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Tag: Future

The future of Google and what it means for search


30-second summary:

  • Something that all of us in the search industry are guilty of is our over-reliance on Google telling us what is coming next.
  • Understanding Google’s considerations as a business, provide context to many of its recent decisions and provides a sense of what is coming down the road.
  • Global digital agency Croud’s Organic Strategy Director discusses the future of Google, right from Google’s antitrust lawsuit to Apple as a future rival, and more.

It occurs to me that I am part of a cult.

Or at least, something that displays the hallmarks of one. An unchallenged authoritarian leadership, prophets and oracles who deign to share only select information from a mysterious entity, who engage in coercive behaviors, who punish for non-compliance, and followership who are indoctrinated into special teachings and practices and whom parrot back the mantras and sayings of the leaders. Yes, I of course refer to the SEO industry and yes, you may take a small pause here to go through the above statement to see if it works. It does.

Something that all of us in the search industry are guilty of is our over-reliance on Google telling us what is coming next. Whether through announcing prescriptive updates on Google Search Central or retrospectively announcing algorithm updates on Twitter – we rely too heavily on the limited information Google shares with us and, as such, only get a very short-sighted view on the future of our industry.

This needs to change, and in order for that to happen, we need to stop thinking of Google as a search engine.

Google is first and foremost a business, and as such has a responsibility to its shareholders to continue to defend and grow its market capitalization. Understanding Google’s considerations as a business provides context to many of its recent decisions and gives a sense of what is coming down the road.

Section 230 in the spotlight – Google to factor truth in determining search results

The Storming of the US Capitol came as the culmination of a five-year disinformation campaign that went unchallenged and unadulterated by big tech. They cited concerns over the First Amendment, freedom of speech, and public interest as the reasons for a lack of intervention on even the most palpable mistruths, but the events at the Capitol prompted a shift change. Twitter and Facebook de-platformed Donald Trump, Google removed dangerous channels that called for violence from YouTube, and Apple, Google, and Amazon joined forces to take down Parler.

Though the events at the Capitol provoked big tech into action, the shadow of the incoming Biden-Harris administration had already moved them into action (Twitter flagging Trump’s tweets, for instance). As part of the ongoing swathe of antitrust cases against big-tech, protections currently available for platforms under Section 230 will be thrust into the spotlight for review. The crux of it is whether or not platforms are treated as the publisher of third-party content. Currently, platforms are not treated as the publisher and therefore resign any responsibility for the content that appears on their platforms.

Biden, during his election campaign, said,

“The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms.” He added, “It should be revoked because it is not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false.”

His recent appointee, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, has told lawmakers that she will pursue changes to Section 230.

If – and it seems likely – Section 230 is at least amended, this evidently raises issues for big tech. It is unlikely that it will be completely revoked – such a decision would likely have a net negative effect. It is more likely that Google will need to demonstrate efforts to moderate content at scale, and have a mechanism by which content flagged by users or other parties. Such mechanisms already exist – such as the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ (in the EU) or DMCA takedown requests for copyright infringements. In these cases, individual URLs can be flagged by users and organizations. Though a much bigger undertaking, in this case, it is likely that such a process will be used to deal with issues of veracity, libel, incitement to violence, and so on. The difficulties here will be firstly manpower to deal with these requests, and secondly the criteria by which these complaints are assessed.

What does this mean for search?

Websites that produce editorial and opinion-based content will need to be confident that what they produce will not contravene guidelines agreed by big tech and governments. Individual infringements might see de-indexing of individual URLs, but continued and flagrant non-conformity could see full domains removed from search results entirely (as is the case with DMCA takedowns).

Antitrust – Google loses market share in search

There are numerous antitrust lawsuits currently filed against Google, which examine its monopoly status in the search market. Google has an estimated almost 90% share of the search market in the US, and this is the foundation upon which its gargantuan online advertising business rests. Its path to monopoly may have seemed organic to most, but the tactics the company used to secure such dominance are now under scrutiny. The purchase of DoubleClick in 2007 gave Google end-to-end ownership of the process of matching advertisers to users, which many at the time raised as a concern, in that it would give Google too much power in this space. The purchase of the Android operating system also allowed Google to push its apps, such as Google Search, YouTube, Gmail, Maps, and more onto nine out of 10 mobile devices sold globally each year.

All of the above, and more, will be considered in the DoJ’s case against Google. The precedent for such a case was set by the EU Commission where it determined that Google had broken antitrust laws by abusing its market dominance with Android and had to pay a fine of five billion dollars. Included within the decision, was a ruling that for all new Android devices, Google must offer users a choice in their default search engine. Google created an auction system for rival search engines to appear in the “choice screen”, leading many to once again accuse it of abusing its market dominance for profit, and placing barriers to entry for smaller players that cannot compete. DuckDuckGo wrote a blog post that stated, “This EU antitrust remedy is only serving to further strengthen Google’s dominance in mobile search by boxing out alternative search engines that consumers want to use and, for those search engines that remain, taking most of their profits from the preference menu.”

There is precedent for such an approach to introduce competition, with a similar case launched by Russia’s competition watchdog, and Yandex growing market share by 20% in the years post its introduction. However, it seems to have had little impact in the EU thus far, with smaller search engines either unable to afford to compete in the auction or, even when doing so, getting little traction from it. This could be because the choice screen is only displayed on new Android devices, and, according to the rather cumbersomely named Executive Vice President of the European Commission for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager,

“very few Android phones have been shipped due to the Covid crisis.”

