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 [Source: This article was Published in seroundtable.com By Barry Schwartz - Uploaded by AIRS Member: David J. Redcliff]

Google is now sending out newish, not 100% new, alerts for changes in your top queries for your site. This is an email from Google Search Console that will show you either large increases or decreases in your ranking positions according to Google Search Console data.

The emails read with the subject line "change in top queries for your site." Then it says "Search Console has identified a recent change in the top queries leading to your site from Google Search. We thought that you might be interested to know these changes. Here is how some of your top queries performed in the week of." It then lists out the example queries and how it changed.

Here is a screenshot from Eli Schwartz on Twitter:

click for full size

This is not 100% new, Google sent out alerts via Search Console for changes in clicks and impressions. This is a variation of that.

Here are more screenshots of this:

Dawn Anderson@dawnieando

           Is this new @rustybrick ?

View image on Twitter
                 SEO Alive@seo_alive

          Google Search Console ? podría estar probando el envío de informes sobre cambios en el rendimiento de las keywords más importantes.  

          En breve, publicaremos un artículo en el blog: https://seoalive.com/blog/ 

          cc. @rustybrick @googlewmc

View image on Twitter
Eli Schwartz
@5le

Google Search Console now has push emails about query performance. Is this new? cc: @rustybrick

View image on Twitter
 
Categorized in Search Engine

 [Source: This article was Published in searchenginejournal.com By Dave Davies - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Clara Johnson]

Let’s begin by answering the obvious question:

What Is Universal Search?

There are a few definitions for universal search on the web, but I prefer hearing it from the horse’s mouth on things like this.

While Google hasn’t given a strict definition that I know of as to what universal search is from an SEO standpoint, they have used the following definition in their Search Appliance documentation:

“Universal search is the ability to search all content in an enterprise through a single search box. Although content sources might reside in different locations, such as on a corporate network, on a desktop, or on the World Wide Web, they appear in a single, integrated set of search results.”

Adapted for SEO and traditional search, we could easily turn it into:

“Universal search is the ability to search all content across multiple databases through a single search box. Although content sources might reside in different locations, such as a different index for specific types or formats of content, they appear in a single, integrated set of search results.”

What other databases are we talking about? Basically:

Universal Search

On top of this, there are additional databases that information is drawn from (hotels, sports scores, calculators, weather, etc.) and additional databases with user-generated information to consider.

These range from reviews to related searches to traffic patterns to previous queries and device preferences.

Why Universal Search?

I remember a time, many years ago, when there were 10 blue links…

search

It was a crazy time of discovery. Discovering all the sites that didn’t meet your intent or your desired format, that is.

And then came Universal Search. It was announced in May of 2007 (by Marissa Mayer, if that gives it context) and rolled out just a couple months after they expanded on the personalization of results.

The two were connected and not just by being announced by the same person. They were connected in illustrating their continued push towards Google’s mission statement:

“Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Think about those 10 blue links and what they offered. Certainly, they offered scope of information not accessible at any point in time prior, but they also offered a problematic depth of uncertainty.

Black hats aside (and there were a lot more of them then), you clicked a link in hopes that you understood what was on the other side of that click and we wrote titles and descriptions that hopefully fully described what we had to offer.

A search was a painful process, we just didn’t know it because it was better than anything we’d had prior.

Enter Universal Search

Then there was Universal Search. Suddenly the guesswork was reduced.

Before we continue, let’s watch a few minutes of a video put out by Google shortly after Universal Search launched.

The video starts at the point where they’re describing what they were seeing in the eye tracking of search results and illustrates what universal search looked like at the time.

 

OK – notwithstanding that this was a core Google video, discussing a major new Google feature and it has (at the time of writing) 4,277 views and two peculiar comments – this is an excellent look at the “why” of Universal Search as well as an understanding of what it was at the time, and how much and how little it’s changed.

How Does It Present Itself?

We saw a lot of examples of Universal Search in my article on How Search Engines Display Search Results.

Where then we focused on the layout itself and where each section comes from, here we’re discussing more the why and how of it.

At a root level and as we’ve all seen, Universal Search presents itself as sections on a webpage that stand apart from the 10 blue links. They are often, but not always, organically generated (though I suspect they are always organically driven).

This is to say, whether a content block exists would be handled on the organic search side, whereas what’s contained in that content block may-or-may-not include ads.

So, let’s compare then versus now, ignoring cosmetic changes and just looking at what the same result would look like with and without Universal Search by today’s SERP standards.

sej civil war serp

This answers two questions in a single image.

It answers the key question of this section, “How does Universal Search present itself?”

This image also does a great job of answering the question, “Why?”

Imagine the various motivations I might have to enter the query [what was the civil war]. I may be:

  • A high school student doing an essay.
  • Someone who simply is not familiar with the historic event.
  • Looking for information on the war itself or my query may be part of a larger dive into civil wars across nations or wars in general.
  • Someone who prefers articles.
  • Someone who prefers videos.
  • Just writing an unrelated SEO article and need a good example.

The possibilities are virtually endless.

If you look at the version on the right, which link would you click?

How about if you prefer video results?

The decision you make will take you longer than it likely does with Universal Search options.

And that’s the point.

The Universal Search structure makes decision making faster across a variety of intents, while still leaving the blue links (though not always 10 anymore) available for those looking for pages on the subject.

In fact, even if what you’re looking for exists in an article, the simple presence of Universal Search results will help filter out the results you don’t want and leaves SEO pros and website owners free to focus our articles to ranking in the traditional search results and other types and formats in appropriate sections.

How Does Google Pick the Sections?

Let me begin this section by stating very clearly – this is the best guess.

As we’re all aware, Google’s systems are incredibly complicated. There may be more pieces than I am aware of, obviously.

There are two core areas I can think of that they would use for these adjustments.

Users

Now, before you say, “But Google says they don’t use user metrics to adjust search results!” let’s consider the specific wording that Google’s John Mueller used when responding to a question on user signals:

“… that’s something we look at across millions of different queries, and millions of different pages, and kind of see in general is this algorithm going the right way or is this algorithm going in the right way.

