Trending February 2024 # Google Settles Lawsuit Alleging It Unfairly Kept Adsense Earnings # Suggested March 2024 # Top 10 Popular

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Google has settled a lawsuit alleging it unfairly kept AdSense earnings belonging to publishers whose accounts were closed due to suspicious activities. The case, at the time of settlement, focused on Google’s practice of withholding 100% of a banned publisher’s unpaid earnings, including earnings that were not a result of suspicious activities. Google denies wrongdoing.

History of the Lawsuit Against Google

The lawsuit was filed almost four years ago in May 2014 by a company known as Free Range Content. It was preceded by an anonymous whistle blower allegations that alleged Google had an internal policy to wait until the end of the payment period before banning publishers experiencing invalid activity.

Why Did Google Settle?

Google (which had revenue of over $32 billion dollars in the fourth quarter of 2023) stated that the cost of litigation was too expensive.  The official statement cited that fighting the lawsuit “would be burdensome and expensive.” The agreement calls for Google to pay $11 million dollars.

Google Warns Publishers About Violating Rules

Google called out examples of publishers posting articles on pages that misrepresented what they were.

Google Encourages Publishers to Review Ad Experiences

On April 3rd, AdSense’s Twitter account encouraged publishers to watch their video about content that can be seen to be adult content. The Twitter account also encouraged publishers to read their March 27, 3018 Inside AdSense blog post titled Protecting Publishers: How Advertising Policies & Policy Enforcement Work

Google published this infographic to explain how ad policy enforcement works

Here is some of what was published on the AdSense blog:

Images by Shutterstock, modified by Author

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Google Makes It Easy To Create Video Ads

Google Ads’ Liaison Ginny Marvin announces video creation is now available in the asset library:

Google Ads Video Creation Tool

The video ad creation tool has 14 templates to choose from, which are all designed around different objectives.

Google states in a blog post:

“The templates are made for YouTube, meaning they have optimal pacing, brand and product placements and prominent calls to action. They are designed to help your ad stand out and drive results. With templates guiding you, the complexity of creating a video disappears and you can spend more time developing your messaging, audience insights or campaign strategy.”

Creating a video ad is as simple as filling a template with images, text, and brand colors. You can also add music from Google’s audio library or an automated voice-over.

Add a Voice-Over To YouTube Video Ads

You can access this feature in the Google Ads asset library. As shown below, you must enter a script and select from one of seven voices.

Automated voice-overs are available in English, Filipino, French, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Malaysian, Mandarin, Spanish, and Swedish.

Google Ads Asset Storage

Google is introducing a centrally located asset library to improve how images and videos are organized, accessed, and created.

This feature is most useful for marketing teams where multiple members are collaborating on the same campaigns.

In a blog post, Google states:

“With the asset library, images and videos are available to users across your Google Ads account in a visual-first experience. You and your colleagues can view, import and organize creative assets from both past and present campaigns. This makes sharing, collaboration and consistency easy.”

A centrally located asset library eliminates the need to upload assets more than once. You can access the same images and video across all campaigns.

This feature is available in Performance Max, Discovery, App, Local, Display campaigns, and some ad extensions.

Sources: Google Ads Help, Google Ads & Commerce Blog.

The Disavow Tool: Is It A Google Ranking Factor?

The disavow tool, now located in your Google Search Console, enables you to tell Google not to count spammy links as part of your link profile.

Following Google’s Penguin update in 2012, toxic links became a huge issue. Sites with link profiles that appeared unnatural ended up hurting a lot of businesses and brands that had dabbled in spammy link building tactics in prior years.

SEO professionals balked at the idea of having to contact someone on the other end of every potentially damaging link to ask for its removal. There were also many reports of extortion (“Sure, we’ll remove that sketchy link, just send us lots of $$$!”)

And although Google initially resisted, the disavow tool was born.

We know unnatural links can negatively affect your search rankings.

So can you improve your search rankings by using Google’s disavow tool?

Let’s answer this question.

