Google has seemingly put the final nail in the coffin for Adobe Flash, the once-popular video and animation player that's become less relevant as newer web standards like HTML5 have taken over.

The company announced on Monday that its search engine will stop supporting Flash later this year, and that it will ignore Flash content in websites that contain it. The search engine will also stop indexing SWF files, the file format for media played through the Flash Player. Google noted that most users and websites won't see any impact from this change. 

The move has been a long time coming for Flash. Adobe announced in 2017 that it was planning to end-of-life Flash by ceasing to update and distribute it at the end of 2020, and Flash is already disabled in Chrome by default. When it made the announcement, Adobe said it was working with partners like Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and Mozilla to smoothly phase out Flash.

Flash was once a critical technology that enabled content creators to easily implement media, animations, and games  in their websites during the earlier days of the web. If you frequently played online games in your web browser in the early 2000s, you'll probably remember that Flash plugin was a necessity. 

But as new web standards like HTML5 and WebGL have risen in popularity, there became less of a need for Flash. Plus, as time went on, Flash became more prone to security concerns — including one vulnerability highlighted by security blog Naked Security which surfaced last year that would have made it possible for hackers to execute malicious code via a Flash file.

[Source: This article was published in businessinsider.com By Lisa Eadicicco - Uploaded by the Association Member: David J. Redcliff] 

Categorized in Search Engine

As always, when Google releases a new update to its search algorithm, it’s an exciting (and potentially scary) time for SEO. Google’s latest update, BERT, represents the biggest alteration to its search algorithm in the last five years.

So, what does BERT do?

Google says the BERT update means its search algorithm will have an easier time comprehending conversational nuances in a user’s query.

The best example of this is statements where prepositional words such as ‘to’ and ‘for’ inform the intent of the query.

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, which is a language processing technique based on neural networking principles.

Google estimates the update will impact about 10% of United States-based queries and has revealed BERT can already be seen in action on featured snippets around the world.

How does Google BERT affect on-page SEO?

SEO practitioners can breathe a collective sigh of relief, because the Google BERT update is not designed to penalise websites, rather, only improve the way the search engine understands and interprets search queries.

However, because the search algorithm is better at understanding nuances in language, it means websites with higher-quality written content are going to be more discoverable.

Websites that have a lot of detailed ‘how-to’ guides and other in-depth content designed to benefit users are going to get the most from Google BERT. This means businesses who aren’t implementing a thorough content strategy are likely to fall behind the curve.

Basically, the BERT update follows Google’s long-running trend of trying to improve the ability of its search algorithm to accurately serve conversational search queries.

The ultimate result of this trend is users being able to perform detailed search queries with the Google voice assistant as if they were speaking to a real person.

Previous algorithm updates

While BERT may be the first major change to Google search in five years, it’s not the biggest shakeup in their history.

The prior Google PANDA and Google PENGUIN updates were both significant and caused a large number of websites to become penalised due to the use of SEO strategies that were considered ‘spammy’ or unfriendly to users.

PANDA

Google PANDA was developed in response to user complaints about ‘content farms’.

Basically, Google’s algorithm was rewarding quantity over quality, meaning there was a business incentive for websites to pump out lots of cheaply acquired content for the purposes of serving ads next to or even within them.

The PANDA update most noticeably affected link building or ‘article marketing’ strategies where low-quality content was published to content farms with a link to a business’ website attached to a keyword repeated throughout the article.

It meant that there was a significant push towards more ethical content marketing strategies, such as guest posting.

PENGUIN

Google PENGUIN is commonly seen as a follow up to the work started by PANDA, targeting spammy link-building practices and ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques.

This update was focused primarily on the way the algorithm evaluates the authority of links as well as the sincerity of their implementation in website content. Spammy or manipulative links now carried less weight. 

However, this meant that if another website posted a link to yours in a spammy or manipulative way, it would negatively affect your search rankings.

This meant that webmasters and SEO-focused businesses needed to make use of the disavow tool to inform Google what inbound links they approve of and which they don’t.

[Source: This article was published in smartcompany.com.au By LUCAS BIKOWSKI - Uploaded by the Association Member: Bridget Miller]

Categorized in Search Engine

Search-engine giant says one in 10 queries (and some advertisements) will see improved results from algorithm change

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Google rarely talks about its secretive search algorithm. This week, the tech giant took a stab at transparency, unveiling changes that it says will surface more accurate and intelligent responses to hundreds of millions of queries each day.

