Wednesday, July 24, 2019

““A landmark moment”: Viagogo banned from Google advertising - IQ Magazine” plus 3 more

““A landmark moment”: Viagogo banned from Google advertising - IQ Magazine” plus 3 more


“A landmark moment”: Viagogo banned from Google advertising - IQ Magazine

Posted: 17 Jul 2019 07:22 AM PDT

Google has suspended secondary ticketing site Viagogo as an advertiser indefinitely, following pressure from industry organisations, anti-tout groups and politicians.

The suspension means Viagogo will no longer be able to pay in order to appear at the top of Google's global search rankings.

The ban, a Google spokesperson tells IQ, will apply globally with immediate effect. A statement from Viagogo's PR firm says the Switzerland-based company is "extremely surprised to learn of Google's concerns" and "look[s] forward to working with them to resolve this as quickly as possible".

The decision is the most significant step taken by the tech giant to prevent non-compliant secondary sites using its platform. Last year, Google updated its AdWords policy to place closer scrutiny on secondary sites and prevent them from posing as official sellers, following pressure from UK politicians.

A 2017 IQ report found secondary ticketing sites such as Viagogo, StubHub and the defunct Seatwave were paying as much as 15 times more than promoters to appear at the top of Google's sponsored search listings.

Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith said the most his company could afford to pay to boost their Google ranking was around £1 per click. Resale sites, on the other hand, can afford to "pay £10 [per click] if they're making £500" on a ticket.

Trade body UK Music, the Football Association and MPs last year addressed the issue collectively,  penning an open letter to the tech giant, urging it to stop allowing Viagogo to pay its way to the top of search rankings for tickets.

"This is a landmark moment, and a major step forward to preventing exploitation of audiences"

UK Music chief executive Michael Dugher reiterated the demand earlier this month, saying it was "high time Google stopped putting Viagogo at the top of their search engine" instead of directing them to "legitimate primary ticket sales."

Commenting on today's decision, Galbraith says he and Kilimanjaro are "very pleased to hear of Google's decision to suspend Viagogo as an advertiser".

"Literally thousands of customers have inadvertently come across Viagogo via Google advertising, and then suffer terrible experiences that result in them either significantly overpaying for tickets or not gaining access to shows," he tells IQ. "We welcome the announcement and support Google's decision."

IQ understands Google removed around 2.3 billion ads that were in breach of its policies or the law last year alone.

"When people use our platform for help in purchasing tickets, we want to make sure that they have an experience they can trust," reads a Google statement.

Google removed around 2.3 billion ads that were in breach of its policies or the law last year alone

"This is why we have strict policies and take necessary action when we find an advertiser in breach."

"This is a landmark moment, and a major step forward to preventing exploitation of audiences in the secondary ticketing market," comments Adam Webb, campaign manager for anti-touting group FanFair Alliance.

"After publishing extensive research highlighting the impacts of Viagogo's misleading search advertising, FanFair Alliance has been in constructive conversations with Google for over two years in an attempt to address this issue.

"We are delighted they have finally acted and suspended Viagogo's advertising. We now hope other platforms, particularly Facebook, can follow Google's example."

The announcement comes following the decision by the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to pursue legal action against the secondary site for repeated non-compliance with consumer law.

The watchdog maintains that, despite several warnings, Viagogo continues to mislead fans by providing incomplete information, in particular relating to the number of tickets available for events.

"We are delighted that Google is finally bowing to public pressure and taking action"

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher comments: "UK Music has long urged everyone to say no to Viagogo. We are delighted that Google is finally bowing to public pressure and taking action. 

"Google is the first port of call when most music fans search for tickets and they have a responsibility to ensure [their] customers are not misled into paying over the odds for gigs and festivals.

"This is an important victory for campaigners including UK Music, FanFair Alliance, culture minister Margot James and cross-party MPs like Nigel Adams and Sharon Hodgson. This development and further legal proceedings against Viagogo marks a huge turning point in the battle to tackle exploitative touts."

Sam Shemtob, director of the Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT), says Google's decision is "a hugely significant step".

In addition to the work by the CMA and the UK parliament's digital, culture, media and sport committee, Shemtob highlights the efforts of FanFair Alliance, Spain's Association of Music Promoters (APM) and French live music industry association Prodiss, "who have been engaged in multiple conversations on the issue with Google, some of which date back to 2016.

"We hope other search engines and social media platforms will follow suit."


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ's free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Google Updates in 2019 – A Quick Recap - 99Signals - Tech News, Tech Hacks, & More

Posted: 23 Jul 2019 08:50 AM PDT

Google didn't become the world's largest search engine overnight.

It took years of consistent improvements – to the point where it now receives over 63,000 searches every second.

To enhance users' search experience, Google regularly updates its algorithms.

In fact, in 2018 alone, Google dished out over 3,000 different updates.

Most of these annual updates are minor (with some not even confirmed by Google), target specific factors, and at times, leave no significant impact on rankings.

However, some of these Google updates – also known as broad core search algorithm updates – are major and have significant implications for digital marketers. These updates are difficult to figure out since Google never really specifies what they target.

2019 has already seen several updates. In this article, we'll discuss the 3 major changes that were confirmed by Google, and break them down for you.

Let's get started!

1. March 2019 Broad Core Algorithm Update

On March 12, Google released its first broad core search algorithm update of 2019.

Unofficially known as Florida 2, the update came a few weeks after a surge in Googlebot's activity and industry chatter were noted.

