In this week’s Monday Memo, learn about Apple’s new phones; GM’s partnership with Google to bring apps to cars; Google’s automatic conversion of service areas; new antitrust investigations of Facebook and Google; and how Google’s local algorithm works.
Apple to Launch iPhone 11 this week, major upgrades next year
Tomorrow, September 10, Apple is expected to release three versions of the new iPhone 11. TechCrunch reports that press invites have been issued for an event at Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino where the announcements will likely occur. The three new iPhone models will include the standard 11, which will replace the XR, as well as two Pro models, the XS and XS Max, which have been rumored to include upgraded professional-level photo and video capabilities. The unveiling in Cupertino is scheduled to begin on Tuesday at 10am Pacific time.
In related news, Forbes is reportingthat Apple will overhaul its phone line significantly in 2020, introducing a new form factor (possibly a foldable phone?), 5G integration, and major camera upgrades, along with new screen sizes, the possible re-introduction of Touch ID, and a move to USB-C ports.
Foldable iPhone concept, image courtesy Forbes
GM partners with Google to bring apps to cars
General Motors has announceda partnership with Google that will add apps to the dashboards of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac cars starting in 2021. The apps are said to include built-in versions of Google Maps and Google Assistant, as well as a version of the Google Play store that will allow users to download third-party apps and install them in the car’s Android-based operating system.
Unlike the integrated service known as Android Auto, the new GM offering won’t require a phone in order to operate. GM will presumably be making use of a new Android Automotive OS which is also slated for inclusion in Polestar and Volvo cars in 2021.
Image courtesy Engadget
Google converts distance-based service areas to nearest location
Google announcedon September 3 that all service-area listings still using distance from a point to describe their service area would be converted to list the nearest place names instead, in a form like “San Francisco, CA” or “Islington, London.” So for example, if your listing says you cover a 10-mile radius from your office, the listing will be updated automatically so that the distance is removed and the towns within that radius are displayed instead.
This follows from a changelast yearwhere the option to describe your service area as a distance from a point was removed from the Google My Business dashboard. As with any automated change, you’ll want to make sure Google gets it right; anyone operating a service-area business should double check that Google’s updates accurately reflect your service area, and make adjustments as necessary.
Facebook and Google Both Facing Antitrust Investigations
New York state has initiatedan antitrust investigation against Facebook, in collaboration with seven other states and the District of Columbia. Attorney General of New York Letitia James announced that the investigation would examine “whether Facebook has stifled competition and put users at risk” and “whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising.” A Facebook spokesperson responded by saying the company would “work constructively with the attorneys general and we welcome a conversation with policymakers about the competitive environment in which we operate.”
In a similar but broader action, more than half of the nation’s state attorneys general are expected to announce an antitrust investigation this week targeting Google’s parent company Alphabet. This is the latest in a series of actions in the U.S. and abroad that have questioned the fairness of Google’s dominance in search. Google has been fined billions of dollars for antitrust violations in Europe, but so far no penalties have emerged from domestic investigations.
In broad terms, these activities could lead to regulation that would introduce more competition into search and social networking, with possibly significant impacts on all digital industries.
Joy Hawkins on Google’s Local Algorithm
Last week local SEO expert Joy Hawkins made her debut on Moz’s popular Whiteboard Fridays series with a presentationentitled “How Does the Local Algorithm Work?” Hawkins identified three main factors that drive the ranking of Google My Business listings: proximity, prominence, and relevance. Proximity represents Google’s attempt to offer local results that are as geographically close as possible to where it thinks the user is located. Hawkins notes that desktop searches generally identify the user’s location by zip code, whereas mobile searches base proximity on the phone’s specific GPS coordinates.
As for prominence, this is Google’s measure of how important a business is, based on factors like links, reviews, and citations. The third factor, relevance, determines how well your business matches what the user is searching for, and is based on factors like content, onsite SEO, and GMB categories. Making sure you have the correct category in your GMB listing, Hawkins notes, is one of the most important things you can do to ensure you are found for relevant user searches. She also points out that Google looks at content in reviews -- the phrases consumers use to describe your business and its offerings -- in order to determine a business’s relevance.
The whiteboard from Joy Hawkins’s presentation, courtesy Moz