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Google November Core Update Is Over – What Happened?

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It’s official, Google’s November core algorithm update is over today on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, the day after the popular Cyber Monday shopping day. Sites that experienced an up or downward shift in rankings should not expect additional changes to their status until the next algorithm update.

Google announced the end of the core update rollout on Twitter:

“The November 2021 Core Update is now rolling out live. As is typical with these updates, it will typically take about one to two weeks to fully roll out.”

It’s possible that changes in traffic around the time of the algorithm might not be related to the update. Coincidences do happen but it’s a slim hope.

The changes seen today can be said to be permanent and until the next update there should only be the daily up and down in rankings that are characteristic of a constantly updated search index.

Unlike in the past where the search index remained fixed for a month at a time, today’s search engine is more dynamic and responsive to links and content.

What doesn’t change is the underlying processes themselves.

Read more: Google Update Slapped Your Rankings: What’s Next

What Was The November Update?

Search Community Shares Insights

Many search marketers agreed that the November core algorithm update did not have the disruptive impact of a major update.

Japan-based SEO Kenichi Suzuki (@suzukik)

Kenichi Suzuki, a respected Japanese search marketer offered his observations of the impact to the Google search results in Japan.

Kenichi shared:

“The November 2021 Core Update seems to have made much less impact on rankings, compared with other core updates.

The ranking changes are not that different than daily fluctuations.

That said, we’ve seen Google look at who (author/company) publishes the content more carefully.”

Jason Barnard (@jasonmbarnard)

Jason Barnard noticed wild fluctuations in Google’s Knowledge Graph on November 16th, the day before the update:

Is that related to the update that would be released on the following day?

Nobody knows for certain but it’s an interesting sideshow accompanying the main event.

Jason offered his thoughts on what happened in the Knowledge Graph:

“Here we had Google announce a core update on the 17th of November and the knowledge graph went crazy beginning the day before.

There was also a “deepening” of the Knowledge Graph that same day (ie queries returned 6% more results on average…).

That number had not changed for at least 2 years. So that 6% is big news.”

Ammon Johns (@Ammon_Johns)

I asked widely respected search marketer, Ammon Johns, about the update.

Ammon shared:

“There’s no single unifying theme (yet), no suddenly recurring problem or symptom surfacing in the various SEO groups.

Only the ongoing mass of issues many smaller site owners had in the weeks running up to the update where crawling was reduced, and sites with lower crawl priorities found they couldn’t get their new content indexed.”

Ammon is referencing the growing concern in the worldwide search marketing community about how Google seems to be indexing less content.

That’s something that began peaking in October 2021 and continues to be a source of anxiety for many publishers.

Steven Kang (@SEOSignalsLab)

Steven Kang is the administrator of the wildly popular SEO Signals Lab Facebook community. His community has thousands of members and countless discussions every day. If anyone has the pulse of the search community on social media, it’s Steven Kang.

Here is what Steve observed about the core update:

“I’m seeing mixed results. Some went up and some down. I’m not seeing the seismic difference…”

Jim Boykin (@jimboykin) – Founder of Internet Marketing Ninjas

Jim Boykin has been in SEO for over twenty years and one thing I have observed about Jim is that he’s open minded to changes and is quick to adapt, which to me makes his opinions matter all the more.

These are Jim’s observations on Google’s November update:

“We had 12 clients that had really nice ranking/traffic improvements, and about 25 clients that didn’t see much either way, and we had 7 clients that saw a bit of a drop. About 5 of the 7 that dropped fell 1-3 ranking positions lower. Two of those seven had bigger drops.

Overall, this is just another algo update… there will always be winners and losers each time… I just try to keep making the sites better and stress doing that to those who were negatively effected.”

Bill Hartzer (@bhartzer)

Bill Hartzer, another search marketer with over twenty years of experience concurred with the observation that this update had a small impact.

Bill observed:

“I feel as if it’s been a low impact update.”

Was The Update Partly An Infrastructure Update?

This update is generally agreed by many in the search industry to have been a relatively mild one. That in itself is very interesting because it could suggest a shift in the underlying algorithm architecture where it still does the same thing, relatively, but it does it more efficiently and faster.

The core algorithm update was preceded by a spam update which presumably cleared the table of negative influences to the search index, to make the search index more pure and less spam.

FLAN Machine Learning Research Paper

It’s especially interesting because Google AI has published research on new machine learning models that do not specialize at doing many things really well, which is a change from previous models that did one thing really well and required an army of multiple models to do all these different things.

One such model is called FLAN that was introduced as a research paper in October. What FLAN does is focuses the natural language training on solving different kinds tasks and then generalizing the method so that it can apply to a wide variety of tasks.

Read More: FLAN: Google Research Develops Better Machine Learning

Google Introduced Pathways, A New AI Architecture

The November core algorithm update began on November 17, 2021 and finished nearly two weeks later on November 30th.

If Google were to introduce a new more efficient way to accomplish the same thing it was already doing, then that might require clearing the board of spam with a spam update and then introducing the new algorithm architecture slowly across the entire system.

Perhaps not coincidentally, around the same time as the FLAN research was published Google officially announced a new AI Architecture called Pathways that seems to do many of things that FLAN claims to improve on.

The Google Pathways announcement states:

“Too often, machine learning systems overspecialize at individual tasks, when they could excel at many.

That’s why we’re building Pathways—a new AI architecture that will handle many tasks at once, learn new tasks quickly and reflect a better understanding of the world.

….Today’s AI models are typically trained to do only one thing.

Pathways will enable us to train a single model to do thousands or millions of things.”

One thing to note is that the Pathways article, published in October 2021, refers to things they are going to build, not to things that they have already introduced.

So it’s entirely possible that Pathways was not introduced in the mid-November 2021 core algorithm update.

Ammon Johns Is Reminded of Hummingbird Update

Ammon Johns remarked that the November 2021 core algorithm update felt like an infrastructure update.

Ammon shared his thoughts:

“I’m reminded a bit of the Hummingbird Update, where it had actually been live for a couple of months or something like that before the news broke, and nobody had noticed.”

I agree with Ammon. In general terms, the November 2021 update had a relatively gentle impact on the search results.

And that is what makes it feel like an infrastructure related update that makes Google’s algorithms more efficient.

Google November 2021 Core Update Takeaways

I think most people would agree that Google’s core update was somewhat odd.

  • Kenichi Suzuki, the search marketer in Japan, feels that Google was focusing a little more on authorship signals.
  • Jason Barnard noticed extreme volatility in the Knowledge Graph, sharing that Google was returning 6% more knowledge graph-based results. Jason says a 6% increase is huge and a scale he’s never seen before.
  • Ammon Johns feels, like I do, that the quiet nature of this update might indicate that Google made more infrastructure-related changes.
  • Social media has been relatively quiet this update, suggesting that whatever impact it had was not widely felt  in the way that a major update would feel.
  • Lastly, Google published an article and a research paper that both signal improvements to Google’s algorithms that can dramatically speed up current question answering tasks and in the future greatly increase Google’s ability to answer more complex questions.

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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