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Google Explains Featured Snippets Volatility

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Google Explains Featured Snippets Volatility

At the beginning of March featured snippets seemed to disappear from the search engine results pages (SERPs). Some were calling it historic lows.

Yet until recently there hasn’t been much information from Google.

Google’s John Mueller explained the reasons why featured snippets aren’t always stable in a recent office-hours hangout.

Was Featured Snippet Volatility Deliberate?

Someone asked if the removal of the featured snippets was intentional or if there was something else going on. Usually changes are incremental and not so seemingly dramatic.

The Question:

“Just wondering if that was deliberate on Google’s side to reduce featured snippets from showing up or if it was maybe… for another reason that might be happening?

Just wondering if there’s any… rationale or if you know if… maybe it was a side effect of another change?”

John Mueller didn’t comment on the recent featured snippets volatility. But he did offer an explanation of why featured snippets can seem volatile.

Of interest is when he mentions that they are triggered and that Google tries to update the “thresholds” for triggering them.

Screenshot of Google's Mueller answering featured snippets question

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know. …The featured snippets and rich results in general, those kinds of things can fluctuate over time.

And I know the teams are always working on those features and trying to fine-tune the triggering.

So when we would show them or when we wouldn’t show them, sometimes the triggering changes over time that we just kind of reduce the threshold overall or that we change the focus a little bit and say like less here and more here. Sometimes that happens across geographies or languages.

But these kinds of changes from our side are essentially normal organic changes in search, how they can always happen.”

Reasons for Changes in Search

Organic changes in search can be a wide variety of things.

In general, Google’s search focus tends to align towards:

  • Devaluing manipulative tactics
  • Satisfying user expectations
  • Showing useful content to users
  • Responding to changes in search intent (shift in what keywords mean)
  • Responding to changes in user behavior (Covid, travel, work from home)

John Mueller continued his answer by stating with confidence that a “technical requirement” is not a reason for losing a featured snippet.

He explained:

“It’s definitely not the case that we say well, like there’s some technical requirement that’s missing on these pages therefore we dropped it.

It’s more we need to refine which types of results we show over time.”

When pressed on whether the recent reduction in featured snippets was a deliberate choice or a byproduct of something else, John Mueller explained Google’s perspective on it.

Mueller:

“I don’t know… I don’t know.

Usually we don’t think of it as much as we want to reduce the number of times we want to show a feature. But rather, we want to improve the targeting and the relevance of when we show the feature.

And sometimes that does mean overall it’s like fewer. But it might be that they’re fewer here and there’s a little bit more here.

That’s something that just happens over time. They’re always trying to find a better balance of what to show in search and improve that.”

Finding a Better Balance in the SERPs

Some in the search industry used to insist that Google Updates was “targeted” niches and quality issues. It always bothered me in the past how the SEO industry insisted that Google updates were “targeting” quality issues or specific sites, without stopping to think about how things like natural language processing might be affecting the SERPs,

While Google does focus on quality, Google’s major updates are generally about what Mueller said about finding a better balance.

When trying to figure out why the search results are changing, one can hardly lose by checking if the change relates to things like satisfying user expectations, usefulness of the SERPs, responding to the evolution of what users are searching for and taking into account the physical and geographic context in which users are searching.

Citations

Why Featured Snippets Change – View at the 24:20 Minute Spot

Searchenginejournal.com

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Google Implements Stricter Guidelines for Mass Email Senders to Gmail Users

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Beginning in April, Gmail senders bombarding users with unwanted mass emails will encounter a surge in message rejections unless they comply with the freshly minted Gmail email sender protocols, Google cautions.

Fresh Guidelines for Dispatching Mass Emails to Gmail Inboxes In an elucidative piece featured on Forbes, it was highlighted that novel regulations are being ushered in to shield Gmail users from the deluge of unsolicited mass emails. Initially, there were reports surfacing about certain marketers receiving error notifications pertaining to messages dispatched to Gmail accounts. Nonetheless, a Google representative clarified that these specific errors, denoted as 550-5.7.56, weren’t novel but rather stemmed from existing authentication prerequisites.

Moreover, Google has verified that commencing from April, they will initiate “the rejection of a portion of non-compliant email traffic, progressively escalating the rejection rate over time.” Google elaborates that, for instance, if 75% of the traffic adheres to the new email sender authentication criteria, then a portion of the remaining non-conforming 25% will face rejection. The exact proportion remains undisclosed. Google does assert that the implementation of the new regulations will be executed in a “step-by-step fashion.”

This cautious and methodical strategy seems to have already kicked off, with transient errors affecting a “fraction of their non-compliant email traffic” coming into play this month. Additionally, Google stipulates that bulk senders will be granted until June 1 to integrate “one-click unsubscribe” in all commercial or promotional correspondence.

