Cortana Expands To Other Markets, Becomes “Xiao Na” In China

July 31st, 2014

There’s increasing evidence that Microsoft’s personal assistant Cortana is being positioned as a key differentiator vs. Android and iPhones. A new TV commercial (below) purports to compare Cortana to Siri, with a mock Siri voice saying “I can’t do that” a number of…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

Exclusive .CEO Domain Name for Leaders

July 30th, 2014

ceo domain names

.CEO domain name is what will separate leaders from others. This new domain name promises the best identity domain name on the web for leaders and top executives of companies…. Read more

Read full original article at Exclusive .CEO Domain Name for Leaders

©2014 QuickOnlineTips. All Rights Reserved.

Quick Online Tips

SearchCap: Google Timeline Knowledge Graph, AdWords Click Fraud Service & Google Axing Features

July 29th, 2014

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web. From Search Engine Land: How To Conduct A Winning Local Search Audit Every week, our support team at BrightLocal fields numerous questions from our customers about how best to conduct a…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

Tambola Tickets Made With Emojis

July 28th, 2014

We were choosing a game for an upcoming kids party and tambola (or housie or bingo depending on which part of the world you live) was a clear and unanimous choice. The rules of game are simple, you can download the PDFs and print the tickets at home and even adults are likely to enjoy this game.

The regular tambola tickets contain numbers but for this party, we wanted a little variation. How about replacing numbers on the ticket with the more visual emojis (see example) that almost everyone can instantly recognize now thanks to the growing popularity of Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and other instant messaging apps that all support these emoticons.

There were no online generators that supported Emoji tickets so I put together a little PHP script that outputs the Bingo tickets using Emojis instead of numbers. If you would also like to try this, go to ctrlq.org and hit the “Ticket Sheet” button to create your own tamobola sheets. It generates a set of 2×5 tickets and you can create as many you like. They’ll all be unique.

Here’re some photographs of the Emoji tickets printed on photo paper. The full emoji sheet can be downloaded from imgur.com.

tambola

housie


This story, Tambola Tickets Made With Emojis, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 28/07/2014 under Games, Internet
Digital Inspiration Technology Blog

A Chrome App Helps You Stop Procrastinating

July 27th, 2014

Most anti-procrastination apps on the web help you stay focussed and increase productivity by blocking time wasting websites. The thinking goes that if these online distractions are gone, you are more likely to focus on actual work.

age progressing

Alex MacCaw has created Motivation, a Chrome app that takes a slightly different approach. It replaces the new tab page of your Google Chrome with a real-time counter that displays your incrementing age.

Every time you launch Chrome, or open a new tab in the browser, the extension works as a sobering reminder that the clock is ticking away. That may motivate you to exit the Bermuda productivity triangle and focus on the more important things.

The source code for the Motivation Chrome app is available on Github. See other useful Google Chrome extensions.


This story, A Chrome App Helps You Stop Procrastinating, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 25/07/2014 under Google Chrome, Productivity, Internet
Digital Inspiration Technology Blog

SearchCap: Google Local Pigeon Update & AdWords Dynamic Sitelinks

July 26th, 2014

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web. From Search Engine Land: Google’s Pigeon Update Solves Yelp Problem, Boosts Local Directories As the analysis continues on yesterday’s Google local search algorithm changes…



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Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

Clean-up the “Open With” Menu of your Mac

July 25th, 2014

The “Open With” menu of your Mac, that you get when you right-click (or control-click) a file in the Finder window, may become extremely cluttered with time containing duplicate entries or even stale ones pointing to applications that are no longer installed on your Apple computer. Here’s an example:

Mac Contextual Menu Cluttered

If the “Open With” menu of your Mac is also messy and filled with applications that you no longer use, you can easily clean it up by rebuilding the Launch Services database with a simple Terminal command.

Open the Terminal app of your Mac and switch to the LaunchServices.framework folder using the “cd” command and then run the “lsregister” command to rebuild the database.

 $   cd /System/Library/Frameworks
 $   cd CoreServices.framework/Frameworks/LaunchServices.framework/Support
 $   ./lsregister -kill -r -all local, system, user; killall Dock;

That’s it. All the erroneous entries are removed and here’s how the cleaned up “Open With” menu of the Mac now looks like. I no longer have to scroll through that confusing array of applications I no longer use.