Top Google executives, in a media briefing Thursday, said they had harnessed advanced machine learning and mathematical modeling to produce better answers for complex search entries that often confound its current algorithm. They characterized the changes—under a...

Read More...

[Source: This article was published in wsj.com By Rob Copeland - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jasper Solander] 

 
Categorized in Search Engine

Don't try to optimize for BERT, try to optimize your content for humans.

Google introduced the BERT update to its Search ranking system last week. The addition of this new algorithm, designed to better understand what’s important in natural language queries, is a significant change. Google said it impacts 1 in 10 queries. Yet, many SEOs and many of the tracking tools did not notice massive changes in the Google search results while this algorithm rolled out in Search over the last week.

The question is, Why?

The short answer. This BERT update really was around understanding “longer, more conversational queries,” Google wrote in its blog post. The tracking tools, such as Mozcast and others, primarily track shorter queries. That means BERT’s impact is less likely to be visible to these tools.

And for site owners, when you look at your rankings, you likely not tracking a lot of long-tail queries. You track queries that send higher volumes of traffic to your web site, and those tend to be short-tail queries.

Moz on BERT. Pete Meyers of Moz said the MozCast tool tracks shorter head terms and not the types of phrases that are likely to require the natural language processing (NLP) of BERT.

dr.pete

RankRanger on BERT. The folks at RankRanger, another toolset provider told me something similar. “Overall, we have not seen a real ‘impact’ — just a few days of slightly increased rank fluctuations,” the company said. Again, this is likely due to the dataset these companies track — short-tail keywords over long -tail keywords.

Overall tracking tools on BERT. If you look at the tracking tools, virtually all of them showed a smaller level of fluctuation on the days BERT was rolling out compared to what they have shown for past Google algorithm updates such as core search algorithm updates, or the Panda and Penguin updates.

Here are screenshots of the tools over the past week. Again, you would see significant spikes in changes, but these tools do not show that:

mozcast 800x348

serpmetrics 800x308

algoroo 800x269

advancedwebranking 800x186

accuranker 800x245

rankranger 800x265

semrush 800x358

SEO community on BERT. When it comes to individuals picking up on changes to their rankings in Google search, that also was not as large as a Google core update. We did notice chatter throughout the week, but that chatter within the SEO community was not as loud as is typical with other Google updates.

Why we care. We are seeing a lot of folks asking about how they can improve their sites now that BERT is out in the wild. That’s not the way to think about BERT. Google has already stated there is no real way to optimize for it. Its function is to help Google better understand searchers’ intent when they search in natural language. The upside for SEOs and content creators is they can be less concerned about “writing for the machines.” Focus on writing great content — for real people.

Danny Sullivan from Google said again, you cannot really optimize for BERT:

johan

Continue with your strategy to write the best content for your users. Don’t do anything special for BERT, but rather, be special for your users. If you are writing for people, you are already “optimizing” for Google’s BERT algorithm.

[Source: This article was published in searchengineland.com By Barry Schwartz - Uploaded by the Association Member: Joshua Simon]

Categorized in Search Engine

Google said it is making the biggest change to its search algorithm in the past five years that, if successful, users might not be able to detect.

The search giant on Friday announced a tweak to the software underlying its vaunted search engine that is meant to better interpret queries when written in sentence form. Whereas prior versions of the search engine may have overlooked words such as “can” and “to,” the new software is able to help evaluate whether those change the intent of a search, Google has said. Put a bit more simply, it is a way of understanding search terms in relation to each other and it looks at them as an entire phrase, rather than as just a bucket of words, the company said. Google is calling the new software BERT, after a research paper published last year by Google executives describing a form of language processing known as Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.

While Google is constantly tweaking its algorithm, BERT could affect as many as 10 percent of English language searches, said Pandu Nayak, vice president of search, at a media event. Understanding queries correctly so Google returns the best result on the first try is essential to Google’s transformation from a list of links to determining the right answer without having to even click through to another site. The challenge will increase as queries increasingly move from text to voice-controlled technology.

But even big changes aren’t likely to register with the masses, he conceded.

“Most ranking changes the average person does not notice, other than the sucking feeling that their searches were better,” said Nayak.

“You don’t have the comparison of what didn’t work yesterday and what does work today,” said Ben Gomes, senior vice president of search.

