SEO Tips for Featured Snippets

March 26, 2018

We like Google’s Featured Snippets feature, at least when the information it serves up is relevant to the query. That is the tool that places text from, and links to, a site that (ideally) answers the user’s question at the top of search results. Naturally, Search Engine Optimization pros want their clients’ sites to grace these answer boxes as often as possible. That is the idea behind VolumeNine’s blog post, “Featured Snippets in Search: An Overview.” Writer Megan Duffy sees Featured Snippets as an opportunity for those already well-positioned in the search rankings. She explains,

There’s no debate that holding the primary spot on a search engine results page helps drive a ton of traffic. But it takes a long, disciplined approach to climb to the top of an organic search result. The featured snippet provides a bit of a shortcut. The featured snippet is an opportunity for any page ranked in the top ten of results to jump straight to the top with less effort compared to building a page’s search rank from, for example, from eighth to first. Having a featured snippet effectively puts you at search result zero and allows your business to earn traffic as the top search result.

Duffy goes on to make recommendations for maximizing one’s chances of being picked for that Snippet spot. To her credit, she emphasizes that good content is key; we like to see that is still a consideration.

Cynthia Murrell, March 26, 2018

Bigquery Equals Big Data Transfers for Google

March 16, 2018

Google provides hundreds of services for its users; these include YouTube, AdWord, DoubleClick Campaign Manager, and more.  Google, however, is mainly used as a search engine and all of the content on its other services are fed into the search algorithm so they can be queried.  In order for all of the content to be searchable, it needs to be dumped and mined.  That requires a lot of push power, so what does Google use?  According to Smart Data Collective, Google uses the, ““Big Query Service: Next Big Thing Unveiled By Google On Big Data”.“”

Google and big data have not been in the news together for a while, but the BigQuery Data Transfer Service shows how it is moving away from SaaS.  How exactly does this work?

According to a Google’s blog post, the new service automates the migration of data from these apps in BigQuery in a scheduled and managed manner. So good so far, the service will support data transfers from AdWords, DoubleClick Campaign Manager, DoubleClick for Publishers, and YouTube Content and Channel Owner Reports and so forth. As soon as the data gets to BigQuery, users can begin querying on the immediate basis. With the help of Google Cloud Dataprep, users cannot only clean and prep the data for that analysis but also further think of analyzing other data alongside that information kept in BigQuery.

The data moves from the apps within 24 hours and BigQuery customers can schedule their own data deliveries so they occur regularly.  Customers who already use BigQuery are Trivago and Zenith.

The article turns into a press release for other services Google provides related to machine learning and explains how it is the leading company in the industry.  It is simply an advertisement for cloud migration and yet another Google service.

Whitney Grace, March 16, 2018

Come on Google, Stop Delivering Offensive Content

March 14, 2018

Sentiment analytics is notoriously hard to program and leads to more chuckles than accurate results.  Throughout the year, Google, Facebook, and other big names have dealt with their own embarrassing sentiment analytics fiascos and they still continue.  The Verge shares, “Google’s Top Search Results Promote Offensive Content, Again” in an unsurprising headline.

One recent example took an offensive meme from the swathe subreddit when “gender fluid” was queried and made it the first thing displayed.  Yes, it is funny, but stuff like this keeps happening without any sign of stopping:

The slip-up comes just a month after Google briefly gave its “top stories” stamp of approval to two 4chan threads identifying the wrong suspect in the recent Las Vegas mass shooting tragedy. This latest search result problem appears to be related to the company’s snippet feature. Featured snippets are designed to answer queries instantly, and they’ve often provided bad answers in the past. Google’s Home device, for example, used a featured snippet to answer the question ‘are women evil?’ with the horrendously bad answer ‘every woman has some degree of prostitute in her.’

The ranking algorithm was developed to pull the most popular stories and deliver them regardless of their accuracy.  Third parties and inaccurate sources can manipulate the ranking algorithm for their own benefit or human.  Google is considered the de facto source of information.  There is a responsibility of purveying the truth, but there will always be people who take advantage of the news outlets.

Whitney Grace, March 14, 2018

Is Google The Victim or the Aggressor in Prager Case?

March 8, 2018

Courtroom drama is reaching a high point in an interesting case that might have flown under your radar. Online university Prager U is suing YouTube for taking many of its videos off of YouTube. Seems like an odd choice, until you start to realize just how political this move is and the first amendment can of worms is spilling all over the place. We learned more in a recent FrontPage Mag story, “Prager U Video: Who Will Google Silence Next?”

According to the video shown, Google claimed that some of the company’s educational five minute videos were not appropriate for children.

“Google and YouTube dominate internet search with over 75% of the market. If you disappear on Google, your ability to voice your opinion disappears too. PragerU is an educational non-profit that has had over 40 of their videos restricted by YouTube. That’s why they have recently filed a lawsuit against the tech giant.”

Prager is claiming that this is a misunderstanding and a violation of their first amendment rights, since they say that their short videos are age appropriate across the board. Google, however, is firing back with a surprising defense: It’s actually Google’s first amendment rights that are being violated. They say: “PragerU’s motion is a radical attempt to rewrite the rules governing online services, one that would transform nearly every decision that service providers make about how content may be displayed on their platforms into a constitutional case to be arbitrated by the courts.”