In this case, it may be too early to make a strong conclusion as to the effectiveness of measures.

Watching this all from across the Atlantic, the DoJ has slowly collected and built evidence to take on Google. There are a number of different cases, some looking over the aforementioned issues and some looking at new potential avenues to introduce competition to the search industry. The Justice Department has cast its net wide and spoken to third parties within the advertising industry, as well as search competitors as to their thoughts on how to reduce Google’s market share. One such line of enquiry was around which parts of Google’s vast ecosystem it could be forced to sell off. One leading suggestion; Chrome.

Now, they didn’t ask me but had they, I would have said why not force them to spin off the second biggest search engine – YouTube.

Apple – A future rival to Google Search?

Another big investigation point is Google’s continued payments to Apple to remain the default search engine on its devices. It pays $12 billion to do so and has said that if this were ever challenged, it would amount to a code red scenario for the business. However, as an active part of the antitrust lawsuits, this could be something that becomes a reality for Google. In such a scenario, would Apple open up a bidding war for the opportunity, or would it do something fairly shocking… create its own search engine.

Apple has already begun to tantalize the market with a couple of nods in this direction. First, in 2018 it hired the former Head of Search from Google, John Giannandrea. Second, it is hiring a huge amount of search engineers. Third, Applebot has significantly increased its crawling activity recently. Fourth, in the iOS 14 update, Apple has started showing its own search results when a search is made from the home screen. Fifth, it updated its Applebot guidelines last year in a way that is remarkably similar to guidelines in Google’s Developer Blog. Included are guidance for webmasters around the robots.txt and noindex tags and even what it takes into account for ‘Search Rankings’.

If Apple were to enter the space, it would be the first true contender for Google from a search perspective. Although Google’s years of development and investment into its search ecosystem would certainly be a high barrier to entry, Apple’s massive user base and commitment to privacy would certainly capture a significant portion of market share. In such an event, how would this impact the web? If Google and Apple deviated from each other in search ranking factors – could SEOs be in the position where we have to dance different dances for different masters. Even if Apple does not enter the market, effective antitrust legislation would open up the market for new compelling offerings such as Neeva, You, and Mojeek, as well as existing search engines – such as DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, Baidu, and Bing – attracting more market share. Many of these offer Privacy as a major selling point – and as these issues become more evident in the public consciousness, there will likely be a gradual ebb of users to these other engines. There is a greater risk, however, that in the very public antitrust case, if any major news breaks around how Google uses data collected in search engines, that it could see a max exodus of its user base, as happened recently with WhatsApp and the flocking to Telegram and Signal

What does this mean for search?

  • If Google loses dominance in search, SEOs will need to be fluent in multiple search engines’ best practices. Though likely to be similar in some regards, other search engines may not use, or weight, ranking factors in the same way. They might also have different features in their search results. Consider how different Google and Baidu search results are for instance.
  • Adoption of different search engines could vary across markets, demographics and audiences, and therefore specific verticals may align their websites more to the best practices of one rather than another.
  • Reporting and analysis of the ‘Organic’ channel will become more complex and have a higher cost base.

The battle for ecommerce heats up

Covid has created many new trends and behaviors but has just as importantly served as a catalyst for many pre-existing trends. The penetration of ecommerce as a percentage of total retail sales skyrocketed during the early stages of the global pandemic and has remained high ever since. Amazon was the largest beneficiary of this trend, with its share of ecommerce sales in the US at a whopping 47%. This statistic, and the fact that more product searches begin on Amazon than any other platform, spurred Google into action.

In 2019, Google made clear its intent to recapture market share in this space, with a somewhat understated relaunch of its Shopping platform. It seemed the plan was to slowly capture market share with a gradual introduction of new features across its platform. With the arrival of Covid, however, it began to release features rapidly. Free organic shopping listings came out of nowhere, and the new Google Pay app, which allows retailers to offer targeted coupons and deals to users, is a bold offering.

One of Google’s more unique offerings in this space is enabling and facilitating ROPO (research online, purchase offline) behavior. Its acquisition of Pointy, a software allowing local retailers to list their inventory online and appear in local results, will greatly increase the importance of listing optimization for products and services. Product searches already have a filter for nearby – which will certainly abet impulsive purchases.

Additionally, local has already slowly been building up its integration services with booking engines to allow users to book or buy directly through local listings. 

Google will continue this process of “ecommercification” of its ecosystem. With the likes of Instagram and Pinterest looking to commercialize their content by allowing people to buy products directly from their platform, Google has been fairly transparent about its intentions to do the same with YouTube in the near future. The role of video has largely been seen as an awareness medium up until now, but changes here could very quickly see the video platform having a much more immediate relationship to conversion.

What does this mean for search?

  • Local search becomes far more important as both an awareness and conversion channel – especially for brands that invest in joined-up experiences across online and offline.
  • The value of video and YouTube content is made clearer, playing an increasingly important role in both awareness and conversion for brands. Image search too.
  • Augmented Reality features may be integrated into search results. This has already been tested with Dogs and Dinosaurs, but the early adopters’ program documentation demonstrates this is clearly to be used for ecommerce.
  • Expect further opportunities for brands listing their product inventory on Google and a more advanced version of the fairly rudimentary analytics product currently on offer. 