BERT, said Nayak, may be able to determine that a phrase such as “math practice books for adults” likely means the user wants to find math books that adults can use, because of the importance of the word “for.” A prior version of the search engine displayed a book result targeted for “young adults,” according to a demonstration he gave.

Google is rolling out the new algorithm to U.S. users in the coming weeks, the company said. It will later offer it to other countries, though it didn’t offer specifics on timing.

The changes suggest that even after 20 years of data collection and Google’s dominance of search — with about 90 percent market share — Web searches may best be thought of as equal parts art and science. Nayak pointed to examples like searches for how to park a car on a hill with no curb or whether a Brazilian needs a visa to travel to the United States as yielding less than satisfactory results without the aide of the BERT software.

To test BERT, Google turned to its thousands of contract workers known as “raters,” Nayak said, who compared results from search queries with and without the software. Over time, the software learns when it needs to read entire phrases versus just keywords. About 15 percent of the billions of searches conducted each day are new, Google said.

Google said it also considers other input, such as whether a user tries rephrasing a search term rather than initially clicking on one of the first couple of links.

Nayak and Gomes said they didn’t know whether BERT would be used to improve advertising sales that are related to search terms. Advertising accounts for the vast majority of Google’s revenue.

[Source: This article was published inunionleader.com By Greg Bensinger - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jeremy Frink]

Categorized in Search Engine

Friends, you're going to wish you were still making the scene with a magazine after reading this sentence: Google's web trackers are all up in your fap time and there's pretty much nothing (except maybe using a more secure browser like Firefox, read up on cybersecurity tips from the EFF, refusing to sign into a Google account and never going online without the protection of a VPN) that anyone can do about it.

From The Verge:

Visitors to porn sites have a “fundamentally misleading sense of privacy,” warn the authors of a new study that examines how tracking software made by tech companies like Google and Facebook is deployed on adult websites.

The authors of the study analyzed 22,484 porn sites and found that 93 percent of them leak data to third parties, including when accessed via a browser’s “incognito” mode. This data presents a “unique and elevated risk,” warn the authors, as 45 percent of porn site URLs indicate the nature of the content, potentially revealing someone’s sexual preferences.

According to the study, trackers baked up by Google and its creepy always-watching-you subsidiaries were found on over 74% of the porn sites that researchers checked out... for purely scientific reasons, of course. And the fun doesn't stop there! Facebook's trackers appeared on 10% of the websites and, for the discerning surveillance aficionado, 24% of the sites the researchers checked in on were being stalked by Oracle. According to The Verge, "...the type of data collected by trackers varies... Sometimes this information seems anonymous, like the type of web browser you’re using, or your operating system, or screen resolution. But this data can be correlated to create a unique profile for an individual, a process known as “fingerprinting.” Other times the information being collected is more obviously revealing like a user’s the IP address or their phone’s mobile identification number.

It's enough to give someone performance anxiety.

[Source: This article was published in boingboing.net By SEAMUS BELLAMY - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jay Harris]

Categorized in Search Engine

Google and Facebook collect information about us and then sell that data to advertisers. Websites deposit invisible “cookies” onto our computers and then record where we go online. Even our own government has been known to track us.

When it comes to digital privacy, it’s easy to feel hopeless. We’re mere mortals! We’re minuscule molecules in their machines! What power do we possibly have to fight back?

That was the question I posed to you, dear readers, in the previous “Crowdwise.”

Many of you responded with valuable but frequently repeated suggestions: Use a program that memorizes your passwords, and makes every password different. Install an ad blocker in your web browser, like uBlock Origin. Read up on the latest internet scams. If you must use Facebook, visit its Privacy Settings page and limit its freedom to target ads to you.

What I sought, though, was non-obvious ideas.

It turns out that “digital privacy” means different things to different people.

“Everyone has different concerns,” wrote Jamie Winterton, a cybersecurity researcher at Arizona State University. “Are you worried about private messaging? Government surveillance? Third-party trackers on the web?” Addressing each of these concerns, she noted, requires different tools and techniques.

“The number one thing that people can do is to stop using Google,” wrote privacy consultant Bob Gellman. “If you use Gmail and use Google to search the web, Google knows more about you than any other institution. And that goes double if you use other Google services like Google Maps, Waze, Google Docs, etc.”

Like many other readers, he recommended DuckDuckGo, a rival web search engine. Its search results often aren’t as useful as Google’s, but it’s advertised not to track you or your searches.

