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https://relativityseo.com/seo-services/ Greg Sterling – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Thu, 23 Jan 2020 19:07:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 Google removes ‘ads’ and ‘sponsored’ labels from flight search results /google-removes-ads-and-sponsored-labels-from-flight-search-results-327975 Thu, 23 Jan 2020 12:11:04 +0000 /?p=327975 There will be no more referral fees from partners in flight search, as Google seeks to emphasize price and convenience in rankings.

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Google says that this month it will “no longer charge partners for referral links on Google Flights.” As a result, the company is removing the “ads” and “sponsored” labels from Google Flights and the flights unit in Google search results.

Results ranked according to price and convenience. A Google spokesperson said in email that flight search results have been and will continue to be ranked on the basis of price and convenience (i.e., flight duration, number of stops, layovers, etc.). Google explained that compensation from airline and travel partners has historically not impacted rankings.

The “ads” and “sponsored” links were required because Google received booking referral fees from some airline partners. Failing to be transparent about this would have run afoul of FTC disclosure guidelines.

Ad labels will soon disappear. Below are two examples of the current ad labeling in Google search results and in Google Flights, which will soon go away.

‘Sponsored’ results for flight search on Google.com

‘Ads’ label in Google Flights

Disrupting established players. A decade ago Google acquired travel reservations platform ITA Software for roughly $700 million. At the time of the acquisition, then Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that the company wanted to deeply integrate the ITA software and data to create new and better travel search experiences.

Ten years later, after considerable experimentation and product iterations, Google is arguably delivering on that promise with richer hotel and flight search results and booking experiences. Google declined to provide data about travel usage or bookings, but said through a spokesperson that the company is “happy with user engagement on Google Flights.”

That’s having a concrete impact on incumbent online travel agencies such as Expedia, which now considers Google its biggest competitor. And TripAdvisor is “cutting hundreds of jobs” in response to Google competition, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Why we care. Spending on leisure and business travel is a more than $1 trillion market according to the U.S. Travel Association. And digital advertising in the travel vertical is now approaching $10 billion.

Google is aiming to capture more of those travel ad dollars, in part by making itself a preferred travel destination with better tools and content. For many travel marketers that means stepping up Google My Business participation. As a practical matter, it also means more paid search advertising for travel incumbents and most others in the vertical.

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CallRail adds call analytics integration with Google My Business /callrail-adds-call-analytics-integration-with-google-my-business-327889 Tue, 21 Jan 2020 14:15:46 +0000 /?p=327889 Call tracking makes more data available to marketers than GMB insights.

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Call tracking intelligence company CallRail has launched an automated call analytics integration with Google My Business (GMB). According to Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder Kevin Mann, the product greatly simplifies the provisioning and set up of call tracking for GMB. “It cuts the time in half,” compared to manual set up, says Mann.  

CallRail also developed the solution, it appears, partly as a response to the rise of “zero-click search” and the “cannibalization” of website traffic by GMB.

GMB call data very limited. GMB provides limited call insights and no call recording, Mann explained. He added that it also doesn’t capture calls originating from the desktop or where users have keyed in phone numbers. “It only captures click to call on mobile devices.” In addition, “GMB doesn’t report whether the call was answered, whether it was a repeat caller or tell you call duration,” he said.

Marketers can set up automated call tracking in the CallRail UI rather than directly in GMB, which would be required if one were inputting a tracking number manually. However there’s no way to do this in bulk for multi-location brands; it must be done location by location.

The CallRail tracking number becomes the main contact number and the original business number becomes a secondary phone number in GMB. The tracking number is unique and remains with the account as long as that business (or agency representing the business) continues as a CallRail customer.

‘Person-level data’ available. Mann outlined additional benefits of using call tracking compared to relying exclusively on GMB insights:

  • Marketers can use separate numbers for GMB and organic search — the latter utilizes dynamic number insertion (or forms) on a landing page or website — providing distinct analytics
  • Marketers can obtain “person-level data” from GMB-originated phone calls, including customer name, phone numbers, recordings. They’ll also be able to determine call duration, which callers are repeats and how many times a prospect calls before converting.

I asked Mann if the the company’s more advanced call intelligence features were available with its new GMB tracking solution. He said that the company’s “conversational intelligence ” package is available as an add-on. It offers call transaction, lead scoring and keyword spotting, which can inform organic search and for paid campaigns.