But for individual pages, I don’t think that’s something worth focusing on at all.”

So, they do use the data. They use it on their end, but not to rank individual pages.

What you can take this as it relates to Universal Search is that Google will test different blocks of data for different types of queries to determine how users interact with them. It is very likely that Bing does something similar.

Most certainly they pick locations for possible placements, limitations on the number of different result types/databases, and have determined starting points (think: templates for specific query types) for their processes and then simply let machine learning take over running slight variances or testing layouts on pages generated for unknown queries, or queries where new associations may be attained.

For example, a spike in a query that ties to a sudden rise in new stories related to the query could trigger the news carousel being inserted into the search results, provided that past similar instances produced a positive engagement signal and it would remain as long as user engagement indicated it.

Query Data

It is virtually a given that a search engine would use their own query data to determine which sections to insert into the SERPs.

If a query like [pizza] has suggested queries like:

Recommended Pizza Searches

Implying that most such searchers are looking for restaurants it makes sense that in a Universal Search structure, the first organic result would not be a blue link but:

Pizza SERP

It is very much worth remembering that the goal of a search engine is to provide a single location where a user can access everything they are looking for.

At times this puts them in direct competition with themselves in some ways. Not that I think they mind losing traffic to another of their own properties.

Let’s take YouTube for example. Google’s systems will understand not just which YouTube videos are most popular but also which are watched through, when people eject, skip or close out, etc.

They can use this not just to understand which videos are likely to resonate on Google.com but also understand more deeply what supplemental content people are interested in when they search for more general queries.

I may search for [civil war], but that doesn’t mean I’m not also interested in the Battle at Antietam specifically.

So, I would suggest that the impact of these other databases does not simply impact the layouts as illustrated in Universal Search but that these databases themselves can and likely are being used to connect topics and information together and thus impacting the core search rankings themselves.

Takeaway

So, what does this all mean for you?

For one, you can use the machine learning systems of the search engines to assist in your content development strategies.

Sections you see appearing in Universal Search tell us a lot about the types and formats of content that users expect or engage with.

Also important is that devices and technology are changing rapidly. I suspect the idea of Universal Search is about to go through a dramatic transformation.

This is due in part to voice search, but I suspect it will have more to do with the push by Google to provide a solution rather than options.

A few well-placed filters could provide refinement that produces only a single result and many of these filters could be automatically applied based on known user preferences.

I’m not sure we’ll get to a single result in the next two to three years but I do suspect that we will see it for some queries and where the device lends itself to it.

If I query “weather” why would the results page not look like:

Weather SERP

In my eyes, this is the future of Universal Search.

Or, as I like to call it, search.

Categorized in Search Engine

[Source: This article was Published in zeenews.india.com - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Dana W. Jimenez]

BBC based its investigation on three points – where exactly did it happen, when did it happen, and who is responsible for the atrocities.

A video emerged earlier this year, showing some armed men in uniform brutally killing a group of women and children, and triggered uproar across the globe. It was alleged that the video, released by Channel 4, showed the killing of civilians by Cameroon’s army over alleged links with dreaded terrorist group Boko Haram.

The Cameroon government denied the claim, saying that the video was not shot in the country and that the Army was being wrongly blamed for killing civilians. A statement was released by Cameroon Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, to deny the claims.

“The video that is currently going around is nothing but an unfortunate attempt to distort actual facts and intoxicate the public. Its sincerity can be easily questioned,” Bakary had said in his statement. While the statement came in July 2018, the government a month later said that seven members of the military were facing investigation.

BBC, however, decided to carry out a fact check of the video and the claims and counterclaims around it. And the media group did so with the help of Google Earth. It based its investigation on three points – where exactly did it happen, when did it happen, and who is responsible for the atrocities. The BBC released its findings in a video titled ‘Cameroon: Anatomy of a killing’.

Where:

The first 40 seconds of the video captures a mountain range with a distinctive profile. BBC journalists spent hours to match the range with the topography of northern Cameroon, but it failed to give the desired result. After a tip-off from a source, they studied the topography of a particular region and discovered that the range was near a village named Krawa Mafa, few hundred meters away from the Nigerian border. Other details in the video, such as houses and dirt tracks, were matched with the topography of the village and found to be same.

When:

This was the trickiest part of the investigation done by BBC journalists. Several bits and pieces were put together to identify the range of period when the civilians were killed. A building was visible on the satellite imagery but only till 2016, which suggested that the killings took place before that period. Another building was spotted to have come up in March 2015. Then, a path was traced which appeared only between January and July. The journalists also analyzed the shadow of walking assailants on the basis of the concept of the sundial. After the whole analysis, it was confirmed that the killings took place between March 20 and April 5, 2015.

Who:

The statement released by Cameroonian Minister of Communication Issa Tchiroma Bakary was used for this purpose. For instance, the minister in his statement claimed that the weapons in the video were not the ones used by the Cameroonian Army, but BBC analysis showed that one of the guns used was Serbian made Zastava M21, which is used by some sections of the country’s military. The minister also claimed that the dress worn by the assailants was one used for operations in forests. Bakary claimed that the soldiers in the said area wore a desert-style uniform. But Cameroonian soldiers in the region in a Channel 4 video of 2015 were seen wearing forest-style camouflage, similar to those seen in the video.

The focus then shifted to a statement released by the government in August 2018, which named seven soldiers who were arrested and under investigation. The names mentioned in the video, such as Corporal Tchotcho, were matched with some Facebook profiles. A profile of Tchotcho Cyriaque Bityala, who was among the detainees named by the government. Two other soldiers, named in the government list, were identified in a similar manner.

The findings were shared by the BBC with the Cameroonian government. Responding to it, the Bakary said, “Seven soldiers were arrested, disarmed. They are under investigation right now. I can confirm that all seven of them are in prison.”

Categorized in Investigative Research

[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Rene Meyer]

By multiple measures, Google is the internet’s most popular search engine. But Google’s not only a web search engine. Images, videos, mobile content — even Google TV!