Grab some popcorn, because this is going to be an interesting fight. Adam Carolla is a semi-partner with Mr. Prager. Mr. Carolla has a podcast, and he can create some traction for issues which interest him. Does anyone remember the patent troll who took on the comedian? The patent troll does, I believe.

Patrick Roland, March 8, 2018

Big Data, Search, and Artificial Intelligence: Quite a Mash Up

January 29, 2018

I read a consultant-technology mash up marketing essay. The write up is “Big Data and Search: The Time for Artificial Intelligence Is Now.” The write up is mostly jargon. I wonder if the engineer driving the word processing train pushed the wrong button.

Image result for train wreck

Here are the “keywords” I noted in the write up:

Analytics
Artificial intelligence
Big Data
Blockchain
Business action and business use cases
Chatbots
Cognitive (presumably not the IBM which maybe doesn’t work as advertised)
Consumer services
Customer / citizen facing (some government speak too)
Digital assistants
False or biased results (yes, fake news)
Keywords
Machine learning
Natural language processing
Platforms
Real time results
Resources
SQL databases
Search
Transparency
Trust
Video

Read more

Google Tries Like Crazy to End Extreme Content Controversy

January 16, 2018

Google is having a tough time lately. When it purchased YouTube few thought extremist videos and wonky children’s programming would be its most concerning headaches. But their solutions remain strained, as we discovered in a recent Verge story, “YouTube Has Removed Thousands of Videos from Extremist Cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki.”

Google removed hundreds of al-Awalaki’s videos in 2010 which directly advocated violence, following the conviction of Roshonara Choudhry, a radicalized follower who stabbed British MP Stephen Timms earlier that year. At the time, a YouTube spokesperson cited the site’s guidelines against inciting violence. But al-Awalaki posted tens of thousands of other videos, and in subsequent years, was cited as an influence in other notable terrorist attacks at Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon, San Bernardino, and Orlando, Florida.

This comes on the heels of another Verge story with a similar issue, “YouTube Says it Will Crack Down on Bizarre Videos Targeting Children.”

We’re in the process of implementing a new policy that age restricts this content in the YouTube main app when flagged,” said Juniper Downs, YouTube’s director of policy. “Age-restricted content is automatically not allowed in YouTube Kids.” YouTube says that it’s been formulating this new policy for a while, and that it’s not rolling it out in direct response to the recent coverage.

Google is trying to do better, but it seems like they are fighting off an avalanche with a snow shovel. Luckily, as Washington Post points out, the United States leads the world in terms of big data. One can hope that a solution lies in their somewhere, but good luck predicting what it will be.

Patrick Roland, January 17, 20186

China Has a Big Data Policy Setting Everyone Back

December 5, 2017

China is very tightlipped about the way its government handles dissent. However, with the aid of data mining and fake news, they are no longer crushing opposing voices, they are drowning them out. We learned more in the Vox piece, “China is Perfecting a New Method for Suppressing Dissent on the Internet.”

Their paper, titled “How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, Not Engaged Argument,” shows how Beijing, with the help of a massive army of government-backed internet commentators, floods the web in China with pro-regime propaganda.

What’s different about China’s approach is the content of the propaganda. The government doesn’t refute critics or defend policies; instead, it overwhelms the population with positive news (what the researchers call “cheerleading” content) in order to eclipse bad news and divert attention away from actual problems.

Seems like an unwinnable situation for China. However, it would be interesting to see what some of the good guys fighting fake news could do in this situation. We already know big data can be useful in stifling false news stories and intentionally abrasive points of view. But with China not exactly letting outside influence in easily, this will be an uphill battle for the Chinese online community.

Patrick Roland, December 5, 2017

IBM Can Train Smart Software ‘Extremely Fast’ an IBM Wizard Asserts

November 30, 2017

Short honk: If you love IBM, you will want to read “AI, Cognitive Realities and Quantum Futures – IBM’s Head of Cognitive Solutions Explains.” The article contains extracts of an IBM wizard’s comments at a Salesforce event. Here’s the passage I noted:

What we find is we always start with POCs, proof of concept. They can be small or large. They’re very quick now, because we can train Watson our new data extremely fast.

If this is true, IBM may have an advantage over many other smart software vendors. Why? Gathering input data, formatting that data into a form the system’s content processing module can handle, and crunching the data to generate the needed indexes takes time and costs a great deal of money. If one needs to get inputs from subject matter experts, the cost of putting engineers in a room with the SMEs can be high.

It would be interesting to know the metrics behind the IBM “extremely fast” comment. My hunch is that head-to-head tests with comparable systems will reveal that none of the systems have made a significant breakthrough in these backend and training processes.

Talk is easy and fast; training smart software not so much.

Stephen E Arnold, November 29, 2017

Mitsubishi: Careless Salarymen or Spreadsheet Fever?

