Google Algorithm Update Tools Going Off – Is It A False Alarm?

The automated tracking tools that look for Google search algorithm updates and large ranking changes are going wild over the weekend. I personally think it may be a false alarm. Why? Well, with Google dropping tons of pages from their index by accident, it can cause massive fluctuations in the search results and thus set off these tools.
That is just my gut feeling, I have not confirmed this with any of the tool providers yet. But if pages are dropping out of the Google index and these tools track pages in the Google index, it makes sense. I’ll update this story if I get confirmation.
Of course, some webmasters are not happy with this because their pages are not coming up in Google anymore. But hopefully once this is fixed, things will settle back down? We will see.
Here are what the tool providers are showing.


Cognitive SEO:



Advanced Web Rankings:



Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.
Update: We have some information from Dr. Pete Meyers from Moz:

No hard evidence either way yet, but a multi-day indexing bug could certainly (in theory) cause the SERP flux we’re seeing. While not an “algorithm change” in the traditional sense, it’s certainly a ranking change.
— Dr. Pete Meyers (@dr_pete) April 8, 2019

How to Remove Your Personal Information from Google by @ChuckPrice518

Google is an integral part of our lives. We use it for research, reading and getting from points A to B.
Thanks to the internet of things, some of us even have a Google Assistant, ready to answer any question or even settle a family dispute as quickly as you can say “Hey Google”.
With so much information at our fingertips, it can become unnerving. Let’s face it – there are times when you’d rather not have certain content made publicly available.
Perhaps there’s a shot of you on Google Street View that you’d prefer to be blurred out. Maybe sensitive personal information has been leaked that you wish to keep private.
In this post, I’ll explain how to remove your information from Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Legally, there may be additional protections and remedies available under the concept of the “right to be forgotten.”
Before we drill any deeper, it’s worth noting that Google is primarily a web aggregator, indexing billions of web pages every day.
When content is “removed from Google”, they actually deindex the web page(s) from their search results, but the source content will still be online.
If you’re seeking to have personal content removed from the web altogether, you need to reach out to the site owner.

A Note on Social Media
In an age where we live update just about everything, it’s worth noting that social media posts will often be indexed by Google.
If you’ve ever searched for yourself, chances are pretty good that your social media pages are what come up first. The best way to combat this is to change the privacy settings on these accounts.
Google’s Removal Policies
Google has come under scrutiny recently for having a “liberal bias.” In reality, their goal is to provide unbiased, algorithmically driven search results.
In an effort to protect that neutrality, Google is reluctant to remove information. Exceptions include “sensitive personal information” and certain legal issues.
Legal Removal Requests
Legally, if any web content includes anything to do with child sex abuse or inappropriate images of said children, it will be removed.
Additionally, they also remove any content that infringes copyright, as long as they meet the requirements of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).
If you’ve ever owned a website, you may be familiar with submitting DMCA requests. Any legal removal requests need to be submitted to Google via this page.
Personal Information Removal
Certain personal information will be removed by Google, including credit card information, bank account numbers, images of signatures, explicit images that were shared without your permission and confidential medical records.
They will also remove any national identification numbers such as social security numbers, passport numbers and tax identifiers.
They will not, however, remove things such as telephone numbers, addresses and your date of birth. This is usually a matter of public record.
Moreover, if the information about you was found through a government website, it is most likely not going to be removed, as this is once again classed as public information.
Personal removal requests are reviewed and assessed by Google on a case by case basis. To submit a request for removal, go to this page.
What follows are directions on how to complete each request.
How to Submit a Legal Removal Request
1. Go to this page to initiate your request
Google requires you to submit a removal request for each Google platform which you would like content removed from.
2. Select the platform by clicking the corresponding radio button as seen in the screenshot below:

You will then be asked specifically what the content is related to. Select the option which best matches the type of content you’d like to be removed.

