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Robert Alex

Robert Alex

The Google search snippets are reportedly being adjusted in order to provide more accurate and correct information.

Google Search Snippets

Google is by far the largest and most robust search engine, and many people rely on the service to provide them accurate and timely information. With the introduction of Google search snippets several years back, the company took the helpful yet potentially problematic step into providing a “definitive” answer at the top of the page based on what they feel is the most accurate and popular response. While Google’s algorithm for coming up with information is extremely advanced and does a good job of pulling up relevant information, it appears as if their search snippet feature has occasionally been completely wrong. As such, the Google search snippets are being updated to more accurately reflect the correct information.

Examples of potentially problematic Google search snippets include suggestions that are completely out of left field. Google stated that “Last year, we took deserved criticism for featured snippets that said things like ‘women are evil’ or that former U.S. President Barack Obama was planning a coup.” They are apparently “working hard to smooth out bumps” with Google search snippets that they “continue to grow and evolve.”

“We failed in these cases because we didn’t weigh the authoritativeness of results strongly enough for such rare and fringe queries,” said Google.

A major issue that Google is working diligently to resolve is the accuracy of search results being dependant on how a question was framed. “This happens because sometimes our systems favor content that’s strongly aligned with what was asked,” says the statement. “A page arguing that reptiles are good pets seems the best match for people who search about them being good. Similarly, a page arguing that reptiles are bad pets seems the best match for people who search about them being bad. We’re exploring solutions to this challenge, including showing multiple responses.”

The majority of the problems with the Google search snippets are due to people trying to game the system and try to get the search engine to slip up and provide inaccurate information. While the likelihood of people taking Google’s apparent insistence that women are evil at face value is quite low, it’s still a concern for the tech giant if their algorithm is prioritizing biased and inaccurate answers to queries.

A Reputation To Uphold

Google deals with an incredible amount of searches each day, and these false search snippets likely only represent a small fraction of the results. However, Google has a vested interest in maintaining their status as a reliable search engine that provides relevant and useful results. By suggesting that Obama is planning a coup, they take a hit to their credibility no matter how obvious it is that the information isn’t correct. TechCrunch reports that a study last year by Stone Temple found a 97.4 percent accuracy rate for Google search snippets and related formats such as the Knowledge Graph information, reinforcing the fact that the search engine is usually incredibly accurate.

Provided the Google snippet stating that the company “now processes over 40000 search queries every second on average” is correct, however, that 3% is not an insignificant amount. By updating the Google snippets algorithm, the company can provide a better service to their users which may translate into better profits as the company obtains more information about web searches – applying that info to targeted campaigns for their advertisers.

Source: This article was published valuewalk.com By Zachary Riley

Sometimes what helps us to be successful in our professional lives is not such a great idea in our personal lives — competition is a quality that comes to mind. At the same time, we all have a limited amount of time each day to do the things that we want to do.

So for the sake of saving time and energy, I’m sharing a list of tips that will help you be successful in both life and in business.

1. Add Value

No matter what you do and where you go, you can’t go wrong with adding value. Simply put value is anything that people are willing to pay for. In your professional life, the more value you can offer the more money you can make. In your personal life, more value translates to closer relationships and strong personal growth. The best way to add value is to find the intersection between what people are willing to pay for and what service or product you can offer that is aligned with your values, strengths and goals.

How are you adding value to your employers and loved ones today? What can you do to increase your ability to add value?

2. Follow Your Passion

Reading numerous biographies on great people and from my own personal observations and encounters, I’ve realized that those who achieve greatness professional and personally follow their passion. The reason why great people are few and far in-between is because most people don’t even know what their passion is. For those that do figure out their passion, most of them don’t follow their passion consistently. This is one of the main reasons why people don’t reach their goals.

Do you know what your passion is? If not, what are you going to do to find out? If  you do know what you passion is, are you following it?

3. Be Extraordinary

If you do the same thing as everyone else, it’s hard to be successful. It is important to find the edge and then push past it. That is how you become noticed and get what you want. Whether it is money, meaningful relationships and/or a sense of personal accomplishment, the extraordinary person attracts them all.

How are you extraordinary?  If you feel just ordinary, what are you going to do to become extraordinary? For those who don’t know, you may want to check out articles on my blog and also How to go from Ordinary to Extraordinary.

4. Start Now

There are many factors that go into become a success in both your professional and personal life but the one factor that is required is taking action. Most people miss out on reaching their full potential because they never start. They are always preparing, planning and waiting for the best time to start. If I waited until I was ready, I would not have a coaching practice, a website, a blog, a workshop, etc. The stars rarely align and you will never be completely ready so just start now and adjust along the way.