Major Google Services

Google releases a dizzying array of new products and product updates on a regular basis, and Search Engine Land keeps you up-to-date with all the news. Here are just a few of our popular Google categories, where you can read past coverage:

Google: Our “everything” category, this lists all stories we’ve written about Google, regardless of subtopic.

Google Web Search: Our stories about Google’s web search engine, including changes and new features. Also see: Google: OneBox, Plus Box & Direct Answers, Google: Universal Search and Google: User Interface.

Google SEO: Articles from us about getting listed for free via SEO in Google’s search engine. Also see the related category of Google Webmaster Central.

Google AdWords: Our coverage of Google’s paid search advertising program.

Google AdSense: Stories about Google’s ad program for publishers, which allows content owners to carry Google ads and earn money.

Google Maps & Local: Coverage of Google Maps, which allows you to locate places, businesses, get directions and much more. Also see Google Earth for coverage of Google’s mapping application.

Google Street View: Articles about Google’s popular yet controversial Street View system that uses cars to take photos of homes and business, which are then made available through Google Maps.

Google YouTube & Video: Articles about Google’s YouTube service, which allows anyone to upload video content. YouTube also has so much search traffic that it stands out as a major search engine of its own.

Google Logos: Google loves to have special logos for holidays and to commemorate special events. We track some of the special “Google Doodles,” as the company calls them. Also see our retrospective story, Those Special Google Logos, Sliced & Diced, Over The Years.

Also see our special guide for searchers, How To Use Google To Search.

Google Resources

Further below is a full list of additional Google topics that we track. But first, here are a few sites that track Google in-depth.

First up is Google’s own Official Google Blog. Google also has many other blogs for individual products, which are listed on the official blog. This feed keeps you up-to-date on any official blog post, from any of Google’s blogs. Google also had a traditional press release area.

Beyond official Googledom are a number of news sites that track Google particularly in-depth. These include: Dirson (in Spanish), eWeek’s Google Watch, Google Blogoscoped, Google Operating System, John Battelle, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Roundtable, WebProNewsand ZDNet Googling Google.

The Full Google List

We said Google is more than just a web search engine, right? Below is the full list of various Google search and search-related products that we track. Click any link to see our stories in that particular area:

  • Google (stories from all categories below, combined)
  • Google: Accounts & Profiles
  • Google: Acquisitions
  • Google: Ad Planner
  • Google: AdSense
  • Google: AdWords
  • Google: Alerts
  • Google: Analytics
  • Google: APIs
  • Google: Apps For Your Domain
  • Google: Audio Ads
  • Google: Base
  • Google: Blog Search
  • Google: Blogger
  • Google: Book Search
  • Google: Browsers
  • Google: Business Issues
  • Google: Buzz
  • Google: Calendar
  • Google: Checkout
  • Google: Chrome
  • Google: Code Search
  • Google: Content Central
  • Google: Critics
  • Google: Custom Search Engine
  • Google: Dashboard
  • Google: Definitions
  • Google: Desktop
  • Google: Discussions
  • Google: Docs & Spreadsheets
  • Google: Domains
  • Google: DoubleClick
  • Google: Earth
  • Google: Editions
  • Google: Employees
  • Google: Enterprise Search
  • Google: FeedBurner
  • Google: Feeds
  • Google: Finance
  • Google: Gadgets
  • Google: Gears
  • Google: General
  • Google: Gmail
  • Google: Groups
  • Google: Health
  • Google: iGoogle
  • Google: Images
  • Google: Internet Access
  • Google: Jet
  • Google: Knol
  • Google: Labs
  • Google: Legal
  • Google: Logos
  • Google: Maps & Local
  • Google: Marketing
  • Google: Mobile
  • Google: Moderator
  • Google: Music
  • Google: News
  • Google: Offices
  • Google: OneBox, Plus Box & Direct Answers
  • Google: OpenSocial
  • Google: Orkut
  • Google: Other
  • Google: Other Ads
  • Google: Outside US
  • Google: Parodies
  • Google: Partnerships
  • Google: Patents
  • Google: Personalized Search
  • Google: Picasa
  • Google: Place Pages
  • Google: Print Ads & AdSense For Newspapers
  • Google: Product Search
  • Google: Q & A
  • Google: Reader
  • Google: Real Time Search
  • Google: Search Customization
  • Google: SearchWiki
  • Google: Security
  • Google: SEO
  • Google: Sidewiki
  • Google: Sitelinks
  • Google: Social Search
  • Google: SpyView
  • Google: Squared
  • Google: Street View
  • Google: Suggest
  • Google: Toolbar
  • Google: Transit
  • Google: Translate
  • Google: Trends
  • Google: TV
  • Google: Universal Search
  • Google: User Interface
  • Google: Voice Search
  • Google: Web History & Search History
  • Google: Web Search
  • Google: Webmaster Central
  • Google: Website Optimizer
  • Google: YouTube & Video

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com written By Greg Sterling - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Rene Meyer]

Google's response is that significant SERP personalization is 'a myth.'

A new study (via Wired) from Google rival DuckDuckGo charges that Google search personalization is contributing to “filter bubbles.” Google disputes this and says that search personalization is mostly a myth.

The notion of filter bubbles in social media or search has been a controversial topic since the term was coined a number of years ago by Eli Pariser to describe how relevance algorithms tend to reinforce users’ existing beliefs and biases.

Significant variation in results. The DuckDuckGo study had 87 U.S. adults search for “gun control,” “immigration,” and “vaccinations” at the same time on June 24, 2018. They searched both in incognito mode and then in non-private-browsing mode. Most of the queries were done on the desktop; a smaller percentage were on mobile devices. It was a small test in terms of the number of participants and query volume.

Below are the top-level findings according to DuckDuckGo’s discussion:

  • Most people saw results unique to them, even when logged out and in private browsing mode.
  • Google included links for some participants that it did not include for others.
  • They saw significant variation within the News and Videos infoboxes.
  • Private browsing mode and being logged out of Google offered almost zero filter bubble protection.

The DuckDuckGo post offers a more in-depth discussion of the findings, as well as the raw data for download.

Comparing the variation in search results 

Comparing the variation in search results

My test found minor differences. I searched “gun control,” “immigration,” and “vaccinations” in private mode and non-incognito mode. I didn’t find the results to be substantially different, though there were some differences in the SERP.

