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The United States Department of Justice is filing a sweeping antitrust lawsuit against Google today. The suit comes after years of investigations and accusations that Google and it’s parent company Alphabet have unfairly stifled competition to maintain its leading place in online search. 

The complaints further allege that Google then used this leverage and dominant position to sell more search ads across its platform. 

The suit will be joined by 11 state attorneys general from Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas. 

Some have pointed out that all involved attorneys generals are Republicans, though criticism of the search engine giant has been a bipartisan issue over the years. Democrats like Elizabeth Warren have called for similar lawsuits and breaking up the tech giant, and left-leaning states like California are reportedly pursuing similar investigations against the company. 

Notably, an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission in 2013 ended without charges, though a leaked document later revealed staff recommended a number of charges on several grounds. 

In the press conference, the DOJ said the search company has violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act by maintaining unlawful monopolies in markets for “general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising.”

Google has also received criticism for its anti-competitive practices, including over $9 billion in fines from the European Union. Still, this marks the first time similar charges have been filed in the company’s home country. 

Concerns About Anti Competitive Practices

The lawsuit focuses on a number of business moves made by Google over the years, including using massive contracts and agreements to block competition. 

For example, Google and Apple reached a multi-billion dollar agreement to use Google’s search engine as the default on Apple mobile devices, preventing users from using other search engines by default. 

Despite these factors many say the lawsuit is far from a cut-and-dry case and could stretch on for years. Meanwhile, it could also signal the start of an avalanche of legal problems for Google is other states follow suit.

Stories are perhaps the way to share content online these days, so it is only natural that Google has been hard at work preparing its own version of the short-form content. Many users have seen Google Stories in testing throughout its various incarnations, including “Amp Stories” in 2018.

This week, the company officially launched Google Web Stories within its Google app on both iOS and Android devices. 

Google Web Stories can be found in a new carousel shown at the top of the Discover tab, presenting several short video, photo, or audio posts from users and publishers around the world. 

When clicked, stories will expand to a full-screen view where users can click through to your website or swipe to the next story in the carousel. 

Brands and publishers will also be able to monetize, host, share, and add links to their Stories with integration for WordPress, MakeStories, and NewsroomAI. You can even manually code a Google Web Story entirely from scratch. 

6 Rules For Making Google Web Stories

Along with the official release of Google Web Stories, the company has published a set of rules for the format. According to the guidelines, also Stories including the following types of content are prohibited:

  1. Copyrighted Content – Overall, Google is taking a relatively loose stance with what types of content can appear in Stories, especially with regards to copyrighted content. Specifically, the company says it “may” remove content that infringes on an existing copyright or links to a webpage with similar issues. 
  2. Too Long – Google is designing its Stories specifically with short-form content in mind, as such, it may block longer content. To ensure your Story gets shown, keep text down to 180 words or less, and videos a maximum of 60 seconds long. 
  3. Low Quality – You don’t need to have expensive cameras and high-end lighting to create a Story, but you do need at least a smartphone with a decent camera. Videos or images with large amounts of pixelation or distortion are prohibited. 
  4. Lack of Narrative or Theme – Google Web Stories are expected to be just that – “Stories.” They should have a narrative or at least a general theme as users go from page to page. 
  5. Incomplete Stories – While you can link to your site at the end of a story, Google warns against making users click through your site to see the entire content. Your Web Stories must be a complete package on their own.
  6. Overly Commercial Content – Brands can publish Web Stories and even convert some display ads to the format. However, the content must still provide a story or message. Content that is entirely commercial (i.e., being a simple billboard-style ad) is not allowed within the format.

Google is making several tweaks to its shopping-related search results to make it easier to find the products you want locally and choose the pickup method you are most comfortable with. 

As the country gradually returns to our normal in-store shopping habits, many are making adjustments to ensure the safest trips to the store. 

For example, Google says that searches for “curbside pickup” and “safe shopping” have increased tenfold over the past few months and remain heightened. 

Making this more difficult, many businesses remain closed after mandatory shutdowns have passed, while others are struggling with inventory due to shipping disruptions around the world. 

With all this in mind, Google has announced three significant updates to shopping search results which make it easier for shoppers to know who’s open, what’s in stock, and how they can most safely make a purchase. 

Filter By What’s Available Locally

When looking for a specific type of product, searchers can now limit their search results to only products available nearby. 

This can be done in two different ways. 