GoogleBot Spike

Source: Search Engine Journal

As with every broad core Google algorithm update, initially, the global search community had no clue what the change was actually about.

All everyone knew was that the update affected some websites' rankings.

Some webmasters reported an increase in organic traffic overnight. Others, however, weren't so lucky, as their websites dropped in the SERPs.

As usual, Google pointed out that there wasn't anything in particular to fix.

Speculations and Theories about the Update

After analyzing the data, several experts came forward with their theories on what the March 2019 core Google update targeted.

Here are two popular ones that made the final cut:

  • Bias in favor of authoritative sites

Some experts believe that the March 2019 Google update gave authoritative websites an edge.

The update may have allowed popular websites to outrank others for various search queries, regardless of the quality of the content.

For example, AllRecipes.com now ranks number one (and shows up as the featured snippet) for the search query 'how to make paella'.

Search Query

Here's the catch – the Paella recipe shared on this page recommends a large portion of chicken and a very small amount of seafood, even though traditionally, Paella is mostly seafood.

This could very well be due to the new update.

Most users want to read the recipes shared at AllRecipes, regardless of their end-results.
This concept is similar to Moz's domain authority – a metric which Google claims to have never used, even though, at times, the data indicates otherwise.

  • It might have been a rollback of previous updates

Google essentially uses a trial-and-error approach to improve its complex algorithms.

This means that it can reverse previous, supposedly obsolete updates, with a new "update."

Some experts believe that the March 2019 Google update was exactly that – a rollback of some previous changes.

Sistrix, a marketing research company, prepared a report on the winners (websites that rose in rankings after the update) and losers (those that didn't do so well) for this update.

The (UK-based) data showed something interesting – approximately 75% of the "winners" were websites that were negatively affected by updates in 2018.

Sistrix data

Screenshot of the actual Sistrix article

Could this mean that Google reversed some of its previous updates?

We'll never know for sure, because, as mentioned above, broad core algorithm updates target an array of factors, and Google never discloses what those are.

Implications for Marketers

✓ Keep content up-to-date – in an interview with SEJ's Roger Montti, Jeff Coyle (co-founder, MarketMuse) said that websites with outdated (and low quality) content were hit hard by the March 2019 Google update. This puts more emphasis on producing timeless content and/or updating it from time to time.

✓ Follow a consistent publishing schedule – in the same interview, Coyle indicated that websites that strictly followed a regular publishing schedule, reported few or no negative effects from the update.

This provides further proof that it is helpful to consistently publish relevant and valuable content. Doing so could do wonders for your "authority" and help you become the preferred source of content for the average user.

2. June 2019 Core Update

In early June, Google rolled out its second core update of 2019.

This large-scale update – which took 5 days (June 3rd till June 8th) to fully take effect – impacted many websites.

The update was so significant that even the likes of Daily Mail, with their so-called high authority domains, were negatively affected – receiving a whopping 50% decline in their daily traffic.

Some top-performing websites (such as CCN) that were hit by this update even announced that they would shut down.

In fact, considering the magnitude of the June 2019 core update, Google gave a heads up to all webmasters with a pre-announcement.

The pre-announcement was made by the official Google SearchLiaison Twitter account on 2nd June. Here's the actual tweet:

Google Tweet

Needless to say, the change was significant.

As with every core update, where some websites lost a lot of organic traffic and visibility, others really took off. For reference, see this dramatic change in visibility index for a sample website that took place overnight while the update was rolling out (data by Sistrix):

Sistrix Data 2

Speculations and Theories about the Update

So, what was the June 2019 Google core update all about?

It's still too early to tell, but here's what the data indicates, so far:

  • Bad word-of-mouth by other big names could mean disaster

Out of all the affected websites of the July 2019 Google update, it seems that Daily Mail has received the most attention.

The world was shocked when one of UK's largest publications lost almost half of its organic traffic.

So, what happened to Daily Mail?

More importantly, whatever happened to the good ol' E-A-T (expertise, authority, trust) methodology?

It's hard to doubt the expertise and authority of Daily Mail's teams.

But as far as trustworthiness is concerned – it might not be the publication's strongest point.

The main culprit could've been bad word-of-mouth by the following high authority websites, which hurt Daily Mail's trustworthiness:

  • MediaBiasFactCheck.com

According to MediaBiasFactCheck.com, a popular platform where users can check the credibility of news and its sources, Daily Mail isn't reliable.

The website says that Daily Mail uses unrealistic and sensationalized headlines to attract readers, and at times, even publishes fake news.

MediaBiasFactCheck.com used the headline "Woman, 63, 'becomes PREGNANT in the mouth' with baby squid after eating calamari" as an example, stating that this news was "obviously fake."

What they didn't realize, however, was that this news was 100% real and a woman did discover a baby squid growing in her mouth after eating seafood.

While Wikipedia is no longer considered a credible source of information, a lot of people still turn to it to get the gist of broad topics.

The Wikipedia page on the Daily Mail says that the publication has been criticized for being an unreliable source of information.

Wikipedia Screenshot on Daily Mail

Screenshot of Wikipedia's page on the Daily Mail

  • Politifact

Another website, Politifact (a platform for double-checking the claims of politicians and other authority figures, as well as, media outlets) also didn't do the Daily Mail any favors.

The website said that one Daily Mail article about Brexit was click-bait.

  • Another crack at health and YMYL sites

The August 1st, 2018 Google core update (also known as the Medic update) impacted a number of health-based, and some other YMYL (your money or your life) websites.