Mac Clean Menu

And if Terminal commands aren’t your forte, you can always download a GUI based application like Onyx to rebuild the Launch Services database and thus clean up the menu with the click of a button.


This story, Clean-up the “Open With” Menu of your Mac, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 25/07/2014 under Apple Mac, Software
Digital Inspiration Technology Blog

Since May 91,000 Right-To-Be-Forgotten Takedown Requests

July 25th, 2014

The Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF) content removal requests in Europe keep coming in. It’s difficult right now to know whether they’re leveling off or continuing to increase. On the first day of availability Google’s RTBF online form, it received 12,000 submissions. Sources familiar…



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Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

The Broken Art of Company Blogging (and the Ignored Metric that Could Save Us All)

July 23rd, 2014

Posted by evolvingSEO

The perception of success

The following screenshot is from an actual blog post. Based upon what you see here, would you call it successful?

I think it depends on perception.

The optimist might see this:

590 LinkedIn Shares

(This also might be what you put in reports to your boss) :)

The Twitter and Facebook manager might see this:

70 Tweets and 21 Likes

I see this:


Zero comments

Same blog post; three different measures of success. One looks great, one is OK, and my measure says its a fail.

But which perception is right? Which one would lead to better blogging decisions?

Let’s look at it another way. Here’s a the blog homepage of a known brand. Most people probably see it like this:

They scan:

  • pictures
  • titles
  • maybe a category or two

You might judge these posts based on whether the topics sound interesting, or if they are using high-quality unique photos.

Here’s how I see the same thing;

See the pattern?






Post after post receives 
no comments.

In fact, here’s how many comments this well-known brand received across 50 posts;

TEN! That’s an average of
0.2 comments per post. This is a well-known company, but I’m not here to call anyone out; it doesn’t matter who it is, because this is the NORM.

Only 10 people felt this blog was worth a few minutes of their time. Only 10 thought the content was good enough to say “thanks.” That’s a huge problem that no one is talking about.


Blind to blogging failure

A company blog with no comments after years of posting is a fail
. But we don’t see it. It should look and feel a lot like this to us:

NO one would look at this frankencar and call it a success. Or say “yeah, you should make more just like that!” It borders on absurdity. But when we see company blogs with 50 posts and barely any comments, we don’t notice anything wrong. 

And therein lies the problem. 

The following post with zero comments is not universally accepted as unsuccessful:

We look at
vanity metrics like shares, tweets, and likes. None of those actually matter. Most people who just share don’t even read the post. And my plan for the rest of this post is to explain why, and what we can do to fix it.

Oh, and hey, does this guy look familiar?


Five business blogging myths

How did this happen? How did we get in such a predicament?

Companies are confused. They have no idea why they even have a blog. Some think they know, but the reasons generally fall into one of these five myths:

Myth 1: Your site needs fresh content

OK, hang on right there. Google once announced something called the 
freshness update in 2011. This created undo mass hysteria (just like “duplicate content” did, but let’s not even get into that). 

Basically this idea of freshness spread and permeated into this belief that all websites always had to be cranking out content
all. of. the. time. Yikes, was this bad for the internet IMO. Content can be posted as often as you can but without forsaking quality

Myth 2: The MORE content the better

Thankfully, I think this myth is finally slowly dying. It only took four Pandas to finally wake a lot more people up to that. 

Keep this rule in mind:
Unused content is dangerous. It’s dangerous for your site because Google is looking for this sort of thing with Panda (I believe). People should actually be visiting your content (hopefully over and over again); otherwise it doesn’t belong on your site.

Myth 3: Blogs automatically help SEO

And the variation I hear to this is “blog posts are where you throw all of your keywords. Over and over. ” WRONG! Blogging does not automatically help SEO. (Granted this myth may have been slightly more true pre-Panda, but still wasn’t a good strategy).

The truth today? Blog posts have more of a chance of
hurting your SEO than helping. Unless you are willing to put an honest effort in, I would stay away from that assumption.

Myth 4: A blog is just a news feed

Gah! Are you CNN or TechCrunch? There are
thousands of perfectly good news sites, in all industries out there. Unless this is your core business model, I’d recommend staying away from a news format in your company blog. Stop reporting and start connecting.