In the case of “immigration” (above), you can see there’s an ad in the incognito results but none in the non-private results. The normal results also feature a larger Knowledge Panel and “people also ask” search suggestions, which didn’t appear on the first page in the incognito results but did appear in subsequent searches on the same term.

Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan responded to the study with a series of tweets explaining that there’s very limited personalization in search results but that the company does show different results because of location, language differences, platform and time (on occasion). He said, “Over the years, a myth has developed that Google Search personalizes so much that for the same query, different people might get significantly different results from each other. This isn’t the case. Results can differ, but usually for non-personalized reasons.”

In September this year, Google told CNBC that it essentially doesn’t personalize search results.

Why you should care. Non-personalized search results make the job of SEO practitioners easier because they can better determine the performance of their tactics. Google doesn’t consider “localization” to be personalization, although many SEOs would argue that it is. On mobile devices, proximity is widely seen as a dominant local ranking factor.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in popsci.com written by David Nield - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Nevena Gojkovic Turunz]

Is your search engine of choice pulling its weight? It's perhaps a choice you've stopped thinking about, settling for whatever default option appears in your browser or on your phone—but as with most tech choices, you've got options.

Google has come to dominate search to the extent that it's become a verb in itself, but here we're going to check how Google stacks up against two of its biggest rivals including Microsoft's Bing, in 2019 and the privacy-focused search site known as DuckDuckGo.

 

Search results

Google Search results

Google results for "Abraham Lincoln."

We don't know what you're searching for, and without running thousands of searches across several months we can't really present you with a comprehensive comparison of how well these search engines scour the web. What we can do is tell you how these services performed on a few sample searches.

First we tried "Abraham Lincoln": All three search engines returned the Wikipedia page first, the History Channel site second, and Britannica third. DuckDuckGo listed Abraham Lincoln news above the search results, even though the 16th President of the United States hasn't really been in the news lately.

bing Search results

Bing results for "Abraham Lincoln."

As we wrote this article a few days after the 2019 Super Bowl, we tried "Super Bowl score" next, and all three search engines produced the right result in a box out above the search results. DuckDuckGo followed this with the official NFL site then some sports news sites, while Bing had a sports news site first and the NFL second. Google listed the score, then Super Bowl news, then some relevant tweets, and then other results.

Next we tried a question, specifically "how many days until Christmas?", to see how our search engines fared. Only Google presented the right answer front and center as part of its own interface, with DuckDuckGo and Bing returning links to Christmas countdown sites instead (though Bing did put "Wednesday December 25" right at the top).

duckduckgo Search results

DuckDuckGo results for "Abraham Lincoln."

For something a little more obscure we tried "Empire of the Sun" (both a 1987 Steven Spielberg movie and a music duo). Google returned the Wikipedia sites for the film then the band at the top, Bing returned the Wikipedia page for the movie then the band's official site, and DuckDuckGo returned the IMDB page for the Empire of the Sun film then the band's official site.

These are slight differences really, and the "best" one really depends on your personal preference (do you want to see Twitter results, or not?). All three sites are obviously very competent with basic searches, but Google obviously has the edge when it comes to finding content besides web pages, as well as answering questions directly (no doubt thanks to all that Google Assistant technology behind the scenes).

Search features

google Search features

Google really will flip a coin for you.

Speaking of Google Assistant, one of the advantages of Google is of course the way it ties into all the other Google apps and services: You can search for places on Google Maps, or bring up images in Google Photos, or query your Google Calendar, right from the Google homepage (as long as you're signed in). Try Googling "my trips" for example to see bookings stored in your Gmail account.

All three of these search engines feature filters for images, videos, news, and products; Bing and Google include a Maps option as well. You can dig in further on all three sites as well—filtering images by size or by color, for example. Google and Bing let you save searches to come back to later, whereas DuckDuckGo doesn't (see the separate section on privacy below).

bing Search features

Bing has a comprehensive image search feature.

Besides from basic searches, Google and DuckDuckGo do very well on extras: Unlike Bing, they can toss a coin, roll a die, or start a timer right there on the results screen, no more clicking required. Meanwhile, both Google and Bing can display details of a flight in a pop-up box outside the search results, whereas DuckDuckGo directs you to flight-tracking websites instead.

All three of our search engines can limit results to pages that have been published recently, but Google and Bing have a "custom date" search option (say 1980-1990, for example) that isn't available on DuckDuckGo. Google and Bing let you search by region too, whereas DuckDuckGo doesn't.

duckduck go Search features

DuckDuckGo can start a timer right in your web browser.

Appearance may not be number one in your list of priorities, but Bing presents its search box on top of an appealing full-screen wallpaper image, with links to news stories and other interesting articles underneath. It's more appealing visually than Google or DuckDuckGo, though Google has its doodles and DuckDuckGo has a few different color schemes to pick from.

As you can see, Google can do just about everything—it has been in the search engine game for a long time, after all. Bing and DuckDuckGo are able to match Google on some features, but not all, which makes it hard to switch from unless you have a specific reason to... and that brings us neatly on to the issue of user privacy.

User privacy

Google User privacy

 

Google knows a lot about you—and can serve up results from other Google apps, like Google Photos.

This is the big feature that DuckDuckGo sells itself on: As we've noted above, it doesn't log what you're searching for, and only puts up occasional advertising, which isn't personalized and can be disabled. If you're tired of the big tech firms hoovering up data on you, DuckDuckGo will appeal.

What's more, the sites you visit don't know the search terms you used to find them—something they can otherwise do by piecing together different clues from your browsing behavior and the data that your computer broadcasts publicly. DuckDuckGo also attaches to encrypted versions of site by default.

Bing User privacy

Bing, like Google, keeps a record of searches you've run.

Cookies aren't saved by DuckDuckGo either, those little files that sit locally on your computer and tell websites when you've visited before. Data like your IP address (your router's address on the web) and the browser you're using gets wiped by default too. You're effectively searching anonymously.

