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Google Search, Chrome & Ad Execs Plotted To Increase Ad Revenues



Google Search, Chrome & Ad Execs Plotted To Increase Ad Revenues

United States antitrust lawsuit against Google uncovers emails of executives from Google Search, Chrome and Ads discussing schemes for increasing ad revenue.

There are two documents, one from 2019 that features top Google executives from Search, Chrome and Ads hatching plans for pumping up ad revenues before the end of the quarter. At one point they even discuss the impact on Google’s stock price and their own personal fortunes.

Another document, dating from 2017, acknowledges reluctance of the Search team to do anything that could negatively affect users.

It must be pointed out that the most outrageous document consists of top executives, including Ben Gomes, who is one of the top engineers responsible for Google’s Search algorithm.

The PDF documenting the email discussion appears to shatter Google’s longtime insistence that that the Search Team is firewalled from the Advertising side of the company.

But again, these are top executives having a discussion, not the search team itself, apart from Ben Gomes.

Search Team Firewalled From Ads Teams

Googlers have made many statements over the years, at search conferences and in Google Hangouts and on Twitter that the search side of Google does not coordinate with the advertising side.

For example, in a May 8, 2015 Google Hangout, Google’s John Mueller explained how the search team is blocked off from the Ads team.

The question he answered was about a rumor that Google makes SEO more difficult in order to make more money from the ads.

Mueller responded:

“This is definitely not true.

So, this is something where we have a very, very strong firewall essentially between the paid side of Google and the organic search side.

And that’s not something that we would kind of connect, where we would say we would make algorithms that make the search results worse so that people go and click on ads more.

…So, it’s something where we’re not artificially trying to make it more complicated or harder or the search results worse so that people click on ads.

…So, that’s something where on the one hand, we really have the strong separation between the two sides.

On the other hand, we really need to keep that upright, so that we can make sure our search results are really as neutral as possible, as high quality as possible and really provide what users want.”

Google Executives Worked Together With Google Ads Team

The 2019 email is from a Google Ads executive Jerry Dischler. It was sent to a ChromeOS executive named John Maletis.

Also in on the email discussion is Ben Gomes who worked on the Google search algorithm since the earliest days, and Prabhakar Raghavan, an executive vice president who has been involved in the Search side as well as with Google Ads.

Google Ads executive Dischler wrote:

“The Search team is working together with us to accelerate a launch of a new mobile layout by the end of May that will be very revenue positive (exact numbers still moving), but that still won’t be enough.

Our best shot at making the quarter is if we get an injection of at least [redacted]% , queries ASAP from Chrome.”

He followed those remarks by lamenting how disappointed all the different team members will be should Google’s stock price drop because the advertising side didn’t perform well enough.

Frankly, it’s shocking that anyone involved with Google’s algorithm is in a discussion with the ChromeOS and Advertising teams about ways to artificially increase search queries in order to help meet the advertising side’s performance goals for the quarter.

And as disappointing as that is, it gets even worse.

The executives go on to discuss how not meeting their revenue goals will impact their personal wealth.

Dischler continued:

“I care more about revenue that the average person but think we can all agree that for all of our teams trying to live in high cost areas another $[redacted] in stock price loss will not be great for morale, not to mention the huge impact on our sales team.

In the next paragraph he expresses pride in Google’s “pure approach” and claims he doesn’t want to “poison the culture of any team.”

And with his next breath this is where he starts handing out the poison, saying:

“I don’t want the message to be ‘we’re doing this thing because the Ads team needs revenue.’ That’s a very negative message.

But my question to you is – based on above – what do we think is the best decision for Google overall?

…Are there other ranking tweaks we can push out quickly?”

A high ranking Chrome executive, Anil Sabharwal, responds by affirming they should go ahead with changes to search ranking (ostensibly to benefit Google Ads, which is the context of the entire email).

Tellingly, he worries about “bad press” at the upcoming Google IO event.

Sabharwal responded:

“…we don’t want bad press around IO, let’s roll out #1 and #2 now and get the benefits.

Let’s also start the search ranking experiments asap and roll those out once we get the data.”

Later on in the email chain, Anil Sabharwal questions how far the executives are willing to go in terms of the negative impact to the user experience, long term retention and team motivation.

He then talks about changes to search ranking:

“We are making progress here, and I’m hopeful the search ranking improvements in Omnibox will also be a material increase in SQV, but I understand we need to do more.”

