

When Google engineers are not focused on “breaking spirits” they emphasize the importance of happiness.

The ecosystem instability has made smaller sites effectively disappear while delivering a bland and soulless result set which is heavy on brand:

there’s no reason why the internet couldn’t keep on its present course for years to come. Under those circumstances, it would shed most of the features that make it popular with today’s avant-garde, and become one more centralized, regulated, vacuous mass medium, packed to the bursting point with corporate advertising and lowest-common-denominator content, with dissenting voices and alternative culture shut out or shoved into corners where nobody ever looks. That’s the normal trajectory of an information technology in today’s industrial civilization, after all; it’s what happened with radio and television in their day, as the gaudy and grandiose claims of the early years gave way to the crass commercial realities of the mature forms of each medium.

If you participate on the web daily, the change washes over you slowly, and the cumulative effects can be imperceptible. But if you were locked in an Iranian jail for years the change is hard to miss.

These sorts of problems not only impact search, but have an impact on all the major tech channels.

If you live in Goole, these issues strike close to home.

And there are almost no counter-forces to the well established trend:

Eventually they might even symbolically close their websites, finishing the job they started when they all stopped paying attention to what their front pages looked like. Then, they will do a whole lot of what they already do, according to the demands of their new venues. They will report news and tell stories and post garbage and make mistakes. They will be given new metrics that are both more shallow and more urgent than ever before; they will adapt to them, all the while avoiding, as is tradition, honest discussions about the relationship between success and quality and self-respect.

If in five years I’m just watching NFL-endorsed ESPN clips through a syndication deal with a messaging app, and Vice is just an age-skewed Viacom with better audience data, and I’m looking up the same trivia on Genius instead of Wikipedia, and “publications” are just content agencies that solve temporary optimization issues for much larger platforms, what will have been point of the last twenty years of creating things for the web?

A Deal With the Devil

As ad blocking has grown more pervasive, some publishers believe the solution to the problem is through gaining distribution through the channels which are exempt from the impacts of ad blocking. However those channels have no incentive to offer exceptional payouts. They make more by showing fewer ads within featured content from partners (where they must share ad revenues) and showing more ads elsewhere (where they keep all the ad revenues).

So far publishers have been underwhelmed with both Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News. The former for stringent ad restrictions, and the latter for providing limited user data. Google Now is also increasing the number of news stories they show. And next year Google will roll out their accelerated mobile pages offering.

The problem is if you don’t control the publishing you don’t control the monetization and you don’t control the data flow.

Your website helps make the knowledge graph (and other forms of vertical search) possible. But you are paid nothing when your content appears in the knowledge graph. And the knowledge graph now has a number of ad units embedded in it.

A decade ago, when Google pushed autolink to automatically insert links in publisher’s content, webmasters had enough leverage to “just say no.” But now? Not so much. Google considers in-text ad networks spam & embeds their own search in third party apps. As the terms of deals change, and what is considered “best for users” changes, content creators quietly accept, or quit.

Many video sites lost their rich snippets, while YouTube got larger snippets in the search results. Google pays YouTube content creators a far lower revenue share than even the default AdSense agreement offers. And those creators have restrictions which prevent them from using some forms of monetization while forces them to accept other types of bundling.

The most recent leaked Google rater documents suggested the justification for featured answers was to make mobile search quick, but if that were the extent of it then it still doesn’t explain why they also appear on desktop search results. It also doesn’t explain why the publisher credit links were originally a light gray.

With Google everything comes down to speed, speed, speed. But then they offer interstitial ad units, lock content behind surveys, and transform the user intent behind queries in a way that leads them astray.

As Google obfuscates more data & increasingly redirects and monetizes user intent, they promise to offer advertisers better integration of online to offline conversion data.

At the same time, as Google “speeds up” your site for you, they may break it with GoogleWebLight.

If you don’t host & control the user experience you are at the whim of (at best, morally agnostic) self-serving platforms which could care less if any individual publication dies.

It’s White Hat or Bust…

What was that old white hat SEO adage? I forget the precise wording, but I think it went something like…

Don’t buy links, it is too risky & too uncertain. Guarantee strong returns like Google does, by investing directly into undermining the political process by hiring lobbyists, heavy political donations, skirting political donation rules, regularly setting policy, inserting your agents in government, and sponsoring bogus “academic research” without disclosing the payments.

Focus on the user. Put them first. Right behind money.


SEO Book


How to Use LinkedIn Publisher Statistics to Refine Your Marketing


social media toolsDo you use LinkedIn Publisher?

Want to get deeper engagement from your posts?

LinkedIn Publisher now offers the ability to review stats for your published posts, which helps you refine messaging, target the right audience and directly engage with the people who interact with you.

In this article I’ll share how to access LinkedIn Publisher statistics and how to use them strategically.

use linkedin publisher statistics

Discover how to use LinkedIn Publisher Statistics to refine your marketing.