There's no doubt that both Google and Microsoft promise to protect your privacy and use the data they have on you responsibly—you can read their respective privacy policies here and here. However, it's also true that they collect much more data on you and what you're doing, so it's up to you whether you trust Google and Microsoft to use it wisely.

duckduckgo User privacy

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in thestar.com.my - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Anthony Frank]

The best search engine when it comes to privacy and results on par with Google is Startpage, a Dutch company. — dpa

Most people don't really think much further than Google when it comes to search engines. After all, there's a reason that everyone uses the verb "to Google" when they want to look something up.

But is Google the best search engine, objectively speaking?
In terms of search results, the answer is yes, and also in terms of user satisfaction.

But in terms of data protection, Google has some serious problems.
The best search engine when it comes to privacy and results on par with Google is Startpage, a Dutch company that also scores well when its apps are considered. The data protection regulations are much better, and the engine has many of Google's best features as well.

Startpage allows users to choose language and region manually just like Google. The results are essentially the same because the company uses the same technology as Google – the only difference being that it doesn't use trackers to store your data.

During test runs, Startpage was also able to deal with typos and vague search terms just as well as the US tech giant. – dpa
Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in theguardian.com written by Carole Cadwalladr - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Jennifer Levin]

Tech-savvy rightwingers have been able to ‘game’ the algorithms of internet giants and create a new reality where Hitler is a good guy, Jews are evil and… Donald Trump becomes president

Here’s what you don’t want to do late on a Sunday night. You do not want to type seven letters into Google. That’s all I did. I typed: “a-r-e”. And then “j-e-w-s”. Since 2008, Google has attempted to predict what question you might be asking and offers you a choice. And this is what it did. It offered me a choice of potential questions it thought I might want to ask: “are Jews a race?”, “are Jews white?”, “are Jews Christians?”, and finally, “are Jews evil?”

Is Jews evil? It’s not a question I’ve ever thought of asking. I hadn’t gone looking for it. But there it was. I press enter. A page of results appears. This was Google’s question. And this was Google’s answer: Jews are evil. Because there, on my screen, was the proof: an entire page of results, nine out of 10 of which “confirm” this. The top result, from a site called Listovative, has the headline: “Top 10 Major Reasons Why People Hate Jews.” I click on it: “Jews today have taken over marketing, militia, medicinal, technological, media, industrial, cinema challenges, etc and continue to face the worlds [sic] envy through unexplained success stories given their inglorious past and vermin like repression all over Europe.”

Google searches. It’s the verb, to Google. It’s what we all do, all the time, whenever we want to know anything. We Google it. The site handles at least 63,000 searches a second, 5.5bn a day. Its mission as a company, the one-line overview that has informed the company since its foundation and is still the banner headline on its corporate website today, is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. It strives to give you the best, most relevant results. And in this instance the third-best, most relevant result to the search query “are Jews… ” is a link to an article from stormfront.org, a neo-Nazi website. The fifth is a YouTube video: “Why the Jews are Evil. Why we are against them.”

The sixth is from Yahoo Answers: “Why are Jews so evil?” The seventh result is: “Jews are demonic souls from a different world.” And the 10th is from jesus-is-saviour.com: “Judaism is Satanic!”

There’s one result in the 10 that offers a different point of view. It’s a link to a rather dense, scholarly book review from thetabletmag.com, a Jewish magazine, with the unfortunately misleading headline: “Why Literally Everybody In the World Hates Jews.”

I feel like I’ve fallen down a wormhole, entered some parallel universe where black is white, and good is bad. Though later, I think that perhaps what I’ve actually done is scraped the topsoil off the surface of 2016 and found one of the underground springs that have been quietly nurturing it. It’s been there all the time, of course. Just a few keystrokes away… on our laptops, our tablets, our phones. This isn’t a secret Nazi cell lurking in the shadows. It’s hiding in plain sight.

Are women Googles search results

Stories about fake news on Facebook have dominated certain sections of the press for weeks following the American presidential election, but arguably this is even more powerful, more insidious. Frank Pasquale, professor of law at the University of Maryland, and one of the leading academic figures calling for tech companies to be more open and transparent calls the results “very profound, very troubling”.

He came across a similar instance in 2006 when, “If you typed ‘Jew’ in Google, the first result was jewwatch.org. It was ‘look out for these awful Jews who are ruining your life’. And the Anti-Defamation League went after them and so they put an asterisk next to it which said: ‘These search results may be disturbing but this is an automated process.’ But what you’re showing – and I’m very glad you are documenting it and screenshotting it – is that despite the fact they have vastly researched this problem, it has gotten vastly worse.”

And ordering of search results does influence people, says Martin Moore, director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at King’s College, London, who has written at length on the impact of the big tech companies on our civic and political spheres. “There’s large-scale, statistically significant research into the impact of search results on political views. And the way in which you see the results and the types of results you see on the page necessarily has an impact on your perspective.” Fake news, he says, has simply “revealed a much bigger problem. These companies are so powerful and so committed to disruption. They thought they were disrupting politics but in a positive way. They hadn’t thought about the downsides. These tools offer remarkable empowerment, but there’s a dark side to it. It enables people to do very cynically, damaging things.”

Google is knowledge. It’s where you go to find things out. And evil Jews are just the start of it. There are also evil women. I didn’t go looking for them either. This is what I type: “a-r-e w-o-m-e-n”. And Google offers me just two choices, the first of which is: “Are women evil?” I press return. Yes, they are. Every one of the 10 results “confirms” that they are, including the top one, from a site called sheddingoftheego.com, which is boxed out and highlighted: “Every woman has some degree of prostitute in her. Every woman has a little evil in her… Women don’t love men, they love what they can do for them. It is within reason to say women feel attraction but they cannot love men.”

Next I type: “a-r-e m-u-s-l-i-m-s”. And Google suggests I should ask: “Are Muslims bad?” And here’s what I find out: yes, they are. That’s what the top result says and six of the others. Without typing anything else, simply putting the cursor in the search box, Google offers me two new searches and I go for the first, “Islam is bad for society”. In the next list of suggestions, I’m offered: “Islam must be destroyed.”

