Google Warns Data Privacy Changes Could Hurt Its Business

Google parent Alphabet Inc. warned that its business may be damaged by changing data privacy practices, new digital advertising polices and software bugs that leak user information.

The company filed its annual report on Tuesday and added language that suggests it is adjusting to stepped up regulatory scrutiny and evolving consumer attitudes toward data and privacy online.

“Changes to our data privacy practices, as well as changes to third-party advertising policies or practices may affect the type of ads and/or manner of advertising that we are able to provide which could have an adverse effect on our business,” the company wrote in the filing. “If we do not provide superior value or deliver advertisements efficiently and competitively, our reputation could be affected, we could see a decrease in revenue from advertisers and/or experience other adverse effects to our business.”

As consumers and politicians re-evaluate the data-collecting business models of companies like Google and Facebook Inc., the chance of tough regulations that undercut key revenue streams is increasing. To date, Google has mostly faced fines in Europe that it has been able to pay with its massive cash hoard, but some privacy advocates and those concerned with the company’s sheer size are pushing for harsher policies.

The internet giant has warned about stricter regulation and potential fines in the past. And regulatory filings like Tuesday’s annual report are often filled with boilerplate descriptions of risk so companies aren’t sued by investors if something actually goes wrong. Still, when new language appears, investors and analysts take note.

Another addition to Alphabet’s latest filing warns about software errors. “Bugs or defects in our products and services have occurred and may occur in the future, or our security measures could be breached, resulting in the improper use and/or disclosure of user data,” the company wrote.

Last year, Google found a software glitch in its Google Plus social network that could have exposed the personal data of as many as half a million people. The company decided to shut the service soon after.

Alphabet also updated its warning about an expansion into non-advertising businesses like cloud services and consumer hardware.

“Due to these factors and the evolving nature of our business, our historical revenue growth rate and historical operating margin may not be indicative of our future performance,” it wrote.

The company reported thinner fourth-quarter profit margins late Monday as the internet giant spend heavily to expand its cloud and YouTube businesses.

SEO – Is It a Dying Channel?

I can see your eyes rolling already – “OMG NOT ANOTHER SEO IS DEAD ARTICLE!” – but bear with me for a moment.

For those that are not familiar, every year in the search industry there is a clickbait article about SEO being dead.

Then there are a proverbial hundred articles written to explain why SEO is not dead and round and round we go.

This has been going on as long as I have been in search and surely before and I have been in the industry since 2004.

So why would I be writing another article about the death of SEO?

Because this time the question of the death of is not being posed by some digital marketers looking for traffic and links, it is coming from site owners.

This is an important distinction and something that deserves attention.

The Decline of Organic

The idea that SEO is a dying channel is not completely without some small basis in fact.

In 2016 and 2017, there was a small but definitive downward trend in organic search across the board.

While these trends were not large enough to cause any great concern, if you were looking at the trendline you could see organic was down 2 percent between 2017 and 2016.

Given the number of searches in just Google organic online are in the trillions each year, 2 percent is not without significance.

From the Q1 & Q3 Merkle Report on Search

The share of site visits produced by organic search was 24 percent in Q4 2017, down 2 percent from the previous year

However, that trend changed in 2018 with the first two quarters coming in 2 percent larger and the 3rd quarter up 9 percent year over year, at least in Google.

Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo struggle to be competitive in this market. Though DuckDuckGo is on the rise, Bing and Yahoo are not.

According to Merkle:

“Despite recent headlines about the strong growth for DuckDuckGo, US organic search visit share for search engines beyond Google, Bing, and Yahoo fell from just 0.8% in Q3 2017 to 0.6% in Q3 2018.”

Even with the negative changes to Bing and Yahoo’s trendlines, Google owns 96 percent of the market, so organic is just as important as it always has been, actually more.

Organic Is NOT a Dying Channel

At this point, Google=Organic.

As long as Google Ads are driving the majority of their revenues, organic will be here to stay.

So not only is Google organic not a dying channel, as the data shows us it is actually growing. However, that growth is only going to likely increase.

But why?

Search Trends That Will Drive the Growth from Organic Results

There are some emerging search trends that will only make organic a more likely driver of traffic, not less.

Increasing Rise of Mobile

Google is so confident in the continued growth of the mobile space it is making the biggest change in its history and moving the factors it evaluates to rank a site from desktop to mobile – a.k.a., Mobile First. (If your site has not been moved to Mobile First yet, don’t worry, it will be sometime soon. At least most likely, by year’s end.)

Because mobile is only going to continue to grow and desktop is not going anywhere, people will be searching more, not less. That means continued growth for Google no matter what else happens.

If you have any doubts, see what The Boston Consulting Group found users would give up in order to keep their smartphones. Pretty telling, really:

Google Search Page Design

As Google has shifted from an information, or search engine, to an answer engine, Google has made whole sale changes to its search engine result page (SERP) design.

While not all pages have been altered, many of the top traffic driving queries search results pages have been given an overhaul to make them friendlier to mobile users and micro-moment search.

