Google adds contextual fact-checking for some image search results - TechCrunch

Google adds contextual fact-checking for some image search results - TechCrunch

Google adds contextual fact-checking for some image search results - TechCrunch

Posted: 22 Jun 2020 11:31 AM PDT

Acknowledging the role that misleadingly edited or out-of-context images play in seeding the internet with misinformation, Google is introducing fact-checking labels for some Google image searches. The feature, available starting today, provides a few lines of context with select searches, drawing on services provided by third-party fact-checkers. The tool is powered by publishers themselves, who can now opt to tag images that have been fact-checked using ClaimReview, a method for publishers to communicate to search engines that an image has been verified.

"Photos and videos are an incredible way to help people understand what's going on in the world," Google Product Manager Harris Cohen wrote in a blog post announcing the feature. "But the power of visual media has its pitfalls⁠ — especially when there are questions surrounding the origin, authenticity or context of an image."

Google is definitely right about that. Recirculated images tend to pop-up in most major online conspiracy and viral misinformation cycles, and many credulous internet users are content to believe what they can see — even if what they're seeing was edited or otherwise removed from its context.

In its announcement, Google provided the example of "sharks swimming in street Houston," a query that pulls up a perennial viral image offender. In the example search, a fact-check from PolitiFact appears below the original image of the same shark silhouette swimming in the ocean. The addition is just a few lines of text rather than anything flashier, like a colorful label that might indicate more clearly that the content has a special status.

Image Credits: Google

According to Google's announcement, the labels will pop up on "results that come from independent, authoritative sources" that meet its standards. The company notes that the inclusion of fact-checking tags won't elevate those search results. While more fact-checking and additional context is always a good thing, the new image fact-checking tool only reinforces context from third-party sources already doing this fact-checking work rather than surfacing fact-checking on low-quality websites spreading misinformation.

Google appears content to lean on third-parties for much of this kind of work rather than bringing it in-house, but the company did trial a more aggressive, hands-on misinformation strategy for COVID-19. In March, Google began scrubbing false claims from search results and pointing users to verified public health information in searches and on YouTube.

In spite of running one of the most popular social websites in the world, Google has largely steered clear of engaging in the most fractious current conversations around content moderation and misinformation, exemplified by the ongoing standoff between President Trump and his allies and social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Those companies have signaled opposite strategies toward moderation in recent weeks, with Twitter making increasingly hands-on decisions about what violates its rules while Facebook intervenes only in the most egregious cases. But even if Google mostly succeeds in staying above the fray, the company faces the same existential threat from political figures who seek to punish social media companies by revoking the legal protections that make their businesses possible.

Still, Google did dip its toes into that ongoing conflict last week, when the company confirmed it had removed the right-wing website ZeroHedge from its ad platform for violating its rules against hate and discriminatory content. The company also issued a warning to The Federalist, another far-right site, for similar violations.

Google will auto-delete location and search histories by default for new users - The Verge

Posted: 24 Jun 2020 09:17 AM PDT

On Wednesday, Google announced broad changes in its default data practices for new users, including a significant expansion in the company's willingness to automatically delete data.

In a blog post announcing the changes, CEO Sundar Pichai emphasized the company's commitment to privacy, security, and user choice. "As we design our products, we focus on three important principles: keeping your information safe, treating it responsibly, and putting you in control," Pichai wrote. "Today, we are announcing privacy improvements to help do that."

Google's auto-delete feature applies to search history (on web or in-app), location history, and voice commands collected through the Google Assistant or devices like Google Home. Google logs that data in its My Activity page, where users can see what data points have been collected and manually delete specific items. Historically, Google has retained that information indefinitely, but in 2019, the company rolled out a way to automatically delete data points after three months or 18 months, depending on the chosen setting.

Starting today, those settings will be on by default for new users. Google will set web and app searches to auto-delete after 18 months even if users take no action at all. Google's location history is off by default, but when users turn it on, it will also default to an 18-month deletion schedule.

The new defaults will only apply to new users, and existing Google accounts won't see any settings change. However, Google will also be promoting the option on the search page and on YouTube in an effort to drive more users to examine their auto-delete settings. Auto-delete can be turned on from the Activity Controls page.

The system also extends to YouTube history, although the default will be set to three years to ensure the broader data can be used by the platform's recommendation algorithms.

In some ways, the new settings represent a compromise between the privacy interests of users and Google's business interests as an ad network. A user's most recent data is also the most valuable since it can be used to target people who have recently engaged with a particular product. By keeping the last 18 months of activity, Google is able to retain most of that ad value while also deleting most of the data that would otherwise be available.

Alongside the new default settings, Google will also make it easier for users use Chrome's Incognito mode, allowing mobile users to switch to Incognito mode with a long-press on their profile picture. The feature launches today on iOS and will soon come to Android and other platforms.