Google will provide you with a link to the page where you can submit all the necessary information.
How to Remove an Image from Google
Google usually doesn’t remove images from their search results. This is because Google doesn’t physically have the images, they are just indexed through other websites.
They state that even if they remove it from their search results, the image will still exist on the third-party site and other search engines are able to pick it up.
Google suggests that you contact the owner of a website directly if you wish to have an image removed.
If the image contains sensitive personal information such as credit card details or national identification documents such as a passport, then Google will endeavor to get it removed.
Refer back to their removal policies to see if the image you wish to remove is covered. Then, to begin the process, click here and fill out the questionnaire and click on Submit once you’re finished.
Google will also endeavor to remove any unwanted explicit images of yourself that you did not consent to being posted online. We discuss how to remove them in the next section.
How to Remove Unwanted/Explicit Personal Images from Google
Google put together a separate guideline for reporting the misuse of sexually explicit images of yourself. They will remove the photo if one or more of the following applies:
You’re engaging in a sexual act or are nude.
You intended the content to be private and it was posted online without your permission (“revenge porn”).
You did not consent to the act and the images were published without your consent.
As we discussed in the previous section, even if the image is removed from the search engine results pages, it will still be on the web.
It’s recommended that you also contact the owner of the website to get it removed from the web altogether. You can find out more about contacting the site owner (webmaster) here.
When filling out the Google form to have the image removed, be sure to give as much detail as possible. Include the offending URLs of the SERPs that show the image, as well as a screenshot of the image.
The image can be censored to obscure the explicit nature of the photo, but must still be easily identifiable.
How to Remove Involuntary Fake Pornography from Google
Involuntary fake pornography includes images or videos of you that have been doctored to make it look like you’ve engaged in a sexually explicit act, even though you haven’t.
In order for Google to consider your removal request, the content must meet the following criteria:
You must be clearly identifiable in the images/videos.
The content is fake and falsely depicts you as being nude or engaging in a sexually explicit act.
The content was posted without your permission.
As with genuine explicit personal images, you need to provide screenshots of the offending image, and the URLs of the SERPs it appears in, so that Google can process the request.
As above, once you have filled out this form, Google can remove the imagery from the SERPs, however, if you want the content to be taken down altogether, you will need to contact the webmaster.
How to Remove Content About You on Sites That Have Exploitative Removal Practices from Google
Some webmasters tend not to be accommodating when it comes to removing your personal information from their site, even after a polite request.
It’s not uncommon to find companies that try to exploit web users into paying them to remove explicit images or other sensitive data.
In these types of cases, Google may endeavor to remove such links from their SERPs. Google’s requirements for this are the following:
You must be the subject of the content.
The site is not a business review website.
The website insists that you must pay to have the content removed.
To get the content deindexed, click on this form and select the option that confirms that the webmaster is requesting payment. Then fill out all your personal details and select Submit.
You may wish to seek further legal action directly again the webmaster to get the content removed from the website.
How to Remove your Information from Other Google Products
Your personal information can also show up on other Google related products and services.
Here’s how to remove any personal information from each:
Google Maps
Google Maps shows up contact details for businesses. However, from time to time, they rely on third-parties to source that information and it can sometimes show up your personal information rather than business information.
Even if you’re not a business owner this can sometimes erroneously happen. To request information be removed from Google Maps, go to this page and follow the instructions.
They also have instructions on how to go about getting your picture blurred on street view.
Blogger is just that, a blogging platform. Therefore information shared on there is classed as opinions and generally Google will not remove it unless their terms of service are violated.
As with Blogger, YouTube is a content sharing platform so generally Google will not remove YouTube videos from their SERPs.
The exception to this rule is when there is a copyright infringement or if the content violates Google’s terms of service.
The Takeaway
My post “14 Great Search Engines You Can Use Instead of Google” generated a great deal of interest, in no small part, due to Google privacy issues. If your privacy has been violated by Google, you do have recourse.
Follow the steps outlined above. Better still, if you haven’t run into a privacy issue, now is the time to be proactive and be diligent in protecting your privacy.
More Resources:
Image Credits
Featured Image: tigerlily713 / PixabayIn-Post Image: LoboStudioHamburg / PixabayAll screenshots taken by author, April 2019

How to Prepare for the Boom of Instagram Local Business Profile Pages by @ashleymadhatter

In early March, Matt Southern was one of the first to be in the “know” of a new, in-app feature of Instagram: Local Business Profile Pages.
I highly recommend taking reading that article, as he does a great job explaining the earliest example and insights into this new feature in the Instagram library.

These local business pages are essentially the equivalent of if Google’s Local Knowledge Panels and Instagram had a lovechild. Much of the information displayed is not unlike what you would find on a Google My Business account.
Before you go scrambling to your Instagram to claim your business’ local business profile page, this is far from an official release. Not every user is even able to see, much less claim, a local business profile on Instagram.
That said, they are definitely coming and these small leaks confirm that.
While we may not be able to play with our own local business profile page yet, there’s a lot that we can do to prepare for the time when this rollout becomes more widespread and official.
Dissecting an Instagram Local Business Profile Page
Before we start, let’s do a little high school biology and dissect one of these pages to better understand its anatomy and what exactly is included in one of these local business profiles.