Organic traffic on these websites dropped drastically, as did their rankings.

Google's aim was to protect users from (possibly) inaccurate medical and financial advice.

Naturally, websites which had problems with online reputation were hit the hardest.

However, the March 2019 update, which felt like a rollback, gave these websites a slight boost in organic traffic.

Sadly, it didn't last long, as they were hit yet again by the June 2019 core update.

The following screenshot by Marie Haynes Consulting shows the fall, rise, and second fall of these websites:

June 2019 update

Implications for Marketers

✓ Focus on online reputation management – before the June 2019 update, the general belief was that the big players had nothing to fear from a few bad reviews/articles.

However, considering what happened to the Daily Mail, things have changed. Websites, big or small, now have to invest heavily in online reputation management. The following is how you can achieve that:

  • Come forward with a clarification every time a website questions your credibility. If reasonable, respectfully ask such websites to take down the bad claim.
  • As a last resort, you could consider taking legal action against a website that has shared fake/unreasonable negative reviews about you.
  • If you run a news website, try taking sensational headlines down a notch. Doing so could prevent people from assuming that you're publishing fake news.

✓ Develop trust – since trust matters a lot to users (regardless of whether or not Google actually uses it as a direct metric/factor), it's about time you started to build some. This especially applies to health websites. Here are some tips to help you out:

  • Provide ample amount of citations for grand claims. Use reliable sources.
  • If possible, don't disagree from the general medical/scientific consensus (this may be challenging for websites selling natural/non-synthetic remedies).

3. June 6 Site Diversity Google Update

The June 2019 core update wasn't the only center of attention during the month.

While the core update was rolling out, Google announced another update on June 6th.

Called the Diversity Update, it was focused on displaying more diverse results.

Google Tweet 2

Source

It's still not clear whether the timing of this update was intentional or pure coincidence. In any case, this clash of the June core update and the 'site diversity' updates made things a lot more complicated for analysts.

To summarize – Google will no longer display more than two results from the same domain on most SERPs.

The aim is to encourage content marketers to produce unique content and promote a fair division of organic traffic.

Speculations and Theories about the Update

There isn't anything much to speculate about the site diversity update.

However, there's one interesting take that's worth mentioning:

  • The diversity update is only a PR move

In a recent article, Dr. Peter J. Meyers of Moz made a point about the Google site diversity update.

After analyzing a set of 10,000 keywords and taking an average of page diversity, he found that the update didn't really live up to expectations.

By June 7, the average site diversity on page-1 increased by a mere 0.49% (from 90.23% to 90.72%).

This chart shows the marginal change:

Average Page 1 Site Diversity

Source

As you can see, after the small rise in diversity (which occurred between 6th and 7th June), the line stays almost flat.

However, to be clear, Google did point out that it was still possible for a domain to get more than two results on a SERP.

Google Tweet 3

Source

Dr. Meyers dug deeper and looked at SERPs with more than two results of the same domain and a diversity score of more than 80%.

The post-update data showed a rise in just 2.1% in diversity, which is still not very impressive.

Could this mean that the site diversity update was no more than a PR stunt? It's hard to say, but considering the marginal changes, it could very well have been.

Implications for Marketers

So, does the site diversity update mean that you need to start looking for additional domain names and reading domain hosting service reviews?

No, as that would be an incorrect approach within this specific update.

Assuming that you were getting more than 2 listings on SERPs for specific queries, you don't need to worry, as you won't lose any (significant) amount of organic traffic.

If anything, this could help you attract more qualified traffic.

Here are some tips on how to benefit from the diversity update:

  • If one of your pages was moved from the first SERP after the site diversity update, internally link it from the pages that are still ranking.
  • Optimize your landing pages for featured snippets to improve your odds of getting more clicks, rather than relying on multiple listings per SERP.

Conclusion

Considering the 2019 Google updates discussed above, it's safe to say that SEO experts need to better and more quickly adapt to changing trends.

What works today, might not work tomorrow.

The three take-home messages are; to stay up-to-speed with the latest updates, keep an ear out for industry chatter on any possible changes (use social listening tools if you must and follow industry leaders) and analyze the data before coming to a conclusion.

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DOJ opens antitrust inquiry into top tech companies | TheHill - The Hill

Posted: 23 Jul 2019 02:07 PM PDT

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday announced it is launching an investigation into whether the country's largest tech companies have stifled competition or harmed consumers, marking the department's widest-ranging inquiry into potential tech antitrust violations yet.

The DOJ's antitrust division is leading the probe, surveying "whether and how market-leading online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers," the DOJ said in a statement. 

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The inquiry emerges as Silicon Valley is facing intensifying scrutiny from Washington, including looming record penalties from federal regulators and a separate antitrust investigation by bipartisan House lawmakers. 

Facebook, Google and Amazon — some of the largest and most powerful tech companies in the world — could all be implicated in the DOJ's probe. 

The department will "consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online," according to the statement.

Google dominates global search services, Facebook owns three of the top social media platforms, and Amazon is a leading player in online retail. 

"Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands," Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, who helms the antitrust division, said in a statement. "The Department's antitrust review will explore these important issues."

Delrahim, who will head the investigation, lobbied on Google's behalf in 2007 when it was facing antitrust scrutiny over its acquisition of DoubleClick, a top online advertising company that has boosted the company's dominance in digital ads. Delrahim reported a $100,000 paycheck from Google that year.

He also lobbied on behalf of Apple in 2006 and 2007 on patent reform. 