How to Access LinkedIn Publisher Stats

LinkedIn Publisher is a powerful platform because it’s sticky. Your posts live on forever on your profile, and the content is searchable. It’s good for positioning yourself as an expert in your industry and sharing relevant information with your followers.

Your LinkedIn Publisher analytics show you how your content is doing, make sure it’s reaching the right people and help you connect with those who are responding to your posts. It’s great for content development and lead generation.

You can access your LinkedIn statistics in a couple of places: on your profile just above your posts and on your author page (the URL that’s associated with the page where your posts are listed). Click on See More, and then select a post to see its the statistics.

linkedin publisher posts

Select a post to see its stats.

The three sections of analytics are See How Your Post Is Doing, Demographics of Your Readers and Who Is Responding to Your Posts.

Here’s a look at how to use each section to create more powerful content and increase visibility.

#1: Track Publication Trends

Go to the See How Your Post Is Doing section to discover if your posts are getting views. You can see your posts’ visibility for the last 7 days, 15 days, 30 days, 6 months and 1 year.

This analytics section also lets you view how many likes, shares and comments a particular post has received, as shown in the upper-right corner of the image below.

linkedin publisher post views

View your posts’ visibility for the last 7 days, 15 days, 30 days, 6 months and 1 year.

After you publish a post, keep a close eye on the activity for the first week. Often visibility increases on the second, third and fourth day. Therefore, if you’re writing a post that has a specific timeline (perhaps it relates to a project, product or webinar release), make sure you post it a day or two before you need people to see it.

Also, try posting on different days of the week and see if your results change. John White, a successful LinkedIn published writer, recommends posting at about 8 p.m. Eastern Time. Not only is this a good time to get views in Europe, but it’s also not too late for U.S. time zones to see your content.

It’s interesting to look at the long-term view also to see if there’s some correlation between trending events and the visibility of your post. For example, if your post on the latest Apple products gets a lot of traffic, you may want to write posts whenever Apple releases new products.

Build on any increased reach by resharing a popular post as an update on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

linkedin publisher post on facebook

Reshare your LinkedIn content on other social networks to increase visibility.

If you like to keep a close eye on your metrics, see if there’s a correlation between reshares and LinkedIn views.

#2: Discover Reader Demographics

Scroll down the page to see the demographics of your readers.

LinkedIn shows you reader demographics related to the top four industries, titles, locations and traffic sources.

Use the first three demographics (industries, titles and locations) to make sure you’re attracting the right audience with your content. For example, if your niche demographic is marketing and advertising executives, but your content is attracting job-seekers in software design, you’re probably using the wrong keywords and content.

Also check to see what other people in your field are writing about to attract the correct audience. Then reframe your content so it targets the right demographics.

You can always use LinkedIn Pulse to research what other people in your industry are writing about.

linkedin publisher posts in pulse

Use LinkedIn Pulse to explore what topics other people in your industry cover.

As far as traffic sources are concerned, it might surprise you to find out how people get to your posts.

  • If your posts are showing up on users’ home pages, they’re getting the equivalent of a Facebook news feed.
  • If the traffic source is from, you’re showing up in Pulse or your audience found you with a search.
  • If the traffic source is from your LinkedIn profile, the reader looked you up.
  • If the traffic source is from Google, your article is coming up in Google search results.

It’s always good to know how people are finding you.

#3: See Who Has Responded

The Who Is Responding to Your Posts section tells you the people who have liked, commented on and shared your post. Clearly comments and shares are the more relevant data.

linkedin publisher post engagers

See who likes, comments on and shares your posts.

Look through this section to view the people who engaged with your content, and respond to them.

linkedin publisher post engagement response

Reply to people who comment on and share your posts.

This section shows you the name of the person and their headline. You can click and respond to a first-degree connection. If the person is not already in your immediate network, invite him or her to connect.

The Who Is Responding to Your Posts section is also great for lead generation. Someone who took the time and made the effort to engage with your post in some way is likely to respond when you connect. It warms up the lead.

Make it a daily practice to briefly go through the engagement from your LinkedIn Publisher posts. Take the time to thank, respond to or fully engage with your audience in a private message. It’s a great way to have one-on-one communications with people who are invested in your content.


Publish on LinkedIn to get your voice heard and your business seen by a variety of potential clients. LinkedIn Publisher statistics allow you to see how your content is being received so you can adjust your strategy if necessary.

Use that information to create more directed, relevant content that helps you engage more fully with your network and increase exposure.

What do you think? Have you looked at your LinkedIn Publisher statistics? In what ways do you use the info you gather to improve your posts and reach? Please share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments.

how to use linkedin publisher statistics to refine your marketing

Tips for using LinkedIn Publisher Statistics to refine your marketing.

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