The Claim: Disavow Tool as a Ranking Factor

Claims about this range from “use it to protect your rankings” to “we used the disavow tool and rankings skyrocketed.”

The idea is that if you rid your link profile of spam, identifiably paid, and other low-quality links, your organic search rankings will directly benefit.

The Evidence for the Disavow Tool as a Ranking Factor

Reddit and SEO forums are rife with anecdotes about the power of disavowing links.

Here are just a few titles currently coming up on the topic:

How to Use Google’s Disavow Tool For Better Rankings

How to Effectively Disavow Links & Protect Organic Ranking

Disavow Unnatural Links and Improve Your Rankings

Really, that’s about it.

There’s no verifiable evidence that would prove that using the disavow tool tells the algorithm anything about your site.

The Evidence Against the Disavow Tool as a Ranking Factor

Google is careful in its positioning of the disavow tool as a preventative measure against manual action – not a component of the organic ranking algorithm – and says:

“If you have a manual action against your site for unnatural links to your site, or if you think you’re about to get such a manual action (because of paid links or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines), you should try to remove the links from the other site to your site.

If you can’t remove those links yourself, or get them removed, then you should disavow the URLs of the questionable pages or domains that link to your website.”

But as Penguin taught the SEO world, manual actions aren’t the only weapon in Google’s link spam arsenal.

Links are a ranking factor, and the disavow tool can help you clean up that signal.

Still, it’s not a ranking factor on its own and is only useful in cases where the link spam is so egregious Google can’t possibly ignore it on its own.

The Disavow Tool as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Is using the disavow tool a ranking factor?

No. You will not experience any lift in search rankings for using the tool.

Are links a ranking factor?

Absolutely.

Can you positively influence organic rankings by cleaning up the links pointing to your site?

Yes. It’s a matter of reducing any potential negative impact of low quality/spam links; you are influencing an existing ranking factor.

But only in certain cases, and those tend to be few and far between.

If you’ve experienced a manual penalty, cleaning that up is going to stop the suppression of your site in Google search.

Even outside of a manual action, spammy and identifiably paid or otherwise manipulated links could be negatively impacting the algorithm’s assessment of your link profile.

You can actually end up doing more harm than good by disavowing links.

As Google’s John Mueller says,

“Random links collected over the years aren’t necessarily harmful, we’ve seen them for a long time too and can ignore all of those weird pieces of web-graffiti from long ago.

Disavow links that were really paid for (or otherwise actively unnaturally placed), don’t fret the cruft.”

If you do use it and don’t see any results, it could be that you didn’t need to use it in the first place – or, you need to follow up with a reconsideration request.

As Chuck Price recommends:

“The most common misconception is the disavow tool doesn’t work. It does. For a manual penalty, the disavow file works, when used as a last resort. That means that a full fledged and well documented link removal campaign must precede it.

The disavow file, combined with a detailed reconsideration request, is a core component in successfully getting a manual penalty revoked.”

Bottom line: Google does not use your use of the disavow tool as a search ranking signal.

Featured image: Paulo Bobita

The 2013 Google Encryption And What It Means For You

We survived Panda, Penguin, and a host of other near-crippling online marketing changes and sat on the edge or our seats awaiting this year’s massively new roll-out. Many of us hoped the delay meant nothing major was happening in the industry, but our hopes were swiftly dashed as Google announced its newest massive master business plan to revolutionize how we, as website owners, do business with them.

We’re not just talking about Hummingbird here, the search giant’s new algorithmic update that would provide users with richer and more conversational search results. It’s a huge modification and will affect 90% of all global searches. To keep up with the update, webmasters must maintain top-notch, rich content that can satisfy intent.

But that’s not only big news that SEOs should worry about. Earlier this month, Google announced that it would be encrypting all search activity within its walls, thus cutting off SEOs and marketers from accessing valuable keyword and search data.