Myth 5: Blogs are for generating leads

I’m going to 
defer to Tad Chef on this one. Blogs are for getting leads… eventually. But usually not on “first touch.”

If you’re blogging for any of the above reasons, I assure you, they’re only going to get you in trouble.


“Comments per post” can save us

I believe there’s a solution to this madness and feel that 
whether or not your blog is receiving comments should guide your entire blogging effort. Let’s call this simple metric “comments per post.”

total # of comments / total # of posts = comments per post

You can use this simple number to measure blogging success (or failure). For any company currently running a blog, follow this flow chart to see if you’re on track:

Where does your company blog fit in?

I bet if most companies went by this chart, 95% of company blogs would get shut down. Which in my opinion, wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.

You see, 
comments per post can tell you a lot:

  • Should we continue blogging?
  • Is our blog “working” and getting traction?
  • Are we connecting with customers?
  • Should we step back and reassess our purpose?
  • Should we stop blogging and remove the blog entirely?

Ideally, you would track comments per post 
over time as the central success/failure measure of the company blog.

Why “comments per post,” you ask? Well, I believe there are exponential benefits to using this as your central blogging metric. Let’s take a look at some of the big ones.


Commenting users are engaged

As my two stick figure friends will show you, people who comment are
highly engaged;

And conversely, those that do not comment are likely not as engaged;

On-page benefits

  • They add social proof that other people actually read your content.
  • When you reply back, it shows the public you listen and care.
  • Discussions often add extra value to your content.

SEO Benefits

Comments also add more keyword desi……. kidding. 

You didn’t
really think I was going to go there, did you? ;-) 

No, seriously, as Rand pointed out in a 
recent Whiteboard Friday, SEO takes input from all kinds of sources. Most everything will influence rankings in one way or another.

Here’s how I believe a company blog positioned to earn comments reaps SEO benefits:

Let’s walk through one example: repeat traffic. How does a comment create a higher likelihood of repeat visits?

Simple: notifications!

Here’s how it works;

  1. Danny Sullivan writes a post on something I am highly interested in.
  2. It’s the most in depth analysis I’ve seen, so I wanted to ask a question, and add some of my own insight, so I leave a comment.
  3. Disqus emails me when Danny writes back.
  4. Naturally, I want to go back, read the response, and maybe leave a further response.

(This should also give site owners yet another reason to reply to people. It’s a pretty certain way to get them to come back. And BTW Pat Flynn has a great resource here specifically about 
his experience with Disqus.)

Early commenting predicts future success (or failure)

You don’t have to wait until you’re 6 months into blogging to figure out how well it’s going.
You can tell after just a handful of posts. That’s what I believe anyway. Assuming a younger blog (of say 5-10 posts) is getting at least some traffic, if there’s no discussion, there’s no traction. 

When real people react to your content in a genuine way, you know you are onto something. Using social share numbers as the litmus for “success” is a terrible idea.

Simple

Most of all, I like that this method is simple, and pretty accurate in my opinion. You don’t need fancy software to tell you if your blog is working. 


Why successful company blogs earn comments

I want to switch gears and show you real examples of some of the most successful and commented-on company blogs. 

Setup and approach

1. Care about comments or don’t blog

My first two examples are of
companies that DON’T blog! For many companies this will be your best option.

Let’s look at Guitar Center. They actually
had a blog a one point;

But they killed the whole thing. I think this was a smart move.

Restoration Hardware 
doesn’t have a blog either;

I wish more companies would start following this trend. I assume Restoration Hardware is honest with themselves, and knows you don’t just go through the “blogging motions.” 

Lack of comments = lack of engagement = people probably don’t care about the blog = kill it and move on.

2. Build relationships outside of the blog

Lots of people who comment on my company blog are colleagues or friends. Here is a 
personal example;

Blogs are just like any form of communication: email, social media, or text messages. Literally think of your next blog post as if it’s an email to your best friend. 

3. Brand your blog

Marriott’s blog by Bill Marriott is by far one of the best business blogs I have found. Their clever branding of calling it “Marriott On The Move” sets it apart. It makes it memorable:

I also want to point out, this actually generates
search volume for “Marriott On the Move.”