This is one of the screenshots that Southern was provided with when he inquired about the pages further.
Most readily, we see basic information about the business:
Business category or type.
Price range.
Phone number.
We also see the Instagram handle for the business’ account, their profile picture/icon and a couple of posts.
I did some digging and found that these are the three most recent posts shared by the account.
I did a little more digging for examples of Instagram local business profiles and found this example:

This shows us that video thumbnails won’t be included in the selection of the three most recent posts. Only images will count! That is super important to know as most content creators are moving everything toward video.
Now that we have a fuller understanding of the working parts of an Instagram local profile, we can begin making preparations.
Check Your Facebook Business Profile
In the upper righthand corner of the aRoqa screenshot, we see the “Claim” button. Southern explains, “Users can claim a business profile page if they also have access to the business’ Facebook page.”
For one, this is a big sigh of relief. It ensures that businesses have control over who can claim their Instagram local business profile.
We can also assume that this basic information will be extracted from our Facebook business pages. Thus, you’ll want to double check that all of that information is still relevant and correct.
A basic step? Sure, but I wouldn’t doubt that you’ll find an error or an old bit of information sitting on your business profile today. 
This is especially true for businesses that have more than one location, as it may cause some confusion when IG retrieves the information. Your Boston store may end up with New York’s information. Yikes!
More Scrutiny for What You Post to Instagram
It’s uncertain if a business will ever have the option to pin images into the three slots shown on the local profile, or if it will always show the last three pictures posted.
Assuming the latter, this creates a lot of interesting dilemmas regarding what you post to your business’ IG page.
Let’s take a closer look at The Harding Tavern’s local page:

The first image is great; we get a nice, full view of the restaurant’s bar in the background, along with a delicious looking cocktail in the foreground.
The middle picture, while not showing us anything related to the restaurant’s food, drinks or atmosphere, isn’t terrible. It demonstrates that it’s a great place to catch a March Madness game, which may be very enticing to someone browsing local restaurants on Instagram for this exact reason.
The final picture is the most troubling. At face value, it doesn’t give us any insight into the restaurant. Unless a visitor clicks into “The Harding Tavern” profile page and views the post do they see that the image has to do with an upcoming event. Moreso, it looks like an image posted by a brewery.

It’s an aesthetic picture that may make for good content for the bar’s current followers, but it does little to entice new business from local profile visitors.
As businesses prepare for Instagram’s local business profile pages, it’s imperative that they start thinking about appealing to their current social media audience and using this tool to attract new customers.
This means being extra mindful of every single post and what message you are conveying.
It means heavily scrutinizing what’s being posted and currently holding those top three most recent spots, which will appear on the local profile.
Get in the Habit of Posting Instagram Stories
Instagram local profile pages don’t give business owners a lot of room to draw visitors in. 
Aside from those three recent pictures, there isn’t a lot for a business to be judged on, beyond its basic information.
This is going to make habitually posting Instagram stories even more crucial. 
IG users are often more inclined to check a story, rather than a profile page, especially when browsing. Clicking through to the profile means they’ll have to backtrack to return to the page they were previously viewing.
Instagram Stories, on the other hand, don’t interrupt browsing. When the story is over, or the user is done watching, they are immediately returned to the content they were viewing.
Put yourself in the shoes of an Instagram user that is browsing local businesses:
Do you want to have to click into each unique profile to learn more, only to then click back to your local map?
Or, would you rather quickly watch a few stories and judge each business that way, without any hindrance to your browsing experience?
A lot of users are going to opt for option two. How do I know?
Because Instagram Stories are stupidly popular.
According to Instagram’s own data, over 500 million user accounts watch an Instagram Story every day. Instagram also states that there are over 500 million accounts active in a single day.
We can all do the math on that one.
Needless to say, when Instagram does the official rollout of this new feature, as a local business you want to be ahead of the game.
Start reworking your Instagram posting strategy with the tips above to ensure you’ll be more than ready when it’s your turn to claim your local business profile page.
More Resources:
Image Credits
Screenshots #1-2 taken by Raj Nijjer, March 2019Screenshots #3-5 taken by author, April 2019

The 10 Best Image Search Engines by @JuliaEMcCoy

These days, image search engines are more advanced than ever. No matter what kind of image you want to find, chances are, with the right keywords, search filters, and tools, you’ll find it.
That’s not all, though.
Need to find a source for an image? Do a reverse image search.
Want a high-res image to use in your next marketing campaign or on your website? Use advanced image search filters to find images with the correct usage rights.
Even if you just want a big, beautiful photo to use as your desktop wallpaper, there’s an image search engine for that, too.
Here are the best ones, in no particular order.

TinEye is a reverse image search engine that helps you source images and finds where they appear on the web.
The tool lets you search by both URLs and uploaded images. Just click the arrow icon in front of the search box and upload any image from your computer to find where it appears online.

There’s also a TinEye Chrome extension for faster reverse image searches. It allows you to right-click on any image and search for it using TinEye’s technology.