Delrahim's former lobbying credentials have prompted some Democratic lawmakers, including 2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Warren introduces bill to cancel student loan debt for millions Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission MORE (D-Mass.), to call for him to recuse himself from any tech probes.

Reports over the past several months have indicated the DOJ and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) divvied up oversight of the country's largest tech giants in preparation for potential investigations into the companies' enormous market power.

Amazon declined to comment on the DOJ antitrust probe.

A Google spokesperson pointed The Hill to recent testimony by Adam Cohen, Google's director of economic policy. 

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month, Cohen argued that Google has helped create competition. "In the face of intense competition, we are proud of our record of continued innovation," Cohen told lawmakers. "We have created new competition in many sectors, and new competitive pressures often lead to concerns from rivals." 

Google dominates online search, holding about 92 percent of the world's search engine market share, according to some estimates.  

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

According to the DOJ, if investigators identify "violations of law ... the Department will proceed appropriately to seek redress."

A growing chorus of critics, including some lawmakers on Capitol Hill, have started to question whether the country's antitrust laws need to be updated to align with the changing online landscape.

Updated at 5:35 p.m.

Google Continues Investments in Military and Police AI Technology - The Intercept

Posted: 23 Jul 2019 01:09 PM PDT

Rather than directly engage in controversial contracts, Google is providing financial, technological, and engineering support to a range of startups through Gradient Ventures, a venture capital arm that Google launched in 2017 to nurture companies deploying AI in a range of fields. Google promises interested firms access to its own AI training data and sometimes places Google engineers within the companies as a resource. The firms it supports include companies that provide AI technology to military and law enforcement.

Cogniac, one of the firms in the Gradient Ventures portfolio, is providing image-processing software to the U.S. Army to quickly analyze battlefield drone data and to an Arizona county sheriff's department to help identify when individuals cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

CAPE Productions, another Gradient Ventures-backed startup, has established itself as a premier AI-powered software solution to provide law enforcement with the ability to fly fleets of drones to conduct aerial surveillance over American cities and respond to crimes and other emergency calls.

Google employees — who spoke anonymously, fearing reprisal — said the work embraced by Gradient Ventures startups appears to circumvent the commitment by their employer to carefully vet and disclose military and law enforcement applications of AI technology.

The startups not only receive financial support from Google. Google employees shared internal company emails with The Intercept that stated that all firms backed by Gradient Ventures "will be able to access vast swaths of training data that Google has accumulated to train their own AI systems" and "will have the opportunity to receive advanced AI trainings from Google."

Senior computer engineers from Google will rotate into firms backed by Gradient Ventures, the emails noted, to provide "the kind of hand-holding support that we think is helpful in growing an AI ecosystem."

Google is providing financial, technological, and engineering support to a range of startups through Gradient Ventures, a venture capital arm that Google launched in 2017 to nurture companies deploying AI in a range of fields.

A spokesperson from Google downplayed the investments.

"Gradient Ventures is a venture fund within Google that makes minority investments (between $1-10M) in early-stage AI companies," the spokesperson wrote. "In some cases, portfolio companies have the opportunity to work with Google employees who advise them on a variety of areas applicable to early startups, from machine learning techniques to website design."

The spokesperson noted that Gradient Ventures portfolio firms receive routine access to publicly available data tools.

Cogniac, the spokesperson further noted, does not currently have a Google engineer assigned to the firm. The spokesperson further stated that while "we are not involved in the day-to-day operations of portfolio companies," Google's Gradient Ventures "adheres to Google's AI Principles when making investments," a reference to a statement of ethics released by CEO Sundar Pichai in July of last year.

Earlier this year, while formally announcing the end of Google's involvement with Project Maven, Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president for global affairs, had suggested that future military endeavors could still be part of the company's future. "We continue to explore work across the public sector, including the military, in a wide range of areas, such as cybersecurity, search and rescue, training and health care, in ways consistent with our AI Principles," Walker wrote.

Cogniac's work on behalf of the Army was detailed two years ago in a story from UAS Weekly, a trade publication for the drone industry, which noted that the firm had been successfully used in combat exercises to analyze images from small battlefield drones to identify and enemy combatants.

Cogniac is also one of several firms competing to provide a so-called virtual fence at the border to identify and apprehend individuals. The company has reportedly participated in trials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to test its ability to detect individuals engaged in unauthorized border crossing.

Cogniac is also one of several firms competing to provide a so-called virtual fence at the border to identify and apprehend individuals.

Arizona's Cochise County Sheriff's Office has also contracted with Cogniac to analyze footage from a number of surveillance cameras focused on activity along the border. "Cogniac demonstrated the ability to train the system recognize threats and filter out false alarms to the level acceptable to the Department," the county reported on its website explaining the contract.

CAPE similarly provides AI-powered software to analyze drone images. The California town of Chula Vista has used the company's "Aerial Telepresence" platform to help the local police department respond to 911 calls. According to CAPE, the pilot drone program, using CAPE's software, has helped lead to 21 arrests.

"Gradient Ventures is an investor in Cogniac. I can't comment any other aspect or terms of their investment," Bill Kish, CEO of Cogniac, wrote in an email. CAPE Productions did not respond to a request for comment.

CAPE was co-founded by Thomas Finsterbusch, a former software engineer for the Google research lab known as X, which researches breakthrough technologies. Finsterbusch is now a partner at Gradient Ventures. The venture capital firm's entire advisory board is comprised of various Google executives and heads of Google subsidiaries.