This by the way is what I call ”
PropWords” (Proprietary Keywords). These are branded keywords that YOU create for a blog name, product, event and so forth that become extensions of your branding. 

This is an
important signal for SEO right now as I believe Google is definitely looking at these kinds of queries when trying to gauge trust and popularity of a site.

4. Hire people who can actually write

If there was an electrical problem in your office, would you just have any random person fix it? No, you’d probably call an electrician.

If your company needs quality writing on your site, that’s going to represent your brand, do you just get anyone to do it? No, you’d probably find
a real writer.

That’s exactly what King Authur Flour did. And it’s paid off big time. 

They brought in an actual author (of, you know, books!), PJ Hamel:

PJ writes a large portion of their posts, and responds to comments as well. And believe me, for a company making
flour, there’s more comments than you’d expect.

Even early on in the blog’s life in 2008, it received a lot comments. Something was going right from the start;

Contrary to this, let’s look at DreamHost’s blog. (And by the way I’m a DreamHost customer, so this is no slight to their product).

But how do they go about finding writers?

DreamHost apparently just wants little robots to crank out content on topics such as “web hosting” or “other.” Really? What’s “other?” We can just write about anything?

And, unfortunately, it shows in the results. Using comments per post as the measure of success, the blog is not very successful;

5. Use a voting system

Wegman’s is running a 
seriously killer blog. I’ll be using more examples from their site. But the first is the use of a simple voting system;

This adds to the level of engagement and social proof. I know what you’re thinking, too – 34 shares? Big failure, right?

WRONG. Remember.
Comments per post is our success metric. This one received 61 Comments. That’s some pretty awesome discussion. I’d take that any day over tweets.

6. Make it easy to register

What is it like if you try to just leave a simple comment on the Southwest Airlines blog?

It’s a major headache! Definitely reduce friction when it comes to users being able to quickly leave comments.

Content ideation and creation

1. Relate with values

Jason Fried comes to mind as one of the most successful bloggers of all time. What helped make him so successful? He’s not afraid to talk about grilling on a web design and software blog;

But why does this work? It’s right in the first sentence.
“Simple products that solve real problems.” That’s a common
value. And 37 Signals (now BaseCamp) has always been about attracting people with similar (and sometimes unconventional) beliefs.

This post received 36 comments back in 2006 when they were not as well known;

You might think “well, big deal;” they were pretty well known by then. And I want to point out – in 2003, they were regularly receiving lots of comments;

2. Continue a prior conversation

This is SO underutilized. People are
already attentive and engaged around a particular discussion. You can easily continue that discussion in a new post. Just like what Bill Marriott has done brilliantly here;

There’s a lot going on here;

  • He’s continuing a prior conversation (people are attentive and engaged)
  • He shows he’s actually listening to and reading people’s comments, which encourages future commenting.
  • He’s adding more value by curating the tips readers left, and bring the best ones to the surface.
  • He barely had to create any new content himself! Now that’s efficient.

3. React to misguided Quora questions

Chances are if someone is asking debatable/controversial questions in Quora, this is going to generate some discussion. You can answer this on your blog and bring some discussion with you. And that’s exactly what 
Rand did here:

I don’t think he was thinking “oh, how can we get more comments on Moz.” I think he probably saw it as an opportunity to settle some misconceptions about SEO. But in the process it generated some great discussion.

4. Involve others in the creation process

As I keep reiterating, blogging is a two-way communication platform. Wistia 
here shows us how they involved other companies in the creation and research process;

This undoubtedly had a positive impact on not only the reception, but also the discussion of this content. This post received 73 comments.

5. Add a personal touch

This is SO. Especially. Important. For company blogs! People are going to naturally view you as this big entity. You can counteract that with personal touches. It humanizes the experience and allows you to connect with your fans on a deeper level;

Here’s another example from Wegman’s

There’s actually a lot going on here too;

  • The signature is handwritten
  • Her title is clearly labeled
  • “Since 1971″ – wow, this speaks of tradition, commitment, consistency.
  • Incredible service – not just “customer service” (bland corporate-speak) but incredible.

The signature says a lot, actually. 