Are you waiting for something before you start? What is your planning to doing ratio? What’s really the worse thing that can happen if you got started right now? If you are someone that’s just been waiting, stop reading this post and get started on what you have been wanting to do. This article will still be here when you get back.

5. Hunt for Good Mentors

People who “make it” usually credit their success to a mentor or a group of mentors who really helped guide them to get to where they are. Mentors have gone down the road that you want to travel and can guide you to get to your destination faster than if you went at it alone. If you want to be healthy, you would find a mentor who is already healthy. If you want to be rich, then you have to find someone who is already rich. What surprises me is how rarely people engage in mentoring relationships and those who do usually find mentors in only one aspect of their lives. If you want to be successful, be active about finding mentors that will help you achieve what you want. Jeff Goins has a nice short article on finding mentors.

Do you have a mentor in your life now? If not, ask yourself what barriers are preventing you from finding or establishing a mentoring relationship? If you do have a mentor, do you have one for the different aspects of your life (financial, health, professional, personal, spiritual, relationships, parenting etc.)?

6. Build a Support Group

While mentors serve as a guide with whom you review your past actions and plan your next steps, a support group are your companions that help you with during the actual execution of your plan. This may be in the form of a mastermind group or accountability partner where you keep each other accountable for your goals and to help each other deal with situations that may arise while you are on your journeys. It is extremely helpful to have someone you know that is willing to listen to your frustrations and self doubt and to encourage you and remind you of how far you’ve already come.

Who is in your support group?

7. Personally Know Your Finances

Numbers scare a lot of people. Start talking about assets, liabilities and net worth and people’s eyes just glaze over. If you are one of these people who run away from numbers, please stop running because you are hurting yourself. If you want to be financially independent, you need to know how to keep score. If you have your own business or want to successfully invest, finances tell you how well you are doing and reveal the health of a business. If you don’t understand finances, you have to learn. It’s easy once you get over the limiting belief that you are no good at numbers. For those interested in learning more, you may want to check out these personal finance resources.

Do you know you net worth? If you are bad at numbers, what specifically makes you believe that? How can you improve your financial intelligence?

8. Get Help

I have a tendency to try to do everything myself and in some ways it is good and in many ways it is bad. It is important to know and understand all aspects of your life and business but that does not mean having to do all the tasks involved in maximizing your potential in those areas. It is true that we can always learn new things and become competent in them but what is also true is that we are only given 24 hours each day and to live full lives, it is more effective to do what we do best and to outsource tasks that we’re not good at to people who excel at them. Delegating effectively takes trust and the ability to clearly communicate what you want. For those that want to outsource, Elance is a nice way to find some quality freelancers.

How are you spending your time? Is it doing things you are awesome at? If not, what are you doing that you can outsource or delegate so you can devote more time doing what you’re great at? What’s stopping you from outsourcing or delegating?

9. Learn Sales

Many people cringe when they hear the word sales. “I would never be in sales, that’s a sleazy job.” It is exactly this type of thinking that stops people from being their best. Sales is nothing more than persuading someone of something. When you are looking to get a date, you are selling. When you are interviewing for a job, you are selling. When you are trying to persuade your spouse or kids to go to Europe for your family vacation, you are selling. In a professional setting, sales is paramount and the lifeline for any business. If you want to get the most out of life and business, learn the skills for effective selling. I am beginning a series of blog posts on How to Sell on my blog and you can learn from other successful sales trainers by reading material from Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracey and Og Mandino.

When you hear “sales”, what associations come to mind? Are they positive or negative? Do you know the how to sell effectively? If not, how do you plan to learn?

10. Be Resilient

Things rarely work out the way you planned and there will always be distractions and stumbling blocks that you have to deal with when you are on your road to success. The key point to remember is to persist and to develop the courage to move on even when everyone around you is telling you it is ok to give up. This does not mean stubbornly holding on to your original plan but rather continuing to pursue your goal as long as the reasons for doing so is still valid (Make sure you know the “Why” of what you want). When everything seems to be going wrong, keep in mind that “the road to success is paved with a thousand failures” so each failure actually brings you closer to where you want to be. If you have trouble being resilient, check out the 6 Effective Ways to Be Persistent.

How often to you quit because things got tough? Would you descrive yourself as an unshakeable optimist? Do you view problems as opportunities or warning signs? How do you view failure and are you making sure that you don’t make the one mistake people make when learning from their mistakes?

This is not an exhaustive list, but it does provide a good starting point. I would love to hear what tips you have found especially useful in both life and business in the comments section.

