The past several months have seen Google battling antitrust and privacy lawsuits. At the end of last year, several U.S. states hit Google with three big lawsuits, and just a few weeks ago, Google became embroiled in yet another scandal – this time, being accused of tracking users browsing in Incognito mode.
With Google under continued scrutiny, a slew of new privacy-first search engines is in the works. Brave is set to be the first privacy-focused alternative to Google Search that offers both a search engine and browser that work on desktop and mobile devices. Neeva, on the other hand, will be a subscription-based model (and its founders are ex-Google employees, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on them). Then there’s Ecosia, OneSearch, Vivaldi and StartPage – smaller competitors on a slow but steady rise.
But DuckDuckGo is the O.G., the head honcho: the leader in privacy-focused search and a longtime critic of Google. Its current success – it recently surpassed Bing to become the no. 2 mobile search engine in the U.S., and it also smashed the milestone of 100 million daily searches – is proof that users do want their data protected and are willing to seek out alternatives.
Google knows this. And one way they’re trying to prove they’re turning over a new leaf is through the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), an alternative to third-party cookies that launched its first trial a couple of weeks ago. Google also launched a new website, The Privacy Sandbox, where it explains its new privacy-focused initiatives in detail.
But true to form, DuckDuckGo is having none of it. It has already announced plans to block FLoC in the DuckDuckGo search engine and Chrome extension, along with another scathing message:
“We’re disappointed that, despite the many publicly voiced concerns with FLoC that have not yet been addressed, Google is already forcing FLoC upon users without explicitly asking them to opt in. We’re nevertheless committed and will continue to do our part to deliver on our vision of raising the standard of trust online.”
The DuckDuckGo response should come as no surprise because they haven’t exactly made their disdain for Google a secret. DuckDuckGo takes issue with any form of user tracking, even when it’s less invasive (FLoC targets groups rather than individuals), and highlights the concern that Chrome users don’t have the ability to opt out.
While Google’s goal is to see FLoC gain momentum and replace third-party cookies on a large scale, other privacy-first search engines want to stop it in its tracks. And DuckDuckGo isn’t fighting this David-and-Goliath battle alone – Brave and Vivaldi have both released similar statements, saying they won’t support the initiative. FLoC is Google’s first foray into privacy-focused search, but if this is how other privacy pundits choose to respond, it’s not exactly off to the best start.
More SEO News You Can Use
Google Discover Is Excluding Five Types of Content: Google has updated its Discover policies to list five additional types of content that may not be recommended to users. These are job applications, petitions, forms, code repositories and satirical content. Why satire? For one, it can be mistaken for real news. But another issue has arisen related to so-called “false positives,” which occur when a Google algorithm update accidentally removes a legitimate site from showing up in rankings. As search marketer Lily Ray pointed out in a LinkedIn post, it’s looking like the label “Satire” is being used across websites with exaggerated headlines even when the content cannot be classified as satire. If you’re noticing volatility in Google Discover, perhaps it’s time to double-check that none of your headlines are verging on clickbait.
Google Makes Last-Minute Changes to Cumulative Layout Shift Scoring (But It’s All Good News): For the past several months, site owners have been busily preparing for Google’s Page Experience update launching in a couple of weeks (with varying degrees of success). Turns out optimizing for Core Web Vitals is a lot easier in theory than it is in practice. But Google has been listening to some of the feedback, specifically surrounding the Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) metric. On the back of complaints that the CLS metric was not measuring long-lived pages – pages that remain open for a long time – correctly, Google announced it had updated its CLS scoring to be more accurate and fairer. It’s important to note that nobody’s CLS score will worsen as a result of the change, but many will start seeing an improvement.
Google’s Product Reviews Update Is Shaking Up the Rankings in a Big Way: Last week, we spoke about Google’s “product reviews update” going live and giving a rankings boost to well-researched, in-depth product reviews. It’s only been a few days, but already review sites and affiliate sites featuring many product reviews are reaping the rewards. Forum discussions have been blowing up since the rollout, with many describing rankings shifts that aren’t unlike the results of a full-blown core update (which, of course, this isn’t). Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable has compiled some of the comments and tweets in his blog, showing just how volatile the update has been: Some websites are seeing a surge in traffic, and others are taking a massive dive. The update is still in the process of rolling out, so we haven’t seen the worst of it yet – but it looks like many site owners are in for an uphill battle.
Check Out These SEO Tips for Web Stories, Straight From Google: Google’s latest Search Central Lightning Talks video is all about optimizing for Web Stories, covering everything from what they are and how to create them to best practices for inserting ads. Like every other piece of content indexed by Google, Web Stories needs to go through an optimization process, and all the SEO tips in your bible apply. But there are a couple of optimization elements that are unique to Stories, and Google covers them all. Properly optimized Web Stories can appear across Google Search, Images and Discover, so it’s well worth the effort. If you want to get your Web Story front-and-center on Google’s visual stories carousel, check out the video to leave no stone unturned.
Here’s How To Protect Your Rankings if Your Website Has YMYL and Non-YMYL Content: Here’s something we haven’t heard before, and it’s straight from John Mueller, so this may be worth paying attention to. In a recent Search Central office-hours hangout, Mueller stated that if your website contains a combination of YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) content and non-YMYL content, it might be a good idea to separate those into their own standalone websites. From Mueller’s phrasing, we can deduce that sometimes Google’s algorithm is able to separate content automatically, but there is no guarantee it will do this for every site. It’s safer for site owners, then, to manually separate content, so you don’t get penalized for non-YMYL content that doesn’t meet E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) standards.
Editor’s Note: “SEO News You Can Use” is a weekly blog post posted every Monday morning only on SEOblog.com, rounding up all the top SEO news from around the world. Our goal is to make SEOblog.com a one-stop-shop for everyone looking for SEO news, education and for hiring an SEO expert with our comprehensive SEO agency directory.