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SEO Web Design / SEO  / Google, Microsoft throw down the gauntlet and why Excel is the foundation of SaaS; Monday’s daily brief

Google, Microsoft throw down the gauntlet and why Excel is the foundation of SaaS; Monday’s daily brief

Good morning, Marketers, and what is search?

As I’ve watched the “what is martech?” conversation playing out on our sister site, MarTech Today[1]. It’s made me rethink the parallel question for Search Engine Land: “What is search marketing?” Our knee-jerk reactions are often very Google- and Microsoft-centric, but people search pretty much everywhere online nowadays–and especially as we’ve become even more digital this past year.

I remember the old statistic that “YouTube is the second largest search engine,” but our target markets also search on Amazon for products, Instagram for brands, Facebook Groups for crowdsourced answers, Pinterest for inspiration, and more. Searchers on each platform have very different goals, but if you exist there–it’s key that you’re taking them into consideration, figuring out who’s searching for you there, and optimizing across them. How do you optimize for search outside of Google and Bing? Let me know[2].

Carolyn Lyden,
Director of Search Content

Instagram tests auto-captions for stories

Instagram auto captioning

Instagram is currently testing a “closed caption” sticker that can be used to auto-caption video stories in the social media platform. The new option offers accessibility but also more versatility for brands, creators, and influencers.

To get captions[3], you can add the Captions sticker to a story. You’ll get a “transcribing audio…” loading prompt, and then you can see the transcription on the video. Because it’s a test, it hasn’t rolled out for everyone yet, but captioning already exists for Facebook videos and for IGTV, so we can likely expect it to be more widely available soon.

Why we care. Not only does closed captioning enhance accessibility for people who have hearing disabilities, but data shows that on video platforms like YouTube, content with closed captions saw a 13% increase in views, says 3Playmedia[4]. Plus, 80% of people who watch videos with captions do so because they can’t turn the sound on in their environment, according to data from the UK’s Ofcom[5]. That’s people like me who browse Instagram while holding a sleeping baby, people who watch while at work, or those who view Instagram Stories on their commute (when we do that again).

U mad, bro? Google v. Microsoft wars return

Google published a scathing rebuke[6] of Microsoft last week after Microsoft chastised Google’s ongoing disagreements with publishers across the world. The condemnation comes on the heels of Google threatening to pull out of Australia[7] when the country’s legislation indicated Google would have to pay for linking to news sites in search results. The issue was resolved with Google’s News Showcase[8]

Microsoft chastises Google. Microsoft endorsed[9] Australia’s move to force Google to compensate publishers in a blog post in February and went a step further by saying the US should do the same: “The United States should not object to a creative Australian proposal that strengthens democracy by requiring tech companies to support a free press. It should copy it instead,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer.

Google hits back. In the response, Google’s SVP of Global Affairs, Kent Walker seems to distract from Google’s bad press around the journalism controversy by bringing up Microsoft’s SolarWinds hack: ”It’s no coincidence that Microsoft’s newfound interest in attacking us comes on the heels of the SolarWinds attack and at a moment when they’ve allowed tens of thousands of their customers…to be actively hacked via major Microsoft vulnerabilities.” 

Why we care. Well, firstly, who doesn’t grab their popcorn when big tech brands beef? The whole thing reads like a salty non-sequitur founded on corporate “what-about-isms.” But Google’s response also came right before the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee was to hear testimony this past Friday for whether news outlets should be able to negotiate with Facebook and Google for better terms–a hearing in which Smith just happens to also be testifying. “The hearings come after a bipartisan report from the House Judiciary Committee, released last year, found that tech companies are harming journalism and, in turn, democracy, by using data collected from readers of online news articles to dominate the digital advertising space, which media companies also rely on,” wrote Alex Vuocolo[10]. It’s a tangled web that’s an extension of what search marketers are already dealing with: privacy, search results, and monetization.

COVID shifts social and content agency work in-house 

agency shift to in house

More brands are shifting their marketing in-house this year after COVID changed the landscape of digital marketing, according to data from Gartner’s[11] CMO Spend Survey. In a tweet last week[12], Jennifer Hoffman shared the chart above which shows that over half of the CMOs surveyed ditched their agencies in 2020. Other areas that were transitioned from agencies to brand marketing teams included content marketing, video and podcast production, and PR. 

Why we care. Most any agency will tell you that a year ago, they saw huge shifts in their client bases. People paused their marketing, lowered their spend, and waited to see what happened as the pandemic was just beginning to play out in the US. Those numbers shifted as consumers embarked on a mostly-digital lifestyle over the past year. However, the move to bring marketing resources in-house (whether placing responsibilities on existing employees or hiring focused talent in these areas) could help brands save money, have more direct control over their search marketing, and mitigate the added stress of client-agency relationships during an already stressful time for businesses.