Organic Is Not Just 10 Blue Links Anymore

Here is a just a sample of places a site can find itself outside of the standard “10 blue links.”

For instance, we have multiple new “search modules,” but all of them are driven by some degree by the value of your site’s organic search.

Want to be seen in these spaces? Your organic SEO must be up to par as your site’s organic value matters, in whole or in part, in your placements.

Some examples.

  • Knowledge Features
  • The One Box / Answer Box
  • The Knowledge Graph
  • People Also Ask
  • Carousel
    • News
    • Brand
    • Similar Locations
    • Similar Items
    • Videos
  • Map Features
    • Local Results
  • Rich Snippets
    • Reviews
    • Ratings
    • Featured (this can fall under multiple modules as the term is used loosely)

    And these are not all of the modules available, so while the “10 blue links” are less visible on pages when search modules are present, all of these modules have an element of organic search to them.

    Basically, part of how you show up in the additional modules is based on how well Google values your site organically – either in part or in whole.

    Voice Search

    Voice search is different than voice assistants, which we will discuss next.

    While devices such as Google Home and Alexa use voice, it is not what we refer to as voice search. Voice search is a broader category that refers to the use of your voice to make a search query versus using your fingers.

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    While Google does add a lot of “search modules” to many query pages, there are many queries where it does not. These queries tend to fall under what we call “long-tail search.”

    Long-tail search is when a user uses multiple words to create the search, rule of thumb is over 3 or 4, and since the average length of a voice query is 7 or 8 words it is much less likely to “match” other searches users have created because it is so specific to the users intent.

    This means that these queries are also less likely to have integrated search modules that push down the “10 blue links.” They are even less likely to contain ads.

    These pages are all about the 10 blue links.

    So as people move more and more to voice-assisted search, your placement in the top 10 organic links on long-tail queries becomes much more important as we all know – almost no one goes to Page 2 of Google (or other search engines).

    And you know who built their business on long-tail search? Amazon.

    There is great value in the long tail. Don’t ignore it.

    Voice Assistants

    While Voice Assistants such as Google Home and Alexa are not highly valuable to sites providing only information (the site never sees a click).

    Even though they are still in their infancy for sites in relevant verticals such as ecommerce, if your site is in a vertical like ecommerce you ignore voice assistants at your own risk.

    The growth projection is similar to when smartphones hit the market and by 2022, OC&C Strategy Consultants projects it to be worth $40 billion in sales to the U.S. ecommerce sector alone.

    Predicted growth in the ecommerce sector by 2022

    Why such growth, so quickly?

    Devices, Devices, EVERYWHERE!

    At CES this year, Google proclaimed that its voice assistant would be available on 1 billion (yes that is BILLION) devices by the end of January this year, and Amazon said they sold 100 MILLION voice assistants during the holiday season alone.

    In less than a decade, almost every home in the U.S. will have a voice assistant in either the form of a device or on their phones

    Another thing to remember is that though users may not be purchasing in large numbers yet, when users are not buying, they are doing research

    And according to Google, users are interested in deals, sales, promotions, and business information.

    “52 percent of voice-activated speaker owners would like to receive information about deals, sales, and promotions from brands. 39 percent would like to receive options to find business information.”

    So even though sales are not there yet, brand relationships are being built through Voice Assistants right now.

    But how is this related to organic search?

    No ’10 Blue Links’

    Voice assistants do not have “10 blue links.” There is one answer. That answer either comes from your site or it doesn’t.

    While organic search is not the only way sites can make themselves relevant to these devices, think Alexa Skills and Google Actions, it is an excellent channel for making sure that when Google uses the search results to provide an answer, that you are the site it uses.

    For instance, a voice assistant search user wants to order a pizza. It can ask Google to give it a pizza place near them. There is going to be one answer and that answer, Dominos – Papa Johns – Pizza Hut will most likely come from the featured snippet or answer box on top of a search box page.

    Even when it doesn’t if you have not organically optimized your site pages then you are not likely going to be that first result because those results are typically pulled from the top 10 organic listings.

    So, if you are not optimized for both organic and voice, that business will not go to you, it will go to your competitor.

    Organic Search is EXPANDING, Not DYING

    John Franklin, Associate Partner, OC&C, commented:

    “Voice commerce represents the next major disruption in the retail industry, and just as e-commerce and mobile commerce changed the retail landscape, shopping through smart speaker promises to do the same.

    The speed with which consumers are adopting smart speakers will translate into a number of opportunities and even more challenges for traditional retailers and consumer products companies.”

    So, we can see that even though the “10 Blue Links” are harder and harder to surface for many short tail queries, there are multiple opportunities to use organic to expand your search presence in other spaces and with other devices. The best part is many of those spaces are pretty empty right now.

    It is estimated that by 2020, 50 percent of the searches online will be hands-free. Anyone with an online presence would be foolish to ignore those numbers. According to a report from TheStreet:

    “In two years, voice shopping, or v-commerce, could be as popular as mobile shopping is today, according to recent survey data from MoffettNathanson. So far, less than 5 percent of consumers use voice shopping, but that number could reach 50 percent by 2022, the report found.