The 2013 Google Encryption News Brief

While Google is being accused of doing this under the guise of hiding customer activity from the NSA (National Security Agency) due to the accusation of giving the NSA access to search data in June of 2013, we cannot help but wonder if the real reason is simply a smart business move. That is, to force more people to purchase their services and specifically, Google AdWords. Which is more realistic, seeing that Google switched their keyword Tool to a paid service and combined it with Google AdWords back in July and August of 2013.

What the 2013 Google Encryption Means for Everybody Else

The 2013 Google Encryption (for lack of a better nickname like Panda or Penguin), means that anybody who relies on search data to fund their content and website data will no longer be able to identify which keywords lead traffic to their site. It means that we, as business owners and content creators, will have an even more difficult time finding out which keywords to use to target our market audience. Thus, limiting and even crippling visibility in user search for thousands, if not millions, of inexperienced and untrained website owners.

Google reported that the encryption would impact less than 10 percent of web-searches. Though, businesses and blog owners alike have reported a steady rise each month with near 100 percent encryption eminent by the end of this year from all Google specific searches.

Introducing Unknown-Keywords and Not Provided Count by Google 2013 Encryption

This new encryption update doesn’t just mean that web marketers, SEO techs, and content providers will lose some of their marketing data, it will mean they will lose all of it via Google services. Google tools and non-Google companies, which used Google tools to provide their customers with important data about traffic to their site, now see the two most dreaded words in the marketing industry: Unknown-Keywords and Not Provided Count. This means that they are not provided with what keywords lead customers to their websites as well as being left in the dark about how many were lead there. Although the current search data encryption is hovering at about 80 percent, it is only months until we reach 100 percent. The question from concerned site owners and marketing strategists are met with a cold shoulder and dead silence by Google.

The Six Google 2013 Data Encryption Workarounds

The situation seems hopeless to a lot of people. For many, there is nothing you can do to change the situation Google has crammed us into. However, we are not without hope. This new roll-out gives us new opportunities and drastically changes how we need to approach the target market.

First, SEO needs to be approached in totality, not just meta-data and keyword placement within content. As marketing specialists, we need to focus less on keyword conversion rates and more on serving the customers with relevant and authoritative websites. This means, we as online business and website owners, now have to rely less on SEO strategies and more on traditional lead generation strategies to achieve business objectives.

Second, while Google keyword and search data is nearing 100 percent anonymity, other search engines are still offering their data to site owners for free. Since roughly 30 to 35 percent of search traffic comes from other major search engine companies like AOL, chúng tôi Bing and Yahoo, we website owners still have access to a limited amount of search data about organic traffic.

Fourth, page level tracking still works. This means that if we are smart, and good website owners should be this smart, we can still track entire pages of content. While we cannot tell which keywords lead to the organic traffic of that content, we can see how well the subject matter performed with our target audience. Thus, promoting the ability to see which subjects appeal to which customers or sell which products.

How to Transcend the Google 2013 Encryption

As our peers suddenly find their SEO strategies flat-lining and their website marketing efforts grinding to a halt, is there a way to transcend the old methods of marketing? Indeed there is, and it will take a melding of old, new, offline, network marketing, and even MLM strategies to make our efforts shine.

Eight Top Golden Rules for Survival:

1. We must let go of the idea that the top two slots on search results are the best from a marketing standpoint. Although most people rarely go as deep as five pages into search results, being on top of page one is not as important as we thought. Instead, optimize for the title and snippet within search results, aiming to capture reader attention  above competitors.

2. Traffic count and social following count are not as relevant as actual sales and lead generation. Those with the most traffic or social following are not necessarily the most successful businesses. Instead of getting lost in the numbers, get lost in making your efforts count towards the bottom line, your bottom line financially. If you are not making increased sales along with increased traffic, then relearn how to reach your target market through content and value of that content.

3. SEO mastery is not something better left to the IT tech or web designer. If you want a website that really sells, let the specialists do their own job. This means the designer catches the audience through visual design, the IT tech manages functionality of the website, the marketer manages the ad campaigns, the PR rep manages public reach outside the internet, and you hire a content creator who knows how to reach the heart of your target market in ways which lead to sales.