Back to Bill Marriott’s blog – you can also listen to all of his posts, which is a nice personal touch as well;

6. Bring the offline online with a story

“Tell a story” is starting to get a little overused. Just like “write quality content” it runs the risk of being empty advice. What does that mean “tell a story”? Here are some great examples:

Eric Allen, a flight crew member at FedEx, tells us the touching story of his daughter who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. 

Customers just passing by can’t help but stop to give their best wishes;

Another 
superb example of bringing an offline story to online is Verdant Tea;

I want to point something out. For many of these companies
the blog is simply an extension of their evolving story.


You don’t find a story because you have to blog. You have to blog so you can tell your story.

7. Provide a call to action

How many blog posts have you seen, end with “what do you think”?

It’s like we get to the end of writing, realize there’s a comment box below, and go “oh I guess I should ask something now!”.

I really like how Bill Marriott does it here;

Bill’s call to action is specific. A call to action will also rolls easily off an already-good article. We’re also reminded of the branding and personal touch at the end. This helps reinforce that we can have a direct, personal conversation.

Maintaining your commenting community

1. Kill off spam like crazy

Comment spam can ruin your blogging efforts in a lot of ways. It looks bad to search engines, and it looks bad to users. Kind of like the 
broken windows theory for blogs. It casts the impression that no one cares;

No one wants to hang around a place like that for too long. I’m militant about deleting spam on my own site (I check at least once a day).

2. Heavily moderate and make it well known you moderate

Although not a company blog per se, I just think Tim Ferriss sets an exceptional example of moderation;

His readers know that nothing uncool is accepted. This makes everyone WAY more comfortable to comment. They know things won’t get out of hand.

Here’s an example of a comment on my blog, in reply to someone else. It’s not very friendly, so it goes in the trash! 

Go forth and delete ;)

3. Listen and respond!

My goodness, what a lost opportunity for so many brands. Responding has several benefits;

  • It “doubles” the comment count.
  • It shows customers you care and listen.
  • It makes them MORE likely to comment again in the future.
  • As mentioned before, many comment systems like Disqus will send email notifications, which brings traffic back to your site.

It kills me to see this;

If someone walked up to you in a retail store, and asked you a question, would you just ignore them an walk away? Why are questions in comments any different?

Harvest, however, is very attentive to their customers’ questions;

Jonathan does a great job answering a slightly annoyed question. 

Here’s King Authur Flour again. Someone asked a question and TWO people from the company answered;

4. Continuously prune

The thing about blogs, is they can become overgrown quickly. Noindex or delete posts that have received little traffic, few shares, and no comments.

If you have a big blog, which has been running for a while, you should conduct any number of 
content audits and prune fairly aggressively!

5. Outreach: Stop asking for shares; ask for comments instead

This has been done TO me (and I wish I could find the example). It worked really well though, and I would suggest it in your outreach process. 

Think about it: If you ask someone to
comment or leave feedback they HAVE to at least read the content, process it, and think about it. They’re more likely to remember you, and potentially share the article anyway. And you might start to build a deeper relationship.

I consider an “influencer’s” comment on my posts to be a lasting gift. It’s there etched in stone for anyone to see. Social shares fade fast.


To earn a comment is to earn attention

And attention is the web’s most valuable currency. 

Especially when Bill Sebald is involved :-)

This is crazy (but all too common);

This is what we’re all competing with!

The attention web revolution

We’re seeing a dramatic shift happen right now. There’s way more content, but never more time. Attention is getting harder to earn.

I think my anecdotal chart may explain it best;

Pre 2013 - it was easier to create
shareworthy content and call this a “success.” But we’re entering an era where attention-worthy wins. The early adopters (UpWorthy, Chartbeat, etc.) are getting a head start. 

I’m definitely not the first to talk about the importance of an attention-centered content approach:

  • November 2013 – Medium tells us the only metric that matters is total reading time.
  • January 2014 – AJ Kohn’s brilliant piece asks: Are You Winning The Attention Auction?.
  • February 2014 – Upworthy reveals their attention minutes to the world.
  • March 2014 – Tony Haile’s well known piece for Time showed us people aren’t even reading what they’re sharing. (I should note that as the CEO of Chartbeat, Tony does have a personal investment in this concept).

Executive attention

There’s two ways to get your attention.

