It’s SEO roundup time, where Tom Williams collects the biggest SEO news stories of the last week, so you don’t have to! This time, he’s looking at Google’s big ambitions for 2015, including reliable rumours that the search giant may be moving into the US car insurance market…
These days, one of the most pressing concerns in SEO is that Google is attempting to ‘cut out middle men’ by providing information and services directly in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Features like Knowledge Graph answer boxes use complex algorithms to recognise information-seeking search queries, and retrieve and present that information to searchers. This means Google users often don’t need to click a result – Google does the work for them.
Naturally, many businesses are worried that these features – although undoubtedly user-friendly – may be snatching revenues from their sites, and undoing years of careful SEO.
Take the recently introduced lyrics answer box, for instance, which seems specifically designed to direct users away from lyrics sites – and thus deny these sites revenue.
The thing is, answer boxes are limited to these information-seeking searches. They’re not targeting people who are obviously looking to purchase a product or service.
That’s not to say Google isn’t interested in doing this. Here in the UK, businesses in the car insurance, credit card, travel insurance and mortgage industries have had to contend with Google’s own SERPs-native comparison product – Google Compare – since 2012.
The rumours are being fuelled by a Forrester blog post, in which analyst Ellen Carney points to a number of signs that Google is moving into the US car insurance market. For example, the company is licensed to sell insurance in 28 states, and is authorised to transact on behalf of several insurers.
In short, it looks very likely that this is happening.
This raises lots of questions. For instance, what does this mean for the insurance providers that aren’t working directly with Google? (We can’t find much information about the impact of Google Compare on UK businesses.)
And does Google have an obligation to provide a fair and free marketplace for all businesses? Or can it curate which businesses get optimum exposure?
Perhaps these are questions for another blog post.
In the meantime, here’s what a ‘car insurance’ search looks like in the UK, with the Google Compare result highlighted. We can naturally assume the proposed US version will be similar:
And the Google Compare service itself:
Is the era of a piracy-free web on the horizon? With the number of link removal requests Google received in 2014, it looks like it may well be.
According to Sky News, Google received 345 million requests to remove links to copyrighted material last year. That’s an astonishing increase of 556,451,513% on 2008, when the search giant received just 62 requests.
Search Engine Land says this also marks a 75% increase on 2013.
The British Phonographic Industry made the most requests, bombarding Google with requests to remove more than 60 million links. Of all link removal requests, the majority were made in regard to just three file-sharing sites – uploaded.net, rapidgator.net and 4shared.com.
Google is something of a reluctant policy enforcer. Although it is bound by law to tackle copyright material – and since May last year in Europe, personally embarrassing material – it still strives for the ideal of a free and open web.
Accordingly, its own statement on the matter was guardedly critical. In 2014, in a report called How Google Fights Piracy, the company wrote:
Piracy often arises when consumer demand goes unmet by legitimate supply. As services ranging from Netflix to Spotify to iTunes have demonstrated, the best way to combat piracy is with better and more convenient legitimate services.
"The right combination of price, convenience, and inventory will do far more to reduce piracy than enforcement can."
That said, with its recent Pirate algorithm update, Google is moving to pro-actively and automatically downrank sites that host pirated materials.
In our weekly news roundups, we’ve made something of a habit of collecting interesting predictions for the new year. Our latest batch comes from Moz’s Rand Fishkin – one of the web’s most recognised SEO experts.
Full article is here. Summary below:
Google Now has a new feature, and lots of disgruntled users.
As reported by Search Engine Land, the “intelligent personal assistant” suffered from a bug that causes users’ cards to disappear. Though, according to this thread, the issue should now have been resolved.
As for the new feature, the tool now appears to be displaying geographically-relevant backgrounds to users. Presumably, this feature is still in the testing stages.
This isn’t directly search-related, but we thought it was worth mentioning in light of Google’s supposed interest in the US car insurance market.
If The Register’s report is accurate, the search leader may be interested in entering the mobile phone service provider market too – in a sense, at least.
Google has reportedly met on numerous occasions with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to discuss using the super-fast 3.5ghz spectrum.
The 3.5ghz spectrum allows for incredibly fast data communications, but only over short distances – hence the fact mobile phone companies have so far steered clear of using it.
However, Google may well be interested in it as a means to offer quick, cheap Internet access in cities, where the need for long-distance communication is less pressing.
Google has apparently submitted a proposal to the FCC suggesting the spectrum is opened up on three tiers – first, to the government, then to companies who would be granted exclusive access to a frequency, and finally to the public.
Kieren McCarthy, reporter for The Register, writes:
Taken together, it looks like Google is well positioned to gain access to cheap wireless spectra while also possessing the tools and technologies to make it work and supply a mass market with internet access."
Read last week’s SEO news roundup: Google in China, Pigeon in the UK, and the End of Yahoo! Directory.
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