4. Linking URLS is not the end all of traffic. Truthfully, if some URLs lead to or from bad neighborhoods, it will still hurt business. So be careful of your online bedfellows. On the other hand, all the links in the world will not help generate sales anymore than page rank or social media. You can lead people to your site but you can’t make them buy. Focus, instead, on the value your site provides your potential and returning customers. Aim to reach them through content, site usability, and a product which sells itself because it is useful. Follow that up with links that add value, to your site or complementary companies.

5. Content still is no more useful than SEO strategies. While good content sells, good SEO helps tremendously with getting it there in the first place. Even though Google is making us fly blind, a good SEO strategy is still a winning emblem of good site management. The old rules still apply, do what works for your site and your product and yours alone, with a view to avoiding anything which smacks of spam to search engines programs. Optimize to readers, not search engines, but still spend time on back-end search engine optimization.

7. SEO strategies DO NOT mean defining exact keywords and repeating them or creating fancy header tags. These outdated optimization techniques are now part of the spam flag triggers implemented in passing years by the Google company during penguin, panda, and their entire zoo and parking lot of massive-scale updates. So, the new strategy is to change up SEO. Optimized instead for a solid theme of content per page, and only use header and sub-header tags and other HTML codes to maintain visual appeal of the site.

How to Survive the 2013 Google Changes

Remember that Google is a business and like all other businesses, they are going to do what makes the best financial sense for them. In the aftermath of this year’s roll-out, remember not to get to caught up in the tragedies it will cause. Instead, begin by implementing a well-rounded approach and common sense when it comes to marketing. Broaden your approach in marketing to include online, offline, networking, and MLM strategies. Traffic count does not equal prosperity unless the content and the product reaches the hearts and serves the needs of  the prospect.

Therefore, to survive this update, we must make firm our resolve to broaden our education and open our mind to new marketing strategies and efforts. While many of us cannot afford to take the time to revamp our entire website, its content, or our social media campaign. We can, and should, work towards a better internet and website experience for our prospective clientele. In so doing, we will come out on top of the marketing game.

photo credits:

FutUndBeidl via photopin cc

Gavin Llewellyn via photopin cc

Apple Reports Q1 2023 Earnings Miss Amid Weak Iphone Sales And Supply Shortages

Apple’s highly-anticipated earnings for fiscal Q1 2023 are here, covering the months of October, November, and December. This quarter represents the all-important holiday shopping season for Apple and was also the first full quarter of iPhone 14 availability.

In a quarter significantly impacted by supply chain shortages, Apple reported $117.15 billion in revenue with a profit of $29.99 billion. That’s a decline of 5% in revenue and 13% in net income, compared to the same quarter one year ago.

Analyst predictions

Going into today’s Q1 2023 earnings release, analysts were pessimistic in their predictions. The consensus among analysts was for total revenue of $122.85 billion, which means they were expecting a decline of around $1 billion compared to Q1 2023.

The context here is that Apple battled significant supply constraints in Q1 2023, primarily affecting the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max. Apple was even forced to release a statement to investors back in November, warning that iPhone 14 Pro shipments would be lower than previously anticipated.

Today’s release of Q1 2023 earnings gives us a closer look at how big of an impact those supply shortages had on Apple’s performance.

AAPL Q1 2023 earnings details

For context, Apple reported a record revenue of $123.95 billion for Q1 2023 with a profit of $34.6 billion. That represented an all-time revenue record for the company. The 5% year-over-year revenue decline represents Apple’s largest quarterly revenue decline since 2024.

Apple no longer reports unit sales for any of its products but instead reports a breakdown of revenue by product category. Here is the full breakdown for the fiscal Q1 2023, compared to fiscal Q1 2023 numbers.

iPhone: $65.78 billion (vs. $71.63 billion)

Mac: $7.74 billion (vs. $10.85 billion)

iPad: $9.40 billion (vs. $7.25 billion)

Wearables, home, and accessories: $13.48 billion (vs. $14.70 billion)

Services: $20.78 billion (vs. $19.5 billion)

Apple CEO Tim Cook touted the company’s performance in Q1 2023:

“As we all continue to navigate a challenging environment, we are proud to have our best lineup of products and services ever, and as always, we remain focused on the long term and are leading with our values in everything we do,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “During the December quarter, we achieved a major milestone and are excited to report that we now have more than 2 billion active devices as part of our growing installed base.”