(Photo credit: Road with an Arrow Going Up via Shutterstock)

Source: This article was published on lifehack.org by Robert Chen

Of course you know about Google, Yahoo, Bing and AOL, but have you heard of the DuckDuckGo search engine? Well, it’s an internet search engine that emphasizes protecting searchers’ privacy and avoiding the “filter bubble” of personalized search results.

If you’re buying a used phone, there’s always been one critical thing to look out for: whether the device is stolen. And finding that out is getting a bit easier today. The US wireless industry, through its trade group the CTIA, has launched a tool called the Stolen Phone Checker, which lets you look up whether a phone has been reported lost or stolen.

The site works by looking up a device’s IMEI, MEID, or ESN — unique codes that get assigned to every phone. These are sometimes printed on the back of phones, like the iPhone, but in other cases they can be found somewhere deep in the settings menu.


Checking this out before buying a used phone is important for a handful of reasons. But perhaps the simplest is that if the phone you get turns out to be lost or stolen, it pretty much won’t work. For several years now, US phone carriers have kept a shared database of stolen phone IDs, and they won’t allow those devices to be connected to their network.The CTIA’s tool isn’t the first of its kind. There are a handful of third-party lookup tools out there — like this one from Swappa — and the big carriers have their own, too. But it sounds like the Stolen Phone Checker is being positioned as the canonical site for looking these things up. And if nothing else, it has the easiest name to remember. So if you’re buying a device off Craigslist, eBay, or some other used phone dealer, be sure to check one of these sites first.

Source: This article was published on theverge.com by Jacob Kastrenakes  

Comparing your site to your biggest competitors is useful for a variety of reasons. First, it helps you find missed opportunities. It also clues you into shifts in your industry which could help you stay ahead of the curve. It also gives you a benchmark for growth goals.

Reaching the top of the SERPs and staying there is more challenging now than ever. Although Google webmaster guidelines haven’t changed much over the years, the core algorithm has.

Thanks to regular updates, in addition to major ones like Knowledge GraphHummingbird, and RankBrain, Google is better able to filter out websites that don’t meet their standards and boost up sites that best satisfy those guidelines.

I’m not suggesting that you can “reverse engineer” Google’s algorithm. It’s far too complex. Still, a review of top ranking websites can be a good starting point for determining best practices. At the most basic level, a website can be broken down into these components:

  • Technology
  • Content
  • Backlinks

Here are three ways to compare your site to your competitors to see where your SEO could be doing better.

1. Website Technology

A well-structured website that is fast, easy to use, and easy to crawl should be every webmaster’s goal. You don’t need a specific technology to accomplish this, but if you’re starting with a new site or considering a redesign, it’s certainly worth checking out the competition.

My favorite resource for this is BuiltWith.com.

SEJ technology profile using BuiltWith

They provide a ton of technology information, including:

  • Web Server
  • Email Services
  • Hosting Providers
  • Nameserver Providers
  • SSL Certificate
  • Content Management System (CMS)
  • Advertising
  • Analytics & Tracking
  • JavaScript Libraries
  • Mobile
  • Widgets
  • Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  • Aggregation Functionality
  • Document Information
  • Encoding
  • CSS Media Queries

Website Architecture

Knowing your competitors’ website architecture can be useful in terms of establishing parent and child page hierarchy as well as discovering potential product or content gaps. The best and easiest way to determine this is by creating a sitemap. There are several great sitemap tools available, but if you want a free tool that has stood the test of time, it’s hard to beat Xenu Link Sleuth as shown below:


Page Speed

With mobile devices being the most popular access point to the web, page speed is incredibly important. Google has specifically mentioned it as a ranking factor. The WebPageTest tool shows how you stack up against your competition:

Website Performance Tester

If you find your site is underperforming, head over to Google’s PageSpeed Insights for specific recommendations on how to speed up performance. In fact, even if you are best in class, you should still run the PageSpeed test and address any problems cited by Google.

2. Website Content

Organic Keyword Research

Developing the right list of keywords is still important. Chances are, your competitors have already invested a lot of time in developing a killer keyword strategy. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste. Use this competitive intelligence to drive traffic to your site.

My tool of choice for competitor organic keyword research is Ahrefs. They have a large database of search rankings by website. They also make it easy to determine which phrases drive traffic and their potential for ranking.

keyword explorer

In addition to listing keywords and rankings, they also list top pages. Better still,  they include the number of keywords that a particular page ranks for as well as a list of those phrases:

Ranking KWs on Pages

It fairly common to find a single page, like the one highlighted above, ranking for hundreds (even thousands) of related keywords. It can often be much more efficient to concentrate on creating a better version of a top-performing page than to focus on a single keyword or phrase.