You can’t beat Google Images for basic image searches. Just enter a keyword and go.
For more in-depth searching, there are lots of filters, too.
For example, when I search for “bluebird”, I can narrow down photos to just cartoons, vintage drawings, and illustrations, or even tattoo designs.

Even further, clicking “Tools” gives you access to more filters: size, color, usage rights, type of photo, and when it was uploaded/created.
This is super-handy for finding exactly the kind of image you want, as well as images that are royalty-free.

Google Reverse Image Search
Google Images also offers a reverse image search tool. To access it, click on the camera icon in the search box.

Another option for image search engines is Yahoo Image Search.
This tool looks similar to Google Images, but the results are slightly different.
You’ll also notice the filtering tools aren’t hidden, but easy to access.

Want an alternative to Google?
Bing Image Search is a little different because you start out seeing a feed of popular/trending images.

The layout and features are still pretty close to Google, though, and you’ll see similar results:

One interesting feature is the People filter, which lets you choose photos of people according to how they were photographed (just faces or head & shoulders).

Pretty useful, right?

5. Pinterest Visual Search Tool
Did you know Pinterest has its own visual search tool? It makes sense since it’s an image-based platform.
It’s pretty simple to use:
Log into your Pinterest account.
Click on any pin in your home feed (or on any profile or board).
Click the icon in the bottom-right corner of the pinned image.

The tool will return visually similar results to the image you searched.
Pinterest has quite a large database of images thanks to user-created pins, so this is a source you shouldn’t rule out when you need to find a particular image.

Looking for an image search engine with more varied results? Try Picsearch.

You won’t get results as specific as what you’ll find in Google, Bing, or Yahoo, but if you don’t need that, this could be a good tool for finding interesting photos that broadly match your keyword.
There’s also a nice feature in the Advanced Search option that lets you filter images by size, including wallpaper-size.

Flickr is a different kind of image search engine because the pool of images comes from amateur and professional photographers sharing their work on the platform.

If you enjoy browsing and searching for beautiful photos, this is your spot.
If you’re looking for photos to use in commercial or marketing projects, make sure you filter your searches by the correct usage license.

For beautiful stock photos, check Getty Images.

You can search by keyword or search by image – just click the camera icon in the search box.
If you search by keyword, the auto-suggest feature has some helpful options to narrow down your search.

Getty Images has an incredible array of search filters, too, so there’s no way you won’t find the exact type of image you’re looking for.

Keep in mind: You’ll have to pay for a royalty-free license for whatever photo you want to use. Getty Images offers this licensing on an image-by-image basis, or you can purchase packs of photos for a flat price.

Another, cheaper image search engine for royalty-free stock photos is Shutterstock.
Their image library is just as large as Getty Images, and their search filters just as in-depth.

Shutterstock offers pre-paid image packs as well as annual plans. Their most popular includes 350 image downloads/month for $169/month.
Another good option for marketers on a budget: get a pack of any 5 royalty-free images for $49.

Looking for high-quality digital images, including high-res scans of historical books, maps, papers, sketchbooks, ledgers, photographs, and more?

The NYPL Digital Collections has a vast archive of images in the public domain, which means you can use and reuse the images any way you like.
It’s a great image search engine for finding unique photos.
Once you start searching, it’s fun to explore the different digitized items.
For example, this search led me to an illustrated page from a book on New York fauna.

Quite simply, these are images you won’t find anywhere else.
Image Search Engines Are Bursting with Potential
Overall, image search engines are better than ever. Don’t settle for just one – use the tool that best suits your needs.
Make sure you play around with keywords and search filters to find those hidden gems.
Furthermore, dare to stray from the confines of Google. You never know what you’ll find – you just might be pleasantly surprised.
More Resources:
Image Credits
All screenshots taken by author, March 2019

Google Search Console Performance Report Gets Android App Filter

I was checking stuff in Google Search Console and I see a filter in the search appearance filter within the performance report for Android apps. It seems it is showing data from March 29th. I’ve never seen that filter there before but it seems to be there now.
Here is a screen shot, click to enlarge:

In the Google docs for search appearance filters – Android app is not listed there. What are listed include AMP article rich results, AMP non-rich results, event, Google Play Instant, job listings, job details, media actions, rich result, search result link and web light result.
So I guess this may be a new filter to show Android apps that lead to this? I am not sure if this is the Search Engine Roundtable app or other apps that cause this data to show?
Forum discussion at Twitter.
Update: Google just posted after this story went live – I pinged John Mueller about it, and they posted on Twitter that this is a new feature for sites that have Android apps associated sites their web sites – like we do.

Do you have an Android App associated with your website? 👉 In Search Console you can now see the app’s clicks, impressions, CTR, and position with a separate search appearance in the Performance report.
— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) April 8, 2019

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