30 Jun 2017

Googles Huge $2.7 billion EU Fine, New Facebook Mission & More: Weekly Forum Update

This week’s biggest news was Google being fined 2.42bn euros by the European Commission after it ruled the company had abused its power by promoting its own shopping comparison service at the top of search results.

Below we highlight the most indepth discussion of the news you’ll be able to find online.

In other news, Facebook is shifting its focus towards its groups functionality and Google recommends moving sites from m-dot to responsive before the Mobile First Index Launches,

Members also discuss the benefits of having dates in URLs and reputation management for someone sharing a celebrity’s name.

Google hit with $2.7 Billion by the EU

As reported by the BBC, Google was fined an astonishing $2.7 billion after the European Commission ruled that the Google search engine abused its market position by promoting its own shopping service comparison service on top of search results.
In a record fine, the European Commission orders  Google to comply with the ruling in 90 days or face further action, specifically additional fine per day that are 5% of its parent companys global earning.

The BBC, referencing Alphabets most recent reports, states that this may result in a potential $14 million in daily fees for non-compliance.

Webmaster World members discussed the decision from several different angles:

Anti-trust vs. Monopolistic abuse

Multipe members found it interesting that Google compares itself to other merchants in their formal response where Googles Gary Walker SVP and General Counsel states that,

“We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay”.

Members including Shadow, found this interesting because as Shadow suggests, the comment conflates the concept of “monopolistic abuse” and anti-trust, which the member differentiates conceptually using the following differentiating comments:

“’We’re not the biggest price comparison site’”
Vs
‘We’ve not been leveraging dominance in one field to distort the market in another field’”

Shaddow went on to state that these two are different in EU law, referencing the following article.

Member mosxu further noted the difference,

“I think google got it all wrong here thinking that they have competition from amazon or ebay which is not true it is about search where a monopoly exists in Europe and not what presses google internally and that is lack of buyer traffic.

50% of buyers type direct in their browser amazon.com and buy there no need for a search in google. Another 30% start at ebay and other brands so google may be left with 20% of buyer traffic. To stay on the right side of the law they should have started google-shopping.com and compete in the rankings like everybody else.”

Role of politics in decision

Brotherhood of LAN and mosxu mused about the roll of politics may have been in such an action. Brotherhood of LAN noted that,

“from the technical standpoint I’m sure many would agree that the law has been playing catch-up, and big tech over the past 10 years has been taking various liberties with market dominance, privacy and ‘fair’ taxation. Hopefully this is a good thing for the market/web in general wrt market dominance.”

Member heisje contrasted the aggressive European Commission action with regulation in the SU, claiming  that

“I wonder when the U.S. authorities will stop Google from strangling the U.S. consumer and U.S. small business, by an abundance of “dominance abuse” tricks & practices. To date, U.S. authority inaction on this “elephant in the room” has been disastrous both for U.S. consumers and small / medium businesses – and truly disgraceful. Nothing less than dereliction of duty.

Breaking up data collection/storage and search presentation is the best way out of the nasty situation prevalent today.” .

Precedent

Shepherd chimed in with concerns about precedence of this action, saying that “A slippery slope does not care if you are wearing the same shoes as the person who fell before you.” Shepherd also quoted was the following from the European Commission announcement (linked to above),

“Today’s Decision is a precedent which establishes the framework for the assessment of the legality of this type of conduct. At the same time, it does not replace the need for a case-specific analysis to account for the specific characteristics of each market.”

Fining based on earnings of Alphabet:

Shaddows questioned the legality of such a move, that there may be jurisdiction issues in fining using a percentage of Alphabets global earnings. Shaddows claimed that if Google is an LLC company, its misdemeanors would not not be passed on to the parent company.

Google News Makeover for Desktop

Webmaster World members shared their thoughts on Googles redesign of the Google News homepage. Overall members were ambivalent about the look and feel but they did have some interesting insights about what the redesign may suggest about Googles general direction and perhaps a reference for what to keep in mind for ones own website. Member goodroi, mentioned that by the mobile focused design changes, that the focus is mobile users and for creating a more “sticky” experience to increase time in-product.

Member glitterball noted that the new experience currently only shows title – instead of title and snippet. Glitterball suggests that Google may be getting nervous about regulators in the EU. Engine agrees and adds that,

“showing less of the story may help it comply with the many publishers that feel too much is repeated in the news serps.” .

Engine also makes an observation on the treatment of citation and references on the new homepage, adding that,

“There seems to be, roughly, the same number of stories, but the “highly cited” and “most referenced” appearing as a short headline and link, with no coverage for the others without clicking the down arrow.

“Editors picks,” and “spotlight” appear on the right, with plenty of white space everywhere. Ads coming?”

Facebook shifts core Mission to put new emphasis on Groups

Quoting a recent article on NPR, Webmaster World Member Robert Charlton noted a recent update to Facebooks mission to be more oriented around groups,

“Today, the CEO explained, Facebook’s mission will change to focus on the activity levels of users, and to support the most active so that they can keep building the digital spaces that draw in the masses. In official language, the new mission is to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

Engine added

“Reading between the lines, and that’s not really difficult on this, Groups are becoming more important, and the huge audience already on FB will see even more groups in their feed. It’ll encourage people to join more specialist groups, and it’ll profile users even more, making even greater opportunity for highly targeted advertising.”

Members weight the pros and and cons of community in a closed ecosystem. On the con side iwrkalot noted that

“Up until now FB, in general, has been a time draining necessary evil for me. Being a forum owner has become much more challenging because of it. The inability to monetize my groups, in any meaningful way, has forced me to tightly control the members that are allowed to join. It’s a PITA.”

On the pro side EditorialGuy mentioned the benefit for organization and groups that have struggled to create a forum style community,

“I’ve found some of the groups to be quite useful. For example, I belong to a professional organization that has struggled for years to attract members to its online forum. The forum has never been successful and is nearly dead these days, but the organization’s Facebook group is growing.”

Dates in SERP’s – Good or Bad?

Crea8asiteforum member xyZed asked about dates appearing in SERPs and if including the date in content is beneficial or not. In general, members seemed to agree that if you’re not able to frequently update your content, that you would lose out in SERPs by displaying date updated. Member waitwhiterabbit provided some specific considerations including:

  • Health and medical content should consider including date updated
  • Having date updated may be valuable for news search

Famous person with same name

A new member on SEO chat has the same name as someone famous and looks to the community for ideas on next steps to be able to owned his named search, including considering the possibility of using a pseudonym.

Members suggest using adwords but in cases like the one here, where it would be difficult to take over the search,  a pseudonym may be best.

Google recommends moving sites from m-dot to responsive before the Mobile First Index Launches

In a recent Webmaster Google hangout, Googles John Mueller that people migrate their m. mobile sites [mobile subdomains] and move to a responsive template.

On Threadwatch, one member expresses a concern for what this will mean in terms of if content is different on mobile sites vs. desktop sites, even if they do not use a mobile subdomain and serve a very different mobile only experience by detecting the device from the browser.

Over on Webmaster World, member iamlost mentioned that the reason for this – as stated by several Googlers recently – is because the lack of backlinks compared to desktop.

Join in the above discussions to contribute your thoughts!