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Google Redesigns ‘How Search Works’ Website

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Google Redesigns ‘How Search Works’ Website

Google has updated its ‘How Search Works’ website which contains information on how Google organizes, ranks, and tests search results.

The website was launched in 2016 and explains the inner workings of Google’s search engine in a way that even non-SEOs can understand it.

It’s an ideal resource to send to clients who know little to nothing about search. As a reader of Search Engine Journal, on the other hand, you may find the information a little basic.

One thing that does make the site worth checking out is the annual updates on search changes. The How Search Works site is updated every year with the latest data on Google’s tests and evaluations of search results.

The site currently includes data about 2020, a year when Google ran:

  • 4,887 launches in search results
  • 17,323 live traffic experiments
  • 383,605 search quality tests
  • 62,937 side-by-side experiments

If you’ve checked out Google’s How Search Works Site before, he’s what’s changed since you last saw it.

Google Redesigns How Search Works Site — What’s New?

Google says it’s launching a “fully-redesigned” How Search Works website. Cosmetically speaking, that appears to be true.

I spent some time combing through the redesigned site and comparing it side-by-side with a cached version. After trying to find some useful new insights to pull from the new version, I couldn’t uncover any changes to the content itself.

To be sure, the content was edited and the wording was tweaked, but there’s nothing new to learn from it.

The updated site contains all the same information, it’s just presented in a different way. To Google’s credit, however, the changes in presentation do come with usability improvements.

There’s a lot less clicking around in the redesigned How Search Works. Take the old page on search features, for example. This is what it looked like before :

google how search works site
Screenshot from web.archive.org, August 2021.

As a visitor you would have to click on each one of those individually to learn about them, then hit the back button on your browser and click another one until you went through them all.

Google’s new page on search features allows you to consume all the content seamlessly by scrolling down the page. No clicking necessary.

In fairness, while I couldn’t find any new information on the updated site,  what was already there was plenty sufficient

After writing a whole post announcing the redesign, Google’s Danny Sullivan got the news out on Twitter as well which made this feel like a major change.

If you looked at the site thinking, “what’s new?” The answer is: not a lot!

This is the kind of update that probably would have gone unnoticed had Google not said anything about it.

You can judge for yourself by perusing the updates to the How Search Works site.

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Google Bard vs. ChatGPT: which is the better AI chatbot?

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Google Bard vs. ChatGPT: which is the better AI chatbot?

Google Bard and ChatGPT are two of the most prominent artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots available in 2023. But which is better? Both offer natural language responses to natural language inputs, using machine learning and millions of data points to craft useful, informative responses. Most of the time. These AI tools aren’t perfect yet, but they point to an exciting future of AI assistant search and learning tools that will make information all the more readily available.

As similar as these chatbots are, they also have some distinct differences. Here’s how ChatGPT and Google Bard measure up against one another.

Which is better, Google Bard or ChatGPT?

This is a tricky question to answer, as at the time of writing, you can only use Google Bard if you’re part of a select group of early beta testers. As for its competition, you can use ChatGPT right now, completely for free. You may have to contend with a waitlist, but if you want to skip that, there’s a paid-for Plus version offering those interested in a more complete tool the option of paying for the privilege.

Still, when Google Bard becomes more widely available, it should offer credible competition for ChatGPT. Both use natural language models — Google Bard uses Google’s internal LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications), whereas ChatGPT uses an older GPT-3 language model. Google Bard bases its responses to questions on more recent data, with ChatGPT mainly trained on data that was available prior to 2021. This is similar to how Microsoft’s Bing Chat works.

We’ll have to reserve judgment on which is the more capable AI chatbot until we get time to play with Google Bard ourselves, but it looks set to be a close contest when it is more readily available.

Are Google Bard and ChatGPT available yet?

As mentioned, ChatGPT is available in free and paid-for tiers. You might have to sit in a queue for the free version for a while, but anyone can play around with its capabilities.

Google Bard is currently only available to limited beta testers and is not available to the wider public.

Banner of Google Bard intro from February 6.

What’s the difference between Google Bard and ChatGPT?

ChatGPT and Google Bard are very similar natural language AI chatbots, but they have some differences, and are designed to be used in slightly different ways — at least for now. ChatGPT has been used for answering direct questions with direct answers, mostly correctly, but it’s caused a lot of consternation among white collar workers, like writers, SEO advisors, and copy editors, since it has also demonstrated an impressive ability to write creatively — even if it has faced a few problems with accuracy and plagiarism.

Still, Microsoft has integrated ChatGPT into its Bing search engine to give users the ability to ask direct questions of the search engine, rather than searching for terms of keywords to find the best results. It has also built it into its Teams communications tool, and it’s coming to the Edge browser in a limited form. The Opera browser has also pledged to integrate ChatGPT in the future.

ChatGPT Google Bard
Accessible through ChatGPT site. Only text responses are returned via queries. Integrated with Google Search. You only need to change a Google setting to get your regular search results when using Google Bard AI, and vice versa.
ChatGPT produces answers from its trained database from 2021 and before. Google Apprentice Bard AI will be able to answer real-time questions.
Based on GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer). Based on LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications).
Service has a free and paid plan option (called ChatGPT Plus). Service is free.
Has built-in plagiarism tool called GPT-2 Output Detector. No built-in plagiarism detection tool.
Available now Still in beta test phase

Google Bard was mainly designed around augmenting Google’s own search tool, however it is also destined to become an automated support tool for businesses without the funds to pay for human support teams. It will be offered to customers through a trained AI responder. It is likely to be integrated into the Chrome browser and its Chromium derivatives before long. Google is also expected to open up Google Bard to third-party developers in the future.

Under the hood, Google Bard uses Google’s LaMDA language model, while ChatGPT uses its own GPT3 model. ChatGPT is based on slightly older data, restricted in its current GPT3 model to data collected prior to 2022, while Google Bard is built on data provided on recent years too. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it more accurate, as Google Bard has faced problems with incorrect answers to questions, even in its initial unveiling.

ChatGPT also has a built-in plagiarism checker, while Google Bard does not, but Google Bard doesn’t have the creative applications of ChatGPT just yet.

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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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Student writing on computer

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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