  1. That car fire might get your attention. But this would get an involuntary, reactive form of attention. Not what we want from our readings. This is the kind of attention sites like BuzzFeed get.
  2. Rather, we want the kind of attention where you choose to focus on something (and ignore other things). An intentional attention. Look at wikipedia’s definition of Executive (Endogenous) Attention;

“… top-down processing, also known as goal-driven, endogenous attention, attentional control or executive attention. This aspect of our attentional orienting is under the control of the person who is attending.

THAT’S the type of attention you want. Someone
intentionally reading, processing and interacting with your content.

A user commenting on a post is usually someone giving you just that.


Full circle

Remember at the beginning? We looked at this chart of a major brand’s comments;

Remember, that’s only 10 comments across 50 posts.

This is Wegman’s stats for the same thing;

Wegman’s has
1,857 comments across 50 posts. In fact, the first site is still in the chart. It’s just so small, you can’t even see it.

On ONE post alone they got 1,092 comments;


A new standard of success

So let’s take a look at this again. What do you see now?

These aren’t just numbers. This tells a story. 

It tells the story of a company that blogs because it thinks it has to. 

It celebrates “success” as tweets and likes and votes. 

Customers do not connect with this brand.

It doesn’t listen to its customers.

There is no dialogue. 

No 
connection.


So, you probably know what to do below, and I
will actually respond :)

-Dan Shure
Moz Associate since 2012
Owner Evolving SEO since 2010


PS: Speaking of discussion, I happen to be doing an Ask Me Anything 
over on Reddit today at 1pm EDT. If you want to ask me anything at all (whether or not it’s related to this post), head on over.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


Moz Blog

Google Search Censorship for Fun and Profit

July 22nd, 2014

Growing Up vs Breaking Things

Facebook’s early motto was “move fast and break things,” but as they wanted to become more of a platform play they changed it to “move fast with stability.” Anything which is central to the web needs significant stability, or it destroys many other businesses as a side effect of its instability.

As Google has become more dominant, they’ve moved in the opposite direction. Disruption is promoted as a virtue unto itself, so long as it doesn’t adversely impact the home team’s business model.

There are a couple different ways to view big search algorithm updates. Large, drastic updates implicitly state one of the following:

  • we were REALLY wrong yesterday
  • we are REALLY wrong today

Any change or disruption is easy to justify so long as you are not the one facing the consequences:

“Smart people have a problem, especially (although not only) when you put them in large groups. That problem is an ability to convincingly rationalize nearly anything.” … “Impostor Syndrome is that voice inside you saying that not everything is as it seems, and it could all be lost in a moment. The people with the problem are the people who can’t hear that voice.” – Googler Avery Pennarun

Monopoly Marketshare in a Flash

Make no mistake, large changes come with false positives and false negatives. If a monopoly keeps buying marketshare, then any mistakes they make have more extreme outcomes.

Here’s the Flash update screen (which hits almost every web browser EXCEPT Google Chrome).

Notice the negative option installs for the Google Chrome web browser and the Google Toolbar in Internet Explorer.

Why doesn’t that same process hit Chrome? They not only pay Adobe to use security updates to steal marketshare from other browsers, but they also pay Adobe to embed Flash inside Chrome, so Chrome users never go through the bundleware update process.

Anytime anyone using a browser other than Chrome has a Flash security update they need to opt out of the bundleware, or they end up installing Google Chrome as their default web browser, which is the primary reason Firefox marketshare is in decline.

Google engineers “research” new forms of Flash security issues to drive critical security updates.

Obviously, users love it:

Has anyone noticed that the latest Flash update automatically installs Google Toolbar and Google Chrome? What a horrible business decision Adobe. Force installing software like you are Napster. I would fire the product manager that made that decision. As a CTO I will be informing my IT staff to set Flash to ignore updates from this point forward. QA staff cannot have additional items installed that are not part of the base browser installation. Ridiculous that Adobe snuck this crap in. All I can hope now is to find something that challenges Photoshop so I can move my design team away from Adobe software as well. Smart move trying to make pennies off of your high dollar customers.

In Chrome Google is the default search engine. As it is in Firefox and Opera and Safari and Android and iOS’s web search.

In other words, in most cases across most web interfaces you have to explicitly change the default to not get Google. And then even when you do that, you have to be vigilant in protecting against the various Google bundleware bolted onto core plugins for other web browsers, or else you still end up in an ecosystem owned, controlled & tracked by Google.