And if you don’t use Gmail for email, what should you use? “I am a huge advocate for paying for your email account,” wrote Russian journalist Yuri Litvinenko. “It’s not about turning off ads, but giving your email providers as little incentive to peek into your inbox as possible.” ProtonMail, for example, costs $4 a month and offers a host of privacy features, including anonymous sign-up and end-to-end encryption.

The ads you see online are based on the sites, searches, or and Facebook posts that get your interest. Some rebels, therefore, throw a wrench into the machinery — by demonstrating phony interests.

“Every once in a while, I Google something completely nutty just to mess with their algorithm,” wrote Shaun Breitbart. “You’d be surprised what sort of coupons CVS prints for me on the bottom of my receipt. They are clearly confused about both my age and my gender.”

It’s “akin to radio jamming,” noted Frank Paiano. “It does make for some interesting browsing, as ads for items we searched for follow us around like puppy dogs (including on The New York Times, by the way.)”

Barry Joseph uses a similar tactic when registering for an account on a new website. “I often switch my gender (I am a cisgender male), which delivers ads less relevant to me — although I must admit, the bra advertising can be distracting.”

He notes that there are side effects. “My friends occasionally get gendered notifications about me, such as ‘Wish her a happy birthday.’” But even that is a plus, leading to “interesting conversations about gender norms and expectations (so killing two birds with one digital stone here).”

It’s perfectly legitimate, by the way, to enjoy seeing ads that align with your interests. You could argue that they’re actually more useful than irrelevant ones.

But millions of others are creeped out by the tracking that produces those targeted ads.

If you’re in that category, Ms. Winterton recommended Ghostery, a free plug-in for most web browsers that “blocks the trackers and lists them by category,” she wrote. “Some sites have an amazing number of trackers whose only purpose is to record your behavior (sometimes across multiple sites) and pitch better advertisements.”

Most public Wi-Fi networks — in hotels, airports, coffee shops, and so on — are eavesdroppable, even if they require a password to connect. Nearby patrons, using their phones or laptops, can easily see everything you’re sending or receiving — email and website contents, for example — using free “sniffer” programs.

You don’t have to worry Social, WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage, all of which encrypts your messages before they even leave your phone or laptop. Using websites whose addresses begin with https are also safe; they, too, encrypt their data before it’s sent to your browser (and vice versa).

(Caution: Even if the site’s address begins with https, the bad guys can still see which sites you visit — say, https://www.NoseHairBraiding.com. They just can’t see what you do there once you’re connected.)

The solution, as recommended by Lauren Taubman and others: a Virtual Private Network program. These phone and computer apps encrypt everything you send or receive — and, as a bonus, mask your location. Wirecutter’s favorite VPNTunnelBear, is available for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. It’s free for up to 500 megabytes a month, or $60 a year for up to five devices.

“I don’t like Apple’s phones, their operating systems, or their looks,” wrote Aaron Soice, “but the one thing Apple gets right is valuing your data security. Purely in terms of data, Apple serves you; Google serves you to the sharks.”

Apple’s privacy website reveals many examples: You don’t sign into Apple Maps or Safari (Apple’s web browser), so your searches and trips aren’t linked to you. Safari’s “don’t track me” features are turned on as the factory setting. When you buy something with Apple Pay, Apple receives no information about the item, the store, or the price.

Apple can afford to tout these features, explained software developer Joel Potischman, because it’s a hardware company. “Its business model depends on us giving them our money. Google and Facebook make their money by selling our info to other people.”

Mr. Potischman never registers with a new website using the “Sign in with Facebook” or “Sign in with Google” shortcut buttons. “They allow those companies to track you on other sites,” he wrote. Instead, he registers the long way, with an email address and password.

(And here’s Apple again: The “Sign in with Apple” button, new and not yet incorporated by many websites, is designed to offer the same one-click convenience — but with a promise not to track or profile you.)

My call for submissions drew some tips from a surprising respondent: Frank Abagnale, the former teenage con artist who was the subject of the 2002 movie “Catch Me if You Can.”

After his prison time, he went began working for the F.B.I., giving talks on scam protection, and writing books. He’s donating all earnings from his latest book, “Scam Me If You Can,” to the AARP, in support of its efforts to educate older Americans about internet rip-offs.

His advice: “You never want to tell Facebook where you were born and your date of birth. That’s 98 percent of someone stealing your identity! And don’t use a straight-on photo of yourself — like a passport photo, driver’s license, graduation photo — that someone can use on a fake ID.”