Why we care. Marketers who wanted to go all in could set up tracking for GMB, organic search and paid campaigns (using call extensions) to clearly understand which “channels” within search were driving the most and the best leads. And for those frustrated by the reporting limitations of GMB insights, it could make sense to explore a tracking solution, especially if calls are the primary source of leads and sales.

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Google buys Pointy to bring SMB store inventory online /google-buys-pointy-to-bring-smb-store-inventory-online-327566 Tue, 14 Jan 2020 17:32:28 +0000 /?p=327566 The company offers an elegant solution to the challenge of getting local merchant inventory into search results and ads.

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Google is acquiring Irish startup Pointy, the companies announced Tuesday. Pointy has solved a problem that vexed startups for more than a decade: how to bring small, independent retailer inventory online.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Pointy had raised less than $20 million so it probably wasn’t an expensive buy for Google. But it could have a significant impact for the future of product search.

Complements local inventory feeds. This acquisition will help Google offer more local inventory data in Google My Business (GMB) listings, knowledge panels and ads especially. It complements Google Shopping Campaigns’ local inventory ads, which are largely utilized by enterprise merchants and first launched in 2013.

Numerous companies over the last decade tried to solve the challenge of how to bring small business product inventory online. However, most failed because the majority of SMB retailers lack sophisticated inventory management systems that can generate product feeds and integrate with APIs.

Pointy POS hardware

Source: Pointy

How Pointy works. The company created a simple way to get local store inventory online and then showcase that inventory in organic search results or paid search ads. It utilizes a low-cost hardware device that attaches to a point-of-sale barcode scanner (see image above). It’s compatible with multiple other POS systems, including Square.

Once the device is installed, it captures every product sold by the merchant and then creates a digital record of products, which can be pushed out in paid or organic results. (The company also helps small retailers set up local inventory ads using the data.) Pointy also creates local inventory pages for each store and product, which are optimized and can rank for product searches.

Pointy doesn’t actually understand real-time inventory. Cleverly, however, it uses machine learning algorithms to estimate this by measuring product purchase frequency. The system assumes local retailers are going to stock frequently purchased items. That’s an oversimplification, but is essentially how it works.

Pointy said it a blog post that it “serve[s] local retailers in almost every city and every town in the U.S. and throughout Ireland.”

Why we care. The Pointy acquisition will likely help Google in at least three ways:

  • Provide more structured, local inventory data for consumers to find in Search.
  • Generate more advertising revenue over time from independent retailers.
  • Help Google more effectively compete with Amazon in product search.

Notwithstanding the fact that e-commerce outperformed traditional retail over the holidays, most people spend the bulk of their shopping budgets offline and prefer to shop locally. Indeed, Generation Z prefers to shop in stores, according to an A.T. Kearney survey.

One of the reasons that people shop at Amazon is because they can find products they’re looking for. They often don’t know where to find a particular product locally. But if more inventory data becomes available, the more people may opt to buy from local stores instead.

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Google’s ‘My Business Provider’ program replaces ‘Trusted Verifier’ for GMB outreach /googles-my-business-provider-program-replaces-trusted-verifier-for-gmb-outreach-327467 Mon, 13 Jan 2020 15:13:05 +0000 /?p=327467 But agencies, SEOs, and resellers are not eligible to become MBPs.

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Over the weekend Darren Shaw pointed out and Mike Blumenthal posted about the new Google My Business Provider program (MBP) being rolled out. It supplants the now shuttered Google Trusted Verifier Program.

Both programs have the same goal: simplify verification of local business listings at scale for Google My Business by allowing third parties to expedite the process. According to several studies over the past few years, a substantial number of GMB profiles remain unclaimed (e.g., 56% in 2016, 32% in 2018).

Seeking those with lots of SMB relationships. The program, like its predecessor, enlists “groups or organizations handling large amounts of business data” to help local businesses claim their GMB profiles. My Business Providers must apply, be approved and onboarded and then they can obtain and distribute verification codes for businesses they work with.