The investment arm, however, provides at least the appearance of distance while leaving a pathway for the company to continue exploring military and national security uses for machine learning technology.

““A landmark moment”: Viagogo banned from Google advertising - IQ Magazine” plus 3 more


“A landmark moment”: Viagogo banned from Google advertising - IQ Magazine

Posted: 17 Jul 2019 07:22 AM PDT

Google has suspended secondary ticketing site Viagogo as an advertiser indefinitely, following pressure from industry organisations, anti-tout groups and politicians.

The suspension means Viagogo will no longer be able to pay in order to appear at the top of Google's global search rankings.

The ban, a Google spokesperson tells IQ, will apply globally with immediate effect. A statement from Viagogo's PR firm says the Switzerland-based company is "extremely surprised to learn of Google's concerns" and "look[s] forward to working with them to resolve this as quickly as possible".

The decision is the most significant step taken by the tech giant to prevent non-compliant secondary sites using its platform. Last year, Google updated its AdWords policy to place closer scrutiny on secondary sites and prevent them from posing as official sellers, following pressure from UK politicians.

A 2017 IQ report found secondary ticketing sites such as Viagogo, StubHub and the defunct Seatwave were paying as much as 15 times more than promoters to appear at the top of Google's sponsored search listings.

Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith said the most his company could afford to pay to boost their Google ranking was around £1 per click. Resale sites, on the other hand, can afford to "pay £10 [per click] if they're making £500" on a ticket.

Trade body UK Music, the Football Association and MPs last year addressed the issue collectively,  penning an open letter to the tech giant, urging it to stop allowing Viagogo to pay its way to the top of search rankings for tickets.

"This is a landmark moment, and a major step forward to preventing exploitation of audiences"

UK Music chief executive Michael Dugher reiterated the demand earlier this month, saying it was "high time Google stopped putting Viagogo at the top of their search engine" instead of directing them to "legitimate primary ticket sales."

Commenting on today's decision, Galbraith says he and Kilimanjaro are "very pleased to hear of Google's decision to suspend Viagogo as an advertiser".

"Literally thousands of customers have inadvertently come across Viagogo via Google advertising, and then suffer terrible experiences that result in them either significantly overpaying for tickets or not gaining access to shows," he tells IQ. "We welcome the announcement and support Google's decision."

IQ understands Google removed around 2.3 billion ads that were in breach of its policies or the law last year alone.

"When people use our platform for help in purchasing tickets, we want to make sure that they have an experience they can trust," reads a Google statement.

Google removed around 2.3 billion ads that were in breach of its policies or the law last year alone

"This is why we have strict policies and take necessary action when we find an advertiser in breach."

"This is a landmark moment, and a major step forward to preventing exploitation of audiences in the secondary ticketing market," comments Adam Webb, campaign manager for anti-touting group FanFair Alliance.

"After publishing extensive research highlighting the impacts of Viagogo's misleading search advertising, FanFair Alliance has been in constructive conversations with Google for over two years in an attempt to address this issue.

"We are delighted they have finally acted and suspended Viagogo's advertising. We now hope other platforms, particularly Facebook, can follow Google's example."

The announcement comes following the decision by the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to pursue legal action against the secondary site for repeated non-compliance with consumer law.

The watchdog maintains that, despite several warnings, Viagogo continues to mislead fans by providing incomplete information, in particular relating to the number of tickets available for events.

"We are delighted that Google is finally bowing to public pressure and taking action"

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher comments: "UK Music has long urged everyone to say no to Viagogo. We are delighted that Google is finally bowing to public pressure and taking action. 

"Google is the first port of call when most music fans search for tickets and they have a responsibility to ensure [their] customers are not misled into paying over the odds for gigs and festivals.

"This is an important victory for campaigners including UK Music, FanFair Alliance, culture minister Margot James and cross-party MPs like Nigel Adams and Sharon Hodgson. This development and further legal proceedings against Viagogo marks a huge turning point in the battle to tackle exploitative touts."

Sam Shemtob, director of the Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT), says Google's decision is "a hugely significant step".

In addition to the work by the CMA and the UK parliament's digital, culture, media and sport committee, Shemtob highlights the efforts of FanFair Alliance, Spain's Association of Music Promoters (APM) and French live music industry association Prodiss, "who have been engaged in multiple conversations on the issue with Google, some of which date back to 2016.

"We hope other search engines and social media platforms will follow suit."


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ's free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Google Updates in 2019 – A Quick Recap - 99Signals - Tech News, Tech Hacks, & More

Posted: 23 Jul 2019 08:50 AM PDT

Google didn't become the world's largest search engine overnight.

It took years of consistent improvements – to the point where it now receives over 63,000 searches every second.

To enhance users' search experience, Google regularly updates its algorithms.

In fact, in 2018 alone, Google dished out over 3,000 different updates.

Most of these annual updates are minor (with some not even confirmed by Google), target specific factors, and at times, leave no significant impact on rankings.

However, some of these Google updates – also known as broad core search algorithm updates – are major and have significant implications for digital marketers. These updates are difficult to figure out since Google never really specifies what they target.

2019 has already seen several updates. In this article, we'll discuss the 3 major changes that were confirmed by Google, and break them down for you.

Let's get started!

1. March 2019 Broad Core Algorithm Update

On March 12, Google released its first broad core search algorithm update of 2019.

Unofficially known as Florida 2, the update came a few weeks after a surge in Googlebot's activity and industry chatter were noted.

GoogleBot Spike

Source: Search Engine Journal

As with every broad core Google algorithm update, initially, the global search community had no clue what the change was actually about.