The “improvements” being discussed are a way to increase search queries and presumably ad revenues.

In another part of the email chain Jerry Dischler remarks on the short term gains from reversing “query-driven revenue loss” and references experiments on the Chrome and Search side.

He then remarks on how they need to be more aggressive about raising the advertising revenues.

Dischler writes:

“It’s a decent start but collectively we need to figure out how to do more and this work is urgent because we continue to face these strong headwinds in Q2.”

Anil Sabharwal, the Chrome executive,  later discusses the changes to Chrome, specifically the Omnibox changes, that are designed to increase search queries, describing the work of the Chrome team for increasing search queries as “heroic.”

He wrote:

“1…we were able to get launch approval to rollout two changes (entity suggest and tail suggest) that increase queries by [redacted]% and [redacted]% respectively.

2. We are going to immediately start experiments to improve search ranking in the omnibox (more search results and nudging search to the top).”

The changes Google made to Chrome were so bad that the experiments were noticed by commenters on Reddit.

The executive found it humorous that the Redditors thought that the experiment was a “bug.”

Another government exhibit contains a discussion given in 2017 where the Ads side expresses frustration with the wall separating the Ads team from the search team.

The discussion calls attention to talk that the Search side should consider “query quotas.”

The document reveals:

…the old model of things getting thrown over the wall to them has outlived its usefulness…

There’s talk of suggesting that the Search team consider new goals around query quotas, focusing on monetizable queries, returning towards focusing Search experience on high revenue countries…”

The document outlines the fears of the Search team about metrics that could lead to “unnatural search experiences” from the quest for ad revenue.

So it’s not that the Search team itself was complicit in rigging search in service of more ad revenues.

The second document acknowledges that the Search team itself didn’t want to engage in activities that would negatively impact the users.

Read the entire email document in PDF format.

Read the second exhibit in PDF format that kicks around the idea about “query quotas”

Watch John Mueller discuss the firewall between the search and ads at the 41 minute mark:

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Why Now’s The Time To Adopt Schema Markup




Why Now's The Time To Adopt Schema Markup

There is no better time for organizations to prioritize Schema Markup.

Why is that so, you might ask?

First of all, Schema Markup (aka structured data) is not new.

Google has been awarding sites that implement structured data with rich results. If you haven’t taken advantage of rich results in search, it’s time to gain a higher click-through rate from these visual features in search.

Secondly, now that search is primarily driven by AI, helping search engines understand your content is more important than ever.

Schema Markup allows your organization to clearly articulate what your content means and how it relates to other things on your website.

The final reason to adopt Schema Markup is that, when done correctly, you can build a content knowledge graph, which is a critical enabler in the age of generative AI. Let’s dig in.

Schema Markup For Rich Results has been around since 2011. Back then, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex worked together to create the standardized vocabulary to enable website owners to translate their content to be understood by search engines.

Since then, Google has incentivized websites to implement Schema Markup by awarding rich results to websites with certain types of markup and eligible content.

Websites that achieve these rich results tend to see higher click-through rates from the search engine results page.

In fact, Schema Markup is one of the most well-documented SEO tactics that Google tells you to do. With so many things in SEO that are backward-engineered, this one is straightforward and highly recommended.

You might have delayed implementing Schema Markup due to the lack of applicable rich results for your website. That might have been true at one point, but I’ve been doing Schema Markup since 2013, and the number of rich results available is growing.

Even though Google deprecated how-to rich results and changed the eligibility of FAQ rich results in August 2023, it introduced six new rich results in the months following – the most new rich results introduced in a year!

These rich results include vehicle listing, course info, profile page, discussion forum, organization, vacation rental, and product variants.

There are now 35 rich results that you can use to stand out in search, and they apply to a wide range of industries such as healthcare, finance, and tech.

Here are some widely applicable rich results you should consider utilizing:

  • Breadcrumb.
  • Product.
  • Reviews.
  • JobPosting.
  • Video.
  • Profile Page.
  • Organization.

With so many opportunities to take control of how you appear in search, it’s surprising that more websites haven’t adopted it.

A statistic from Web Data Commons’ October 2023 Extractions Report showed that only 50% of pages had structured data.

Of the pages with JSON-LD markup, these were the top types of entities found.

