Archive for October, 2013

Title: Google’s ‘Misinformation Graph’ Strikes Again

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

Article Source: Link Exchange Service Network

Users have encountered another blunder from the Google Knowledge Graph with Google showing some quite questionable content, and presenting it as “knowledge” on a very high-traffic search term. This is only the latest in a series of misfires from the Knowledge Graph, but probably the highest profile example yet, given the search term.

Do you consider Google’s results to be reliable? Let us know in the comments.

The term is “st. louis cardinals”. As you may know, the team is currently in the World Series, so it stands to reason there are a lot of searches happening for that particular term. It’s currently number five for baseball teams on Google Trends:

Search for “st. louis cardinals” on Google right now, and you’ll probably see a Knowledge Graph result that looks something like this:

Cardinals knowledge graph

Okay, looks legit. Last night, however, things looked a little different, as Ben Cook pointed on Twitter (via RustyBrick).

Hey Google, there are some flaws in relying on Wikipedia for your knowledge graph information… (cc: @rustybrick) pic.twitter.com/X1zUl3hQkW

— Ben Cook (@Skitzzo) October 28, 2013

Yep, it really said that. That’s not a photoshop job. As David Goldstick pointed out, a Wikipedia revision had been made earlier, but Google hadn’t updated its cache. You can see the revision here:

Cardinals Wiki

@innov8ion yeah, ironically it stays longer in G than it does on Wikipedia lol

— Ben Cook (@Skitzzo) October 28, 2013

We’ve reached out to Google for comment on update timing, and will update if we hear back.

Update: We just got a response from Google’s Jason Freidenfelds, who tells us, “We crawl sources at different rates; for fast-changing info it can be within hours. But in this case it was a technical issue on our end that let outdated information through. We’ve fixed the issue.”

It’s unclear exactly how long this text appeared in Google’s search results, but it was at least for a few hours, according to Rusty. And the Cardinals did play a World Series game, so quite a few people probably saw it. Some even accused Google of being a Red Sox fan:

Apparently the Cardinals are a "gay butt sex team" #googleisaredsoxfan pic.twitter.com/rK48LWW8jW

— Van Carver (@ThaCarverIV) October 29, 2013

We’ve talked about the reliability and credibility of Google’s Knowledge Graph results a few times in the past, mainly because things keep happening. In fact, it hasn’t even been a month since the last mistake we saw, when Google was showing an image of the singer/actress Brandy for brandy the drink.

Brandy

After a little media coverage, they appear to have corrected it, but it took them a while, even after said coverage. They couldn’t blame Wikipedia on that one because the Wikipedia page for the drink showed a drink.

There have been other cases where Google has shown erroneous info in the Knowledge Graph. A while back, for example, it got a football player’s marital status wrong.

As I’ve said before, the errors may be few and far between, but how can users know for sure whether or not they can trust the information Google is providing as “knowledge”? Typically, users aren’t going to question the information they see here unless it’s obviously wrong.

In the case of the St. Louis Cardinals, it was obviously a prank, but people looking to spread misinformation can be a lot more clever than that. There’s no telling how much factually incorrect info Google is highlighting to users at any given time. Even if Google is able to quickly correct it, people can still be seeing it. As we see with the Cardinals example this can even happen on major search queries.

In some cases, we’ve even seen Google promoting brands on generic queries.

Meanwhile, Google continues to expand the Knowledge Graph to more types of queries, and to provide more types of information, potentially opening the door to more errors.

A side effect of Google’s Knowledge Graph is that people have less of a reason to click over to other websites. When Google is presenting the “answer” to their queries right in the search results, why bother to look further? You just assume it’s the correct answer. Not that there isn’t going to be misinformation on third-party sites, but at least going in, users can decide for themselves how much they want to trust a particular source. I think most probably trust Google enough to assume they’re displaying factual info on their search results page.

Google’s voice search also draws from the Knowledge Graph to provide users with answers, and this kind of searching is only gaining momentum as smartphone use grows. Users count on Google to give them factual information when they don’t point them elsewhere. Should they second guess the info they’re getting every time they get an “answer”?

Part of the issue is Wikipedia’s own credibility. Is sourcing the majority of the Knowledge Graph to Wikipedia a good idea in the first place?

This comes at an interesting time at Wikipedia itself. Last week, executive director Sue Gardner announced that Wikipedia had already shut down hundreds of accounts for paid edits. People have been manipulating Wikipedia for their own monetary gain, and apparently, some of the higher-ups had allowed it to happen, which is why it was even able to. Gardner expressed “shock and dismay” over the whole thing, and the investigation is ongoing.

