Five things worth sharing from the last week or so, brought to you by a different member of the Browser Media team every Friday.
This week’s My Five is by Ali.
1. New Google SERPS page could affect click-through rates
Industry go-to Search Engine Journal reported that Google is trialling a new form of search engine results page (SERP) which could affect click-through rates.
Eagle-eyed users have spotted a new icon which reveals the images that feature on a site without actually having to click through.
On the one hand, this could benefit users as they can get a better idea about whether the site will deliver the information they need before they click.
For site owners who have useful images, there may also be benefits as they could have the potential to outrank competitors. However, for this to work in practice, Google would probably need to allow owners to select relevant images on pages where there were multiple options. But, and it’s a fairly big but, if users can find what they need without leaving a Google search page, site owners may also miss out on the opportunity for users to interact with their brand and would be unable to offer additional value to potential customers.
Google would obviously be a winner because the longer people stay on the SERPS page, the more chance there is of attracting people to paid ads. Ch-ching!
Google runs around 17,000 tests per year so there is nothing to say that this change will roll out widely but if it does, 2021 may be the year that the SEO community gets very excited about images.
2. Smart homes became ‘stupid’ homes after Google outage
Thousands of people from all around the world literally found themselves in the dark during Google’s outage early this week.
Google Home is an app that helps users set and control Google Nest, Google Home, and Chromecast devices which facilitates the use of compatible lights, cameras, speakers and more.
While some others reported the nuisance of having to go and physically flick a switch to turn on their lights, others who had fully committed to the Google Home experience were unable to perform such a basic task…
One American user tweeted:
I’m sitting here in the dark in my toddler’s room because the light is controlled by @Google Home. Rethinking… a lot right now.
— Joe Brown (@joemfbrown) December 14, 2020
3. Facebook moves UK user data to the US
With Brexit negotiations still ongoing, Facebook has taken the opportunity to move UK users’ data away from its Irish unit to California and crucially away from the prying eyes of the EU.
With the UK no longer part of the EU, there is no need to comply with European data protection legislation (which in the UK was implemented as GDPR). Although, strictly speaking, we no longer have to comply, it looks like the regulations will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
It’s not the only company to have moved away from what has become the strictest data protection regime in the world, as Google made the change earlier in the year and others have followed suit.
“Like other companies, Facebook has had to make changes to respond to Brexit and will be transferring legal responsibilities and obligations for UK users from Facebook Ireland to Facebook Inc. There will be no change to the privacy controls or the services Facebook offers to people in the UK,” the company’s UK arm said.
However, some critics are concerned that the UK government may agree to reduce its privacy standards in desperation to secure trade deals with countries outside of the EU.
4. Facebook and Apple spat continues
From next year. Apple will give users the ability to block ad tracking and Facebook is livid. In what the latter calls the ‘death of digital advertising’, Facebook made its point by delivering a 300-word print, yes print, ad in several US newspapers this week – a highly ironic move from the world’s second-largest digital advertising platform. But maybe that’s the point in itself.
Facebook is positioning itself as the defender of small businesses, many of whom turned to digital advertising during the pandemic to keep their businesses afloat: it says 44% of small businesses have turned to personalised ads to adapt to the outbreak of COVID-19. It has created a shiny new site, SpeakUpForSmall and is rolling out a new hashtag to garner support from the SME community.
Apple, however, purports to defending its users’ privacy rights and is simply allowing its users more control. It said, “privacy is a fundamental human right.”
More people will of course opt out if they are explicitly given the choice but in all of its comms, Facebook has omitted any mention that Apple’s move will damage its own bottom line too.
This digital soap opera looks set to run for a while yet!
5. Google’s Blob Opera
If you’re busy cramming in work on the last Friday before Christmas, you might be better to stop reading here.
Google has launched a wonderfully weird tool that allows the user to control blobs singing opera in four-part harmony. It’s super cute and super addictive. Click on the image below to have a play:
For those who want to know more than just the very existence of this seriously time-sapping distraction, it is a creation of Google’s Arts & Culture team and shows the latest application of AI tech.
“The experiment uses a neural network trained on the voices of a bass, tenor, soprano and mezzo-soprano to generate opera singing in real-time from simple movements on a user’s device,” says Google.