An ever-changing landscape

The above outlines just a few examples of the challenges facing Google as a business, which will likely have a tangible impact on search.  Here are a few other areas we’ll be keeping a close eye on in the coming months:

  • Google’s acquisition of Fitbit and how this might be used in its Google Health arm
  • Drone delivery legislation, which could enable Alphabet’s drone delivery company Wing to enter the fulfillment space
  • Australia’s new law forcing Google to pay news publishers for the right to link to their content, and the way News might appear in search results
  • Android being installed as a leading main operating system in driverless cars, and the potential impact on search

Pete Eckersley is an Organic Strategy Director at global digital agency Croud, where he oversees organic strategy across the brands within the IWG group.

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F1® Mobile Racing – New Details on Android Devices and the Future!


Phew! It’s fair to say the launch phase for F1® Mobile Racing on Android has been a fun ol’ ride. With a staggered release to allow us to optimise the game for more devices, we’ve been able to make over 5,000 Android devices compatible with our free-to-play F1® experience. That’s… a lot, but today, that number got even bigger.

200 more Android devices are now able to download and play F1® Mobile Racing from the Google Play Store, including ones from Nokia, Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, BlackBerry, HTC and plenty more. For the tech-savvy amongst you, here is the minimum spec for compatibility:

  • OS: Android 5.0 (Lollipop)
  • Memory: 1.5 GB RAM
  • GPU: Adreno 506 / Mali T760
  • CPU: Quad core at least 1.9 Ghz
  • Screen: 1920×1080 minimum

So it’s time to Compete, Customise and Dominate against even more players across the globe. What are you waiting for?!

Oh, the Play Store link. My bad. Here you go.

As we’re always keen to mention, last year’s launch was just the beginning of this game’s journey. It’s awesome to see so many of you jumping into the game straight away, and we’re committed to keeping your experience fresh and exciting, week after week, month after month.

Two post-launch updates have already added new content, new items, offers and so much more. Update 3, which arrives in the next few weeks, will add some seriously exciting stuff to sink your teeth into, as well as fixes and improvements in key areas that players have told us about. On top of that, we’re finalising a handy way for all players to help us shape the future of F1® Mobile Racing, and we’re putting together some video guides to help players new and old dominate in Duels. Sound good?

Then, of course, the 2019 season will almost be upon us – and that will be when things REALLY get interesting… 😉

Community Manager for Codemasters, primarily working on GRID and F1 Mobile Racing! Keen enthusiast of corners, kerbs and key lime pie.



How Will Gutenberg Shape the Future as a new WordPress Editor? | Windows VPS Hosting Blog


WordPress is one of the best open-source platforms with which you can build your website, with templates and plugins. But WordPress is a popular blog editor and is also known as a content management system (CMS).

With the help of a WordPress editor, you can create your website, and you can edit it using the integrated WordPress editors. WordPress platform is famous for its models and accessories. With templates and plugins, we can create websites as needed.

What are editors?

WordPress provides ready-made templates for the new site, meaning we can make changes and create the website according to our requirements. To modify these templates, WordPress provides default editors.

There are two types of default editors available on CMS WordPress.

Visual editor

We can edit the website using the drag-and-drop functionality, and it’s much easier to manage than the HTML editor. The visual editor publishes the site with the output view. The visual editor allows you to edit the website without using an icon. In this editor, we can select the site; we can make changes to the output of the web page as well as publish from there. So that we can quickly categorize the changes we need on our website to get the best representation of the outputs. This publisher writes the same back end icon as a result of the changes we made to web-pages. We don’t need to write the code; we just need to make changes to the site. It is easy to implement and understandable for new and novice users. Change for the program significantly important for word press performance.

HTML editor

HTML means hypertext markup language. HTML is a markup language used to design and create a web page. It includes encoding, and from the base of the code will provide the output. We can use the HTML editor in the WordPress editor. In this editor, we have to do coding for designing web pages. We can create our custom web pages using the HTML editor. This is also known as a text editor that includes the bottom of the text and the website exit code.

Gutenberg Editor

Gutenberg is named after Johannes Gutenberg. Johannes Gutenberg was the inventor of the first mobile printing press. He gave the idea of ?? printing, and this idea changed the history of the page and became the greatest revolution of the fifteenth century. From the next day of printing, the world’s method of printing has been changed and updated day by day.

It includes improving the effects of the division of knowledge, combining new ideas and new differences, and this concept flourished in this generation after the five centuries.

How to install Gutenberg?

Here is the process of installing the Gutenberg plugin as a Word editor.

  1. First, you need to install the Word CMS platform on your system. You can download it from the web. WordPress is open-source. Then you need to configure your system. Please refer to this link to manually install WordPress for your website.
  2. Once WordPress is installed, log in with the username and password you specified during the installation. Then you can view the WordPress dashboard below. This is the dashboard of a WordPress editor. Here you will find the sidebar, website editing options, and WordPress settings.
  3. To install the Gutenberg plugin, click on the “Plugins” option. Here you can find the “add new” option. You can add a new plugin here. This is the list of plug-ins, Word Press is famous for its plug-ins. You can find many types of plug-ins, which you can install and use with WordPress Editor. You can also add additional components from the information provided and its notes. Or you can search for new plugins in the search box.
  4. In the search box, you need to search for “Gutenberg, then the plugin will display Gutenberg and also display its related plugins. Click Install Now and Activate it.
  5. After finding the plugin “Gutenberg” in the left sidebar. Click on Gutenberg. Here you can see the homepage of the Gutenberg Editor.

