On Tuesday, Google announced what appears, at least at first, to be a fairly monumental change to its Chrome browser: Over the next two years, it plans to “phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome.” Third-party cookies are little pieces of code used by advertisers to track what you do online so they can serve you targeted ads on sites you visit based on where you’ve previously visited.
So, for example, if you browse Pottery Barn’s website, and start seeing ads everywhere for the coffee table you were looking at, it’s usually because of third-party cookies. In reality, while most of us would say it’s kind of creepy, targeted ads are effective. At the same time, they’re also a very real invasion of your privacy–which is a problem. In fact, those privacy concerns are why browsers like Brave and Safari have already ended support for this type of tracking.
Back in August, I wrote about Google’s new “Privacy Sandbox,” which the company said was a way to introduce privacy protections for users online while still allowing digital advertisers to serve up targeted ads. The problem, at the time, was that Google said that it couldn’t eliminate support for third-party cookies because it would have a detrimental effect on the web at large.
Now it seems that’s changing, and there are huge implications for users as well as advertisers. Google’s blog post announcing the change puts it this way:
We are confident that with continued iteration and feedback, privacy-preserving and open-standard mechanisms like the Privacy Sandbox can sustain a healthy, ad-supported web in a way that will render third-party cookies obsolete.
So, let’s look at the good news and the bad news. If you’re a user, there’s mostly good news because ending third-party cookies is generally good for privacy. The caveat here is that it’s not yet entirely clear how Google plans to have it both ways. Meaning, it’s not clear how Google thinks it can provide a privacy-protected browsing experience that also provides targeted ads.
There’s also the fact that some less ethical advertisers will no doubt resort to other types of more nefarious tracking, like browser and device fingerprinting. Those technologies create a profile of you based on information sent by your browser about your device, the operating system, your location, and other unique identifiers. Safari has introduced protection against that, and it will be interesting if Google takes a similar approach with Chrome.
This leads us to more good news, this time for Google. Google has arguably the most to gain from this change because its advertising model doesn’t depend on the same type of tracking technology. In effect, by eliminating third-party cookies, Google is edging out any of its digital advertising competitors. Since Chrome is the most popular browser in the world, all of your web traffic is already going through Chrome. It doesn’t need cookies for that.
If you’re a digital advertiser, on the other hand, this could be very bad news. That’s especially true if you’re a smaller business or startup since they tend to rely more heavily on digital advertising. Larger brands are able to better absorb changes like this, but if you’re bootstrapping a new company and count on PPC advertising to reach your customers, this is going to hurt.
That said, while I’m generally sympathetic to the overall challenge facing entrepreneurs in this regard, I still have to lean in the direction that it’s a good thing whenever tech companies start respecting our privacy. In fact, the headline of my column back in August was that “Google Could Make the Internet Respect Your Privacy.” At the time, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t.
In this case, I’m happy to be proven wrong.
Published on: Jan 17, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster
Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.
Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update
On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.
Our December 2021 product reviews update is now rolling out for English-language pages. It will take about three weeks to complete. We have also extended our advice for product review creators: https://t.co/N4rjJWoaqE
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) December 1, 2021
The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.
A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:
“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.
Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.
Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”
Continue Reading Below
Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.
The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.
The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.
The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.
Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update
Product Review Update Targets More Languages?
The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.
Continue Reading Below
But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.
This is his question:
“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.
So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.
…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”
John Mueller answered:
“I don’t know… like other languages?
My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.
But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.
But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.
I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.
But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.
And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.
So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.
But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”
Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?
While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.
Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.
One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.
It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.
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