My Business Providers can verify individual businesses or locations in bulk. The FAQs lists several categories of potential MBPs but doesn’t foreclose others:

  • banks
  • auto-dealers
  • delivery and distribution companies
  • telephone companies
  • tourism and governmental organizations
  • malls
  • airports

SEOs need not apply. Significantly, “Agencies, SEOs, and resellers are not eligible for this program.” And the proposed MBP “must not have access to the business listings they are verifying.”

Google says MBPs cannot charge for the service or display any kind of partner badge, but sees the program as a competitive advantage for those involved: “If you are helping local merchants succeed through a strong online presence, this partnership with Google can help you distinguish yourself from other competitors.”

Google also offers a range of talking points for MBPs. These include, “one-liner introductions” such as: “We partner with Google to help small businesses build a successful online campaign on Google Search and Maps that attracts customers’ attention,” as well as more detailed pitches.

No SABs or online-only businesses. The program is only available to those working with local businesses that have a physical storefront, “Online-only businesses and pure Service Area Businesses are not eligible.” Google adds, “The proposed partner must interact with businesses in the real world, not only digitally. “

Mike Blumenthal notes in his post, “It was long thought that the Trusted Verifier Program was an on-going source of Local Listing Spam. It is not clear what if any additional protections Google put in place to prevent this program from becoming the same.”

Why we care. Third party aggregators are often (though not always) motivated by profit in approaching local businesses owners and this has created numerous problems over the years. Google is trying to leverage third parties with lots of relationships to improve the data in search and Maps but without creating incentives to spam or exploit SMBs (i.e., charging for profile claiming).

But as Mike suggests with his spam comment, Google will need to be highly vigilant to prevent opportunistic entities from exploiting the program for their own benefit.

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Yelp cracks down on ‘review rings’ as Google continues to see widespread mapspam /yelp-cracks-down-on-review-rings-as-google-continues-to-see-widespread-mapspam-327432 Fri, 10 Jan 2020 23:10:02 +0000 /?p=327432 Will the problem of fake listings and reviews destroy trust in major platforms?

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Locksmiths has always been a troubled category on Google. For years, honest local locksmiths have been crowded out by fake listings and fabricated reviews. Every so often an article calls that to our collective attention.

Sprawling network of fake locations. Most recently, the CBC investigated the category and found “a sprawling network of fake locations and fake five-star reviews cluttering local Google Maps in the Greater Toronto Area.” Google has pledged to address the issue in response.

In June 2019, a wide-ranging Wall Street Journal piece alleged that “millions of business listings on Google are fake” in an article that got considerable attention. In response, Google detailed how it fights spam in Maps and local listings. However many SEOs have long argued that Google doesn’t do enough to combat listings and review fraud. And some have even asserted that Google profits from the status quo, by not aggressively fighting spam.

Google has repeatedly denied this.

Yelp consumer alerts shame bad behavior. Yelp has almost certainly been the most aggressive of the review platforms to take action against spam and review fraud. The company has historically and controversially tried to prevent any form of review solicitation.

In 2012, Yelp initiated a program called “consumer alerts.” Its objective was to notify consumers about “brazen attempts to manipulate ratings and reviews – either by purchasing/incentivizing people for reviews, writing a bunch of reviews from the same IP address . . . acquiring reviews from a deceptive review ring, or threatening reviewers with legal action.”

Yelp reviews for sale by geography

Now the company is stepping up efforts to stop “review rings,” which have become something of a cottage industry online. For example, the search query “where can I buy Yelp five star reviews?” lead me to Quora and in turn to AppSally, which is openly selling Yelp reviews (graphic above).

‘Suspicious review activity.’ Yelp is now introducing a new category of consumer alerts intended to flag businesses “that may have received reviews from deceptive review rings.” The company says that it closed “more than 400 user accounts associated with one vast review ring we recently uncovered.”

New ‘suspicious review activity’ alert on Yelp

Yelp explained that it engaged a third party to “evaluate the fraudulent review landscape for Yelp,” which apparently included trying to buy fake reviews. This analysis reportedly found:

  • A decline in fraudulent providers offering Yelp reviews for sale
  • 35 of 36 fraudulent review vendors had been caught by Yelp’s filtering software
  • Buying fake Yelp reviews is getting more expensive at the vendors still willing to sell them

A Yelp spokesperson asserted in an email to me that as fraud has been prosecuted on its platform, fake review vendors continue to operate and publish “on other platforms” (read: Google). For its part, TripAdvisor reported recently that it blocked or removed nearly 1.5 million fake reviews in 2018.

