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Don’t panic! Google has released a new core algorithm

(TECH NEWS) Google rolled out a new core SEO algorithm update this month, but here’s why you shouldn’t freak out just yet.

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Google search open on laptop with SEO algorithm in place

Don’t freak out, but Google has rolled out an updated core algorithm, meaning the rules of this wild SEO ride may be changing yet again. Google officially launched the new algorithm rollout on Dec. 3, 2020, with the expectation that it would take a couple of weeks to settle fully in place.

Why should you care?

Google’s algorithms are super important to entrepreneurs or any business with a website or blog. If nobody sees the blog you’re writing or finds your website, how will you ever attract new customers or advertisers? Entire books have been written and companies formed over the concept of helping others find the key to unlocking the Search Engine Optimization secrets.

Oh no, what are they up to now?

Because Google is the most frequently used browser, ranking on the first page is a highly coveted feat. Everyone wants their business or blog to rank on the first page (or two). Being able to move up in the search rankings means more people find you, and your pageviews increase. If you are selling something, that means you have a better chance of making a sale. If you are selling ad space or looking to be sponsored otherwise, pageviews are crucial to proving your value to those sponsors and advertisers.

This means, of course, that every time Google rolls out a new core algorithm, there is much clutching of pearls and slapping of foreheads among SEO experts, marketers, publishers, bloggers, and really anyone who works in e-commerce. The truth is, the rollout could very well be a good thing. Especially if the last core algorithm change reduced your pageviews. If you have been working on optimizing your website and improving SEO, this could attract a higher ranking.

Trends we are seeing with the new core algorithm

Google doesn’t merely change the algorithm to toy with or annoy us, although it can feel that way. Their constant tweaking of the algorithm has a purpose–to weed out phishers, lurkers, spammers, and the rest of the bad agents, in order to place your desired results in front of you.

Expect to see changes, though. Good or bad, Google changes their algorithms with intention, and that means you will surely see a change in rankings and, therefore, pageviews. As Search Engine Journal in a pre-launch story puts it, “Broad core updates are designed to produce widely noticeable effects across search results in all countries in all languages.”

Remember, though, “different” doesn’t mean “bad.” Matching search engine users with the content most relevant to them should bring you that much closer to your target audience. SEO Roundtable, for example, has seen an increase in traffic since the core algorithm rollout.

Rank fluctuations so far have been significant, according to early data. SEMRush for Search Engine Land determined that “Desktop search changes were most felt in the health, real estate, travel, finance, law and government and on mobile search health, law and government, jobs and education, pets & animals, real estate.”This is likely good news for sites with e-commerce, who have been worried how the core algorithm update would impact holiday shopping sales.

The holidays themselves, not to mention the overall weirdness of the pandemic causing changes in 2020, may make it more difficult to discern whether the ranking and pageview changes are directly related to the core algorithm update or to a handful of other factors. The update may not be entirely rolled out, either.

What should you do now?

What is clear from this core algorithm update is that most sites will notice a difference. The best way to stay ahead is to continue to follow Google’s guidelines for websites. In a nutshell, continue to keep your users in mind when creating content, not search engines. Use keywords, but don’t try to game the system; relevance is key.

Your home page should provide users with all the information they need to see what the site is about and how to interact for the intended purpose (e.g., for shopping or reading an article). The website should be maintained from the back end, making sure it’s functional and safe for users. It’s still a really good thing to have other sites link back to your content. As always, providing relevant, clearly defined, and high quality content is super important.

If you notice a big negative impact, reevaluate what you are doing. If your website appears to be tanking, consider how to improve the relevance and quality of your web content and/or the functionality. Website rankings are a moving target, and Google likes movement. Keep creating and publishing. Continue considering the wants, needs, and online habits of your target users. Remember that Google updates their core algorithm updates, which are global, a few times a year.

Joleen Jernigan is an ever-curious writer, grammar nerd, and social media strategist with a background in training, education, and educational publishing. A native Texan, Joleen has traveled extensively, worked in six countries, and holds an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She lives in Austin and constantly seeks out the best the city has to offer.