Features of Gutenberg

(1) Blocks :

Gothenburg is a WordPress plugin and makes editing the site very easy with different types of blocks. You are aware of the limitations. Gutenberg provides many types of ready-to-use blocks. This includes paragraphs, pictures, titles, audio, gallery, menu, covers, etc. Depending on your needs by clicking on the plus sign button and you can add the block you want. There are many types of blocks available. They are pre-selected in the categories. Here is a list of categories.

Common blocks

Standard blocks simply use the blocks that follow here. Paragraph, image, header, gallery, list, quote, audio,cover, file, video.

Design

This section includes ready-to-use formatting blocks used to define formatting when designing or modifying a new site design.

Planning elements

This block category allows you to change the page level and layout. The related changes, which include blocks such as page break, buttons, columns, group, media, text, navigation, separator, separator, site title, form part, publication title, publication content, etc.

Widgets

Widgets include shortcode block, archives, calendar, category, comments, posts, search, tags, social link block, etc.

Built

This usually includes the direct symbolic link from social media like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, TED, Amazon Kindle, etc.

So it is the cluster editor, right? Oh, not quite, we can’t say it’s just the block editor. Gutenberg will make the greatest revolution in the innovation industries in blogging and WordPress. These are different classes of blocks in the Gutenberg editor. All blocks are ready to use blocks, we just need to use them on our website pages, and this can make editing websites very easy.

(2) Drag and drop concept:

This editor is the new concept in the publishing revolution for creating web pages. It will allow you to organize web page blocks with the idea of drag and drop.

(3) Links :

Links are the most convenient and attractive part of navigating the site. Links are employed to navigate to the specific section of the website. Every time you click on the link, you feel the effect of the jump and place yourself in the location of the unique link in the section.You can create anchor links on your website using this editor. The partnership between publisher Gutenberg and WordPress makes this easy. This is the reference image for adding links using the Gutenberg Editor. You can simply select the word you need to link to and select the link option from the block list, and you can find the ready anchor link editor in
the Gutenberg editor. Then simply add the hyperlink when you want to redirect your click.

(4) Screen modes and top toolbar options

There are two types of Screen Modes

Full-screen mode

The full-screen mode is the impression on the design and design sector of Gutenberg’s editor. This mode is the default embedded part of the editor. You do not need to install external plug-ins to use it.

Whenever you work in the regular editor mode, this view includes menus, external tools, and other platform options that provide the editor. This thing can distract you when editing web pages. Full-screen mode dedicated to editing web pages free and free without any hassle
In this mode, you can only see the editor’s design area. All other deviations will be hidden after this mode is activated. So you can freely edit without any problems, and this is the best way to get the perfect output from the editing process, in which you invest your time.

Spotlight mode

It’s a new animation and creative template for the editor. Spotlight changes the ability to display web page content when editing. Each time you activate this mode when editing a web page, it gives you the ability to change focus on the content you are currently writing and block what has not been changed now and which will automatically weaken. A portion of the web page you are editing will be displayed on the monitor automatically in bold, so you can easily see that you are currently working on this segment.

Top toolbar

With viewing modes, the top toolbar has as well been included in the default features of the Gutenberg Editor. This mainly comprises alignment, image loading, line styles, links, and too up-position toggle buttons. When you activate this tool, it will display the toolbar above the editor. So you can easily find the tool options you want to use when editing. When you turn off this option in the menu, you will get this toolbar above a particular part.

Plugins

Plugins are the small portion of the program that we can install in the editor, and we can use it as an add-on. WordPress Editor is known for its plugins. When we study the WordPress Plugin scenario in 2020, 55,000+ plugins for WordPress Editor are available. Extensions are used to extend the functionality of the editor. You can download plug-ins from your WordPress client area and install plug-ins and use them with the editor. Major plugins are available for free, but you can also purchase publisher paid plug-ins. Gutenberg Editor is the editor that includes the simplified web page editing function. It’s also the best, but with related plugins, the Gutenberg editor will be the influential web page editor. Below is a list of the most reliable and regularly used plug-ins that represent Gutenberg as a possibility for the WordPress editor. Here you can find the most popular plugins for Gothenburg shown in the image above. Aside from them, the frequently-used Gutenberg plugins are listed below.

  • WooCommerce Product block
  • WordPress Gutenberg plugin
  • Toolset block
  • Atomic blocks
  • The Map Gutenberg block
  • The Gutenberg Manager
  • Builder Blocks and more…

These additions increase Gutenberg’s functionality. Gutenberg is now known as the WordPress Editor Plugin, but with these plugins, we assume that they will be presented as much as possible as an editor and will also be the default WordPress Editor.

Update and future outlook

According to the updates made in the Gothenburg era, Matt Mullenweg attended the WordCamp Europe party, discussed the new features of the existing WordPress program, and also announced the upcoming new features that will be introduced in the future. It also includes Gutenberg-related points which, this platform also becomes a hot topic, when introduced and will be released with new features shortly.

Will Gutenberg be released as a default editor? … !!!

As per the Gutenberg team, It is a pleasant idea “ We just do not make the editing easy, we also want to make it beautiful…” They will introduce network layouts and Co blocks, and may even be presented with another CMS Drupal platform. So you can imagine Gutenberg with Drupal.Make your editing experience flawless for the friendly atmosphere of mobile devices. It will be executed to organize a detailed model effectively to make Attractive interface

Jason-Pat

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The Future of Local Search: 20+ Predictions for 2020


With the decade having drawn to a close, here at BrightLocal we’re preparing to don our flapper gear and sashay our way into the Roaring Twenties 2.0 in style.