Why we care. Fake reviews are a problem that exists on all major review sites: Google, Facebook, Amazon, TripAdvisor and Yelp. But there’s conflicting data on whether consumers are aware of it and how widespread the problem is (yes, no).

Generally speaking consumer trust is ebbing for many reasons, fraud among them. Over the years we’ve seen very ad hoc and uneven policing of review and listings fraud. But it’s time to dispense with the laissez-faire approach and really address this problem in a systemic and sustained way. It’s in the long-term self-interest of the platforms to do so.

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The big list of Google My Business changes, upgrades and tests in 2019 /the-big-list-of-google-my-business-changes-upgrades-and-tests-in-2019-327017 Mon, 30 Dec 2019 21:20:08 +0000 /?p=327017 The key GMB updates of 2019 with local experts’ perspective on what's most significant.

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For businesses that operate in the physical world, Google My Business (GMB) has become the center of the digital universe. Google is relying increasingly on content in GMB for ranking and less on third party citations and off-page signals than in the past.

A lot happened with GMB this year, far too much to summarize in one post. (Joy Hawkins does a great job of capturing and summarizing most local SEO-related changes.) In addition to four major Google algorithm updates there was at least one major local algorithm update tied to neural matching, although BERT will affect local results as well.

Below is a summary of most (though not all) of the GMB updates and changes that happened this year, together with a few that don’t strictly belong to GMB. I’ve also tried to add some perspective at the end with an assist from local SEOs and experts Carrie Hill, Adam Dorfman, Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm.

January: Messaging, SAB flow, virtual office rules

  • Google started emphasizing messaging in the GMB profile — although it compelled business owners and agencies to message exclusively through the Google My Business app — following its abandonment of SMS-based messaging.
  • The company introduced a new sign-up flow for service-areas businesses. It starts with a question about whether the business has a store or office. If the answer is no, it sends the user down a SAB-specific path.
  • Google also provided guidance surrounding who is eligible to create a GMB page for a virtual office. In particular, there must be on-site staffing.

February: Map reviews, AR directions, join waitlist

March: Duplex rollout, Core update and SAB addresses disappear

April: Assistant local results, GMB paid services survey

May: Popular dishes, food ordering and CallJoy

June: Mapspam and Shortnames

July: Get a quote and place topics

  • A “get a quote” button started appearing in local Knowledge Panels for some businesses that opted-in to GMB messaging. It showed up in mobile and on the PC as well. (A related feature appears in December.)
  • Google tested “place topics,” which are tags, themes or keywords extracted through machine learning from user reviews. They only appear when there are enough user reviews, under the reviews tab on the GMB profile.

August: Carousel pack, bulk reviews, Google Screened

September: Post highlights, food ordering opt-out

October: Search by photos, Incognito Mode for Maps

  • Google showed users a new option to “search by photos” in mobile results. They appear as a module in the SERP that opens to a larger page of images with star ratings.
  • Google implemented a number of promised privacy controls for users. These included Incognito Mode for Google Maps, voice control to delete Google Assistant search activity and auto-delete for YouTube history.

November: Local algo update, follow local guides, no more phone support

December: Review carousels, auto-Posts, choose area

The local SERP is evolving

Most of these changes above impact local marketers, but there are some developments that are clearly more important than others. Google is using machine learning extensively to improve relevance and auto-generate content (Posts, reviews in carousels) for uses that vary by query and context. It’s also making local-mobile search results much more visual.

Accordingly, David Mihm pointed to “image-focused packs and carousels” as a new and significant change. Mike Blumethal agreed and said, “Repurposing reviews to answer Q&A, provide more granular review understanding and answer product queries via the carousel” were key changes. Carrie Hill also emphasized the query carousel and remarked, “Surfacing review, Q&A Posts and product feed content above address and phone [information] is a big change.”

Finally, Adam Dorfman added, “The survey regarding packaging of potential products and services businesses could pay Google for was one of the larger signals of where they are likely to head.” I agree.

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Nine voice search stats to close out 2019 /nine-voice-search-stats-to-close-out-2019-326884 Mon, 23 Dec 2019 20:18:48 +0000 /?p=326884 A look back at some of the year's key voice search and virtual assistant metrics.