All everyone knew was that the update affected some websites' rankings.

Some webmasters reported an increase in organic traffic overnight. Others, however, weren't so lucky, as their websites dropped in the SERPs.

As usual, Google pointed out that there wasn't anything in particular to fix.

Speculations and Theories about the Update

After analyzing the data, several experts came forward with their theories on what the March 2019 core Google update targeted.

Here are two popular ones that made the final cut:

  • Bias in favor of authoritative sites

Some experts believe that the March 2019 Google update gave authoritative websites an edge.

The update may have allowed popular websites to outrank others for various search queries, regardless of the quality of the content.

For example, AllRecipes.com now ranks number one (and shows up as the featured snippet) for the search query 'how to make paella'.

Search Query

Here's the catch – the Paella recipe shared on this page recommends a large portion of chicken and a very small amount of seafood, even though traditionally, Paella is mostly seafood.

This could very well be due to the new update.

Most users want to read the recipes shared at AllRecipes, regardless of their end-results.
This concept is similar to Moz's domain authority – a metric which Google claims to have never used, even though, at times, the data indicates otherwise.

  • It might have been a rollback of previous updates

Google essentially uses a trial-and-error approach to improve its complex algorithms.

This means that it can reverse previous, supposedly obsolete updates, with a new "update."

Some experts believe that the March 2019 Google update was exactly that – a rollback of some previous changes.

Sistrix, a marketing research company, prepared a report on the winners (websites that rose in rankings after the update) and losers (those that didn't do so well) for this update.

The (UK-based) data showed something interesting – approximately 75% of the "winners" were websites that were negatively affected by updates in 2018.

Sistrix data

Screenshot of the actual Sistrix article

Could this mean that Google reversed some of its previous updates?

We'll never know for sure, because, as mentioned above, broad core algorithm updates target an array of factors, and Google never discloses what those are.

Implications for Marketers

✓ Keep content up-to-date – in an interview with SEJ's Roger Montti, Jeff Coyle (co-founder, MarketMuse) said that websites with outdated (and low quality) content were hit hard by the March 2019 Google update. This puts more emphasis on producing timeless content and/or updating it from time to time.

✓ Follow a consistent publishing schedule – in the same interview, Coyle indicated that websites that strictly followed a regular publishing schedule, reported few or no negative effects from the update.

This provides further proof that it is helpful to consistently publish relevant and valuable content. Doing so could do wonders for your "authority" and help you become the preferred source of content for the average user.

2. June 2019 Core Update

In early June, Google rolled out its second core update of 2019.

This large-scale update – which took 5 days (June 3rd till June 8th) to fully take effect – impacted many websites.

The update was so significant that even the likes of Daily Mail, with their so-called high authority domains, were negatively affected – receiving a whopping 50% decline in their daily traffic.

Some top-performing websites (such as CCN) that were hit by this update even announced that they would shut down.

In fact, considering the magnitude of the June 2019 core update, Google gave a heads up to all webmasters with a pre-announcement.

The pre-announcement was made by the official Google SearchLiaison Twitter account on 2nd June. Here's the actual tweet:

Google Tweet

Needless to say, the change was significant.

As with every core update, where some websites lost a lot of organic traffic and visibility, others really took off. For reference, see this dramatic change in visibility index for a sample website that took place overnight while the update was rolling out (data by Sistrix):

Sistrix Data 2

Speculations and Theories about the Update

So, what was the June 2019 Google core update all about?

It's still too early to tell, but here's what the data indicates, so far:

  • Bad word-of-mouth by other big names could mean disaster

Out of all the affected websites of the July 2019 Google update, it seems that Daily Mail has received the most attention.

The world was shocked when one of UK's largest publications lost almost half of its organic traffic.

So, what happened to Daily Mail?

More importantly, whatever happened to the good ol' E-A-T (expertise, authority, trust) methodology?

It's hard to doubt the expertise and authority of Daily Mail's teams.

But as far as trustworthiness is concerned – it might not be the publication's strongest point.

The main culprit could've been bad word-of-mouth by the following high authority websites, which hurt Daily Mail's trustworthiness:

  • MediaBiasFactCheck.com

According to MediaBiasFactCheck.com, a popular platform where users can check the credibility of news and its sources, Daily Mail isn't reliable.

The website says that Daily Mail uses unrealistic and sensationalized headlines to attract readers, and at times, even publishes fake news.

MediaBiasFactCheck.com used the headline "Woman, 63, 'becomes PREGNANT in the mouth' with baby squid after eating calamari" as an example, stating that this news was "obviously fake."

What they didn't realize, however, was that this news was 100% real and a woman did discover a baby squid growing in her mouth after eating seafood.

While Wikipedia is no longer considered a credible source of information, a lot of people still turn to it to get the gist of broad topics.

The Wikipedia page on the Daily Mail says that the publication has been criticized for being an unreliable source of information.

Wikipedia Screenshot on Daily Mail

Screenshot of Wikipedia's page on the Daily Mail

  • Politifact

Another website, Politifact (a platform for double-checking the claims of politicians and other authority figures, as well as, media outlets) also didn't do the Daily Mail any favors.

The website said that one Daily Mail article about Brexit was click-bait.

  • Another crack at health and YMYL sites

The August 1st, 2018 Google core update (also known as the Medic update) impacted a number of health-based, and some other YMYL (your money or your life) websites.

Organic traffic on these websites dropped drastically, as did their rankings.