November 27, 2017

I read “Mitsubishi Materials Says Over 200 Customers Could be Affected by Data Falsification.” Source of the story is Thomson Reuters, a real news outfit, in my opinion.

The main point of the story is to reveal that allegedly false data were used to obfuscate the fact that 200 customers may have parts which do not meet requirements for load bearing, safety, or durability.

When I was in college, I worked in the Keystone Steel & Wire Company’s mill in Illinois. I learned that the superintendent enforced on going checks for steel grades. I learned that there is a big difference between the melt used for coat hanger wire and the melt for more robust austenitic steel. Think weapons or nuclear reactor components made of coat hanger steel.

Mislabeling industrial components is dangerous. Planes can fall from the sky. Bridges can collapse. Nuclear powered submarines can explode. Or back flipping robots to crush Softbank/Boston Dynamic cheerleaders and an awed kindergarten class.

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/knoOXBLFQ-s/hqdefault.jpg

Reuters calls this a “quality assurance and compliance scandal.” That’s a nicer way to explain the risks of fake data, but not even Reuters’ olive oil based soft soap can disguise the fact that distortion is not confined to bogus information in intelligence agency blog posts.

Online credibility is a single tile in a larger mosaic of what once was assumed to be the norm: Ethical behavior.

Without common values regarding what’s accurate and what’s fake, the real world and its online corollary are little more than video game or Hollywood comic book films.

Silicon Valley mavens chatter about smart software which will recognize fake news. How is that working out? Now about the crashworthiness of the 2018 automobiles?

I think the problem is salarymen, their bosses, and twiddling with outputs from databases and Excel in order to make the numbers “flow.”

Stephen E Arnold, November 27, 2017

Google Search and Hot News: Sensitivity and Relevance

November 10, 2017

I read “Google Is Surfacing Texas Shooter Misinformation in Search Results — Thanks Also to Twitter.” What struck me about the article was the headline; specifically, the implication for me was that Google was not responding to user queries. Google is actively “surfacing” or fetching and displaying information about the event. Twitter is also involved. I don’t think of Twitter as much more than a party line. One can look up keywords or see a stream of content containing a keyword or a, to use Twitter speak, “hash tags.”

The write up explains:

Users of Google’s search engine who conduct internet searches for queries such as “who is Devin Patrick Kelley?” — or just do a simple search for his name — can be exposed to tweets claiming the shooter was a Muslim convert; or a member of Antifa; or a Democrat supporter…

I think I understand. A user inputs a term and Google’s system matches the user’s query to the content in the Google index. Google maintains many indexes, despite its assertion that it is a “universal search engine.” One has to search across different Google services and their indexes to build up a mosaic of what Google has indexed about a topic; for example, blogs, news, the general index, maps, finance, etc.

Developing a composite view of what Google has indexed takes time and patience. The results may vary depending on whether the user is logged in, searching from a particular geographic location, or has enabled or disabled certain behind the scenes functions for the Google system.

The write up contains this statement:

Safe to say, the algorithmic architecture that underpins so much of the content internet users are exposed to via tech giants’ mega platforms continues to enable lies to run far faster than truth online by favoring flaming nonsense (and/or flagrant calumny) over more robustly sourced information.

From my point of view, the ability to figure out what influences Google’s search results requires significant effort, numerous test queries, and recognition that Google search now balances on two pogo sticks. Once “pogo stick” is blunt force keyword search. When content is indexed, terms are plucked from source documents. The system may or may not assign additional index terms to the document; for example, geographic or time stamps.

The other “pogo stick” is discovery and assignment of metadata. I have explained some of the optional tags which Google may or may not include when processing a content object; for example, see the work of Dr. Alon Halevy and Dr. Ramanathan Guha.

But Google, like other smart content processing today, has a certain sensitivity. This means that streams of content processed may contain certain keywords.

When “news” takes place, the flood of content allows smart indexing systems to identify a “hot topic.” The test queries we ran for my monographs “The Google Legacy” and “Google Version 2.0” suggest that Google is sensitive to certain “triggers” in content. Feedback can be useful; it can also cause smart software to wobble a bit.

Image result for the impossible takes a little longer

T shirts are easy; search is hard.

I believe that the challenge Google faces is similar to the problem Bing and Yandex are exploring as well; that is, certain numerical recipes can over react to certain inputs. These over reactions may increase the difficulty of determining what content object is “correct,” “factual,” or “verifiable.”

Expecting a free search system, regardless of its owner, to know what’s true and what’s false is understandable. In my opinion, making this type of determination with today’s technology, system limitations, and content analysis methods is impossible.

In short, the burden of figuring out what’s right and what’s not correct falls on the user, not exclusively on the search engine. Users, on the other hand, may not want the “objective” reality. Search vendors want traffic and want to generate revenue. Algorithms want nothing.

Mix these three elements and one takes a step closer to understanding that search and retrieval is not the slam dunk some folks would have me believe. In fact, the sensitivity of content processing systems to comparatively small inputs requires more discussion. Perhaps that type of information will come out of discussions about how best to deal with fake news and related topics in the context of today’s information retrieval environment.

Free search? Think about that too.

Stephen E Arnold, November 10, 2017

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