  • Users can tap on the “Nearby” filter when looking at results within the Shopping tab.
  • Users can add “near me” to product searches to automatically find products available nearby.

“Want to see an item in person before purchasing, or can’t wait for shipping and delivery?

Whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s a new laptop for working from home, a baby jacket for fall or a grill for backyard barbeques, Google makes it easy for you to see what’s available locally.”

Compare Local Hours, Locations, and Inventory

Making a trip to the store only to discover they are out of what you are looking for or the store is closed was already frustrating before the COVID-19, epidemic. 

To help solve this issue, Google is making it easier to compare the stock of local shops and see which businesses are open now. 

These details will be shown when searching “[product] near me” in a carousel of images and pricing details.

Find Convenient and Safe Pickup

Since the onset of the pandemic, Google has been prioritizing retailers who offer safe pickup options including contactless delivery or curbside pickup. 

Now, the company is introducing new ways to find safe purchase options with new labels in shopping searches. 

Along with these details, the listings will include a direct link to Maps directions so you can quickly and easily find the stores nearby. 

At the same time, Google emphasizes that calling to speak with someone is the most accurate way to check the inventory of products in real-time.

Google is unveiling a new service called Fundo which helps businesses, entrepreneurs, and creatives hold and monetize video events. With Fundo, event holders can set the date for their event, sell tickets, and connect with their followers all in one space. 

What Exactly is Fundo?

Fundo is an online platform which allows users to create and sell tickets to private events. Unlike many other online video event tools, there is no software or app to download. Everything is done directly on the platform’s site. 

Events can be easily publicized on other platforms, using a simple link to the event page. Users can also browse for upcoming events on the site.

Who Is Fundo For?

The primary audiences for the platform appear to be businesses, consultants, and celebrities, though the tools could be used by anyone looking to have private workshops or small discussion-based events. 

Specifically, the announcement calls out a few professions that may benefit from the platform:

“In addition to YouTube creators and their fans, we’re seeing authors, fitness instructors, business and lifestyle consultants and others use Fundo to find new ways to connect.”

Three Types of Events

For now, the platform allows for three different types of events to be held. These are:

1:1 Chat + Photos

The one-on-one event is pretty much what it sounds like – a way for creators to hold an event with a single individual or fan. This would typically be for a very casual conversation or low-key discussion. 

What sets this event apart is the introduction of a virtual photo booth feature which allows fans and creators to take virtual photos together.

For many professionals, this might not be all that interesting. However, YouTube celebrities or other well-known figures may find these one-on-one experiences a powerful way to connect with fans and still be able to monetize the experience. 

Meet and Greets

Meet and Greets are largely similar to the 1:1 type events, only with several fans or followers at a time. 

In the announcement, Google focuses on using these events to connect YouTube creators with fans for small roundtables and hangouts. 

As the company describes it:

“As a fan, you’ll have a variety of experiences to choose from. Join the Q&A with… channel members in a group Meet & Greet…”

Workshops

For most, this is going to be where Fundo really shines. 

Workshops allow for consultants, experts, and leaders to hold special events where they guide attendants through a process. 

For example, salon workers struggling to bring in clients during the pandemic can use Fundo to hold classes teaching basic hair care or styling to bring in revenue on the side. 

At the same time, these events help promote your core business by showing your abilities and expertise to all who attend. 

No matter what field you are in, Fundo workshops offer an opportunity to build your brand, showcase your goods, and connect with existing customers or fans all at once – and bring in a little bit of revenue while you’re doing it. 

How Secure Are Fundo Events

After the rise of Zoom Bombing – the act of breaking in and disrupting Zoom events – one of the biggest concerns for many virtual event holders is privacy and security. 

While the company doesn’t go into detail on how it prevents this from occurring, Google says there are no ways for users to crash an event without a ticket. 

As the announcement says:

“Safety is a top priority. Because Fundo is checking everyone’s ticket, there’s no risk of uninvited guests. We also have reporting and flagging features to curtail abuse.”


To sign up or find out more, check out the links below:

Sign Up: https://fundo.town/creators

Google’s Announcement: https://blog.google/technology/area-120/fundo/

Help Document: https://intercom.help/fundo/en/articles/4169996-how-does-fundo-work

Google is experimenting with a new way to help people find you in search results. Limited to India for now, the search engine is rolling out new ‘people cards’ which let individuals highlight details about themselves including your website, social profiles, and other relevant sites in one spot. 