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From smartphones to smart home appliances, artificial intelligence, voice and virtual assistants are very much at the center of a shift in the way we interact with digital devices. While voice has not yet lived up to its promise, it’s clear it will be an enduring feature of the digital user experience across an expanding array of connected devices.

Mobile = 59% of search

Way back in 2015, Google announced that mobile search had surpassed search query volumes on the desktop. But it never said anything more precise and hasn’t updated the figure. Hitwise, in 2016 and again in 2019, found that mobile search volumes in the aggregate were about 59% of the total, with some verticals considerably higher (e.g., food/restaurants 68%) and others lower (e.g., retail 47%).

This isn’t a voice stat, but it’s important because the bulk of voice-based queries and commands occur on mobile devices rather than the desktop.

Voice on cusp of being first choice for mobile search

According to early 2019 survey data (1,700 U.S. adults) from Perficient Digital, voice is now the number two choice for mobile search, after the mobile browser:

  1. Mobile browser
  2. Voice search
  3. Phone’s search box/window
  4. Search app
  5. Text a friend

However between 2018 to 2019, voice grew as a favored entry point for mobile search at the apparent expense of the browser. Thus it could overtake text input as the primary mobile search UI in 2020.

Nearly 50% using voice for web search

Adobe released survey data in July that found 48% of consumers are using voice for “general web searches.” This is not the debunked “50% of searches will be mobile in 2020,” data point incorrectly attributed to comScore.

The vast majority of respondents (85%) reported using voice to control their smartphones; 39% were using voice on smart speakers, which is a proxy figure for device ownership.

Here are the top use cases for voice usage, predominantly on smartphones:

  1. Directions while driving — 52%
  2. Making a phone call — 51%
  3. Sending a text — 50%
  4. Checking the weather — 49%
  5. Playing music — 49%

Directions a top voice use case

Consistent with the Adobe survey, an April Microsoft report found a more specific hierarchy of “search” use cases on smartphones and smart speakers. Again, however, this is a primarily smartphone-based list:

  1. Searching for a quick fact — 68 percent
  2. Asking for directions — 65 percent
  3. Searching for a business — 47 percent
  4. Researching a product or service — 44 percent
  5. Making a shopping list — 39 percent

Crossing the 100 million smart speaker threshold

During 2019 there were multiple reports and estimates that sought to quantify the overall number of smart speakers in the U.S. and global markets. In early 2019, Edison research projected that there were roughly 118 million smart speakers in U.S. homes. However, other analyst firms and surveys found different numbers, typically somewhat lower.

Because people often own more than one smart speaker, the number of actual individual owners of smart speakers is considerably lower than 100 million: 65 million or 58 million, depending on the survey.

Amazon dominating Google in smart speaker market

Amazon, with its low-priced and aggressively marketed Echo Dot, controls roughly 70% to 75% of the U.S. smart speaker market according to analyst reports. In Q3 2019, for example, Amazon shipped 3X as many smart speaker and smart display units as Google.

Analyst firm Canalys argues Amazon’s success is a byproduct of its market-leading direct channel and discounting. Google’s direct and channel sales have so far not been able to keep pace with Amazon’s efforts.

Virtual assistant usage: Siri and Google lead

In contrast to the smart speaker market share figures, virtual assistant usage is a different story. This is because most virtual assistant usage is on smartphones and Amazon doesn’t have one.

A Microsoft report (in April) found a different market share distribution, with the Google Assistant and Siri tied at 36%, followed by Alexa.

Source: Microsoft (2019)

There are other surveys that suggest Google Assistant’s usage is greater than Siri’s.

58% use voice to find local business information

The connection between mobile and local search is direct. While Google has in the past said that 30% of mobile searches are related to location, there are plenty of indications that the figure is actually higher. Google itself said the number was “a third” of search queries in September, 2010 (Eric Schmidt), 40% in May, 2011 (Marissa Mayer) and, possibly, 46% in October 2018.