Jews are evil. Muslims need to be eradicated. And Hitler? Do you want to know about Hitler? Let’s Google it. “Was Hitler bad?” I type. And here’s Google’s top result: “10 Reasons Why Hitler Was One Of The Good Guys” I click on the link: “He never wanted to kill any Jews”; “he cared about conditions for Jews in the work camps”; “he implemented social and cultural reform.” Eight out of the other 10 search results agree: Hitler really wasn’t that bad.

A few days later, I talk to Danny Sullivan, the founding editor of SearchEngineLand.com. He’s been recommended to me by several academics as one of the most knowledgeable experts on search. Am I just being naive, I ask him? Should I have known this was out there? “No, you’re not being naive,” he says. “This is awful. It’s horrible. It’s the equivalent of going into a library and asking a librarian about Judaism and being handed 10 books of hate. Google is doing a horrible, horrible job of delivering answers here. It can and should do better.”

He’s surprised too. “I thought they stopped offering to autocomplete suggestions for religions in 2011.” And then he types “are women” into his own computer. “Good lord! That answer at the top. It’s a featured result. It’s called a “direct answer”. This is supposed to be indisputable. It’s Google’s highest endorsement.” That every woman has some degree of prostitute in her? “Yes. This is Google’s algorithm going terribly wrong.”

I contacted Google about its seemingly malfunctioning autocomplete suggestions and received the following response: “Our search results are a reflection of the content across the web. This means that sometimes unpleasant portrayals of sensitive subject matter online can affect what search results appear for a given query. These results don’t reflect Google’s own opinions or beliefs – as a company, we strongly value a diversity of perspectives, ideas, and cultures.”

Google isn’t just a search engine, of course. The search was the foundation of the company but that was just the beginning. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, now has the greatest concentration of artificial intelligence experts in the world. It is expanding into healthcare, transportation, energy. It’s able to attract the world’s top computer scientists, physicists, and engineers. It’s bought hundreds of start-ups, including Calico, the whose stated mission is to “cure death” and DeepMind, which aims to “solve intelligence”.

And 20 years ago it didn’t even exist. When Tony Blair became prime minister, it wasn’t possible to Google him: the search engine had yet to be invented. The company was only founded in 1998 and Facebook didn’t appear until 2004. Google’s founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are still only 43. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook is 32. Everything they’ve done, the world they’ve remade, has been done in the blink of an eye.

But it seems the implications about the power and reach of these companies is only now seeping into the public consciousness. I ask Rebecca MacKinnon, director of the Ranking Digital Rights project at the New America Foundation, whether it was the recent furore over fake news that woke people up to the danger of ceding our rights as citizens to corporations. “It’s kind of weird right now,” she says, “because people are finally saying, ‘Gee, Facebook, and Google really has a lot of power’ like it’s this big revelation. And it’s like, ‘D’oh.’”

MacKinnon has particular expertise in how authoritarian governments adapt to the internet and bend it to their purposes. “China and Russia are a cautionary tale for us. I think what happens is that it goes back and forth. So during the Arab spring, it seemed like the good guys were further ahead. And now it seems like the bad guys are. Pro-democracy activists are using the internet more than ever but at the same time, the adversary has gotten so much more skilled.”

Last week Jonathan Albright, an assistant professor of communications at Elon University in North Carolina, published the first detailed  cursor: pointer; text-decoration: none !important; border-bottom: 0.0625rem solid rgb(220, 220, 220); transition: border-color 0.15s ease-out 0s;">research on how rightwing websites had spread their message. “I took a list of these fake news sites that was circulating, I had an initial list of 306 of them and I used a tool – like the one Google uses – to scrape them for links and then I mapped them. So I looked at where the links went – into YouTube and Facebook, and between each other, millions of them… and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“They have created a web that is bleeding through on to our web. This isn’t a conspiracy. There isn’t one person who’s created this. It’s a vast system of hundreds of different sites that are using all the same tricks that all websites use. They’re sending out thousands of links to other sites and together this has created a vast satellite system of rightwing news and propaganda that has completely surrounded the mainstream media system.”

He found 23,000 pages and 1.3m hyperlinks. “And Facebook is just the amplification device. When you look at it in 3D, it actually looks like a virus. And Facebook was just one of the hosts for the virus that helps it spread faster. You can see the New York Times in there and the Washington Post and then you can see how there’s a vast, vast network surrounding them. The best way of describing it is as an ecosystem. This really goes way beyond individual sites or individual stories. What this map shows is the distribution network and you can see that it’s surrounding and actually choking the mainstream news ecosystem.”

Charlie Beckett, a professor in the school of media and communications at LSE, tells me: “We’ve been arguing for some time now that plurality of news media is good. Diversity is good. Critiquing the mainstream media is good. But now… it’s gone wildly out of control. What Jonathan Albright’s research has shown is that this isn’t a byproduct of the internet. And it’s not even being done for commercial reasons. It’s motivated by ideology, by people who are quite deliberately trying to destabilise the internet.”

Albright’s map also provides a clue to understanding the Google search results I found. What these rightwing news sites have done, he explains, is what most commercial websites try to do. They try to find the tricks that will move them up Google’s PageRank system. They try and “game” the algorithm. And what his map shows is how well they’re doing that.

That’s what my searches are showing too. That the right has colonised the digital space around these subjects – Muslims, women, Jews, the Holocaust, black people – far more effectively than the liberal left.

“It’s an information war,” says Albright. “That’s what I keep coming back to.”

But it’s where it goes from here that’s truly frightening. I ask him how it can be stopped. “I don’t know. I’m not sure it can be. It’s a network. It’s far more powerful than any one actor.”

So, it’s almost got a life of its own? “Yes, and it’s learning. Every day, it’s getting stronger.”

The more people who search for information about Jews, the more people will see links to hate sites, and the more they click on those links (very few people click on to the second page of results) the more traffic the sites will get, the more links they will accrue and the more authoritative they will appear. This is an entirely circular knowledge economy that has only one outcome: an amplification of the message. Jews are evil. Women are evil. Islam must be destroyed. Hitler was one of the good guys.