Google's aim was to protect users from (possibly) inaccurate medical and financial advice.

Naturally, websites which had problems with online reputation were hit the hardest.

However, the March 2019 update, which felt like a rollback, gave these websites a slight boost in organic traffic.

Sadly, it didn't last long, as they were hit yet again by the June 2019 core update.

The following screenshot by Marie Haynes Consulting shows the fall, rise, and second fall of these websites:

June 2019 update

Implications for Marketers

✓ Focus on online reputation management – before the June 2019 update, the general belief was that the big players had nothing to fear from a few bad reviews/articles.

However, considering what happened to the Daily Mail, things have changed. Websites, big or small, now have to invest heavily in online reputation management. The following is how you can achieve that:

  • Come forward with a clarification every time a website questions your credibility. If reasonable, respectfully ask such websites to take down the bad claim.
  • As a last resort, you could consider taking legal action against a website that has shared fake/unreasonable negative reviews about you.
  • If you run a news website, try taking sensational headlines down a notch. Doing so could prevent people from assuming that you're publishing fake news.

✓ Develop trust – since trust matters a lot to users (regardless of whether or not Google actually uses it as a direct metric/factor), it's about time you started to build some. This especially applies to health websites. Here are some tips to help you out:

  • Provide ample amount of citations for grand claims. Use reliable sources.
  • If possible, don't disagree from the general medical/scientific consensus (this may be challenging for websites selling natural/non-synthetic remedies).

3. June 6 Site Diversity Google Update

The June 2019 core update wasn't the only center of attention during the month.

While the core update was rolling out, Google announced another update on June 6th.

Called the Diversity Update, it was focused on displaying more diverse results.

Google Tweet 2

Source

It's still not clear whether the timing of this update was intentional or pure coincidence. In any case, this clash of the June core update and the 'site diversity' updates made things a lot more complicated for analysts.

To summarize – Google will no longer display more than two results from the same domain on most SERPs.

The aim is to encourage content marketers to produce unique content and promote a fair division of organic traffic.

Speculations and Theories about the Update

There isn't anything much to speculate about the site diversity update.

However, there's one interesting take that's worth mentioning:

  • The diversity update is only a PR move

In a recent article, Dr. Peter J. Meyers of Moz made a point about the Google site diversity update.

After analyzing a set of 10,000 keywords and taking an average of page diversity, he found that the update didn't really live up to expectations.

By June 7, the average site diversity on page-1 increased by a mere 0.49% (from 90.23% to 90.72%).

This chart shows the marginal change:

Average Page 1 Site Diversity

Source

As you can see, after the small rise in diversity (which occurred between 6th and 7th June), the line stays almost flat.

However, to be clear, Google did point out that it was still possible for a domain to get more than two results on a SERP.

Google Tweet 3

Source

Dr. Meyers dug deeper and looked at SERPs with more than two results of the same domain and a diversity score of more than 80%.

The post-update data showed a rise in just 2.1% in diversity, which is still not very impressive.

Could this mean that the site diversity update was no more than a PR stunt? It's hard to say, but considering the marginal changes, it could very well have been.

Implications for Marketers

So, does the site diversity update mean that you need to start looking for additional domain names and reading domain hosting service reviews?

No, as that would be an incorrect approach within this specific update.

Assuming that you were getting more than 2 listings on SERPs for specific queries, you don't need to worry, as you won't lose any (significant) amount of organic traffic.

If anything, this could help you attract more qualified traffic.

Here are some tips on how to benefit from the diversity update:

  • If one of your pages was moved from the first SERP after the site diversity update, internally link it from the pages that are still ranking.
  • Optimize your landing pages for featured snippets to improve your odds of getting more clicks, rather than relying on multiple listings per SERP.

Conclusion

Considering the 2019 Google updates discussed above, it's safe to say that SEO experts need to better and more quickly adapt to changing trends.

What works today, might not work tomorrow.

The three take-home messages are; to stay up-to-speed with the latest updates, keep an ear out for industry chatter on any possible changes (use social listening tools if you must and follow industry leaders) and analyze the data before coming to a conclusion.

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DOJ opens antitrust inquiry into top tech companies | TheHill - The Hill

Posted: 23 Jul 2019 02:07 PM PDT

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday announced it is launching an investigation into whether the country's largest tech companies have stifled competition or harmed consumers, marking the department's widest-ranging inquiry into potential tech antitrust violations yet.

The DOJ's antitrust division is leading the probe, surveying "whether and how market-leading online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers," the DOJ said in a statement. 

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The inquiry emerges as Silicon Valley is facing intensifying scrutiny from Washington, including looming record penalties from federal regulators and a separate antitrust investigation by bipartisan House lawmakers. 

Facebook, Google and Amazon — some of the largest and most powerful tech companies in the world — could all be implicated in the DOJ's probe. 

The department will "consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online," according to the statement.

Google dominates global search services, Facebook owns three of the top social media platforms, and Amazon is a leading player in online retail. 

"Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands," Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, who helms the antitrust division, said in a statement. "The Department's antitrust review will explore these important issues."

Delrahim, who will head the investigation, lobbied on Google's behalf in 2007 when it was facing antitrust scrutiny over its acquisition of DoubleClick, a top online advertising company that has boosted the company's dominance in digital ads. Delrahim reported a $100,000 paycheck from Google that year.

He also lobbied on behalf of Apple in 2006 and 2007 on patent reform. 

Delrahim's former lobbying credentials have prompted some Democratic lawmakers, including 2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Warren introduces bill to cancel student loan debt for millions Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission MORE (D-Mass.), to call for him to recuse himself from any tech probes.