Gardner, by the way, announced earlier this year that she was stepping down from her position, saying she was “uncomfortable” with where the Internet is heading. While Wikipedia, in general, has been an invaluable source of information for years, these things make you question its reliability, and by default, the reliability of Google’s Knowledge Graph, which leans on Wikipedia so heavily for its information. This is, by the way, where the Internet is headed – at least where Internet search is headed.

“This is a critical first step towards building the next generation of search,” Google’s Amit Singhal said in introducing the Knowledge Graph.

And in case you’re thinking about Bing, it has a practically identical feature (though I’ve not seen any reports about the Cardinals blunder related to Bing).

It’s very possible – perhaps likely – that the majority of the answers and information that Google’s Knowledge Graph feeds you is completely accurate, but if you’re ever searching for anything important (remember, Knowledge Graph includes nutrition and medical knowledge now), you may do well to remember that St. Louis Cardinals example, and continue your research. Verify the important facts. If Google can get it so wrong on such a hot search query, it can probably get it wrong on more obscure stuff.

Is this the direction search should be going in? Do you trust the Knowledge Graph? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The In-Content Ad Leader Buy and Sell text links Health and Beauty Store

Article Source: Link Exchange Service Network
If you like all this stuff here then you can buy me a pack of cigarettes.

Title: Did Google Make The Right Call With This Algorithm Change?

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

Article Source: Link Exchange Service Network

Google recently launched an update to its algorithm to take action against sites that post mugshots of people, and charge money to have them removed. While the move could go a long way in keeping people’s online reputations from suffering irreparable damages, at least one of the sites targeted thinks the update is actually putting people in danger by hiding criminal behavior.

Do you think Google made the right move in implementing this algorithm change? Let us know what you think in the comments.

The news came as The New York Times posted an in-depth report on the practice and Google’s high rankings of results from such sites. Google, however, said that the update has been in the works for most of the year.

The basic gist of the article was that there are a bunch of sites out there that make money by gathering mugshots (which are in the public domain), and then get ranked in the search results for name searches for the people who appear in the shots. Before this update, these sites were ranking very well in Google, and causing major reputation-damaging problems for the people. And we’re not talking just hardened criminals, murderers and sex offenders here. We’re talking about people who were arrested, but never convicted, people that made minor mistakes, and have repaid their “debt to society,” and others who simply don’t deserve to have a mugshot be the first thing that comes up in a Google search for their name when they’re trying to get a job.

Really, this can hurt not only the people looking for jobs, but also businesses that may be missing out on highly qualified talent due to these results tarnishing the image of the prospect. And what if want of these individuals are looking to start their own businesses?

The sites charge money to have the damaging content removed. According to the report, this can sometimes be as much as $400, and even one the person pays one site, the same content is likely to appear on similar sites. That very fact might be one of the reasons that Google decided to take action, because historically, Google hasn’t much cared about removing reputation-damaging content unless legally required to do so.

This week, Mugshots.com, one of the sites named in the NYT piece, has put out a press release attacking Google and its algorithm change with a big ol’ “no free speech” symbol at the top:

Mugshots.com on free speech

The release discusses an article the site posted on its blog, and says:

While individuals arrested for minor offenses or never convicted enjoy the attention of sympathetic news media, what gets lost in the emotional mix is previously a Google search also returned results showing the criminal history of individuals arrested for extremely serious crimes as well as convictions. Except in extremely limited situations discussed in our article, that’s not the case anymore. Thanks to Google’s algorithm change, there is now an enormous public safety blind spot that puts every person in the country at potential risk who performs a Google search on someone with a criminal history—that number is in the millions. Google’s algorithm change does not discriminate; it protects and shields the sympathetic and the truly wicked alike at the expense of public safety and the ability to make meaningful informed decisions by millions of Americans.

A person’s arrest, even for a minor offense and/or for which the person was never convicted, is always relevant information to the individual performing the search. That’s one important piece of information people naturally want to take into consideration when making an informed decision. However, Google has made the determination for all Americans that you shouldn’t have easy access to public information of an indisputable fact and undeniably relevant by intentionally concealing it.