Great Gatsby GIF

To celebrate the end of a very eventful year — the year in which that Google My Business survey, BERT, and of course, the Bedlam Update, took place — we’ve reached out to some of the industry’s leading figures.

Read on as we bring out our crystal ball and discover what the top experts in local are predicting for the year ahead.

The return of Google+? (Kind of)

Google+ GIF

As Google continues to introduce new functions (such as the ability to follow Local Guides) theories of the resurgence of Google as a social network have begun to emerge. Spam-fighting pro and latest addition to Sterling Sky’s expanding team Jason Brown speculates:

Jason Brown

Google will launch a new service similar to G+ and a new community will be built around Local Guides and reviewers.

This ties in particularly with his second prediction, that Google will rely more heavily on user-generated content (UGC) than ever before:

Google is going to increase its demand and push for UGC, photos, reviews, Q&A and ‘Know this business?’

And Jason’s not alone in his thinking – Local Product Strategist at Rio SEO and GMB Gold Product Expert Krystal Taing predicts that if local businesses don’t start playing the UGC-game, they’ll miss out in a major way:

Krystal Taing

All brands need to get up to speed on the many different ways user-generated content can impact your local visibility and rankings, from consumer reviews to suggested updates to local listings to GMB Q&A and beyond. Active listening, the ability to respond in real-time, and then using that UGC to drive greater visibility and engagement are key.

Spam be gone!

Spam GIF

When we reached out to the experts for their 2020 predictions, there was one word on everyone’s lips – spam (no, not that kind). Sadly, despite the Nov. 2019 Local Search Update (aka the Bedlam Update), it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing the back of GMB spam just yet. Local SEO Consultant at Online Ownership Tim Capper shares his thoughts on the controversial issue:

Tim Capper

Google has attempted to get [spam] under control but I don’t see it getting better in 2020. If Google does want to get a handle on this they need to close API loopholes and expand ‘bad’ address databases to other countries, not just the US – there is spam outside of the US too!

Meanwhile, Crystal Horton of Accelerate Marketing remains optimistic about the spam outlook come 2020…

Crystal Horton

I’m hopeful that fake listings and fake reviews will start to decrease in rankings once data from review place topics and service area specificity become more prominent.

AttorneySync’s Gyi Tsakalakis offers a happy medium…

Gyi Tsakalakis

I hope 2020 will bring major improvements to Google’s ability to fight spam in local packs. It’s absolutely out of control. Unfortunately, I neither predict nor expect that much to change. While there’s been a ton of local flux recently, there’s still no shortage of spam, at least in legal SERPs.

…And Location3’s Matt Lacuesta suggests taking things into your own hands:

Matt Lacuesta

Spam in GMB is rampant and I think we’ll see Google try to address it more in the coming year, but don’t plan on that solving the problem. In 2020 business owners and agencies alike will need to actively monitor their local search landscape and report suspected spam. 

Finally, GMB Gold Product Expert, Steady Demand’s Ben Fisher – an ever-shining light of optimism – told us:

Ben Fisher

2020 will be the year Google catches more spam than ever before…

 

…Just kidding! If anything, I think spam will increase. While Google states that the spam that is in the system is small compared to real data, the system is too easily gamed and fake listings along with fake reviews are on the rise. Will Neural Matching help curtail it? Maybe, but even so, spammers will find another way and Google is always a step behind. The redressal form was a great first step, but it is not enough.

Pay-to-play and ads, ads, ads

Paid Ads Google

Last year, one of the most prominent topics among local SEOs (partially owing to that GMB summer survey) was pay-to-play. In 2020, director of SEO at Postali Dan Foland continues to anticipate the rising popularity of paid options: 

Dan Foland

I see the future of local SEO going more towards paid offerings which will make it more difficult for businesses relying on organic visibility. Google has been aggressively testing more local ad placements and even sent out a survey asking GMB users their opinions on making aspects of GMB paid. It’s clear that Google is starting to focus more on monetizing local search and GMB and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Tim Capper warns GMB users to keep an eye out for ads making their way into more and more places:

You should expect this ad encroachment to increase and to keep an eye on what is being displayed in your business’s knowledge panel.

In fact, it’s entirely possible that the first page of SERPs will be entirely filled with various types of paid ads – at least that’s what Kick Point’s Dana DiTomaso is anticipating:

Dana DiTomaso

Paid search is going to continue to take over more of local SEO when it comes to the ‘traditional’ SERP. We’ll see results where paid is the majority of the first page, along with Google specific products, such as Local Service Ads.

Given the increasing frustration with Google My Business (summarized nicely by Optimisey’s Andrew Cock-Starkey as a “great big dumpster fire”), can we expect paid features to emerge? According to Andrew, this might be the only way for Google to feasibly clean things up:

Andrew Optimisey

One way Google could clean up GMB is to make it a paid for product – or at least parts of it. Most people in local SEO saw the survey which slipped out from Google, asking about which services you might pay for,  how much, and which packages you’d get most value from. I’m going to stick my neck out and say before 2020 is done there will be some form of ‘pay to play’ system in Google My Business.