Asking for driving directions is not always an indication of a commercial intent to go somewhere and buy something. But as the Adobe and Microsoft surveys indicate, it’s a primary virtual assistant/voice search use case. A voice search survey conducted in 2018 by BrightLocal also found:

  • 58% of U.S. consumers had done a local business search by voice on a smartphone
  • 74% of voice search users (the 58%) use voice to search for local businesses at least weekly
  • 76% of voice search users search on smart speakers for local businesses at least once a week, with the majority doing so daily

79% concerned about privacy with smart speakers

Multiple surveys indicate high satisfaction levels with voice search and virtual assistants. But, as with other digital media experiences, there are growing privacy concerns that may materially impact the development of the market.

A 2019 survey by Path Interactive found that “79% of survey respondents are at least somewhat concerned about the privacy implications of using voice search devices. Only 17% are not concerned.” That’s consistent with a 2018 survey of 1,000 U.S. adults by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which found that 66% of those who hadn’t bought a smart speaker/display said they were concerned about privacy or data security.

Edison Research also found that concerns about hacking, government eavesdropping and that the devices were “always listening” was impacting smart speaker demand and potential future growth.

Conclusion: Hooked on voice

Even though voice search and voice commands are not utilized by everyone, what might be called the “voice habit” is already established. That doesn’t solve the smart speaker business model problem or suggest that these devices will ultimately fulfill their promise. But consumers will increasingly use voice to control their smartphones, connected devices in their homes and functions in their cars. That’s because the technology is already good and it’s only getting better. Marketers should be paying attention to how their listings render across these devices when voice is the search activator.

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French regulator fines Google $166 million for ‘brutal’ ad suspensions /la-mort-dads-french-regulator-fines-google-166-million-for-brutal-ad-suspensions-326824 Fri, 20 Dec 2019 15:58:40 +0000 /?p=326824 Google says it was protecting the French public from deceptive websites.

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La mort d’ads. France’s antitrust regulator imposed a 150 million euro fine ($166.2 million) for arbitrarily suspending ads, according to the Wall Street Journal. The ads in question were “deceptive,” according to Google.

La vie et la mort. Claiming that Google exercises “the power of life or death” over companies, the French antitrust authority characterized the suspensions, according to the report, as “brutal and unjustified” and “random and unpredictable.” The French regulator wants Google to further clarify its ad-suspension rules and create something like a warning system for advertisers facing suspension, presumably to afford them an opportunity to cure whatever problem has been identified.

However that approach may not have worked in this case. In the underlying facts giving rise to the fine, Google blocked a company called Gibmedia from buying ads. Gibmedia offers micropayments to publishers; the WSJ article describes it as “a publisher of weather-forecast websites.”

Google says protecting people from ‘deception.’ Google told the WSJ that the company ran ads for sites “that deceived people into paying for service.” (We’ve asked Google to separately comment.)

Google takes the position that it was protecting consumers. It said the ads in question were “exploitative and abusive.” If that’s accurate, the French government is in the strange position of advocating on behalf of a company that may have been manipulating the public.

Google promised to appeal the fine in court.

Why we care. Google already has extensive ad policy documentation. However, further clarification and transparency surrounding policies and suspensions would probably be a good outcome. Google competitors such as Facebook and Bing exercise similar discretion over ads and presumably would be equally affected by this decision in France — and perhaps throughout Europe by extension — pending the outcome of any court case.

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Google highlights fact-checking while Bing SERP found to be disinformation hotbed /google-highlights-fact-checking-while-bing-serp-found-to-be-disinformation-hotbed-326726 Thu, 19 Dec 2019 17:42:28 +0000 /?p=326726 There's still a long way to go to fix the fake-news problem, but even further for Bing according to a new Stanford report.

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Fake news, deceptive content, and disinformation will continue to be major, contentious issues as we head into the 2020 election next year. Following heavy criticism in the wake of the 2016 election, both Facebook and Google initiated fact-checking efforts to help identify falsehoods in news content (although Facebook’s political ads policy has been thought to confuse free speech and disinformation).

Obviously, there’s still a long way to go to protect people from efforts to manipulate them with willfully false information online. This morning, Google is highlighting its own fact-checking efforts in News and Search, while a new report calls out Bing as a hotbed of misinformation and disinformation.

Google touts expanding fact-checking. The company said that “fact checks appear more than 11 million times a day in Search results globally and in Google News in five countries (Brazil, France, India, U.K. and U.S.). There’s also a dedicated search tool for fact checking that anyone can access.