    “The growth curve of voice shopping looks a lot like the trajectory of mobile commerce seven years ago,” when less than 10 percent of American consumers made purchases on their cellphones, MoffettNathanson’s Greg Melich told TheStreet on Thursday, April 5. “If you’re a retailer and you’re not preparing for this significant trend of e-commerce going toward v-commerce, then you won’t be around.”

    And it is also important to mention that there are many queries in Google that still only contain “10 Blue Links”. As users use voice to search, those queries become more relevant, because they are long – not short-tail.

    So, the next time someone says organic search is a dying channel just let them move on, while you clean-up on the billions of activated devices out there poised to give someone their money and their time.

    As they say, always skate to the where the puck is going.

    And remember:

    SEO is still NOT dead!


    Image Credits

    All screenshots taken by author, January 2019



    Shine’s Benny & Bella New Year race 2019 has started!

    Shine’s Benny & Bella New Year race 2019 has now started and LK Web Media’s balloon has been launched!

    About Shine Virtual Balloon Races
    An integral part of Shine’s fundraising initiatives since the early 90s has been sponsored balloon races. We approach 1000s of companies each year asking for their kind support in a fun event that could ultimately win them a choice of prizes!

    See where we are now >>

    Over the years, the nature of the event has evolved from actual balloon races to virtual balloon races. We took the step to go virtual due to the detrimental effect real helium filled party balloons were having on the wildlife and environment.

    Since its induction in 2009, Shine’s virtual races have gone from strength to strength! You can now decorate your balloon, track its journey and interact vastly on social media to influence your balloon’s journey! These are just a small number of options available to enhance your experience while supporting a great cause!

    Who are Shine?
    Shine (formerly ASBAH) was formed in 1966 to support those living with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. We rely heavily on the generous support of individuals and businesses in order to achieve our goals on a daily basis.
    Make a Donation

    What do they do?
    Your support enables Shine to continue providing our unique vital services which include a Life Long Opportunities Programme (LLOP) – a tailored, age-related calendar of events including Family Opportunities Weekends, Teen Residentials, Independent Living Workshops, and Shine40Plus events for our adult Members.
    Our services

    Please feel free to make a donation here>>

    © Shine Trading Limited 2019. All Rights Reserved. Shine Balloons is a fundraising website for Shine Trading Limited

    Why Prioritisation Is Critical to SEO Success in 2019

    SEO is a new(er) marketing practice, which creates unique challenges and added scrutiny.

    Limited Budget & Resources

    Often, the only resource you have as an in-house SEO is yourself.

    You may not have a full team to rely on, so prioritising when and how work will be done becomes paramount.

    Collaboration Is a Must

    You typically need to collaborate with another department to fully realise your SEO plans.

    Prioritising work with the most responsive departments (or those you have the best relationships with) will help you get the ball rolling, and allow your campaign to build momentum as you tackle more difficult collaborations later on.

    Proving Efficacy & Demonstrating ROI

    Obtaining buy-in — and budget — is difficult to begin with.

    Unless you show results quickly it can be even more challenging to keep that budget.

    Prioritising SEO projects that require the least amount of resources and provide the most impact is critical during the early stages of a campaign.

    SEO is a long-term strategy that takes time and sustained effort to fully realise the benefits of the work.

    However, prioritising the path of least resistance will help you demonstrate early returns, empowering you to achieve your larger goals over the course of a campaign.

    There are three areas where prioritisation is key:

    • On-site and technical optimisation.
    • Content creation and repurposing.
    • Link building.

    Prioritising appropriately within these three areas will set your SEO campaign up for success.

    Let us help you with your SEO campaign prioritising >>

    Google+ set for early shutdown following bug discovery

    Social network Google Plus (stylised asGoogle+) will now be shut down earlier than planned, following the discovery ofa bug affecting more than 50 million users.

    Google+ waslaunched in 2011 as an attempt to launch a social network competitor to Facebook.The platform was integrated with other popular Google services, includingYouTube. Although Google+ attracted some initial interest, user engagementquickly dropped and has remained consistently low ever since.

    In October 2018, Google announced that the social network would be shut down, following a Wall Street Journal report which found that the company kept quiet a security breach first identified in March, which potentially exposed the personal data of half a million users. An anonymous source speaking to the Wall Street Journal claimed that senior Google staff had not disclosed the vulnerability due to concern about reputational damage, new regulation and CEO Sundar Pichai being required to testify before Congress (despite Google’s best efforts, Pichai is due to address Congress today).

    Yesterday, Google announced thatit had identified a second bug during regular testing, following a softwareupdate. The latest bug, which affects a Google+ API, affected approximately52.5 million people and lasted for six days. Much like the previous bugdisclosed, this could have allowed developers to access private profile data, includingage, occupation, username and email addresses.

    However, Google has reassuredusers that there is no evidence that the bug was exploited or even noticed bythird parties and that the bug did not expose users’ passwords or financialdata.

    Need help with your Social Media?

    Call me!