Similarly, co-founder of Ignitor Digital Mary Bowling anticipates more ads within Google Places, stating:

Mary Bowling

We’ll see more ads and more types of ads in more Google Places and Google will continue to find ways to insert itself into the online sales processes of local businesses.

Alexa, tell me about voice search

Voice Search

As if the year ‘2020’ didn’t sound futuristic enough, it looks like we’ll be seeing even more of an increase in the use of voice search, AI, and other similar techniques. Digital Strategist Shane Barker predicts voice search will have increasing importance in local:

Shane Barker

There will be an increased focus on optimizing for voice search, even by local businesses.

Though you might think machine learning happens mostly online, we can expect it to have some very real-world consequences. VP of Search at SearchLab Chicago Greg Gifford explains:

Greg-Gifford

Google is going to really push the entity angle in local even harder. We’ve seen so many patents around entity analysis and the newest patent involves using quality ‘repeat visits’ to a location as a ranking factor. I think Google (especially in local) wants to use real-world signals to rank businesses instead of links and content. Machine learning has finally allowed Google to gain a better understanding of entities, and those real-world signals are much more reliable than links and content. We’ll see physical visits, unlinked mentions, and reviews become some of the most important ranking factors.

Making the most of GMB

Two well-loved UK SEOs, Claire Carlile and Andy Simpson both touched on similar points when asked to get their crystal balls out. Referencing the myriad new features introduced to GMB in 2019, Claire commented:

Claire Carlile

In GMB, new functionality will continue to roll out and businesses will need to take advantage of existing opportunities such as photos, Q&A, Google posts, product editor, short names, messaging, and reserve with google, as well as keeping an eye on new features as they emerge.  Businesses will need to actively engage with GMB as a communications channel to reach and respond to clients and potential clients. The importance of GMB will continue to grow and small businesses will do well to think of it as a CMS separate to that of their website.

Similarly, Andy emphasized the importance of taking control of what’s visible to users on the SERPs:

Andy Simpson

Taking control of how your business’s brand is displayed in the SERPs should be on everyone’s radar for 2020. When potential customers search for your brand by name, what appears on the first page of Google? It should almost be a given that your Google My Business listing should appear. In 2020 business owners large and small have to be aware and ‘take control’ of what is displayed on the first page of Google about your business and make sure it’s the best it can be.

Meh, links

Backlinking

When it comes to the conversation of link building, it’s hard for Gyi Tsakalakis’s famous catchphrase not to be the first thing that comes to mind – and really, we couldn’t justify calling this section anything else. But in all seriousness, here’s what Gyi had to say on the matter:

I predict: Meh, links.

Well, what did you expect?

Continuing with the theme, owner of Rickety Roo Blake Denman shared his thoughts on the age-old practice:

Meh, links (hat tip to Gyi for coining this). 

All jokes aside, Blake suggested that local businesses should focus on “topically and locally-relevant link building.” 

Zero is the loneliest number, actually

Great Gatsby GIF

Towards the end of the year, the local search community was rife with talks of the elusive ‘position zero’ and zero-click searches. PatientPop’s Joel Headley anticipates:

Joel Headley

With the broader SEO community focused on the growth of zero-click searches, local SEOs know that zero-click is the bread and butter of bringing customers to the front door of storefronts through phone calls and driving directions. 

Andy Simpson elaborated on the current state of so-called zero-click SERPs, outlining the consequence we might expect it to have for local businesses:

Users are finding what they need to know about your business directly from the Google search results. Your business address (including directions to it), phone number, and even customer reviews, so the user has no need to click through to your website. This could mean fewer clicks through to your site, less traffic and perhaps lower sales/bookings in some cases. Way back in early 2017 Mike Blumenthal called it “Google as your new homepage”, but should we now be thinking of it as “Google IS your homepage”? 

Long live schema markup

In addition to the state of SERPs, spam, and GMB features, our experts had plenty to say about the future of schema markup. Of course, when it came to discussing schema, CEO of Schema App Martha van Berkel, was the first person we turned to:

Martha van Berkel

2020 is looking to be the year of schema markup (aka structured data). Why? Throughout 2019 we’ve seen an acceleration of features released and announcements pertaining to schema markup. On November 4th at the Google Webmaster Conference, one of the top trends was schema markup, with Google stating that they will be investing in more features in 2020. As we see more searches be for questions on mobile, desktop, and through typing and voice search, schema markup will make sure that the content, services, products, and locations are fully understood and stand out in these search channels.

Shane Barker also anticipates that schema will be a prominent factor for local businesses in 2020:

Local businesses that use structured data, especially for business information, will be more successful in their local SEO efforts.

Further predictions

Great Gatsby GIF

We received so many insightful predictions from our experts in local, we couldn’t possibly fit them all in (on that note, be sure to follow us on Twitter where we’ll be sharing exclusive snippets from our conversations with the pros).

But what else can we expect from Google in the year ahead? Ending on an optimistic note, Head of Search at Local SEO Guide Dan Leibson predicts we’ll have even more communication from the major players in 2020:

Dan Leibson

Now that Danny Sullivan is providing comms for Google’s GEO products (like the Google My Business September Core Update), I would expect to get more information from Google around that product. Now how accurate it is is an entirely different discussion.

He also suggests that Google will continue to localize SERPs in general:

I think the biggest trend in all of search, the one no one is really talking about except AJ Kohn and myself, is that Google wants to be able to localize parts of all SERPs and SERP features. I expect this trend to aggressively continue in 2020.