Google is the go-to place for information. If information isn’t there, it simply doesn’t exist for most Internet users. It’s not an overstatement to say that with its algorithm change Google has effectively hidden from public view the criminal history of most individuals arrested and convicted in this country. While arrest records are available at government websites, they almost never appear during a search of a person’s name even when the person has been arrested and convicted. Prior to the algorithm change, a simple search of just about anyone with a criminal history appeared prominently in search results with a link to a website that publishes mugshots. Google cannot, with a clear conscience, now deprive millions of Americans access to vital public records with a shrug and note that they’re available elsewhere.

For example, news articles have been written about a particular Illinois attorney, but if he were like most arrestees, there wouldn’t be any news coverage of his arrest for stealing $1.2 million from seven clients. For potential clients performing Google searches on him now, the most relevant search result would be his BBB rating of ‘A+’, nothing about his arrest as was the case before the algorithm modification. Similarly, there is the case of an Ohio babysitter arrested after videotape surfaced of her raping an infant in her care. If news stories weren’t written about her as is the case with most arrests, anyone performing a Google search on her wouldn’t be alerted to the disgusting allegations against her since no government website with her arrest appears in the early pages of a Google search. Even though both individuals have “only” been arrested, isn’t that information you’d consider relevant in deciding whether to allow them into your life? Google doesn’t think so. To learn more about them and the disturbing unintended consequences of Google’s decision, please read our full article.

You can read it here if you like, but you can probably get the basic premise from the above text.

While there might be some legitimate points made within Mugshot.com’s writings about unintended consequences (we’ve certainly seen those with other Google updates), they really don’t address one of the main points of the media coverage of Google’s update, which is that of sites charging people (even those without criminal charges) to have their mugshots removed – the apparent business model of such sites.

It’s also unclear how any of this is a free speech issue.

Either way, the story does highlight the control Google has over the flow of information on the Internet. It’s true that this info is still out there, but Google has such a huge share of the search market, it requires people to step outside of their comfortable habits to find information other ways. But Google is not keeping these sites from continuing their practices. Google doesn’t have quite that much power. And doesn’t Google have the same “free speech” right to dictate the kinds of results it wants to show people on its own site?

Google hasn’t really talked about this update a whole lot other than to acknowledge its existence (at least from what I’ve seen). They did give the NYT this statement:

“Our team has been working for the past few months on an improvement to our algorithms to address this overall issue in a consistent way. We hope to have it out in the coming weeks.”

If Google opened up more about it, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is more about search quality than Google taking sides on the reputations of third-parties. That’s not really Google’s style. Not when it comes to lawful content.

That bit about unintended consequences is likely to be in the back of some webmasters’ minds too. Google’s updates are rarely (if ever) perfect, and sometimes there are unintended casualties. In this case those casualties may never know if they were impacted by this update, as the timing of it was very close to the latest Penguin update. Lets hope there aren’t people chasing an impossible Penguin recovery as a result.

What do you think of the “Mugshot” update? Does Mugshots.com have a point, or is Google doing the right thing? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Images: PRNewsWire and JustMugShots

The In-Content Ad Leader Buy and Sell text links Health and Beauty Store

Article Source: Link Exchange Service Network
If you like all this stuff here then you can buy me a pack of cigarettes.

Title: Matt Cutts On Geo-location: Just Treat Googlebot Like Every Other User

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

Article Source: Link Exchange Service Network

In the latest Google Webmaster Help video, Matt Cutts responds to a question about geo-location:

Using geo-detection techniques is against Google, I am offering the useful information (price, USPs) to the users based on the geo-location. Will Google consider this as spam? i.e. showing X content to search engines and Y content to users.

“Geo-location is not spam,” he says. “As long as you’re showing, ‘Oh, someone’s coming from a French IP address, let’s redirect them to the French version of my page or the French domain for my business,’ that’s totally fine. Someone comes in from a German IP address, I’ll redirect them over to the German version of my page – that’s totally fine. The thing that I would do is make sure that you don’t treat search engines any differently than a regular user. So if Googlebot comes in, you check the IP address, imagine that we’re coming from the United States, just redirect Googlebot to the United States version of your page or the .com, – whatever it is that you would serve to regular United States users. So geo-location is not spam. Google does it.”

“Whenever users come in, we send them to what we think is the most appropriate page based on a lot of different signals, but usually the IP address of the actual user,” he adds.

The last part of the question (the X content to search engines and Y content to users part), he says, is cloaking, and is something he would be “very careful about.”

The point is, just treat Googlebot like every other user, and you should be fine.

The In-Content Ad Leader Buy and Sell text links Health and Beauty Store

Article Source: Link Exchange Service Network
If you like all this stuff here then you can buy me a pack of cigarettes.