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Google December 2021 Product Review Update

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Main Article Image - Coal Christmas Wrapped

Google announced an English language product review update is rolling out today, Wednesday December 1, 2021. Product review pages that have made improvements since the last product review update may see them reflected in the new update.

The update is called the December 201 Product Review Update and will take three weeks to fully roll out.

This update is preceded by a Spam Update in early November and a Core Algorithm Update that finished rolling out at the end of November.

While some may feel it ill-timed or mean for Google to roll out updates during the busiest shopping season, so far these updates have not been especially disruptive.

Yet it would be most unfortunate if legitimate product review sites unintentionally lost rankings during this critical time of the year.

A tweet from Google Search Central announced:

“Our December 2021 product reviews update is now rolling out for English-language pages. It will take about three weeks to complete.”

Google Developer Advocate Alan Kent tweeted:

“It is one of many ranking signals, but certainly the goal is to reward authentic high quality reviews. The docs page lists our recommendations for good reviews.”

Alan tweeted clarification of what kinds of sites will be affected by the product reviews update:

“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.”

The response on Twitter generally took the announcement in stride:

Product Review Page Ranking Assessment

Google’s announcement makes reference to an “automated assessment” that is specific to product reviews. It also notes that product review pages will also be ranked by the other ranking factors common to other web pages.

“…note that our automated assessment of product review content is only one of many factors used in ranking content, so changes can happen at any time for various reasons.”

New Product Review Best Practices

Google also gave an advanced warning that they will be introducing two new product review requirements that are clearly aimed at fake product reviews.

The first requirement is that a product review provide on-page evidence that a product has actually been handled and reviewed.

Many low quality reviews are clearly affiliate sites posting bogus reviews that are closer to rewritten versions of the product specifications.

The second requirement is that product reviews offer multiple buying options.

Google’s product review update stated:

“Users have told us that they trust reviews with evidence of products actually being tested, and prefer to have more options to purchase the product.

Provide evidence such as visuals, audio, or other links of your own experience with the product, to support your expertise and reinforce the authenticity of your review.

Include links to multiple sellers to give the reader the option to purchase from their merchant of choice.”

Google didn’t call these best practices ranking factors but does say that these “best practices” will be folded into a future product reviews update.

So these two best practices can probably be considered ranking factors.

The new documentation is called, Write high quality product reviews.

The best practices page highlights requirements that seem designed to promote actual reviews and eliminate fake reviews.

Here is a sample:

  • Share quantitative measurements about how a product measures up in various categories of performance.
  • Describe how a product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements, address issues, or otherwise help users in making a purchase decision.
  • Describe key choices in how a product has been designed and their effect on the users beyond what the manufacturer says.
  • Include links to other useful resources (your own or from other sites) to help a reader make a decision.

Promoting Quality Product Reviews

Many products are expensive to review, such as kayaks, which is why there are so many fake reviews that do not feature original images of the products because no kayak was actually reviewed.

One has to wonder if these new requirements could backfire by causing fake review sites to respond by adding fake hands-on assessment content and images.

Citations

Announcement of Product Review Update

Product reviews update and your site

Read Google’s Product Reviews Best Practices

Write high quality product reviews

Searchenginejournal.com

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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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