Those “default” settings are not primarily driven by user preferences, but by a flow of funds. A few hundred million dollars here, a billion there, and the market is sewn up.

Google’s user tracking is so widespread & so sophisticated that their ad cookies were a primary tool for government surveillance efforts.

Locking Down The Ecosystem

And Chrome is easily the most locked down browser out there.

  • Chromium is turning into abandonware, with Google stripping features to try to push people over to Chrome.
  • Extensions must be installed from the official store. If those extensions deliver malware, no worries. But if those extensions are not aligned with Google’s business model – they will be banned until a commercial relationship aligned with Google’s business model is established. #censorship
  • While Google relies on bundling their toolbar & browser in updates to Flash and other plugins, they require an opposite strategy for anyone distributing Chrome plugins. Chrome plugins “must have a single purpose that is narrow and easy-to-understand.”
  • If someone other than Google changes default search settings, it’s time to reset hijacked settings.
  • Chrome is so locked down that Yahoo! is canceling their search toolbar for Chrome to comply with recent Google Chrome policy updates, even as Google distributes toolbars in other browsers. #censorship

Whenever Google wants to promote something they have the ability to bundle it into their web browser, operating system & search results to try to force participation. In a fluid system with finite attention, over-promoting one thing means under-promoting or censoring other options. Google likes to have their cake & eat it too, but the numbers don’t lie.

The Right to Be Forgotten

This brings us back to the current snafu with the “right to be forgotten” in Europe.

Google notified publishers like the BBC & The Guardian of their links being removed due to the EU “right to be forgotten” law. Their goal was to cause a public relations uproar over “censorship” which seems to have been a bit too transparent, causing them to reverse some of the removals after they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

The breadth of removals is an ongoing topic of coverage. But if you are Goldman Sachs instead of a government Google finds filtering information for you far more reasonable.

Some have looked at the EU policy and compared it to state-run censorship in China.

Google already hires over 10,000 remote quality raters to rate search results. How exactly is receiving 70,000 requests a monumental task? As their public relations propagandists paint this as an unbelievable burden, they are also highlighting how their own internal policies destroy smaller businesses: “If a multi-billion dollar corporation is struggling to cope with 70,000 censor requests, imagine how the small business owner feels when he/she has to disavow thousands or tens of thousands of links.”

The World’s Richest Librarian

Google aims to promote themselves as a digital librarian: “It’s a bit like saying the book can stay in the library, it just cannot be included in the library’s card catalogue.”

That analogy is absurd on a number of levels. Which librarian…

  • tracks people to target ads at them?
  • blends ads into their recommendations so aggressively that most users are unable to distinguish the difference between ads and regular recommendations?
  • republishes the works of others, offers ultimatums while taking third party content, and obscures or entirely strips the content source?
  • invests in, funds & defunds entire lines of publishing?
  • claims certain book publishers shall be banned from the library due to nothing other than their underlying business model?

Sorry About That Incidental Deletion From the Web…

David Drummond’s breathtaking propaganda makes it sound like Google has virtually no history in censoring access to information:

In the past we’ve restricted the removals we make from search to a very short list. It includes information deemed illegal by a court, such as defamation, pirated content (once we’re notified by the rights holder), malware, personal information such as bank details, child sexual abuse imagery and other things prohibited by local law (like material that glorifies Nazism in Germany).

Yet Google sends out hundreds of thousands of warning messages in webmaster tools every single month.

Google is free to force whatever (often both arbitrary and life altering) changes they desire onto the search ecosystem. But the moment anyone else wants any level of discourse or debate into the process, they feign outrage over the impacts on the purity of their results.

Despite Google’s great power they do make mistakes. And when they do, people lose their jobs.

Consider MetaFilter.

They were penalized November 17, 2012.

At a recent SMX conference Matt Cutts stated MetaFilter was a false positive.

People noticed the Google update when it happened. It is hard to miss an overnight 40% decline in your revenues. Yet when they asked about it, Google did not confirm its existence. That economic damage hit MetaFilter for nearly two years & they only got a potential reprieve from after they fired multiple employees and were able to generate publicity about what had happened.