Mr. Abagnale also notes that you should avoid sharing your personal data offline, too. “We give a lot of information away, not just on social media, but places we go where people automatically ask us all of these questions. ‘What magazines do you read?’ ‘What’s your job?’ ‘Do you earn between this and that amount of money?’”

Why answer if you don’t have to?

A few more suggestions:

  • “Create a different email address for every service you use,” wrote Matt McHenry. “Then you can tell which one has shared your info, and create filters to silence them if necessary.” 
  • “Apps like Privacy and Token Virtual generate a disposable credit-card number with each purchase — so in case of a breach, your actual card isn’t compromised,” suggested Juan Garrido. (Bill Barnes agreed, pointing out the similar Shopsafe service offered by from Bank of America’s Visa cards. “The number is dollar and time limited.”)
  • “Your advertisers won’t like to see this, so perhaps you won’t print it,” predicted Betsy Peto, “but I avoid using apps on my cellphone as much as possible. Instead, I go to the associated website in my phone’s browser: for example, www.dailybeast.com. My data is still tracked there, but not as much as it would be by the app.”

There is some good news: Tech companies are beginning to feel some pressure.

In 2017, the European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation (G.D.P.R.), which requires companies to explain what data they’re collecting — and to offer the option to edit or delete it. China, India, Japan, Brazil, South Korea, and Thailand have passed, or are considering, similar laws, and California’s Consumer Privacy Act takes effect on January 1.

In the meantime, enjoy these suggestions, as well as this bonus tip from privacy researcher Jamie Winterton:

“Oh yeah — and don’t use Facebook.”

For the next “Crowdwise”: We all know that it’s unclassy and cruel to break up with a romantic partner in a text message — or, worse, a tweet. (Well, we used to know that.) Yet requesting an unusual meeting at a sidewalk cafe might strike your partner as distressingly ominous.

[Source: This article was published in nytimes.com By David Pogue - Uploaded by the Association Member: Issac Avila]

Categorized in Search Engine

The Internet has made researching subjects deceptively effortless for students -- or so it may seem to them at first. Truth is, students who haven't been taught the skills to conduct good research will invariably come up short.

That's part of the argument made by Wheaton College Professor Alan Jacobs in The Atlantic, who says the ease of search and user interface of fee-based databases have failed to keep up with those of free search engines. In combination with the well-documented gaps in students’ search skills, he suggests that this creates a perfect storm for the abandonment of scholarly databases in favor of search engines. He concludes: “Maybe our greater emphasis shouldn’t be on training users to work with bad search tools, but to improve the search tools.”

His article is responding to a larger, ongoing conversation about whether the ubiquity of Web search is good or bad for serious research. The false dichotomy short-circuits the real question: “What do students really need to know about an online search to do it well?” As long as we’re not talking about this question, we’re essentially ignoring the subtleties of Web search rather than teaching students how to do it expertly. So it’s not surprising that they don’t know how to come up with quality results. Regardless of the vehicle--fee databases or free search engines--we owe it to our students to teach them to search well.

So what are the hallmarks of a good online search education?

SKILL-BUILDING CURRICULUM. Search competency is a form of literacy, like learning a language or subject. Like any literacy, it requires having discrete skills as well as accumulating experience in how and when to use them. But this kind of intuition can't be taught in a day or even in a unit – it has to be built up through exercise and with the guidance of instructors while students take on research challenges. For example, during one search session, teachers can ask students to reflect on why they chose to click on one link over another. Another time, when using the Web together as a class, teachers can demonstrate how to look for a definition of an unfamiliar word. Thinking aloud when you search helps, as well.

A THOROUGH, MULTI-STEP APPROACH. Research is not a one-step process. It has distinct phases, each with its own requirements. The first stage is inquiry, the free exploration of a broad topic to discover an interesting avenue for further research, based on the student's curiosity. Web search, with its rich cross-linking and the simplicity of renewing a search with a single click, is ideally suited to this first open-ended stage. When students move on to a literature review, they seek the key points of authority on their topic, and pursue and identify the range of theories and perspectives on their subject. Bibliographies, blog posts, and various traditional and new sources help here. Finally, with evidence-gathering, students look for both primary- and secondary-source materials that build the evidence for new conclusions. The Web actually makes access to many --

but not all -- types of primary sources substantially easier than it's been in the past, and knowing which are available online and which must be sought in other collections is critical to students’ success. For example, a high school student studying Mohandas Gandhi may do background reading in Wikipedia and discover that Gandhi's worldview was influenced by Leo Tolstoy; use scholarly secondary sources to identify key analyses of their acquaintance, and then delve into online or print books to read their actual correspondence to draw an independent conclusion. At each step of the way, what the Web has to offer changes subtly.