One question in the back of nearly every webmaster’s mind is, “What opportunities are being missed?” What are competitors ranking for that you are missing out on? That doesn’t need to remain a mystery. Just plug your competitors into the Content Gap Tool, as shown below:

content gap analysis
You have the option of filtering to:

  • Show keywords that any of the targets rank for, but you don’t
  • Show keywords that at least two of the targets rank for, but you don’t
  • Show keywords that all the targets rank for, but you don’t

This is a great way to find both highly relevant keyword opportunities as well as some potentially new business opportunities.

On-page Optimization

Google may not be as dependent on meta tags since the introduction of Knowledge Graph, but having a clear roadmap for both users and search engines is still important. One way to see how your pages stack up against the competition is by using SEOBook’s free WebPage Similarity Comparison Tool:

Webpage similarity comparison

This tool outputs a comparison of:

  • Page title
  • Meta description tag
  • Keywords (good for competitor intel, not so much for SEO)
  • Text and word count
  • Top two- & three-word keyword phrases

The most effective way to use this tool is to look for patterns. In this case, each title tag leads with the brand and includes mentions of SEO and search marketing in at least two of the three pages with optimized title tags.

Some would argue this makes you the same as everybody else. That may be true, but if that’s what Google is rewarding, I’m OK with that.

3. Backlinks

There was a time when SEOs would chase after every backlink a competitor had to neutralize the advantage that link might provide. That all changed with the introduction of Penguin in April 2012.

Links that once held zero value suddenly had a negative value. All the garbage links acquired through indiscriminate backlink mining became dangerous to have in a link profile.

Penguin 4.0 is much more forgiving, but who knows what the future may bring? That doesn’t mean competitor backlink mining is a bad idea. It just means you need to use your head and “score” prospective links to determine if they are worth the necessary effort to acquire. (Pro tip: If no effort is necessary, it’s almost never worth getting.)

Once again, I find the Ahrefs Link Intersect tool to be highly effective in mining competitor links. (For the record, I have no affiliation with Ahrefs except for a paid subscription.)

Competitior Backlink Mining

The tool offers two different filtering options:

  • Show who is linking to all the targets
  • Show who is linking to any of the targets

Final Takeaways on Competitor Analysis

Content and links will continue to be the backbone of Google’s algorithm for some time. Understanding what you are up against and neutralizing any competitor advantages is an important step when developing an effective marketing campaign. Follow that up with the development of unique and useful content and nothing can stop you from ruling the SERPs.

Source : This article was published searchenginejournal.com By Chuck Price

NASA's Space Poop Challenge has awarded $30,000 in prizes to space tech pioneers for their spacesuit toilet innovations.
Credit: NASA

Turns out, space poop is a problem that puzzles thousands of people. After NASA asked for solutions to let astronauts urinate and defecate inside a spacesuit for up to six days, more than 5,000 entries (representing 20,000 people) answered the call.

The winner of the $15,000 Space Poop Challenge prize was Thatcher Cardon, for a solution called "MACES Perineal Access & Toileting System (M-PATS)." Details on the system were not immediately available.

Cardon explained how he devised the idea for the system.

"I was really interested in the problem, though, and spent some time lying down, eyes closed, just visualizing different solutions and modelling them mentally," Cardon, a colonel and commander of the 47th Medical Group at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas, said in a statement by HeroX, which oversaw the challenge for NASA. [How Astronauts Use the Bathroom in Space: A Guide]

"Over time, the winning system of ideas coalesced," Cardon said. "Then, I packed up the family, and we drove around Del Rio, Texas, to dollar stores, thrift stores, craft stores, clothing and hardware stores to get materials for mock-ups."

The second-place prize of $10,000 was awarded to a system dubbed "Space Poop Unification of Doctors (SPUDs) Team – Air-powered," by Katherine Kin, Stacey Marie Louie and Tony Gonzales. The $5,000 third-place prize went to Hugo Shelley's "Spacesuit Waste Disposal System."

NASA scientists said they were pleasantly surprised by the public's interest in the challenge.

"The response to the Space Poop Challenge exceeded all of our expectations," Steve Rader, NASA tournament lab deputy director, said in a statement. "The level of participation and interest went far beyond what we expected for such a short competition." [In Space, Everyone Can Hear You Poop (Video)]

"It was wonderful to see the global response from our crowdsourcing challenge," added Kirstyn Johnson, NASA spacesuit technology engineer. "We enjoyed seeing the innovative approaches that were sent in given such a demanding scenario. Others at NASA are now thinking about ways we can leverage a crowdsourcing approach to solve some more of our spaceflight challenges."