As SugarRae mentioned, those false positives happen regularly, but most the people who are hit by them lack political and media influence, and are thus slaughtered with no chance of recovery.

MetaFilter is no different than tens of thousands of other good, worthy small businesses who are also laying off employees – some even closing their doors – as a result of Google’s Panda filter serving as judge, jury and executioner. They’ve been as blindly and unfairly cast away to an island and no one can hear their pleas for help.

The only difference between MetaFilter and tons of other small businesses on the web is that MetaFilter has friends in higher places.

If you read past the headlines & the token slaps of big brands, these false positive death sentences for small businesses are a daily occurrence.

And such stories are understated for fear of coverage creating a witch-hunt:

Conversations I’ve had with web publishers, none of whom would speak on the record for fear of retribution from Cutts’ webspam team, speak to a litany of frustration at a lack of transparency and potential bullying from Google. “The very fact I’m not able to be candid, that’s a testament to the grotesque power imbalance that’s developed,” the owner of one widely read, critically acclaimed popular website told me after their site ran afoul of Cutts’ last Panda update.

Not only does Google engage in anti-competitive censorship, but they also frequently publish misinformation. Here’s a story from a week ago of a restaurant which went under after someone changed their Google listing store hours to be closed on busy days. That misinformation was embedded directly in the search results. That business is no more.

Then there are areas like locksmiths:

I am one of the few Real Locksmiths here in Denver and I have been struggling with this for years now. I only get one or two calls a day now thanks to spammers, and that’s not calls I do, it’s calls for prices. For instance I just got a call from a lady locked out of her apt. It is 1130 pm so I told her 75 dollars, Nope she said someone told her 35 dollars….a fake locksmith no doubt. She didn’t understand that they meant 35 dollars to come out and look at it. These spammers charge hundreds to break your lock, they don’t know how to pick a lock, then they charge you 10 times the price of some cheap lock from a hardware store. I’m so lost, I need help from google to remove those listings. Locksmithing is all I have ever done and now I’m failing at it.

There are entire sectors of the offline economy being reshaped by Google policies.

When those sectors get coverage, the blame always goes to the individual business owner who was personal responsible for Google’s behaviors, or perhaps some coverage of the nefarious “spammers.”

Never does anybody ask if it is reasonable for Google to place their own inaccurate $ 0 editorial front and center. To even bring up that issue makes one an anti-capitalist nut or someone who wishes to impede on free speech rights. This even after the process behind the sausage comes to light.

And while Google arbitrarily polices others, their leaked internal documents contain juicy quotes about their ad policies like:

  • “We are the only player in our industry still accepting these ads”
  • “We do not make these decisions based on revenue, but as background, [redacted].”
  • “As with all of our policies, we do not verify what these sites actually do, only what they claim to do.”
  • “I understand that we should not let other companies, press, etc. influence our decision-making around policy”

Is This “Censorship” Problem New?

This problem of control to access of information is nothing new – it is only more extreme today. Read the (rarely read) preface to Animal Farm, or consider this:

John Milton in his fiery 1644 defense of free speech, Areopagitica, was writing not against the oppressive power of the state but of the printers guilds. Darnton said the same was true of John Locke’s writings about free speech. Locke’s boogeyman wasn’t an oppressive government, but a monopolistic commercial distribution system that was unfriendly to ways of organizing information that didn’t fit into its business model. Sound familiar?

When Google complains about censorship, they are not really complaining about what may be, but what already is. Their only problem is the idea that someone other than themselves should have any input in the process.

“Policy is largely set by economic elites and organized groups representing business interests with little concern for public attitudes or public safety, as long as the public remains passive and obedient.” ― Noam Chomsky

Many people have come to the same conclusion


Turn on, tune in, drop out

“I think as technologists we should have some safe places where we can try out some new things and figure out what is the effect on society, what’s the effect on people, without having to deploy kind of into the normal world. And people like those kind of things can go there and experience that and we don’t have mechanisms for that.” – Larry Page

I have no problem with an “opt-in” techno-utopia test in some remote corner of the world, but if that’s the sort of operation he wants to run, it would be appreciated if he stopped bundling his software into billions of electronic devices & assumed everyone else is fine with “opting out.”

Categories: 
google
publishing & media

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