TOOLS FOR UNDERSTANDING SOURCES. Some educators take on this difficult topic, but it's often framed as a simple black-and-white approach: “These types of sources are good. These types of sources are bad.” Such lessons often reject newer formats, such as blogs and wikis, and privilege older formats, such as books and newspaper articles. In truth, there are good and bad specimens of each, and each has its appropriate uses. What students need to be competent at is identifying the kind of source they're finding, decoding what types of evidence it can appropriately provide, and making an educated choice about whether it matches their task.

DEVELOPING THE SKILLS TO PREDICT, ASSESS, PROBLEM-SOLVE, AND ITERATE. It's important for students to ask themselves early on in their search, “When I type in these words, what do I expect to see in my results?” and then evaluate whether the results that appear match those expectations. Identifying problems or patterns in results is one of the most important skills educators can help students develop, along with evaluating credibility. When students understand that doing research requires more than a single search and a single result, they learn to leverage the information they find to construct tighter or deeper searches. Say a student learns that workers coming from other countries may send some of their earnings back to family members. An empowered searcher may look for information on [immigrants send money home], and notice that the term remittances appears in many results. An unskilled searcher would skip over words he doesn't recognize know, but the educated student can confirm the definition of remittance, then do another search, [remittances immigrants], which brings back more scholarly results.

TECHNICAL SKILLS FOR ADVANCED SEARCH. Knowing what tools and filters are available and how they work allows students to find what they seek, such as searching by colordomainfiletype, or date. Innovations in technology also provide opportunities to visualize data in new ways. But most fundamentally, good researchers remember that it takes a variety of sources to carry out scholarly research. They have the technical skills to access Web pages, but also books, journal articles, and people as they move through their research process.

Centuries ago, the teacher Socrates famously argued against the idea that the written word could be used to transmit knowledge. This has been disproved over the years, as authors have developed conventions for communicating through the written word and educators have effectively taught students to extract that knowledge and make it their own. To prepare our students for the future, it's time for another such transition in the way we educate. When we don’t teach students how to manage their online research effectively, we create a self-perpetuating cycle of poor-quality results. To break that cycle, educators can engage students in an ongoing conversation about how to carry out excellent research online. In the long term, students with stronger critical thinking skills will be more effective at school, and in their lives.

[Source: This article was published in kqed.org By Tasha Bergson-Michelson - Uploaded by the Association Member: Patrick Moore]

Categorized in Search Engine

Overview | Do Internet search engines point us to the information that we need or confuse us with irrelevant or questionable information? How can Internet users improve their searches to find reliable information? What are some ways to perform effective searches? In this lesson, students conduct Web searches on open-ended questions and draw on their experiences to develop guides to searching effectively and finding reliable information online.

Materials | Computers with Internet access

Warm-Up | Invite students to share anecdotes about times when they used an Internet search engine to look for information and found something they were not expecting, or when they could not find what they were looking for.

After several students have shared, ask for a show of hands of students who have experienced frustration using an Internet search engine. Then ask: How often do you use search engines? Which ones do you use most? Why? What are the most common problems you face when searching? Do you consider yourself a skilled searcher? Do you have any search strategies? Do you search the Internet more for personal reasons and entertainment, or more for school? Do you believe that improving your Internet searching skills will benefit you academically? Socially? Personally?

Give students the following search assignment, from The New York Times article “Helping Children Find What They Need on the Internet”: “Which day [will] the vice president’s birthday falls on the next year?” (Alternatively, give students a multistep question that relates to your subject matter. For example, a geography teacher might ask “How many miles away is Shanghai?”) Tell students to type this question into Google, Bing or any other favorite search engine, and have them share the top results in real-time. Did the answer appear? If not, what’s the next step to take to get this question answered?

Ask: What information do you need to be able to answer the question? Ideas might include the name of the vice president, the date of his birthday, and a copy of next year’s calendar. Have them try to find this information and keep working until they can answer the question. (You may want to add a competitive component to this activity, rewarding the student who finds out the right answer the fastest.)