The contest opened in October and invited participants to create a system inside a spacesuit to flush away urine, feces and menstrual fluid. The goal is to make the system function for 144 hours — long enough to keep an astronaut alive for a rescue if his or her spacecraft were to be disabled and out of breathable air.

NASA astronauts' current method of waste disposal involves using a diaper during spacewalks and launch and entry, but these systems can be used only for about a day. The agency noted that it is difficult to design pooping systems for microgravity, where fluids and other things float. Maintaining good hygiene for these systems was among the primary challenges participants were tasked with solving.

In a description of the challenge, NASA said it was looking for technologies that have a "technical readiness level of 4" on its "ready for flight" scale, meaning that the solution could be tested in one year and be ready for space in three years. NASA added that it would consider solutions that would need more time if they were considered breakthroughs.

This article was originally published on space.com By Elizabeth Howell

Good news for anyone with an Android phone that isn't a Pixel: Google Assistant is rolling out to more phones, new and old. That means many more of us will be able to take advantage of Google's latest and smartest AI. There are some things both the Google Assistant and Siri are excellent at — like pulling up emails or showing photos you've taken in the last week in a specific city (Apple really seems to be catching up to Google in the image analysis department).

Image: David Nield/Gizmodo

But there are some things Google just does better. So stop with the Apple envy and read about some of the key areas where Google Assistant has the edge over Apple's own digital AI.

1) Getting instant answers from the web

Image: Screenshots Some of Google's instant answers might be on the dubious side but Google Assistant seems better at pulling nuggets of information from the web. It correctly responded to "who won the Best Director Oscar?" and "who wrote The Body In The Library?" with Damien Chazelle and Agatha Christie respectively.

Siri, in contrast, gave us a list of movies (not including La La Land) for the answer to the first question, and listed the results of a Bing search for the second (which, to be fair, included Agatha Christie in the snippet previews). Obviously Siri gets a lot of questions right too, but Google Assistant seems to be ahead here.

2) Finding places nearby

Image: Screenshots Both Siri and Google Assistant do a decent enough job of finding restaurants, bars, and other kind of businesses nearby, but Google's app came out on top in our tests, not just on the places it returned, but on the interface: results are presented in a simple carousel and you can quickly jump to a Google Maps view.

Over on Siri the results list is more difficult to parse and appears to cast a wider net. Your mileage may vary depending on your location and the data these apps have to work with, but where we're from Google Assistant is currently more useful.

3) Remembering what you've already said

Images: Screenshots Out of the gate Google Assistant promised smart, contextual responses, so if you asked follow-up questions it would respond sensibly. However it wasn't always as smart as we would have liked, and Siri is now just as good at dealing with those follow-up questions, so you can ask both apps for the weather in Sydney, then say "and New York?" and get the right answer.

Where Google Assistant still has the edge is remembering stuff about you (predictably enough for a Google service). Tell the Google Assistant your favourite soccer team, and it remembers that information; Siri just lists soccer fixtures. It's not a huge feature, but now you don't have to out yourself as a Manchester United fan at the bar, and instead can just ask "how did my favourite team do?"

4) Speaking in foreign languages

Images: Screenshots Google Assistant is just more loquacious than Siri full stop, but one area where this really comes in handy is with getting short phrases translated. Ask Google Assistant to say "how are you?" or "what's the time?" in Spanish and you get the answers read back to you with authentic accents.

Siri simply searches Wolfram Alpha for a translation, so it doesn't really work for phrases and you don't get the added bonus of hearing the pronunciation. If you're a long way from home and need to find a bathroom, then Google Assistant is far more helpful (provided you have a decent data plan).

5) Going beyond being an assistant

Images: Screenshots Google Assistant is much more than an assistant, despite the name: it will read you poetry, tell you a joke, or play a game with you. At the moment Siri can't do any of those things, and returns a rather evasive response (though to give it credit, it will direct you to the App Store if you ask to play a game).

It's perhaps a sign of Google's ambition for its new Assistant app, as a whole new interface for the web and your phone rather than just an add-on. It's also fair to say it's still more rough around the edges than Siri is, but Apple's got its work cut out if it wants to keep pace with what Google's doing.

Author : David Nield

Source : gizmodo.com.au

Friday, 17 February 2017 06:29

The dark side of social media

Some scientists peer into active volcanoes and try to read rocks. Others sift signals from space or analyse how animals behave. And then there are the cyber-ethnographers, who dedicate their careers to studying the way that people behave online. Some of these digital researchers must surely envy the ‘peaceful’ life of a volcanologist, for, as geologists like to say, one cannot argue with a rock.

