Weekly Industry News Round-Up – Edition 23

Google finally fixing an eight-year issue, YouTubers taking advantage of the California wildfires and more. Keep up-to-date with Bright Design’s Tuesday News Day.

Facebook documents seized by MPs

After the Cambridge Analytica scandal Facebook has been under scrutiny from many British politicians, many of whom are still investigating how and what went on with Cambridge Analytica. In an event that many didn’t see coming, MPs have seized documents regarding the scandal. Within these documents is data about Facebook’s privacy controls. Since these documents have been seized, Facebook has demanded that the documents are returned.
The documents were originally held by a Facebook executive who was on a business trip to London. Until the House of Commons Serjeant-at-Arms (the officer responsible for the security and order of the House of Commons), was sent to the executive’s hotel, where they gave a final warning and a two-hour deadline to hand the documents over. When the Facebook executive didn’t comply with the order, he was later escorted to Parliament and warned that he faced fines and imprisonment if the documents were not surrendered.



Google’s ESTA ad problem

Google has had a long-standing issue regarding America’s official ESTA website. Travellers who decide to visit the USA need to acquire an ESTA Visa before entering the country. Typically, you would search for ESTA American visa, click on the first result, fill in your details and buy the ESTA. The issue that Google has faced for eight years is that the official website has been buried by multiple unofficial accounts usingGoogle Ads. These websites sold official ESTA Visa’s, however, they also sold them at up to five times the original price. This led many to be scammed into purchasing overpriced visas.
Luckily for many unsuspecting travellers, Google has now stated that they’re tackling the issue. Whilst unofficial ESTA websites still appear within the Google search engine result pages, the official website now appears in the number one position.
Google says that they were taking down unofficial websites, but minutes after one website would go down, another would pop back up in its place. Sometimes the website that was taken down would re-appear on a different domain. This made it incredibly difficult for Google to control the situation, but hopefully the issue is now resolved permanently.


Facebook vs. George Soros

Last week we reported that Facebook was rumoured to have been implementing many dirty tactics in order to shift negative public opinion, smear rivals and competition and employed third party companies to write negative things about rival companies.
Well, this week in the news, it’s been confirmed that Facebook has admitted to smearing philanthropist, George Soros. The social network confirmed that they had employed a PR firm to make claims and accusations regarding the financier.
Obviously, Facebook has been hit by the media for employing these tactics, but the main point of criticism has been surrounding the timing of this news. It appears that Facebook has purposely chosen the day before Thanksgiving to drop this news as many tend to tune out what’s going on in the world in order to enjoy themselves over the holiday.


Are product searches still unfair?

Over the past week, 14 European shopping comparison services have said in an open letter, that the measures Google have put in place to improve the fairness of its search engine have actually made matters worse.  
In the open letter to the EU’s competition commissioner, they demanded that further improvements be made to how Google alter the search engine to provide an even playing field for marketers to compete on Google.
Google state that they have complied with the European Commission’s demands after their seven-year battle.
The changes to the search engine were in response to the record £2.1bn fine Google received from the European Commission due to their power within their own marketplace, promoting their own shopping services and Google’s anti-competitive practices.


Visual representation of companies trying to find their products on Google.

California fire YouTube conspiracy hits

You may have recently seen conspiracy theories related to the recent wildfire in California on your feed of recommended videos on YouTube. The misinformed YouTube theories have gained millions of views thanks to ‘clickbait’ titles and the scale of the tragedy.
Conspiracy theories tend to perform very well, and let’s be honest, who hasn’t explored the conspiracy theory side of YouTube every so often? However, these theory videos have more of a weird twist to the theory.
The theory videos claim that the California fire started thanks to “government laser beams”. These theories are among the most unbelievable of the conspiracies out there, and it’s always a possibility that the creators don’t actually believe what they’re saying, and are instead taking advantage of the tragedy to gain views.

The trouble that we see with these theories is that the spread of misinformation can quite quickly become dangerous. In a world where we should question a lot of things that we are told, I think that the more outlandish theories can lead to some serious issues.



FAANG stock drop

If you keep up with stocks, you’ll have noticed that the top technology companies have seen a major hit to the price of their stocks. For the past decade, we’ve seen FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) leading the stock markets to new heights that were previously unheard of.
Over the past week, all FAANG stocks had dropped more than 20% from their peaks. To give you an idea of how much that is, Amazon, which was the first company to surpass $1 trillion, has now dropped down to $731bn. (Amazon has still not recovered from this drop from the time of writing this article).
I wouldn’t start Go Fund Me pages for these companies just yet, as although this is a major decline in company value, these companies are still extremely rich and, in Amazon’s case, still breaking profit records.



Is Google fuelling hypochondria?

As you have probably experienced, people nowadays use Google and other search engines to diagnose symptoms that they are experiencing. I, myself tend to Google search any symptom I have before even considering going to the doctor.
Well, over the last week a new report has come out that details people’s searches for medical-based queries. In the UK, the search term “how to know if chest pains are serious” has risen by 8,781% from 2015 to 2018.
Other medical search queries have also risen in the past three years as searches related to ache, IBS and sciatica have been made over 100,000 times every year since 2015.
Whilst I would say that Googling symptoms may save you time and the doctor’s time too, if you are experiencing anything out of the norm, you should definitely see a professional.



Is Google now helping save the high street?

Many large companies and brands have gone as far as to say that Google is destroying the traditional high street. With online shopping and the ease of browsing on the internet, many now opt to purchase everything online instead of going out to brick and mortar stores. For years we have needed a way to merge online with offline shopping.
However, Google has given high street brick and mortar stores an early Christmas present, by attempting to increase the number of shoppers on the high street.
Google has teamed up with start-up company NearSt which helps consumers to see what stock is available in the local stores around them. The joint venture between Google and NearSt is designed to make shopping locally as easy as it is online.
I think the timing of this joint venture could not come at a better time, as it has come a month before Christmas, a time where a majority of us are rushing around trying to find the best deals.

Generic SEO could die very soon

As more and more businesses make the switch to online marketing, we’ve seen that competition within many niches has become more and more competitive. Businesses have been pushing SEOs to provide higher search results positions, higher traffic, and more conversions on their websites.
Now as there’s more competition for the number one spot on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), Google now make changes to their algorithm that makes old generic style SEO obsolete.
The theory is that the algorithm now makes expertise, authority and trust a major part of how the algorithm decides to rank websites. This means that the Google algorithm is more niche specific than a lot of SEOs first thought.


Google Top Stories now in double carousel?

A new update that many mobile Google users have noticed is the new double carousel at the top of their Google search queries. The new test from Google has their Top Stories now displaying two or more highly searched and recent stories from around the world.
The new design looks to be more catered towards online news publications.

This new design of the Top Stories now pushes the organic results further down the page, which could make working in SEO a bit more difficult. However, it now makes getting into the Top Stories even more important.

Bright Design Tuesday News day