Google also says that it’s working with a variety of organizations to provide more “context” for people to help them evaluate content in Google News or in Search results. The company illustrates this with an example from a search result for the query “did vaccines cause measles outbreak in Samoa.”

Google fact-checking markup in the SERP

The result, which is relatively far down the page, indicates that the story is “false” and has been checked by AFP. Users can click-through to the AFP fact check for themselves. Google goes on to say in its blog post that it’s trying to find “new models to support the long-term sustainability of the fact-checking field” (read: it doesn’t want to subsidize it forever).

Google’s effort to support fact-checking is laudable but doesn’t go far enough. Stories that have been determined to be false through credible third-party fact-checking should either be severely demoted or removed entirely from the SERP.

Bing disinformation much worse than Google. Bing has largely been spared all the criticism that Google and Facebook have suffered over “fake news.” However, a new report and analysis from the Stanford Cyber Policy Center found that Bing’s SERPs are filled with bad and dubious information much more often than Google’s.

According to the report, “Bing returns disinformation and misinformation at a significantly higher rate than Google does. Across the top 50 results for 12 separate queries (a total of 600 results), Bing returned at least 125 sources of disinformation and misinformation, while Google returned 13.”

Other verbatim findings critical of Bing include:

  • Bing directs users to conspiracy-related content, even if they aren’t explicitly looking for it.
  • Bing shows users Russian propaganda at a much higher rate than Google does.
  • Bing places student-essay sites—sites where students post or sell past papers — in its top 50 results for certain queries.
  • Bing dredges up gratuitous white-supremacist content in response to unrelated queries.

The complete findings and methodology are documented here.

Why we care. First, there’s the obvious issue of not allowing the internet to become a vehicle for manipulation of populations and political outcomes. But in the more specific world of online marketing, bad information and false content in SERPs erodes trust. I would argue we have a crisis of trust online right now and marketers need to be building trust to ensure success and long-term value. Without credibility and trust, billions of dollars in brand advertising will be entirely wasted.

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Don’t know much about SEO: Survey finds business owners lack basic knowledge /dont-know-much-about-seo-survey-finds-business-owners-lack-basic-knowledge-326580 Tue, 17 Dec 2019 19:33:56 +0000 /?p=326580 A survey of almost 400 businesses uncovered uncertainty and confusion about the importance of SEO.

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Google launched in 1998, more than 20 years ago. Yet the importance and value of search optimization is still not fully understood by many business owners. That’s an eye-opening finding from a recent survey by digital agency Fractl.

Business owners and consumers surveyed. Fractl surveyed 977 people in total about their Google and SEO knowledge, just under 400 of them were business owners (394). Just over 200 (219) had fewer than 5 employees. The remainder had between 5 and more than 100, with second largest group in the 10 to 24 headcount range.

The survey asked a range of general and specific questions, including “the meaning behind SEO buzzwords.”

The study initially asked consumers and business owners about how Google ranks search results. Only 13% of consumer respondents and 26% of business owners believed they had a “good” or “expert-level” understanding of why Google shows certain results above others.

Conversely, the majority of both groups did not feel they had a good understanding of how Google orders its results. This general ignorance also showed up in more specific questions about SEO knowledge.

We wouldn’t expect the general population to have a deep understanding of SEO terminology or mechanics. But, at least conceptually, one might expect that of business owners, for whom ranking matters.

Business owners were asked about their familiarity with SEO. A little more than half (55%) said they were “mostly” or “very” familiar with it.

Less than 20% (18.4%) said that SEO was “very important” to the health of their business. Just over 26% didn’t see SEO as critical to their success (“not at all,” “slightly”) and 55% were in the middle. The latter group believed that SEO was important but weren’t quite certain how important.

Why we care. Perhaps the most interesting finding here is the gap between the 55% of business owners who say they’re “mostly” or “very” familiar with SEO and 18.4% who say that it’s “very important” to the health of their businesses. Either the 55% aren’t all that familiar with SEO or there’s a problem with analytics or ROI data. Or maybe only the 18.4% are ranking.

Regardless, it appears the market still needs considerable education about the importance of SEO and/or better tools and techniques to demonstrate value.

The post Don’t know much about SEO: Survey finds business owners lack basic knowledge appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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