And the constellation of websites that Albright found – a sort of shadow internet – has another function. More than just spreading rightwing ideology, they are being used to track and monitor and influence anyone who comes across their content. “I scraped the trackers on these sites and I was absolutely dumbfounded. Every time someone likes one of these posts on Facebook or visits one of these websites, the scripts are then following you around the web. And this enables data-mining and influencing companies like Cambridge Analytica to precisely target individuals, to follow them around the web, and to send them highly personalised political messages. This is a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go.”

Cambridge Analytica, an American-owned company based in London, was employed by both the Vote Leave campaign and the Trump campaign. Dominic Cummings, the campaign director of Vote Leave, has made few public announcements since the Brexit referendum but he did say this: “If you want to make big improvements in communication, my advice is – hire physicists.”

Steve Bannon, the founder of Breitbart News and the newly appointed chief strategist to Trump, is on Cambridge Analytica’s board and it has emerged that the company is in talks to undertake political messaging work for the Trump administration. It claims to have built psychological profiles using 5,000 separate pieces of data on 220 million American voters. It knows their quirks and nuances and daily habits and can target them individually.

“It’s all done completely opaquely and they can spend as much money as they like on particular locations because you can focus on a five-mile radius or even a single demographic. Fake news is important but it’s only one part of it. These companies have found a way of transgressing 150 years of legislation that we’ve developed to make elections fair and open.”

Did such micro-targeted propaganda – currently legal – swing the Brexit vote? We have no way of knowing. Did the same methods used by Cambridge Analytica help Trump to victory? Again, we have no way of knowing. This is all happening in complete darkness. We have no way of knowing how our personal data is being mined and used to influence us. We don’t realise that the Facebook page we are looking at, the Google page, the ads that we are seeing, the search results we are using, are all being personalised to us. We don’t see it because we have nothing to compare it to. And it is not being monitored or recorded. It is not being regulated. We are inside a machine and we simply have no way of seeing the controls. Most of the time, we don’t even realise that there are controls.

Rebecca MacKinnon says that most of us consider the internet to be like “the air that we breathe and the water that we drink”. It surrounds us. We use it. And we don’t question it. “But this is not a natural landscape. Programmers and executives and editors and designers, they make this landscape. They are human beings and they all make choices.”

But we don’t know what choices they are making. Neither Google or Facebook make their algorithms public. Why did my Google search return nine out of 10 search results that claim Jews are evil? We don’t know and we have no way of knowing. Their systems are what Frank Pasquale describes as “black boxes”. He calls Google and Facebook “a terrifying duopoly of power” and has been leading a growing movement of academics who are calling for “algorithmic accountability”. “We need to have regular audits of these systems,” he says. “We need people in these companies to be accountable. In the US, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, every company has to have a spokesman you can reach. And this is what needs to happen. They need to respond to complaints about hate speech, about bias.”

Is bias built into the system? Does it affect the kind of results that I was seeing? “There’s all sorts of bias about what counts as a legitimate source of information and how that’s weighted. There’s enormous commercial bias. And when you look at the personnel, they are young, white and perhaps Asian, but not black or Hispanic and they are overwhelmingly men. The worldview of young wealthy white men informs all these judgments.”

Later, I speak to Robert Epstein, a research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioural Research and Technology, and the author of the study that Martin Moore told me about (and that Google has publicly criticised), showing how search-rank results affect voting patterns. On the other end of the phone, he repeats one of the searches I did. He types “do blacks…” into Google.

“Look at that. I haven’t even hit a button and it’s automatically populated the page with answers to the query: ‘Do blacks commit more crimes?’ And look, I could have been going to ask all sorts of questions. ‘Do blacks excel at sports’, or anything. And it’s only given me two choices and these aren’t simply search-based or the most searched terms right now. Google used to use that but now they use an algorithm that looks at other things. Now, let me look at Bing and Yahoo. I’m on Yahoo and I have 10 suggestions, not one of which is ‘Do black people commit more crime?’

“And people don’t question this. Google isn’t just offering a suggestion. This is a negative suggestion and we know that negative suggestions depending on lots of things can draw between five and 15 more clicks. And this all programmed. And it could be programmed differently.”

What Epstein’s work has shown is that the contents of a page of search results can influence people’s views and opinions. The type and order of search rankings was shown to influence voters in India in double-blind trials. There were similar results relating to the search suggestions you are offered.

“The general public are completely in the dark about very fundamental issues regarding online search and influence. We are talking about the most powerful mind-control machine ever invented in the history of the human race. And people don’t even notice it.”

Damien Tambini, an associate professor at the London School of Economics, who focuses on media regulation, says that we lack any sort of framework to deal with the potential impact of these companies on the democratic process. “We have structures that deal with powerful media corporations. We have competition laws. But these companies are not being held responsible. There are no powers to get Google or Facebook to disclose anything. There’s an editorial function to Google and Facebook but it’s being done by sophisticated algorithms. They say it’s machines not editors. But that’s simply a mechanised editorial function.”

And the companies says John Naughton, the Observer columnist and a senior research fellow at Cambridge University, are terrified of acquiring editorial responsibilities they don’t want. “Though they can and regularly do tweak the results in all sorts of ways.”

Certainly, the results about Google on Google don’t seem entirely neutral. Google “Is Google racist?” and the featured result – the Google answer boxed out at the top of the page – is quite clear: no. It is not.

But the enormity and complexity of having two global companies of a kind we have never seen before influencing so many areas of our lives is such, says Naughton, that “we don’t even have the mental apparatus to even know what the problems are”.

And this is especially true of the future. Google and Facebook are at the forefront of AI. They are going to own the future. And the rest of us can barely start to frame the sorts of questions we ought to be asking. “Politicians don’t think long term. And corporations don’t think long term because they’re focused on the next quarterly results and that’s what makes Google and Facebook interesting and different. They are absolutely thinking long term. They have the resources, the money, and the ambition to do whatever they want.

“They want to digitize every book in the world: they do it. They want to build a self-driving car: they do it. The fact that people are reading about these fake news stories and realising that this could have an effect on politics and elections, it’s like, ‘Which planet have you been living on?’ For Christ’s sake, this is obvious.”