Exclusively Personal Gmail Accounts Subject to Rejection These alterations exclusively affect bulk emails dispatched to personal Gmail accounts. Entities sending out mass emails, specifically those transmitting a minimum of 5,000 messages daily to Gmail accounts, will be mandated to authenticate outgoing emails and “refrain from dispatching unsolicited emails.” The 5,000 message threshold is tabulated based on emails transmitted from the same principal domain, irrespective of the employment of subdomains. Once the threshold is met, the domain is categorized as a permanent bulk sender.

These guidelines do not extend to communications directed at Google Workspace accounts, although all senders, including those utilizing Google Workspace, are required to adhere to the updated criteria.

Augmented Security and Enhanced Oversight for Gmail Users A Google spokesperson emphasized that these requisites are being rolled out to “fortify sender-side security and augment user control over inbox contents even further.” For the recipient, this translates to heightened trust in the authenticity of the email sender, thus mitigating the risk of falling prey to phishing attempts, a tactic frequently exploited by malevolent entities capitalizing on authentication vulnerabilities. “If anything,” the spokesperson concludes, “meeting these stipulations should facilitate senders in reaching their intended recipients more efficiently, with reduced risks of spoofing and hijacking by malicious actors.”

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Google’s Next-Gen AI Chatbot, Gemini, Faces Delays: What to Expect When It Finally Launches

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Google AI Chatbot Gemini

In an unexpected turn of events, Google has chosen to postpone the much-anticipated debut of its revolutionary generative AI model, Gemini. Initially poised to make waves this week, the unveiling has now been rescheduled for early next year, specifically in January.

Gemini is set to redefine the landscape of conversational AI, representing Google’s most potent endeavor in this domain to date. Positioned as a multimodal AI chatbot, Gemini boasts the capability to process diverse data types. This includes a unique proficiency in comprehending and generating text, images, and various content formats, even going so far as to create an entire website based on a combination of sketches and written descriptions.

Originally, Google had planned an elaborate series of launch events spanning California, New York, and Washington. Regrettably, these events have been canceled due to concerns about Gemini’s responsiveness to non-English prompts. According to anonymous sources cited by The Information, Google’s Chief Executive, Sundar Pichai, personally decided to postpone the launch, acknowledging the importance of global support as a key feature of Gemini’s capabilities.

Gemini is expected to surpass the renowned ChatGPT, powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4 model, and preliminary private tests have shown promising results. Fueled by significantly enhanced computing power, Gemini has outperformed GPT-4, particularly in FLOPS (Floating Point Operations Per Second), owing to its access to a multitude of high-end AI accelerators through the Google Cloud platform.

SemiAnalysis, a research firm affiliated with Substack Inc., expressed in an August blog post that Gemini appears poised to “blow OpenAI’s model out of the water.” The extensive compute power at Google’s disposal has evidently contributed to Gemini’s superior performance.

Google’s Vice President and Manager of Bard and Google Assistant, Sissie Hsiao, offered insights into Gemini’s capabilities, citing examples like generating novel images in response to specific requests, such as illustrating the steps to ice a three-layer cake.

While Google’s current generative AI offering, Bard, has showcased noteworthy accomplishments, it has struggled to achieve the same level of consumer awareness as ChatGPT. Gemini, with its unparalleled capabilities, is expected to be a game-changer, demonstrating impressive multimodal functionalities never seen before.

During the initial announcement at Google’s I/O developer conference in May, the company emphasized Gemini’s multimodal prowess and its developer-friendly nature. An application programming interface (API) is under development, allowing developers to seamlessly integrate Gemini into third-party applications.

As the world awaits the delayed unveiling of Gemini, the stakes are high, with Google aiming to revolutionize the AI landscape and solidify its position as a leader in generative artificial intelligence. The postponed launch only adds to the anticipation surrounding Gemini’s eventual debut in the coming year.

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Google Brings Bard Students Math and Coding Education in the Summer

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Google Brings Bard Students Math and Coding Education in the Summer

Google is stepping up its AI efforts this summer by sending Bard, its high-profile chatbot, to summer school. The aim? To boost the bot’s math and coding smarts. These developments are excellent news— when Bard first debuted, it was admittedly not a finished product. But Google is steadily plugging away at it, and have now implemented implicit code execution for logical prompts, and handy Google Sheets’ integration to take it to the next level.

Thanks to implicit code execution, Bard can respond to inquiries requiring calculation or computation with Python code snippets running in the background. What’s even more amazing is that coders can take this generated code and modify it for their projects. Though Google is still apprehensive about guaranteeing the accuracy of Bard’s answers, this feature is said to improve the accuracy of math and word problems by an impressive 30%.

In addition to this, Bard can now export directly to Sheets when asked about tables. So, you don’t need to worry about copying and pasting, which comes with the risk of losing formatting or data.

From the company’s I/O keynote address, it is clear that they are focused on making the most of what Bard can offer. As they continue to speak highly of the chatbot, we’re sure to expect more features and capabilities when the summer comes around.

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