  • (2,341,592,788 Entities)
  • (1,429,942,067 Entities)
  • (907,701,098 Entities)
  • (817,464,472 Entities)
  • (712,198,821 Entities)
  • (691,208,528 Entities)
  • (623,956,111 Entities)
  • (614,892,152 Entities)
  • (582,460,344 Entities)
  • (502,883,892 Entities)

(Source: October 2023 Web Data Commons Report)

Most of the types on the list are related to the rich results mentioned above.

For example, ListItem and BreadcrumbList are required for the Breadcrumb Rich Result, SearchAction is required for Sitelink Search Box, and Offer is required for the Product Rich Result.

This tells us that most websites are using Schema Markup for rich results.

Even though these types can help your site achieve rich results and stand out in search, they don’t necessarily tell search engines what each page is about in detail and help your site be more semantic.

Help AI Search Engines Understand Your Content

Have you ever seen your competitor’s sites using specific Types that are not found in Google’s structured data documentation (i.e. MedicalClinic, IndividualPhysician, Service, etc)?

The vocabulary has over 800 types and properties to help websites explain what the page is about. However, Google’s structured data features only require a small subset of these properties for websites to be eligible for a rich result.

Many websites that solely implement Schema Markup to get rich results tend to be less descriptive with their Schema Markup.

AI search engines now look at the meaning and intent behind your content to provide users with more relevant search results.

Therefore, organizations that want to stay ahead should use more specific types and leverage appropriate properties to help search engines better understand and contextualize their content. You can be descriptive with your content while still achieving rich results.

For example, each type (e.g. Article, Person, etc.) in the vocabulary has 40 or more properties to describe the entity.

The properties are there to help you fully describe what the page is about and how it relates to other things on your website and the web. In essence, it’s asking you to describe the entity or topic of the page semantically.

The word ‘semantic’ is about understanding the meaning of language.

Note that the word “understanding” is part of the definition. Funny enough, in October 2023, John Mueller at Google released a Search Update video. In this six-minute video, he leads with an update on Schema Markup.

For the first time, Mueller described Schema Markup as “a code you can add to your web pages, which search engines can use to better understand the content. ”

While Mueller has historically spoken a lot about Schema Markup, he typically talked about it in the context of rich result eligibility. So, why the change?

This shift in thinking about Schema Markup for enhanced search engine understanding makes sense. With AI’s growing role and influence in search, we need to make it easy for search engines to consume and understand the content.

Take Control Of AI By Shaping Your Data With Schema Markup

Now, if being understood and standing out in search is not a good enough reason to get started, then doing it to help your enterprise take control of your content and prepare it for artificial intelligence is.

In February 2024, Gartner published a report on “30 Emerging Technologies That Will Guide Your Business Decisions,”  highlighting generative AI and knowledge graphs as critical emerging technologies companies should invest in within the next 0-1 years.

Knowledge graphs are collections of relationships between entities defined using a standardized vocabulary that enables new knowledge to be gained by way of inferencing.

Good news! When you implement Schema Markup to define and connect the entities on your site, you are creating a content knowledge graph for your organization.

Thus, your organization gains a critical enabler for generative AI adoption while reaping its SEO benefits.

Learn more about building content knowledge graphs in my article, Extending Your Schema Markup From Rich Results to Knowledge Graphs.

We can also look at other experts in the knowledge graph field to understand the urgency of implementing Schema Markup.

In his LinkedIn post, Tony Seale, Knowledge Graph Architect at UBS in the UK, said,

“AI does not need to happen to you; organizations can shape AI by shaping their data.

It is a choice: We can allow all data to be absorbed into huge ‘data gravity wells’ or we can create a network of networks, each of us connecting and consolidating our data.”

The “networks of networks” Seale refers to is the concept of knowledge graphs – the same knowledge graph that can be built from your web data using semantic Schema Markup.”

The AI revolution has only just begun, and there is no better time than now to shape your data, starting with your web content through the implementation of Schema Markup.

Use Schema Markup As The Catalyst For AI

In today’s digital landscape, organizations must invest in new technology to keep pace with the evolution of AI and search.

Whether your goal is to stand out on the SERP or ensure your content is understood as intended by Google and other search engines, the time to implement Schema Markup is now.

With Schema Markup, SEO pros can become heroes, enabling generative AI adoption through content knowledge graphs while delivering tangible benefits, such as increased click-through rates and improved search visibility.

More resources: 

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results




Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary




Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.

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