SEO News You Can Use: Google To Stop Selling Ads Based on Users’ Browsing History

Lesley Marchant
SEO News You Can Use

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In recent months, “privacy” has been the word on many search engine users’ lips. Search engines – okay, Google – track and target us relentlessly, and as users, we’re increasingly not having it. Privacy has become an even bigger concern with Google’s continuing antitrust lawsuits and accusations of collusion with Facebook. Now, Google has announced a major change to its business model that is likely driven in part by all the criticism and scrutiny from regulators over the past few months. 

In a surprising announcement posted to its Ads & Commerce blog on Wednesday, Google said it plans to stop selling ads based on users’ web browsing history. The revelation undoubtedly comes as excellent news for privacy-minded individuals – of which there are millions – but is also bound to cause upheaval in the online advertising industry. This is, after all, the world’s biggest digital advertising company flipping its own industry on its head.

So, why the sudden commitment to change? In its announcement, Google cited “erosion of trust” as the reason since research has shown that 72 percent of all people feel that almost all of their online activity is being tracked by advertisers and businesses. And, as many of us know all too well, that’s not a great feeling. 

This isn’t Google’s first privacy-driven decision. Last year, the company announced its intention to remove support for third-party cookies in Chrome – a task that is currently in process and will do away with advertisers’ primary source of data tracking. (It’s also worth mentioning that in its latest announcement, Google explicitly stated for the first time that once these third-party cookies are phased out, they will not be replaced with an alternate tracking tool.)

What does this mean for digital advertising? At the moment, it’s still impossible to say. But the changes are exciting and potentially point to a future where personal data cannot be so easily monetized, and advertisers won’t be able to paint such a detailed picture of their prospects. While this decision is bound to have an incomprehensibly large impact on what online advertising has become over the past few decades, Google’s big move is the best one it could have made – for itself and its users.

More SEO News You Can Use

Maybe Core Web Vitals Won’t Cause a Headache, After All: We’re mere weeks away from Google’s Page Experience Update, when Core Web Vitals will be integrated as a ranking signal. Up until now, it’s been unclear what the impact of this will be. Now, Google has finally given us an idea of what to expect when the update – specifically the Core Web Vitals aspect of it – rolls out. During a Search Central Live Fireside Chat, with Google’s Danny Sullivan and Martin Splitt both present, a viewer asked what the expected ranking impact would be. Sullivan downplayed the significance of the update, explaining that the most relevant content will still trump the best page experience. But, pages with good content and a good page experience will potentially see a boost in rankings. Of course, there’s bound to be more to the story once the update goes live, but for now, give yourself some comfort by reading what Sullivan had to say or register to view the talk yourself.

Good News! Google Has Updated PageSpeed Insights Scores: In a rare bit of excellent news for SEOs, PageSpeed Insights (PSI) scores are rising across the board, with no extra effort on your part! Improvements to PSI have all happened on Google’s side, so don’t let your ego get the better of you if your scores saw a sudden boost on Wednesday. Google has changed the way PSI tools gather information, migrating to the HTTP/2 protocol for connecting to a web page, which allows for much faster transmission of data than the previous HTTP/1.1 protocol. Google posted a helpful explainer that highlights all the ways the new PSI is better: It’s “faster, simpler and more robust,” and it doesn’t have the limitations of its predecessor. 

Microsoft Bing’s Search Results Interface Has Gotten a Major Makeover: Google isn’t the only search engine regularly updating its search engine results pages (SERPs). Bing has added a bunch of new features to make its pages more “visually immersive,” and we have to say, some of them are pretty great. The updates include new knowledge panel designs, expandable search carousels and a search feature for similar-looking items. Answers to local queries also show more information than before, including Bing Maps results, visitor reviews and top images, all on a single page. These new ways of showing results could have a big impact on your site’s performance on Bing, and, as Barry Schwartz points out in his Search Engine Land blog, there’s certainly a case to be made for using structured data to show up in these striking results.

Google My Business (GMB) Performance Report Now Shows How People Found Your Business Profile: GMB’s performance report has been upgraded, with a new section added for people who have viewed your business profile. The report shows exactly how users found your local listing: Were they browsing on desktop or mobile, and did they find you through Google Search or Google Maps? You’re about to have all the answers. The new feature is found in the Insights tab, under “How people discovered you.” In the competitive local business space, any additional insights or analytics are nuggets of gold that could mean the difference between a prospective customer choosing you or choosing your competitor.

Here’s How to Optimize for the Seven Biggest Search Engines: The SEO world may revolve around Google, but there are so many search engines out there worth optimizing for. Just ask Dave Davies, author of Search Engine Journal’s mega-viral article, “Meet the 7 Most Popular Search Engines in the World.” Google snags the top spot, followed by YouTube, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft Bing, Baidu and Yandex. With competition on Google being as fierce as it is, there’s no harm in broadening your SEO horizons and finding other opportunities to convert – for less money and less effort. Davies’ article gives a broad overview of the seven search engines, the pros and cons of each and links to sources explaining how to optimize for them effectively. Having all this information in one neat package is invaluable, and the blog should be required reading for all SEOs. Who knows? You might consider a total SEO strategy overhaul.

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.

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