Anyone who has ever tried to make a name for themselves knows search engines struggle when it comes to finding individual people – especially if they aren’t a household name like Taylor Swift. 

Now, Google is trying to tackle this problem with a virtual business card:

“Today, we are solving these challenges with a new feature called people cards. It’s like a virtual visiting card, where you can highlight your existing website or social profiles you want people to visit, plus other information about yourself that you want others to know.”

The cards were created with entrepreneurs, performers, influencers, and freelancers in mind and allow for a small amount of customization including a short blurb and contact links. 

Google People Card Gif

When viewed, the cards initially display a person’s name, profession, and location. When tapped or clicked, it expands into a full card complete with links. 

When multiple people with the same name appear in a search result, the individuals will appear alongside each other, allowing you to select the person you are looking for.  

How Creating a People Card Works

While they are not available in the U.S. or U.K. yet, some have found workarounds using VPN services to create a People Card for themself. If you decide to do this, you should know the cards will still only appear to searchers within India until the cards are expanded internationally. 

If you still wish to create a card and can make the VPN process work (results have been mixed according to Twitter users), the process is relatively simple. 

  1. Make sure you’re signed into the Google account you want linked to your People Card. 
  2. Search for your name or query “add me to Search.”
  3. After clicking “add me to Search” on the prompt, you’ll be taken to a page where you can provide a range of details including:
    • The image from your Google account
    • A personal description
    • A website link
    • Links to social profiles
    • Your phone number
    • Your email address

While you can pick and choose which details you want to provide, Google says “the more information you provide, the easier it is for people to find you.”

The only exception is your phone number, which is required for authenticating your card. Users can choose to keep this information hidden from their card, however. 

How Google Will Vet The Cards

Accompanying the rollout of these cards (and potentially explaining the limited size of the test), Google says it is launching a number of strict quality control measures to ensure the cards are reliable:

“Our goal with Search is to always make sure people can find helpful and reliable information, so we have a variety of protections and controls in place to maintain the quality of information on people cards.”

For now, there is no mention of when People Cards could be arriving in America. Based on the excitement from many, though, it feels safe to say you can expect to see something similar stateside sooner rather than later.

A lot has changed at Google over the past few years, but one thing remains the same – the majority of people will click the top link on any search result page. 

A new study of over 80 million keywords and billions of search results found that an average of 28.5% of users will click the top organic result for a given search. 

From there, the average CTR for results sharply declines. Listings in the second place receive an average of 15% of clicks, while third place falls to 11%. 

By the time you get to the last listing of a results page, links receive only a 2.5% click-through rate. 

You can imagine what the CTRs for anything after the first page would be like. 

Other Factors Influencing Search CTRs

Unsurprisingly, there is quite a bit of variance in the actual click-through rates for some results pages. In the study, Sistrix found click-through rates for listings in the first position swung from 13.7% to almost 50%. 

While the relevance of the top listing has some effect on its CTR, the study suggests another major factor is the SERP layout. 

For example, search results including sitelinks extensions significantly outperformed those without. 

On the other hand, the study found that search results including featured snippets had a significant negative impact, dropping click-through rates by at least 5% on average. 

Similarly knowledge panels reduced the average CTR from 28% to 16%.

In these situations, the researchers believe users don’t feel the need to investigate further when provided with quick answers directly within the search results pages:

“The CTR in the first two organic positions drops significantly compared to the average. Many users appear to find the information they are looking for in the Knowledge Panel – especially on their smartphones, where each time a page is loaded it takes a lot of time.“

For more information, you can explore the full study report here.

Google My Business has long let businesses mark their profiles with the special services or offerings your business provides in the real world. But, what about your online services?

When it comes to GMB attributes, online services have been the glaring omission for many businesses.

That is finally changing, as Google is introducing four new attributes you can add to your GMB listing – all of which highlight online services you provide. 

The four new attributes appearing for use in GMB profiles include:
Online care

  • Online appointment
  • Online estimates
  • Online classes

Anyone can add these attributes to their listing. Once added, the tag may appear in search results when relevant. 

For example, here is how the “Online Care” attribute appeared in a search result:

These attributes join the long list of existing tags businesses can add to their listings, including “WiFi available,” “outdoor seating,” “cash only,” and many more. 

With many consumers still preferring online or contactless shopping options, these tags can be an important tool for signaling that you can help. 