On the hunt for something new in 2021? Here are the latest career opportunities in search

Digital Strategy Director – Paid Social[13] @ Goodway Group (USA)

  • Understand the client’s challenges, desired outcome, and the audience most likely to contribute toward the client achieving their goals
  • Foster strategic thinking within the hand-off between social planning and platform execution

Growth SEO Manager[14] @ Uber (San Fran)

  • Make an impact on the top line by influencing the direction of Uber’s SEO Content
  • Establish a shared Growth SEO vision by building consensus on priorities leading to successful content experiments.

SEO Associate Director[15] @ Direct Agents (NYC)

  • Deep dive into client media campaigns, analytics, performance, and strategy
  • Ongoing exhaustive analysis of eCommerce clients strategy

Director of Search Marketing & Analytics[16] @ SEMbyotic (Remote – Pacific/Mountain Time Zones)

  • Developing paid search strategy and campaigns across a variety of digital channels
  • Acts as the Account Manager on Paid Search to customers during customer meetings

Enter a job opening for an opportunity to be featured in this section.[17][18]

Misinformation in SERPs, landing your first local SEO client, and “secret” columns in Google Ads

How search engines can spread misinformation. Search engines are one of society’s primary gateways to information and people, but they are also conduits for misinformation[19]. Search engines learn to serve you what you and others have clicked on before. Because people are drawn to the sensational, this dance between algorithms and human nature can foster the spread of misinformation.

How to land your first local SEO client. In a new course led by Claire Carlile[20], SEO practitioners can learn how to put together a local SEO service offering and start pitching and winning clients. The free program from BrightLocal has lessons in identifying your client niche, determining how to position and price your services, and how to maintain smooth working relationships with clients.

How to find “secret” columns in Google Ads. In this episode[21] of the Paid Search Podcast, hosts Chris Schaeffer and Jason Rothman talk about what they consider the “best, worst, and secret data columns in Google Ads.” The idea is to gather the best data to know what to do next in your campaigns and grow your business–and then understand how to interpret that data for the best results. The segment really takes off at 10:49.

Excel never dies: The spreadsheet that launched a million companies

List of software that come from Excel

If you’ve met or had even the shortest professional interaction with me, you know I love a good spreadsheet. I plan my vacations in spreadsheets. I coordinate my SEO work in spreadsheets. My life thrives in spreadsheets. What I didn’t consider about my go-to application, though, is how fundamental it has been to the creation of pretty much everything in SaaS and martech… until I read this piece by Packy McCormick[22].

The flexibility of Excel means users and businesses can create any process, workflow, database, list, tool, calendar, or dashboard in a single application. McCormick argues that watching what people build in Excel has been the roadmap for new and useful tools B2B, SaaS, and martech:

“Excel may be the most influential software ever built… Users can create fully functional software programs in the form of a humble spreadsheet to solve problems in a seemingly limitless number of domains. These programs often serve as high-fidelity prototypes of domain specific applications just begging to be brought to market in a more polished form. 

If you want to see the future of B2B software, look at what Excel users are hacking together in spreadsheets today.”

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, of course. Excel has its limitations which include a lack of data provenance, the inability to version within the program and no guardrails like specific SaaS software would include.

But, if you truly think about it, so many martech SaaS campaigns are built on the idea that you “no longer have to rely on clunky spreadsheets.” The article promises, though, that no matter how many niche software applications are built to unbundle Excel for their particular audience, Excel will never die.

About The Author

Carolyn Lyden serves as the Director of Search Content for Search Engine Land and SMX. With expertise in SEO, content marketing, local search, and analytics, she focuses on making marketers’ jobs easier with important news and educational content.


  1. ^ MarTech Today (
  2. ^ (
  3. ^ captions (
  4. ^ 3Playmedia (
  5. ^ UK’s Ofcom (
  6. ^ scathing rebuke (
  7. ^ pull out of Australia (
  8. ^ News Showcase (
  9. ^ Microsoft endorsed (
  10. ^ Alex Vuocolo (
  11. ^ Gartner’s (
  12. ^ tweet last week (
  13. ^ Digital Strategy Director – Paid Social (
  14. ^ Growth SEO Manager (
  15. ^ SEO Associate Director (
  16. ^ Director of Search Marketing & Analytics (
  17. ^ Enter a job opening for an (
  18. ^ pportunity to be featured in this section. (
  19. ^ conduits for misinformation (
  20. ^ course led by Claire Carlile (
  21. ^ this episode (
  22. ^ this piece by Packy McCormick (

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