Join the conversation

Now the experts have spoken, why not have your say? Will 2020 be the year spam is eradicated from GMB? Will the rise in no-click SERPs increase? Drop us a comment below with your predictions — if nothing else, we can all return to this post next year and laugh at the inevitable naivety and optimism a new decade brings with it.




Twitch shows how hard it is to foresee the jobs of the future


Many teenagers dream of being paid a fortune to play computer games from the grungy comfort of their own bedrooms. Parents may scoff. But the Twitch video platform has turned that escapist fantasy into an improbable reality.

Launched in 2011, Twitch attracts 15m viewers a day to its site to watch the world’s best players live-streaming their games of Starcraft or Fortnite for others to learn from and enjoy. Some 3m players create content for the site. Tens of thousands of Twitch’s most successful “partners” make money.

“Some of them make millions of dollars streaming video games,” Kevin Lin, Twitch’s co-founder recently told the Slush tech conference in Helsinki. Gaming is “no longer a hidden-in-the-basement nerdy thing. It is something that people socialise over.”

Playing games for a living may sound like fun, but making money from streaming is not for the indolent, says Mr Lin. “Like any other job, it is a huge commitment. You cannot just be the best player in the world and stream. You have to engage with the audience. It is a lot about reliability and content.”

Not so long ago it would have been impossible to imagine that people could earn money this way or that playing computer games could ever be described as a job. Twitch may be an edge case, but its experience goes to the heart of the debate about the labour market of the future. While it is all too easy to see the jobs that will be destroyed by the latest technological revolution, it is hard to foresee the types of jobs that will be created.

The whole computer games industry is an example of changing consumer demand fuelling new employment opportunities. The games market is worth $120bn a year, bigger than the television, music or film industries and growing a lot faster, according to Mr Lin. Streaming has also become a brutal battlefield for Big Tech. Twitch, now owned by Amazon, recently lost a star streamer “Ninja”, and his 41m social media followers, to Microsoft’s rival platform.

The bigger question for society is whether on a net basis more jobs will be created by technology than destroyed. And how can we best prepare the workforce for unforeseeable new roles?

To some extent, the labour market is permanently adjusting and people are spontaneously finding opportunities for themselves, as is the case with Twitch’s streamers. The rise of crowdfunding sites such as Patreon, which allow individual patrons to support their favourite creative artists, is also enabling an emerging workforce to finance their lifestyles in more flexible ways.

Some educational institutions are catering to these changing demands. For example, eCampus, an Italian online university, is offering a three-year programme in social media influencing focusing on fashion psychology, semiotics and information technology. Its students aspire to become the next Chiara Ferragni, the Italian influencer who has 17.8m Instagram followers.

Established companies face a tougher challenge retraining their employees for such a fast-changing world.

Irene Petrick, Intel’s senior director of industrial innovation who has co-written a forthcoming report on employment in the US manufacturing sector, is blunt in her analysis. “The training system is broken in the US,” she says. Ms Petrick, who previously taught information technology at Penn State university, says she used to tell her students: “Here are the top 10 careers for you. Five years ago, six of them were not on the list.”

She argues for increasing the digital dexterity of employees by providing shorter, more snackable learning programmes in formats that appeal to the younger generation, such as YouTube videos and podcasts. That sounds a lot like Twitch for training.

One other intriguing idea to encourage companies to retrain their employees is backed by Henry Chesbrough, a professor at Berkeley Haas business school. He says smarter training programmes are essential to upgrade the soft “innovation infrastructure” in the US, and elsewhere.

His recommendation is to change the accounting rules to encourage companies to treat investment in people as favourably as that in capital stock: “When companies buy equipment they can capitalise it and depreciate it over time and recover their investment. But if I hire you and train you that is a one-time expense.” Allowing companies to amortise their training spending over time would provide a real incentive to invest more in human capital.

Companies routinely argue that their employees are their greatest asset. Perhaps it is time to value them as such.

john.thornhill@ft.com

Follow John Thornhill with myFT

With Waters Rising And Its Population Falling, What Is Venice’s Future? : NPR


Tourists walk across flooded St. Mark’s Square two days after Venice suffered its highest tide in 50 years.

Filippo Monteforte/AFP via Getty Images


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Filippo Monteforte/AFP via Getty Images

Tourists walk across flooded St. Mark’s Square two days after Venice suffered its highest tide in 50 years.

Filippo Monteforte/AFP via Getty Images

The lagoon city of Venice — a unique experiment nurtured by man and nature — suffered heavy damage in November as floodwaters reached their highest peaks in more than 50 years.

But rising sea levels are not the only threat. As Venetians continue to leave their city, Venice risks becoming an empty shell sinking under mass tourism.

Two weeks after the floods, St. Mark’s Square resonates with a cacophony of languages – Spanish, Chinese and Russian. Awestruck visitors shriek and marvel as they take selfies in what Napoleon described as Europe’s drawing room.

But across the lagoon, Venetians are taking stock of the damage caused by a wave of exceptionally high tides — known as “acqua alta” or high water.

Pellestrina is home mostly to fishermen. For centuries, this 7 1/2-mile-long barrier island protected the Venetian lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. But on Nov. 12, a near-record high tide of more than six feet, combined with strong winds, made for a perfect storm and washed over Pellestrina’s high embankments, flooding the island for a full day. Nearly everything on ground floors was destroyed.