Arguments rule the online world — witness the attention given this week to a Twitter row between Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling and journalist Piers Morgan. And although sometimes amusing, it doesn’t take much for online banter to slip towards insults, harassment and worse. That is the grim domain of the Internet troll, and it’s this murky online environment that brave cyber-ethnographers are now trying to study.

This May, it will be a full ten years since the abduction of three-year-old Madeleine McCann from her family’s holiday villa in Portugal and the worldwide coverage that followed. Yet, a decade later, people on the Internet still swap 100 messages or so an hour about the case. Many of these accuse and insult her traumatized parents, celebrating their daughter’s disappearance and gloating over their misery.

Such people are among the basest and most antisocial Internet trolls, and in a paper in Computers in Human Behaviour, psychologists describe how they tried to engage with this troll community, to study their attitudes and behaviour, and to work out what makes them tick (J. Synnott et al. Comput. Hum. Behav. 71, 70–78; 2017). Their research put them in the cross-hairs for several weeks, and the trolls did not disappoint. Once the goal of their study was exposed by others in the anti-McCann community, “you need better English to do a PHD luv!” was among the more polite messages sent in response to questions from “the psychology student studying trolls”.

Things got heated when the scientists tried to introduce some science into the debate. Much of the suspicion towards the McCann family was generated by a claim from the Portuguese police that sniffer dogs had found evidence of a cadaver in their holiday apartment (no charges were brought). When one of the psychologists posted a reference to an academic paper showing that such dogs made frequent mistakes in hot weather, and invited discussion, the trolls were more interested in insults and attacks on the researcher’s motive, labelling them a “shill” and blocking them when they tried to steer conversations back to the findings.

Previous research on trolls has identified key phrases that act as calling cards and draw activity. In this study, the word ‘shill’ — meaning that the researcher was paid by the McCann family to protect its reputation — was a red rag, and led to more and more trolls circling the discussion and piling in.

What can we learn from the study? One powerful theme of the anti-McCann messages is motherhood — and how the trolls argue that they would have behaved differently, both before and after the abduction. Psychologists call this disassociation, and it could arise from an irrational belief that parents who explicitly distance themselves from the plight of the McCann family somehow keep their own children safer. But there were much nastier motives on show, too: although most of the trolls argued that they were fighting for justice, the researchers conclude that this was thin cover for being able to hurl insults anonymously.

There are two other notable points. First, most of the abusive and offensive messages sent and received were against the rules of the social-media provider, yet no action was taken. And second, to ‘not feed the trolls’ has little impact. They are cultural scavengers who feast on alternative facts and false news already in the system, and thrive on condemnation. Rocks are so much easier to deal with.

Source : http://www.nature.com/news/the-dark-side-of-social-media-1.21478

Between the long-awaited rollout of Penguin 4.0, a strengthening of Google’s mobile-friendly ranking signal and the ‘Possum’ algorithm update impacting local search, 2016 was an interesting year for Google algorithm changes.

And with an upcoming move to a mobile-first search index already on the cards, as well as a penalty for intrusive mobile interstitials coming into effect on the 10th, 2017 promises to be just as eventful.

Looking back at 2016, which algorithm changes were the most impactful for marketers in the industry? And how can brands best prepare themselves for what might be around the corner? I spoke to Sastry Rachakonda and Ajay Rama of digital marketing agency iQuanti, along with Search Engine Watch’s regular mobile columnist Andy Favell, to get their thoughts on what’s to come in the search industry.

The most impactful algorithm updates of 2016

“Mobile-first indexing is probably the most significant change that happened this year,” said Rachakonda, who is the CEO of iQuanti, a data-driven digital marketing agency, “since companies were creating unique mobile content that was not the same as their desktop content. They did that for user experience. There were smaller snippets that were design friendly, but weren’t relevant and optimal for the search query.”

But while Google’s shift to emphasise mobile search even more heavily – which has included a much fuller rollout of Accelerated Mobile Pages into organic search results – was probably its most noteworthy update overall, Rachakonda believes that a different update was actually more impactful from a brand perspective: Possum.

‘Possum’ is the name given to a major update to local search on Google which came into effect on 1st September 2016, and which is thought to be the most significant algorithm update to local search since Pigeon in 2014. The name was coined by Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System, who thought it was fitting as after the update, many business owners thought that their Google My Business listings were gone, when in fact they were only filtered – hence, ‘playing possum’.

A possum lies with its mouth open on the ground, appearing to be dead.

The apparently ‘dead’ Google My Business listings gave the Possum algorithm update its name. Image via Wikimedia Commons

The update seemed mostly aimed at improving the quality of the local search results and removing spammy listings, which meant that some businesses who had engaged in less-than-kosher practices in order to rank found themselves demoted.