Google announced an expansion of the Password Checkup tool earlier this week.

Three SEO Trends For Staying On Top Of Search In 2020 - Forbes

Posted: 28 May 2020 04:34 AM PDT


As the CEO of a digital marketing agency specializing in search engine optimization services, I'm convinced of its effectiveness for getting top positions in organic ranking and getting targeted traffic to a website. However, SEO isn't a one-time investment; it's an ongoing process of improving content based on the updates in Google algorithms.

Google improves its search function by organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible. In the last five years since its explosive growth, SEO has undergone many changes. Some of the game-changing updates Google has rolled out in the past decade are RankBrain, Hummingbird and the Exact Match Domain update. These algorithms make the search engine smarter than ever. Although these updates make life easier for end-users, SEO specialists and brands are forced to stay on their toes to quickly integrate these new techniques into their digital marketing strategy.

Below, I have identified three crucial trends you should adopt to stay on top of search in 2020.

1. BERT: Understanding Queries Better Than Ever

Late last year, Google announced its most compelling algorithm update in five years: Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT for short. BERT improves how the search engine understands language and breaks down queries. The goal is to take the query as a whole — context and nuances included — instead of nitpicking each word. BERT allows Google to match queries with more accurate and relevant results.

As voice searŅh is becoming more popular, it's safe to assume that BERT is here to stay. Since they're verbalized, users commonly phrase their voice queries in the most natural way possible. The algorithm is particularly helpful for breaking down the conversational language queries because of its ability to understand the nuances of the questions.

How do you optimize for BERT?

The answer is: you don't. Many industry leaders warned the search community about the inevitable spread of BERT optimization articles. BERT has nothing to do with technical SEO, backlinking or keyword insertion. It's one of Google's steps to reward relevant, accurate content. My advice is to focus on crafting better content. Cover timely topics that your target market will find useful, increasing your authority as an industry expert.

BERT's advanced language processing capability improves featured snippets, making sure that position zero is occupied by the result that directly answers the query. These snippets, as they grow more and more accurate, gave rise to another trend this 2020: zero-click searches.

2. Zero-Click Searches: Quick Answers For Impatient Consumers

In June 2019, almost 55% of all Google searches yielded zero clicks. This means that most users found the answers they needed on the results page, so they didn't have to visit different websites. Google takes snippets from ranked pages that provide the most satisfying answer to the query.

For web users, the prevalence of zero-click searches means that Google is doing a good job of making the world's information useful. And because consumers have grown more impatient over the years, the convenience of not having to scroll through several webpages greatly improves their browsing experience. But for businesses, this means that SEO strategy has to be strengthened. In my experience, even if your website ranks high on searches, there's no guarantee that they'll visit your pages.

Although this trend opposes your goal of driving more website traffic, your brand can still benefit from zero-click search optimization.

How do you win zero-click searches?

The best way to optimize for zero-click searches is to win featured snippets. Do this by implementing structured data on your website. It's a standardized format used to label and organize the information in your webpages.

I'd like to point out that structured data doesn't directly improve your search rankings, but it does have SEO benefits. It makes your website more readable for search engines, helping the crawlers break it down faster.

Occupying position zero also boosts your online presence, even if not all users click on your website. Remember to include your business name in your meta tags, especially in on-page blogs, to boost brand recall. Featured snippets also drive the greatest number of clicks, attracting about 50% of the traffic. Schema markup is the primary tool in structured SEO. It uses three formats: Microdata, RDFa and JSON-LD. Google recommends using JSON-LD for structured data because its scripts are relatively easier to add, update and remove compared to the other two.

Apart from zero-click searches, another trend shows the growing user demand for quick but engaging content. More and more brands have been producing videos as part of their content strategy.

3. Video For SEO: Fast, Engaging, Impactful Content

Google loves videos, and so do users. And with YouTube being the second biggest search engine, not using videos for your content strategy could lead to lost sales opportunities.

Apart from improving your content marketing strategy, videos also have SEO value. Any form of rich media is shareable. When people share your videos, it helps you create more backlinks, which can boost your ranking. Videos get featured in SERP snippets as well. You can use them to win position zero and drive more traffic.

How do you optimize your videos for search?

Our agency does this through social listening, keyword research and monitoring and checking out the "People Also Ask" section in SERPs to find out what people are talking about online.

Apart from having well-directed, engaging videos, don't forget about the SEO aspect of your media content. YouTube automatically adds closed captions for all videos, but they're not always accurate. Check the transcript of your video for any typos and grammatical errors, and insert some of the keywords you're targeting. Web crawlers are still text-based, so you have to leverage the caption feature as much as you can.

These three trends — video SEO, zero-click searches and BERT — all aim to improve your content because today's consumers demand easy-to-find, snackable and valuable content.


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