Along the waterfront, trash collectors load now-useless refrigerators and washing machines onto trucks.

Fisherman Dino Vianello stares forlornly toward the lagoon, at what was once his shed on wooden pilings. For 40 years, he stored his nets there. Now his livelihood is gone.

Nobody, he says, had ever seen waves nearly seven feet high and the sea roiling inside homes.

“The lagoon’s ecosystem is unique,” says Vianello, “the ancient Venetians who built the Republic of Venice worked in harmony with nature, not against it.”

Many Venetians believe excavation of deep canals in the 1960s to accommodate oil tankers irreparably harmed the lagoon’s delicate ecosystem. There’s also widespread skepticism about a long-term project to build large, moveable floodgates to hold back rising sea levels.

The project is called Mose, an Italian acronym that also means Moses, suggesting a parting of the waters. Still unfinished after 16 years and $5.5 billion in public funds, it’s been plagued by corruption and won’t be in operation for another two years.

Meanwhile, many residents of Venice feel ignored by local authorities.

Gondolas are moored by the flooded Riva degli Schiavoni waterfront in Venice.

Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images


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Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images

In the central Castello district, master artisan Paolo Brandolisio — one of only four remaining makers of oars and oar posts for the city’s legendary gondolas — is trying to put his workshop back in order. Brandolisio is trying to salvage his waterlogged oak work table.

“We’ve always managed on our own. In the last 40 or 50 years, city authorities didn’t safeguard artisans’ workshops,” says Brandolisio. “If no one’s left to make wooden boats, they’ll disappear and be replaced by plastic ones.”

Brandolisio laments that most shops now sell Chinese-made souvenirs.

“Shops for residents are vanishing because Venetians are vanishing,” he says. “So those who are left are those making money selling the cheapest possible goods.”

Master artisan Paolo Brandolisio, one of only four remaining makers of oars and oar posts for the city’s legendary gondolas, is trying to put his workshop back in order after the floods.

Sylvia Poggioli/NPR


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Sylvia Poggioli/NPR

Besides the shrinking Venice that’s home to local residents, there are two other Venices. One is the city of giant cruise ships as high as skyscrapers that — along with other forms of transport — disgorge some 30 million visitors a year into a city of about 50,000. Central Venice’s population is down by about a third from a generation ago.

And there’s the Venice of international institutions — of education, heritage and creative endeavor — that make it a world capital of art and culture.

“International Venice takes the social fabric of Venice for granted. We need to change the vision of the city,” says Shaul Bassi, director of the Center for Humanities and Social Change at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.

Across the world, he says, big cities look more and more alike, with the same architects creating more or less the same skyline. Venice, Bassi believes, represents the very idea of a city.

“It’s a city that for over a thousand years has built a wonderful equilibrium between a human component, ecological component, art, nature. And in the last century, we have basically almost destroyed that balance,” Bassi says.

In the battle against rising sea levels, Venice is on the front line. That’s why, says Bassi, it’s the ideal laboratory in which to study climate change. Next year, his university will offer a new degree in environmental humanities, in which scientists provide the data, “but we need to imagine what climate change is going to be like. And for that, you need the artist, you need the intellectual, you need the poets, you need philosophers, you need the historians.”

Bassi is urging people in all the fields of science and art to come to Venice to reflect, study, create and compose, to help make it a truly living city for the whole world.

Whether or not more people come, though, many Venetians fear there is a serious danger the prediction made by Lord Byron two centuries ago could come true:

O Venice! Venice! when thy marble walls

Are level with the waters, there shall be

A cry of nations o’er thy sunken halls,

A loud lament along the sweeping sea!

Latest Informative Report on Mobile Games Market Survey 2019 – Industry Outlines, Future Trends, Forecasts And Regional Segmented Analysis 2025


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‘Dragalia Lost’ ‘Mega Man’ Event Details Revealed alongside Future Update Plans for the Game in 2019 – TouchArcade


Dragalia Lost (Free) from Nintendo and Cygames just celebrated its one year anniversery recently and then had some interesting updates and a Halloween event over the last few weeks. Today, Yuji Okada (Director of Dragalia Lost) posted a look at the future for the game and revealed details for the upcoming Mega Man event which is set for later in November. Having recently upgraded to an iPhone X aspect ratio device, I’m quite pleased with the support in Dragalia Lost while other games like it just add borders everywhere. Check out a screenshot of Mega Man in action in Dragalia Lost below:

With the Mega Man event, Mega Man is the only adventurer who will be available to add in your team. There won’t be a summon showcase for Mega Man but the ability for everyone who participates in the event to get him. The team is also working on making Mega Man feel like he does in his own games over here through various attacks and animations. This includes disappearing when his health drops to 0 like in the Mega Man games. A detailed look at this event will be released in the middle of November. This month will see more Void enemies added alongside other events. The team plans on doing two more updates for Dragalia Lost until the end of the year that include a few interface updates. Check out a screenshot below. All players are being given a gift of Dyrenell Aureus, Argenteus, Aes, Fortifying Crystal, Amplifying Crystal, and Rupies to upgrade facilities and adventurers.

Dragalia Lost is free to play on iOS and Android Read our review of it here. Check out our most recent Dragalia Lost guide here. Both Fire Emblem Heroes and Dragalia Lost have remained impressive with how they keep bringing new content to keep things fresh. Are you happy with the pace of new content and feature additions?