Reports over the past several months have indicated the DOJ and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) divvied up oversight of the country's largest tech giants in preparation for potential investigations into the companies' enormous market power.

Amazon declined to comment on the DOJ antitrust probe.

A Google spokesperson pointed The Hill to recent testimony by Adam Cohen, Google's director of economic policy. 

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month, Cohen argued that Google has helped create competition. "In the face of intense competition, we are proud of our record of continued innovation," Cohen told lawmakers. "We have created new competition in many sectors, and new competitive pressures often lead to concerns from rivals." 

Google dominates online search, holding about 92 percent of the world's search engine market share, according to some estimates.  

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

According to the DOJ, if investigators identify "violations of law ... the Department will proceed appropriately to seek redress."

A growing chorus of critics, including some lawmakers on Capitol Hill, have started to question whether the country's antitrust laws need to be updated to align with the changing online landscape.

Updated at 5:35 p.m.

Google Continues Investments in Military and Police AI Technology - The Intercept

Posted: 23 Jul 2019 01:09 PM PDT

Rather than directly engage in controversial contracts, Google is providing financial, technological, and engineering support to a range of startups through Gradient Ventures, a venture capital arm that Google launched in 2017 to nurture companies deploying AI in a range of fields. Google promises interested firms access to its own AI training data and sometimes places Google engineers within the companies as a resource. The firms it supports include companies that provide AI technology to military and law enforcement.

Cogniac, one of the firms in the Gradient Ventures portfolio, is providing image-processing software to the U.S. Army to quickly analyze battlefield drone data and to an Arizona county sheriff's department to help identify when individuals cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

CAPE Productions, another Gradient Ventures-backed startup, has established itself as a premier AI-powered software solution to provide law enforcement with the ability to fly fleets of drones to conduct aerial surveillance over American cities and respond to crimes and other emergency calls.

Google employees — who spoke anonymously, fearing reprisal — said the work embraced by Gradient Ventures startups appears to circumvent the commitment by their employer to carefully vet and disclose military and law enforcement applications of AI technology.

The startups not only receive financial support from Google. Google employees shared internal company emails with The Intercept that stated that all firms backed by Gradient Ventures "will be able to access vast swaths of training data that Google has accumulated to train their own AI systems" and "will have the opportunity to receive advanced AI trainings from Google."

Senior computer engineers from Google will rotate into firms backed by Gradient Ventures, the emails noted, to provide "the kind of hand-holding support that we think is helpful in growing an AI ecosystem."

Google is providing financial, technological, and engineering support to a range of startups through Gradient Ventures, a venture capital arm that Google launched in 2017 to nurture companies deploying AI in a range of fields.

A spokesperson from Google downplayed the investments.

"Gradient Ventures is a venture fund within Google that makes minority investments (between $1-10M) in early-stage AI companies," the spokesperson wrote. "In some cases, portfolio companies have the opportunity to work with Google employees who advise them on a variety of areas applicable to early startups, from machine learning techniques to website design."

The spokesperson noted that Gradient Ventures portfolio firms receive routine access to publicly available data tools.

Cogniac, the spokesperson further noted, does not currently have a Google engineer assigned to the firm. The spokesperson further stated that while "we are not involved in the day-to-day operations of portfolio companies," Google's Gradient Ventures "adheres to Google's AI Principles when making investments," a reference to a statement of ethics released by CEO Sundar Pichai in July of last year.

Earlier this year, while formally announcing the end of Google's involvement with Project Maven, Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president for global affairs, had suggested that future military endeavors could still be part of the company's future. "We continue to explore work across the public sector, including the military, in a wide range of areas, such as cybersecurity, search and rescue, training and health care, in ways consistent with our AI Principles," Walker wrote.

Cogniac's work on behalf of the Army was detailed two years ago in a story from UAS Weekly, a trade publication for the drone industry, which noted that the firm had been successfully used in combat exercises to analyze images from small battlefield drones to identify and enemy combatants.

Cogniac is also one of several firms competing to provide a so-called virtual fence at the border to identify and apprehend individuals. The company has reportedly participated in trials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to test its ability to detect individuals engaged in unauthorized border crossing.

Cogniac is also one of several firms competing to provide a so-called virtual fence at the border to identify and apprehend individuals.

Arizona's Cochise County Sheriff's Office has also contracted with Cogniac to analyze footage from a number of surveillance cameras focused on activity along the border. "Cogniac demonstrated the ability to train the system recognize threats and filter out false alarms to the level acceptable to the Department," the county reported on its website explaining the contract.

CAPE similarly provides AI-powered software to analyze drone images. The California town of Chula Vista has used the company's "Aerial Telepresence" platform to help the local police department respond to 911 calls. According to CAPE, the pilot drone program, using CAPE's software, has helped lead to 21 arrests.

"Gradient Ventures is an investor in Cogniac. I can't comment any other aspect or terms of their investment," Bill Kish, CEO of Cogniac, wrote in an email. CAPE Productions did not respond to a request for comment.

CAPE was co-founded by Thomas Finsterbusch, a former software engineer for the Google research lab known as X, which researches breakthrough technologies. Finsterbusch is now a partner at Gradient Ventures. The venture capital firm's entire advisory board is comprised of various Google executives and heads of Google subsidiaries.

The investment arm, however, provides at least the appearance of distance while leaving a pathway for the company to continue exploring military and national security uses for machine learning technology.

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