“Possum has been the most impactful update for brands by far,” said Rachakonda. “One of our Fortune 500 clients in the insurance industry saw a 7% drop in keyword rankings, which resulted in a 13% loss of month-on-month traffic. We believe this was due to some outdated tactics their previous agency used to get them ranked, which clearly Google wasn’t fond of.”

While some businesses saw their traffic drop off as a result of Possum, others were seeing a remarkable recovery thanks to Penguin 4.0, which deployed after much anticipation in late September. The original Penguin update in 2012 targeted and devalued inorganic links, such as links which had been bought or placed solely to improve rankings, which led to significant losses in traffic for businesses who had engaged in those practices.

As Chuck Price explained in an article for Search Engine Watch in December 2015, “After Penguin, bad links became ‘toxic’, requiring a link audit and removal or disavow of spammy links. Even then, a Penguin refresh was usually required before one could see any signs of recovery.”

But thanks to the Penguin 4.0 update in 2016, these refreshes now take place in real-time, leading to significant recovery for brands who had already taken action to remove and disavow the bad links. Marcela De Vivo took a look at how this recovery works in practice, and what site owners can do to improve their situation if they haven’t already done so.

What’s on the cards for 2017?

As I mentioned in my introduction, at least two updates in 2017 are already certain, both of them relevant to mobile search. One, Google’s penalty for mobile sites with annoying interstitials, is due to go live tomorrow, and our search news roundup last Friday featured some new clarifications from Google about what kind of interstitials will be affected by the penalty.

The other is Google’s move to a mobile-first search index, a major shift which reflects the fact that the majority of Google search queries are now coming from mobile devices. While we don’t yet have a date for this change, Google confirmed in October that the change would take place within the next few months, which means that Google’s primary index could switch to mobile any day now, and brands would do well to prepare themselves. I asked Andy Favell, Search Engine Watch’s resident mobile specialist, what advice he would give to brands who want to be prepared.

“Google has done an excellent job of focusing companies’ minds on the importance of having a mobile-friendly website. The stick approach – the fear of harming the search ranking – has worked wonders for driving adoption of mobile or mobile-friendly sites.“However, companies should have been focusing on the carrot – building websites that would appeal to some of the billions of mobile web users out there. The beauty of mobile first is that a mobile-friendly site is often a much better desktop site. That is still true today.“Rather than worrying about trying to make Google happy, brands should concentrate on the mobile users, consider who they are, their context, and what they want, and provide that the best possible way – i.e. intuitive, fast-loading, good UX and usability. Businesses that do this will get more traffic, more happy users and more conversions.“That’s not just good for business, it’s good for your search ranking also. Because Google wants what’s best for the search user.”

A white iPhone held in a person's hand against a blurry backdrop. The lock screen displays the time as 12:23 on Monday, July 29.

Brands will need to prepare themselves for mobile search becoming Google’s primary index some time soon in 2017.

Those are the changes we know about so far. But what do those in the industry think is coming for search in 2017? Ajay Rama, Senior Vice President of Product at iQuanti, believes that the mobile-first index will take up most of SEO mindshare over the coming year, but he also has a number of predictions for how voice search – which has become a huge part of the search landscape since 2015 – may evolve and change things.

“As voice search starts becoming mainstream, we might see the beginning of a SERPless search – search without a SERP page,” predicts Rama. “We could see early tests in this space where we will see Google Assistant and search being seamlessly integrated into an interactive search experience. Assistant interacts with the user to ask the right questions and take him to the target page or a desired action, instead of showing a SERP page with various options. In this new experience, ads would have to be reinvented all over.”

Given that Google’s innovations of the past few years, from semantic search to Quick Answers, have increasingly been geared towards understanding users’ exact intentions with the aim of finding a single, ideal result or piece of information to satisfy their query, it’s not hard to imagine this happening. Rama also foresees a much more extensive rollout of Google’s voice-controlled Assistant to go along with this.

“Google Assistant will become part of Android, and will be available on all Android devices. Talking to the device in local languages becomes mainstream, and Google Assistant will lead this space. Their machines will learn all accents and all languages, and will soon become a leader in the voice devices, especially in non-English speaking nations.”

A Google search results page for 'voice search'.

Can you imagine Google search without the SERP? With the expansion of voice search, it could become a reality.

While it’s hard to imagine that all of these developments will take place in 2017 alone, there’s definitely a possibility that we’ll see them begin. Google Assistant is already reported to be learning Hindi as a second language, and more languages could well follow if the uptake of Hindi is a success. However, Google Assistant is fairly late to the game compared to established voice assistants like Siri and Cortana who have been around much longer, and have had more time to refine their technology. So is it still possible for Google to pull ahead in this race?