How To Add Attributes To Your Google My Business Listing

The process of adding attributes to your current GMB listing is quick and easy. Simply follow the steps below:

  • Sign into the Google My Business app or website
  • Select the location you would like to manage if you have multiple locations
  • Click “Info” from the menu
  • Find “Add Attributes” then click “Edit”
    • Here you can either scroll through the list and select those which apply to your business, or search for specific attributes
  • Once you have selected all the attributes you wish to add, click “Apply.”

It is important to note that you may not have access to specific attributes depending on which industry you are in. For example, home repair services like carpenters or plumbers are unlikely to find the “Online care” or “Online classes” attributes.

Google is making a change to how featured some featured snippets function by taking users directly to the associated text when clicked. 

Featured snippets are the highlighted search results that appear at the top of some results pages, showing a specifically relevant bit of text.

The company announced the update through its Google SearchLiason Twitter account, which posted:

“As we have done with AMP pages since December 2018, clicking on a featured snippet now takes users to the exact text highlighted for HTML pages, when we can confidently determine where the text is.”

While it is a relatively small change, it makes featured snippets even more useful to searchers (and thus, more essential for businesses to put in place). 

Surprisingly, the company says there is no additional code or special markup needed to prepare your featured snippets for this change. 

Instead, the search engine is essentially using a trick that highlights specific text by tweaking the URL for each snippet.

As Roger Montti explained over at Search Engine Journal, this is a feature previously used for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which has the dual benefits of being easy to implement and trackable.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Google has been rapidly releasing new tools to assist shoppers looking for contactless pick-up options, delivery, and keep consumers up-to-date on frequently changing business hours or closings and openings. 

Now, the company has released a way for retailers to easily signal that they provide curbside pickup for products appearing in Local Inventory Ads. 

Delivery Is Overwhelmed, Consumers Shift To Pickup Options

With many stores across the country closed, many shoppers quickly turned to online retailers like Amazon to find their necessities and enjoyment during quarantine. Unfortunately, this led to shipping being massively overwhelmed, creating delays of up to a month for any product deemed “non-essential.”

Google says this situation directly contributed to a 70% global increase of searches for “in-stock” products within just one week from March 28 to April 4 and has continued to be an important search query for shoppers. 

While the company doesn’t provide specific data, it also suggests that searches for “curbside pickup” have been elevated since late March. 

How To Add Curbside Pickup To Local Inventory Ads

To help advertisers alert customers to alternative pickup or delivery options, Google has implemented a new label for products shown in Local Inventory Ads available with curbside delivery. 

The label is a small but significant badge for many shoppers, even as businesses reopen across the country. 

Although technically still in beta, Google announced it was opening the badge to all advertisers running Local Inventory Ads who have completed the process of onboarding for store pickup. 

Because it is still in beta, accessing the feature also requires a few unique steps. Specifically, advertisers must contact a Google Ads rep or fill out this form.

The new tag is available to all eligible advertisers anywhere Local Inventory Ads have been launched, including Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the U.S.

If you do not fit the criteria for this feature or are not utilizing Local Inventory Ads, the company notes that you can still use your Google My Business profile to notify shoppers to curbside pickup or delivery options by adding these attributes to your listing. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer behavior was prone to shifting quickly. Now, it seems buyers’ needs are changing daily – if not hourly. If there is any place this is reflected, it is in our Google searches. 

Product and purchase-related searches have been rapidly evolving as people respond to the daily updates related to the pandemic and their state’s handling of the situation. To help businesses track these changing needs and consumer behaviors, Google is launching a new tool called Rising Retail Categories.

“We’ve heard from our retail and brand manufacturing partners that they are hungry for more insights on how consumer interests are changing, given dynamic fluctuations in consumer demand,” said the company in the announcement.

“That’s why we’re launching a rising retail categories tool on Think with Google. It surfaces fast-growing, product-related categories in Google Search, the locations where they’re growing, and the queries associated with them.”

Specifically, the tool shows the biggest shifts in product-centric search categories, as well as their associated queries and the locations where the product categories are showing making the biggest waves on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.

The company also says “this is the first time we have provided this type of insight on the product categories that people are searching for.”

Currently, the Rising Retail Categories tool includes data for the US, UK, and Australia.

In the announcement, Google suggested a few different ways the information could be helpful for brands, including content creation, product promotion, and even the development of new products.