When one or more students have found the answer, have one student take the class through the steps he or she took to find the answer; if possible, do this on a screen so that everyone can watch. Along the way, ask probing questions. What keywords did you type into the search engine? Why did you choose these words? Which results did you click on? Why did you choose those sources over the others on the page? How many steps did it take? Are you sure the sources are reliable and that the answers are correct? How can you tell? How would you verify the information? If time permits, play around by using different keywords and clicking on different results, to see how the search for the answer to the question changes.

To end this activity, ask: What did you notice about the search to find the answer to this question? Did this exercise give help you understand something new about Internet searching? If so, what?

When considering children, search engines had long focused on filtering out explicit material from results. But now, because increasing numbers of children are using search as a starting point for homework, exploration or entertainment, more engineers are looking to children for guidance on how to improve their tools.

Search engines are typically developed to be easy for everyone to use. Google, for example, uses the Arial typeface because it considers it more legible than other typefaces. But advocates for children and researchers say that more can be done technologically to make it easier for young people to retrieve information. What is at stake, they say, are the means to succeed in a new digital age.

Read the article with your class, using the questions below.

Questions | For discussion and reading comprehension:

  1. What problems does the article mention that children run into when they use search engines?
  2. What suggestions have been offered for how search engines can improve their product to lessen children’s problems searching?
  3. Do you search using keywords or questions? How does the article characterize these two types of searching?
  4. Have you tried using images or videos to search? How does the article characterize this type of searching?
  5. What advice would you give to Internet search engine developers for how they should improve their product? Do you think any of the improvements mentioned in the article are particularly promising? Why?

Activity | Before class, ask teachers of several different subjects for questions that they have asked or will ask students to research on the Internet. Alternatively, collect from students their own research questions – for another class or for a personal project, like I-Search. Be sure that the questions are sufficiently open-ended so that they cannot be answered definitively with a quick, simple search – they might contain an element of opinion or interpretation, rather than just be a matter of simple fact.

Put the class into pairs, and provide each pair with the following multipart task:

  • Seek to answer your assigned question by conducting an Internet search.
  • You must use different search engines and strategies, and keep track of how the search “goes” using the various resources and methods.
  • Once you find an answer that you are confident in, do another search to verify the information.
  • When you are finished, evaluate the reliability of all of the Internet resources that you used.
  • Prepare to tell the story of your search, including what worked and what didn’t, anything surprising that happened, things that would be good for other searchers to know, “lessons learned,” etc.

Provide pairs with the following resources to research their assigned topics. Let them know that these are starting points and that they may use additional resources.

Search Engines, Metasearch Engines, and Subject Directories:

Choosing Effective Search Words:

Evaluating Source Reliability:

When pairs have completed their research, bring the class together and invite pairs to share their stories. Then tell them that they will use their notes to create a page for a class guide, in booklet or wiki form, on how to use Internet search engines effectively for research, to be made available to the school community to help other students. As much as possible, the tips and guidance in the guide should be illustrated with the students’ stories and examples.

Tell students that their booklet/wiki entries should or might include the following, among other types of guidance and insight:

  • Ways and examples of using keywords and Boolean logic effectively.
  • Ineffective examples of keyword searches that result in too much, too little or useless information.
  • Examples of how to sequence searches and why.
  • Sites they find that answer their question and how they can tell whether these pages are reliable.
  • Any information they found that was questionable or incorrect, where they found it, and how they discovered that it was wrong.
  • Why it is important to scroll past the top result to pages listed farther down the page or on a later page in order to find complete answers to the question.
  • How using different search engines yielded different results.

In addition to the handbook or wiki, you might also have students make their own videos, à la the Google ad “Parisian Love,” chronicling their search.

Going Further | Students read the New York Times Magazine article “The Google Alphabet,” by Virginia Heffernan, who writes the column “The Medium,” and keep a tally of the number of advertisements and commercial sites that they see while doing schoolwork on the Internet for one or two days.

Then hold a class discussion on advertising and commercial interests on the Internet. If students are using the Internet to complete their homework, are schools requiring students to expose themselves to corporate advertisements in order to succeed academically? Do any ethical questions arise around the prevalence of corporate advertising in Web searching for academic purposes?

Alternatively or additionally, students develop ideas for the search engines of the future, like ways to use and find images, audio and video, rank results and so on, and “pitch” their ideas to classmates acting as search engine developers.

And for fun, students might try to come up with “Googlewhacks.”