With this change in the way we search comes a change in the way we market, as well; and if the search results page is to disappear one day, advertising will have no choice but to colonise whatever takes its place. We’re already seeing a shift towards an ‘always-on’, always-connected culture with devices like the Amazon Echo constantly listening out for voice commands. Rama believes that Internet of Things-connected devices could easily start to ‘spy’ on their owners, collecting data for the purposes of marketing – “Advertisers would love to get into living room and dinner table discussions.”

This might seem like sobering food for thought, or a whole new world of possibilities, depending on your perspective. Either way, it will be extremely interesting to see whether search continues to develop along the path it seems to be taking now – or whether it veers off in other, even more unexpected directions.

Author : Rebecca Sentance

Source : https://searchenginewatch.com/2017/01/09/which-google-algorithm-changes-impacted-marketers-most-in-2016-and-what-can-we-expect-from-2017/

There is a lot at stake in the struggle to control the proliferation of illicit material online. On one hand, criminal rings use intermediaries to traffic in illegal pharmaceuticals and to commit property theft and a host of other crimes. On the other hand, civil society advocates (and intermediaries themselves) raise the threat of mass censorship arising from attempts to impose obligations upon intermediaries that would require them to assist in deterring illegal activity. 

Even after more than two decades of case l aw on the subject, questions relating to basic jurisdictional authority over intermediaries remain evergreen.

For example, the Canadian Supreme Court is currently considering a case, Google v. Equustek, addressing the claim that Canadian courts don’t have jurisdictional authority to require the search engine to de-index links to infringing content.

Equustek, a manufacturer of networking equipment, obtained an injunction against former distributors who were making knock-off products. Equustek found its initial victory difficult to enforce, and commenced a familiar game of whack-a-mole, whereby the company would ask Google to take down a particular infringing Canadian URL only to have a new one spring up shortly afterward, both inside and, increasingly, outside of Canada.

After a number of rounds of this game, Equustek asked Google to de-index all of the infringing URLs, both inside and outside of Canada, and Google balked. A Canadian appeals court subsequently sided with Equustek and required Google to de-index the infringing URLs.

A cornerstone of Google’s position in the case is that intermediary liability must be circumscribed based on a court’s geographic boundaries — otherwise, it argues, nations would be empowered to impose their own set of legal norms outside of their borders. But this view is plainly at odds with the long history of courts parsing jurisdictional concerns, as well as determining liability based on often complicated and ambiguous factors. As the Canadian Appeals Court judge noted:

“[T]he threat of multi-jurisdictional control over Google’s operations is, in my opinion, overstated. Courts must… consider many factors other than territorial competence and the existence [jurisdiction] over the parties… The extensive case law indicate[s] ... that international courts do not see these sorts of orders as being unnecessarily intrusive.”

Although Internet intermediaries provide an extraordinary breadth of innovation, they are not immune from the normal operation of the law. Like it or not, Internet intermediaries certainly do operate in physical jurisdictions, and courts have a valid interest in protecting their citizens when a firm’s extraterritorial behavior affects them. 

At the same time, although the Internet presents novel questions of the particular mechanisms of enforcement online, this doesn’t justify immunizing Internet firms from third-party court orders when they concern clearly illegal conduct that is within intermediaries’ control, but difficult for courts to address directly. In fact, the law has long dealt with out-of-reach offenders by enjoining the conduct of intermediaries — for example, by prohibiting local stores from selling foreign-manufactured counterfeit goods, or requiring that taverns prevent patrons from driving drunk. As Learned Hand wrote in 1930 in Alemite Mfg. Corp. v. Staff, a seminal case on this issue, although a court “cannot lawfully enjoin the world at large, no matter how broadly it words its decree … a person who knowingly assists a defendant in violating an injunction subjects himself to [injunctions by a court].”

The Internet may make this a bit more complex, but it’s a difference of degree, not of kind. And, as the Equustek court observed, “it is the world-wide nature of Google’s business and not any defect in the law” that makes it such that Google may have to assist courts in a variety of jurisdictions when faced with bad actors. 

The point here is not that the unique nature of Internet intermediaries should be ignored; it is of course important to understand that intermediaries’ activities implicate a whole range of substantive issues that operate differently in different jurisdictions. Rather, the point is to stress that the proper approach is one that balances competing interests, not least of which is courts’ ability to effectively enforce their orders, even when that means issuing orders with extraterritorial effect.

Kristian Stout is the associate director for innovation policy at the International Center for Law and Economics, a non-profit global think tank.


Source : http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/technology/312274-worldwide-business-means-worldwide-accountability-even-on-the

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