Apple CFO Luca Maestri echoed Cook:

“We set an all-time revenue record of $20.8 billion in our Services business, and in spite of a difficult macroeconomic environment and significant supply constraints, we grew total company revenue on a constant currency basis,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO. “We generated $34 billion in operating cash flow and returned over $25 billion to shareholders during the quarter while continuing to invest in our long-term growth plans.”

You can read Apple’s full earnings release in this post on Apple Newsroom. Stay tuned to 9to5Mac for more coverage from the AAPL earnings call with Tim Cook and Luca Maestri next. You can also listen live via the company’s Investor Relations website at 2:00 pm PT/5:00 pm ET.

AAPL share prices are sliding in after-hours trading, down as much as 5%.

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Epic Games Lawsuit: Academics From Harvard, Stanford, Ucl, And More Testify Against Apple

The Epic Games lawsuit continues in the form of written testimony ahead of the trial next month. Epic has presented expert arguments from a number of academics from prestigious colleges as it makes its antitrust case against Apple. In particular, the experts took issue with Apple’s claim that the primary role of the App Store was to protect users.

Dr. David Evans from University College London (UCL) said that it’s not realistic to say that iPhone users can simply switch to Android phones if they are unhappy with Apple’s approach to app sales.

iOS and Android users make sunk cost investments in hardware, software, and learning for their respective ecosystems. A decision to switch OSs is a decision to move ecosystems, meaning consumers would lose the value of these investments and have to make new ones. These costs reduce consumers’ incentive to switch.  

That’s because they’d in most cases have to pay again for the Android version of each of their apps, despite having already paid for the iOS app.

Evans also said that examining the market for Mac apps shows that developers prefer multiple app stores to a single one run by Apple.

Stanford Economics of Technology professor Susan Athey backed the sunk cost argument, and additionally argued that there was no truth in Apple’s claim that a single App Store run by the iPhone maker is necessary to ensure security.

My expert opinion is that iPhone security is in fact significantly independent of the review process and the distribution channel (however they may be implemented). Thus, my expert opinion is that Apple considerably overstates the security benefits of its centralized App Store model. Apple is justified in caring about the security of its users; however, an iPhone’s security guarantees are predominantly enforced by the iPhone’s operating system, not by Apple’s App Store and the associated review process.

Georgia Institute of Technology professor Wenke Lee echoed this view, pointing out that Apple could simply sign developer certificates the way it does for Mac apps.

I have evaluated the iOS security model based on Apple’s own stated goals and processes for enforcing security on iOS. My analysis led me to conclude that … the same security features Apple seeks to enforce on iOS can be achieved without the need for exclusive distribution. For instance, third parties could perform the same security screening steps taken during App Review, and Dr. Rubin does not dispute this. Third parties can also perform developer identity verification and code signing. Most importantly, all of the on-device mechanisms that enforce security on iOS are independent of the app distribution model.

Dr. Michael Cragg from economic consulting firm The Brattle Group addressed Apple’s claim that developers who don’t like the Cupertino company’s terms are free to create apps for other platforms. He said that iOS is such an important platform that this is not realistic.

Developers are highly dependent on App Store revenue, and Apple has significantly more bargaining leverage than any individual developer. As such, Apple’s Experts are wrong to claim that developers can switch in sufficient numbers to serve a competitive constraint on Apple.

He said that Apple had also failed to detect thousands of apps that breached the company’s rules, approving them for inclusion in the App Store.

Pre-trial arguments in the Epic Games lawsuit continue as we await the court case itself, provisionally scheduled to begin on May 3.

Photo: James Yarema/Unsplash

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