“The internet is among the few things that humans have built that they don’t understand.” It is “the largest experiment involving anarchy in history. Hundreds of millions of people are, each minute, creating and consuming an untold amount of digital content in an online world that is not truly bound by terrestrial laws.” The internet as a lawless anarchic state? A massive human experiment with no checks and balances and untold potential consequences? What kind of digital doom-mongerer would say such a thing? Step forward, Eric Schmidt – Google’s chairman. They are the first lines of the book, The New Digital Age, that he wrote with Jared Cohen.

And what next? Rebecca MacKinnon’s research has shown how authoritarian regimes reshape the internet for their own purposes. Is that what’s going to happen with Silicon Valley and Trump? As Martin Moore points out, the president-elect claimed that Apple chief executive Tim Cook called to congratulate him soon after his election victory. “And there will undoubtedly be be pressure on them to collaborate,” says Moore.

Journalism is failing in the face of such change and is only going to fail further. New platforms have put a bomb under the financial model – advertising – resources are shrinking, traffic is increasingly dependent on them, and publishers have no access, no insight at all, into what these platforms are doing in their headquarters, their labs. And now they are moving beyond the digital world into the physical. The next frontiers are healthcare, transportation, energy. And just as Google is a near-monopoly for search, its ambition to own and control the physical infrastructure of our lives is what’s coming next. It already owns our data and with it our identity. What will it mean when it moves into all the other areas of our lives?

“At the moment, there’s a distance when you Google ‘Jews are’ and get ‘Jews are evil’,” says Julia Powles, a researcher at Cambridge on technology and law. “But when you move into the physical realm, and these concepts become part of the tools being deployed when you navigate around your city or influence how people are employed, I think that has really pernicious consequences.”

The headline was that DeepMind was going to work with the NHS to develop an app that would provide early warning for sufferers of kidney disease. And it is, but DeepMind’s ambitions – “to solve intelligence” – goes way beyond that. The entire history of 2 million NHS patients is, for artificial intelligence researchers, a treasure trove. And, their entry into the NHS – providing useful services in exchange for our personal data – is another massive step in their power and influence in every part of our lives.

Because the stage beyond search is prediction. Google wants to know what you want before you know yourself. “That’s the next stage,” says Martin Moore. “We talk about the omniscience of these tech giants, but that omniscience takes a huge step forward again if they are able to predict. And that’s where they want to go. To predict diseases in health. It’s really, really problematic.”

For the nearly 20 years that Google has been in existence, our view of the company has been inflected by the youth and liberal outlook of its founders. Ditto Facebook, whose mission, Zuckberg said, was not to be “a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission to make the world more open and connected.”

It would be interesting to know how he thinks that’s working out. Donald Trump is connecting through exactly the same technology platforms that supposedly helped fuel the Arab spring; connecting to racists and xenophobes. And Facebook and Google are amplifying and spreading that message. And us too – the mainstream media. Our outrage is just another node on Jonathan Albright’s data map.

“The more we argue with them, the more they know about us,” he says. “It all feeds into a circular system. What we’re seeing here is new era of network propaganda.”

We are all points on that map. And our complicity, our credulity, being consumers not concerned citizens, is an essential part of that process. And what happens next is down to us. “I would say that everybody has been really naive and we need to reset ourselves to a much more cynical place and proceed on that basis,” is Rebecca MacKinnon’s advice. “There is no doubt that where we are now is a very bad place. But it’s we as a society who have jointly created this problem. And if we want to get to a better place, when it comes to having an information ecosystem that serves human rights and democracy instead of destroying it, we have to share responsibility for that.”

Are Jews evil? How do you want that question answered? This is our internet. Not Google’s. Not Facebook’s. Not rightwing propagandists. And we’re the only ones who can reclaim it.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com written by Barry Schwartz - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Carol R. Venuti]

Go to a search result, click on a listing, and then click back to the search results page on Google to trigger this on Google desktop search.

Google has launched a new look and feels for the “people also search for” query refinement box. Google has been testing numerous designs of this feature over the years, including dynamic loading versions.

Now, Google shows a box around an organic result with “people also searched for” suggestions below, separated by a line. The suggestions either load on delay or when a user clicks on a result and then clicks back to the search results.

Here is what the “people also search for” feature looks like now:

Here is what the people also search for feature looks like now

Google has been testing this specific design since last November.

This is the old look on desktop:

people also ask

This seems to now be fully rolled out on a desktop search, so you can give it a try yourself.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com written by Barry Schwartz - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Grace Irwin]

New markup from Schema.org including HowTo, QAPage, and FAQPage can be used to potentially show your content in Google in a brand-new way. Google previewed this in Singapore a couple of weeks ago

Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that it has been testing for the past several months a new form of search results snippets: the way the search results appear to searchers. These new search snippets are in the form of FAQs or frequently asked questions, Q&A (questions & answers) and How-Tos.

Akhil Agarwal notified us about this feature on Twitter, and Google has just sent us a statement explaining the test. Here is the screenshot presented at a recent Google event in Singapore:

Google FAQs QA and How Tos

A Google Spokesperson told us:

We’re always looking for new ways to provide the most relevant, useful results for our users. We’ve recently introduced new ways to help users understand whether responses on a given Q&A or forum site could have the best answer for their question. By bringing a preview of these answers onto Search, we’re helping our users more quickly identify which source is most likely to have the information they’re looking for. We’re currently working with partners to experiment with ways to surface similar previews for FAQ and How-to content.

These new snippet features give more insights into what the searcher can expect from that web page before deciding to click on the search result. Webmasters should be able to mark up their content with structured data and to have their search results be eligible to have question-and-answer previews shown — similar to how supporting metadata around the number of upvotes and the Top Answer feature works.

Google will soon open up an interest form to allow publishers and webmasters to participate in the FAQ and How-to formats shown in the screenshot above.

But if you review the Schema.org website, you can find a lot of this markup available already, including HowTo markupQA page markup, and FAQ markup. So if you want to get started early, consider adding the appropriate markup to the sections of your HTML.

Categorized in Search Engine
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