Tech News

Google is giving back some privacy control? (You read that right)

(TECH NEWS) In a bizarre twist, Google is giving you the option to opt out of data collection – for real this time.

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Open laptop on desk, open to map privacy options

It’s strange to hear “Google” and “privacy” in the same sentence without “concerns” following along, yet here we are. In a twist that’s definitely not related to various controversies involving the tech company, Google is giving back some control over data sharing—even if it isn’t much.

Starting soon, you will be able to opt out of Google’s data-reliant “smart” features (Smart Compose and Smart Reply) across the G-Suite of pertinent products: Gmail, Chat, and Meet. Opting out would, in this case, prevent Google from using your data to formulate responses based on your previous activity; it would also turn off the “smart” features.

One might observe that users have had the option to turn off “smart” features before, but doing so didn’t disable Google’s data collection—just the features themselves. For Google to include the option to opt out of data collection completely is relatively unprecedented—and perhaps exactly what people have been clamoring for on the heels of recent lawsuits against the tech giant.

In addition to being able to close off “smart” features, Google will also allow you to opt out of data collection for things like the Google Assistant, Google Maps, and other Google-related services that lean into your Gmail Inbox, Meet, and Chat activity. Since Google knowing what your favorite restaurant is or when to recommend tickets to you can be unnerving, this is a welcome change of pace.

Keep in mind that opting out of data collection for “smart” features will automatically disable other “smart” options from Google, including those Assistant reminders and customized Maps. At the time of this writing, Google has made it clear that you can’t opt out of one and keep the other—while you can go back and toggle on data collection again, you won’t be able to use these features without Google analyzing your Meet, Chat, and Gmail contents and behavior.

It will be interesting to see what the short-term ramifications of this decision are. If Google stops collecting data for a small period of time at your request and then you turn back on the “smart” features that use said data, will the predictive text and suggestions suffer? Only time will tell. For now, keep an eye out for this updated privacy option—it should be rolling out in the next few weeks.

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Tech News

Looking to refresh your virtual rooms? Check out Zoom’s Immersive View

(TECH NEWS) Zoom’s new Immersive View feature will help you feel like you’re back in the workplace or classroom again – or wherever you want to be.

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Zoom's new Immersive View allows users to be creative and place participants on landscapes, like this field of flowers.

If you’re tired of feeling separated from your coworkers, friends, or classmates, Zoom has a new feature that will make you feel like you’re all in the same place once again. At Zoomtopia, Zoom’s annual user conference, the company announced its Immersive View feature that they say will allow for a “more engaging and collaborative way to meet”.

With Immersive View, video participants can all be arranged in a single virtual space. Hosts can choose from one of Zoom’s immersive virtual scenes and embed video participants within that scene.

To make sure your scene is as natural as possible, hosts can move around and resize a participant’s image so they can look like they are sitting on a chair in a classroom or conference room. For added fun, you can even set a custom background. So, if you’d rather be part of the Galactic Senate Chamber, you can create your own scene.

Up to 25 video participants can be in the same virtual space. Any additional people after that will show up as a thumbnail strip on the top of the screen. And, at any time, you can change the view back to Speaker View or Gallery View if you want to.

How to get started with Zoom’s Immersive View
Immersive View is available on Windows and macOS for desktop. By default, all Free and single Pro accounts using Zoom 5.6.3 or higher will have the feature enabled.

To use the feature, first start your Zoom meeting or webinar on your desktop. In the top-right corner, click “View” and select “Immersive View”.

To place participants into the scene, choose between automatically and manually. By choosing automatic, as many participants as the layout will allow will be added to the scene. If you choose manual, you can add and remove participants as you’d like. Since Immersive View will use the first 25 participants, manual works well for larger meetings. If participant No. 26 needs to speak up, you can remove someone and add No. 26 in.

After you’ve made your choice, select one of the provided virtual backgrounds or upload your own image. If you choose to use your own custom background, make sure to follow Zoom’s virtual background specs for the best results.

