SEO Weekly Roundup: Is Europe Planning to Split Google in Two?

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The world of SEO never sleeps – not even after it's filled up on Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, as digital executive Tom Williams reports, the biggest news in search this week came from our side of the pond – with nary a turkey in sight...

European Parliament Votes Yes on 'Break Up Google' Resolution

We have to hand it to Greg Sterling of Search Engine Land. Whilst most US residents were preparing to tuck into Thanksgiving turkey, he was hard at work reporting on the European Parliament's vote to 'break up' Google.

Man holding sign reading 'Break Time'. Source: DonkeyHotey at Flickr.

The resolution, which was passed 384 to 174, calls for the European Commission to “enforce EU competition rules [and] to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services.”

This highly symbolic gesture is likely to be seen as a 'warning shot' to Google from the European Parliament, which is essentially laying out its aspirations to curb Google's dominant market position if necessary.

However, the search engine was not named directly, and this resolution has no legal force – it is, rather, a 'statement of intent' for the European Commission.

Greg mentions a few other plans laid on in the resolution:

  • Increasing tax revenues
  • Promoting “non-discriminatory online search”
  • Preventing the “secondary exploitation” of search data
  • Developing uniform rules for cloud computing
  • Promoting net neutrality

This extremely political issue is, unsurprisingly, dividing opinion. In a Conversation article entitled The EU's obsession with Google shows how little it understands the digital economy, David Glance wrote:

The EU’s lack of understanding of the digital economy is evident from the language they have used in their recommendations on the single digital market. Even the concept of a single digital market itself is more of a marketing strategy intended to mask the real agenda of trying to protect and grow European digital companies in the face of US dominance.”

Vauhini Vara, writing for the New Yorker, acknowledged that “the resolution is seen in the U.S. as targeting Google in particular and American companies in general”, but pointed out that no direct anti-US sentiment appeared in the text of the resolution. She argued:

European lawmakers may seem at times to be targeting U.S. companies out of some sense of cultural spite, but it probably just looks like that because the U.S. happens to be the home of many of the powerful Internet companies against which Europe’s smaller digital firms are competing, often without much success.”

UK Businessman and Online Trolling Victim Settles 'Defamation' Suit with Google

More 'Google in Europe' news. Google has settled a UK 'defamation' suit by agreeing to remove malicious links painting a UK businessman as, amongst other things, a murderer and Ku Klux Klan sympathiser.

Google logo Source: Robert Scoble at Flickr.

As reported by the BBC, Daniel Hegglin became aware of the anonymous and malicious postings by an “unknown internet troll” in 2011. Hegglin claimed there were more than 3,600 websites containing defamatory claims.

His case was not a defamation case against Google, and neither is it an example of a 'Right To Be Forgotten' (RTBF) request. Hegglin's case was centred on malicious, inaccurate material, whereas RTBF requests tackle accurate information that the requester wants removed because it is embarrassing or otherwise harmful.

However, as the BBC reported, Hegglin maintained that “although Google was not the originator of the abusive campaign, its search engines have allowed the abuse to become more widespread”.

The exact terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, however it is likely that Google has agreed to remove at least some of the links in UK search results. Hegglin said he was “"very pleased the dispute had been resolved to both parties' mutual satisfaction.”

A search for Hegglin's name brings up messages reading: “In response to a legal request submitted to Google, we have removed [...] result(s) from this page.”

However, at least one site containing abusive material can still be accessed.

Google Crushes Another Polish Link Network

A week ago today, the world said 'goodbye' to another link network based in Poland.

The news came from Google employee and self-described 'spam fighter' Karolina Kruszyńska, who wrote on Twitter:

As reported by Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land, Google has tackled at least four Poland-based link networks over the course of this year.

Łukasz Rogala, writing on Polish SEO Bartosz Góralewicz's site, surmised that the penalty had most likely been applied to – a 'static' network that sells menu, sidebar, heading and content links. later confirmed the penalty, writing:

We do confirm information that both Publishers and Advertisers got penalized by Google for using Prolink link network. In order to better understand what happened we are suspending our link network starting from today, 24th of November.”

[Taken from Bartosz Góralewicz's blog.]

Bing and Yahoo! Gain Some Ground in US Search Market

comScore has released its October 2014 market rankings for desktop search in the United States.

Whilst there's nothing earth-shattering in the report, it does show slight growth for Bing and Yahoo!, with the Google-challengers registering month-on-month rises of 0.1% and 0.3% respectively.

Google, meanwhile, has suffered a slight decrease in market share, losing 0.3% between September and October.

comScore rankings for October 2014. Source: comScore.

Noteworthy? Yes. But these results are hardly likely to keep Google awake at night.

Google Webmaster Tools International Targeting Reports Now More Accurate

Google launched International Targeting reports for Webmaster Tools back in July. Now, according to Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land, the reports have been updated to improve their accuracy.

The reports allow webmasters to check whether Hreflang annotations are correctly implemented, and to debug accordingly. Hreflang annotations tell search engines how to serve the correct local version of a page to users.

The accuracy-improving update was carried out with very little fanfare from Google. It appears the only indicators that the update took place were a small note on the relevant Webmaster Tools Help page...

...And an 'update' indicator line in the reporting graph:

Hreflang report indicator line. Source: Rahul Mistry, via Search Engine Land.

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