Standards | From McREL, for Grades 6-12:

Technology
2. Knows the characteristics and uses of computer software programs.
3. Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual.

Language Arts
1. Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process.
4. Gathers and uses the information for research purposes.
7. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts.

Life Work
2. Uses various information sources, including those of a technical nature, to accomplish specific tasks.

[Source: This article was published in nytimes.com By Sarah Kavanagh And Holly Epstein Ojalvo - Uploaded by the Association Member: Rene Meyer]

Categorized in Search Engine

[Source: This article was published in searchenginejournal.com By Matt Southern - Uploaded by the Association Member: Edna Thomas]

Google is giving site owners the ability to customize how their content is previewed in search results.

By default, Google has always generated search snippets according to the users’ queries and what types of devices they’re using.

However, there was previously no room for customization – it was only possible to allow a textual snippet or not allow one.

Now, Google is introducing multiple methods that allow for more fine-grained configuration of the preview content shown for web pages.

These methods include using robots meta tags as well as a brand new type of HTML attribute. Here’s more information about each of these methods.

Configuring Search Snippets With Robots Meta Tags

The content shown in search snippet previews can now be configured using robots meta tags.

The following robots meta tags can be added to an HTML page’s, or specified via the x-robots-tag HTTP header:

  • “nosnippet” – This is an existing option to specify that you don’t want any textual snippet shown for a page.
  • “max-snippet:[number]” (NEW) – Specify a maximum text-length, in characters, of a snippet for your page.
  • “max-video-preview:[number]” (NEW) – Specify a maximum duration in seconds of an animated video preview.
  • “max-image-preview:[setting]” (NEW) – Specify a maximum size of image preview to be shown for images on this page, using either “none”, “standard”, or “large”.

The above robots meta tags can also be combined, for example:

New data-nosnippet HTML attribute

Google is introducing an all-new way to limit which part of a page can be shown as a preview in search results.

The new “data-nosnippet” HTML attribute on span, div, and section elements can prevent specific parts of an HTML page from being shown within the textual snippet in search results.

In other words – if you want to prevent Google from giving away too much of your content in search results, this is the method you want to use.

Here’s an example:

Harry Houdini is undoubtedly the most famous magician ever to live.

In this example, if someone were searching for a query like “most famous magician,” the HTML attribute would prevent Google from giving away the answer (Harry Houdini) in search results.

What SEOs and Site Owners Need to Know

Here’s a rundown of need-to-know information regarding these changes.

No changes to search rankings
This update will only affect how snippets are displayed in search results. Google confirms these settings will have no impact on search rankings.

Depending on how a site owner chooses to configure these settings there may be an impact on CTR, which could then impact traffic. But that is not related to search rankings.

When do these changes come into effect?
Preview settings for robots meta tags will become effective in mid-to-late October 2019. It may take a week for the global rollout to be completed once it starts.

The data-nosnippet HTML attribute will be effective later this year. No specific timeframe was provided for that particular setting.

Will these new changes affect how rich results are displayed?
Content in structured data that is eligible for display as a rich result will not be affected by any of these new settings.

Site owners already have control over the content displayed in rich results by what they choose to include in the structured data itself.

How will these changes affect featured snippets?
Featured snippets depend on the availability of preview content. So if you limit the preview content too heavily it may no longer be eligible to be displayed as a featured snippet, although it could still be displayed as a regular snippet.

The minimum number of characters required for a featured snippet varies by language, which is why Google cannot provide an exact max-snippets length to ensure eligibility.

Can site owners experiment with snippet length?
Site owners can absolutely adjust these settings at any time. For example – if you specify a max-snippet length and later decide you’d rather display a longer snippet in search results, you can simply change the HTML attribute.

Google notes that these new methods of configuring search snippet previews will operate the same as other results displayed globally. If the settings are changed, then your new preferences will be displayed in search results the next time Google recrawls the page.

Google will 100% follow these settings
These new settings will not be treated as hints or suggestions. Google will fully abide by the site owners preferences as specified in the robots meta tags and/or HTML attribute.

No difference between desktop and mobile settings
Preview preferences will be applied to both mobile and desktop search results. If a site has separate mobile and desktop versions then the same markup should be used on both.

Some last notes

These options are available to site owners now, but the changes will not be reflected in search results until mid-to-late October at the earliest.

For more information, see Google’s developer documentation on meta tags.

Categorized in Search Engine
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