Finally, click “Start” to launch your scene, and, now, you’re all set!

Those that aren’t using Zoom 5.6.3 or higher will not be able to see the Immersive View. Instead, they will see either the Gallery View or Speaker View with a black background.

Currently, Immersive View isn’t available in breakout rooms yet. Also, recordings of Immersive Views aren’t supported. Depending on your recording settings, recordings will appear in Gallery View or Speaker View.

Considering all the video call fatigue going on right about now, the timing of Zoom’s Immersive View feature couldn’t come at a better time. It will be refreshing to see a video call without just heads inside boxes.

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Tech News

Create a pandemic-friendly sign-in with this touchless technology

(TECH NEWS) In an era where touchless communication is paramount, Wellcome brings touchless employee and visitor sign-in technology to the workplace.

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Logo page for Wellcome, a touchless technology sign-in.

Touchless technology is becoming more and more common these days and for good reasons — health and safety. Due to the COVID pandemic, social distancing is crucial in helping decrease the amount of positive coronavirus cases.

Unfortunately, some work environments require in-person employees, contractors, and visitors. And now, some businesses are even starting to bring more of their workforce back into the office. While we can hopefully assume they all have some safety protocols in place, the front desk interactions haven’t changed much. This makes it difficult to manage and see who’s in and out.

But to fill in that gap, meet Wellcome. Wellcome is a touchless sign-in platform for employees and visitors. According to their website, the app “helps you manage the workplace effectively, making it safe and easy for everyone” who’s in the office.

And the platform does this by implementing the following features in its tool.

Employee Touchless Check-in
By uploading a list of employees to the Admin, employees automatically receive an email with a one-click “Wellcome Pass”. This pass can be added to their Apple or Android digital wallet.

Once at work, employees scan their pass on an iPad at the reception desk. Then, they will see a customizable confirmation screen with the company’s health and safety guidelines messaging. This reminder can help ensure everyone is following the rules and staying safe.

Visitor Touchless Check-in
For visitors without a Wellcome Pass, they can still scan the QR code on the iPad using their device. The QR code will direct them to a customized check-in form where they can select their host and fill out a health questionnaire on their mobile device.

COVID-Safe Visitor Screening
Based on how a visitor answers the health screening questionnaire, it will grant or deny them access to the office. This health COVID screening will help HR managers “protect the office by restricting access to visitors that might be infected.”

Host Notifications
Via email, Slack, and/or SMS, Wellcome will immediately notify the host when they have a visitor and send them the visitor’s contact details. It will also let them know if their visitor was granted or denied access based on the health screening. If a visitor is denied access, the host is instructed to not meet the visitor, but contact them another way.

Contact Tracing
If there is a potential or confirmed COVID-19 case at work, Wellcome makes it easy to identify and notify anyone who may be at risk. To do this, the HR manager just needs to search by a person’s name and date range in the Admin. Search results will pull up anyone that could have come in contact with the infected person.

The Admin will also notify all employees and visitors that need to self-isolate and get tested. If needed, Wellcome also lets you download and submit a tracing report.

Manage Office Capacity
Wellcome tracks workplace capacity and occupancy data to help maintain social distancing. If occupancy reaches the capacity limit, the Admin will be notified to “take steps to reduce occupancy in order to stay within the required limits.”

In the Admin Dashboard, reports are available to view the status of current capacity. It can also predict what the occupancy will be each day so companies can plan ahead.

Book Workdays
Employees have the option to pre-book when they want to come into the office. The app displays how many slots are available for each day, and it can send out a calendar reminder. Through the Admin, HR managers can see who will be coming into the office. This is Wellcome’s other way of making sure capacity limits are always within range.

Also, setting up Wellcome is pretty simple. All you need is an iPad. You install the app on it and leave it at the reception desk for employees and visitors to check-in.

For companies who have employees and visitors in and out of the office. Wellcome does sound appealing, and it looks like they will benefit a great deal from the platform. And, if you’d like to check it out, Wellcome lets you use the app free for 14 days. Afterwards, you can select a plan that works best for you.

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