Some fun Google coincidences

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The Search Squeeze

There is a lot of drama inside the world of SEO right now. The r/SEO subreddit has never been a particularly cheery corner of the web, but it’s been especially bleak this month. As one user wrote, “does anyone care anymore?”

There are two big issues darkening skies in SEO world right now. The first is Google’s March core update, which crushed traffic to a lot of publishers. The other issue is the rollout of Google’s AI summary search, which will appear at the top of searches for over a billion users by the end of the year. On their face, these two things don’t feel linked, but taken together, they are effectively the end of the line for small-to-mid-sized publishers who hope to make a living on Google. A squeeze happening at both ends.

Let’s talk about the core update first because understanding how Google updates its search algorithm is not easy. Unlike, say, when Facebook “pivots to video,” Google search updates are much more granular.

According to Search Engine Land, the March update was especially brutal. In the simplest terms, it aggressively switched up sites that would typically appear in the bottom half of search results, but also seemed to actively penalize the sites it removed from the ranking. The update seems to have reclassified what Google refers to as “helpful content,” or content written for human beings, which was established in an update back in 2022. This led to a new form of spam called “site reputation abuse,” which is sort of like bad-content laundering. Buy a trusted site, flood it with SEO garbage, profit. The March update was meant to target “site reputation abuse,” among other things.

The update seems to have impacted sites that rank or review products the most. SEO strategist Lily Ray, earlier this month, shared a devastating chart of declining search traffic that seems to only back that theory up. And Gisele Navarro, the managing editor of a site called HouseFresh that reviews air quality products, wrote earlier this month that her site was essentially erased from search overnight thanks to the March core update.

On the other end of the search squeeze, you have Google AI summary search. I’ve had it for months and it’s not great, but it’s good enough. Which is exactly how all successful revolutions in how we use the internet feel at the beginning, unfortunately. As Casey Newton wrote in Platformer recently, “Google will now do the googling for you, and everyone who benefited from humans doing the googling will very soon need to come up with a Plan B.” (If you have it and want to turn it off, here’s a good guide.) Newton, over on Threads, further sketched out how Google might monetize its new AI search summary, writing that it will most likely just absorb all the affiliate fees that used to go to, well, the exact kind of publishers that coincidentally just got knocked out by the March core update. Funny how that lines up.

Alex Kantrowitz, in his Big Technology newsletter, was much more relaxed about this, writing, “The web is probably going to be fine.” Maybe, but we can already see what kind of publishers will succeed in this new era of the web.

The big winner of both Google’s March core update and the move to AI summary search is a digital media conglomerate called Dotdash Meredith. And, at least right now, they’re our best look at what the future of digital publishing will look like if the AI arms race well and truly crushes traditional search. Or, as Charlie Warzel in The Atlantic wrote, “what happens to the web when Google feels it has succeeded in accomplishing the task outlined in its mission statement.”

Even if you’ve never heard of Dotdash Meredith, you’ve probably seen their sites. The digital media conglomerate has been quietly buying up old legacy publications and using them to game search traffic. According to Navarro at HouseFresh, they use a tactic called “swarming” to shut out smaller publishers. They use one of their sites to publish dozens of articles on one topic and dominate the search results for it. Google’s March core update seems to have decided it’s not “site reputation abuse,” apparently, if you do it professionally enough.

I just used an incognito browser to test this out, and searched “new air fryer”. It took four-to-five scrolls to finally get to an actual link, but, sure enough, the second one (of only two) was to a Food & Wine post, which is now owned by Dotdash Meredith.

(Google)

In 2023, Dotdash Meredith CEO Neil Vogel told Axios that their sites won’t use AI-generated content, which is a slight relief. But there are plenty of other digital media companies that are swarming and are using at least partially-AI-generated content. Also, the reason Dotdash Meredith isn’t using AI content is likely because they signed an agreement with OpenAI last month to license their content inside of ChatGPT.

The exact same kind of deal that Google signed with Reddit back in February. Which is the only kind of deal a publisher can actually make any money on if AI summary search becomes the dominant way users start finding stuff online. In fact, you know what’s sitting right below that Dotdash Meredith link when you search “new air fryer”? Reddit links, of course. At least, for now.

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Keep Your SSN Off The Dark Web

Data brokers profit from your sensitive info — phone number, DOB, SSN — and sell it to the highest bidder. Who’s buying it? Well, the best case is just the companies that target you with ads. The worst case? Scammers and identity thieves. 

Which is why you need to check out Incogni. It scrubs your personal data from the web, taking on the world’s data brokers for you. And unlike other services, Incogni helps remove your sensitive information from all broker types, including those tricky People Search Sites.

Help protect yourself from identity theft, spam calls, and health insurers raising your rates. Plus, just for Garbage Day readers: Get 55% off Incogni using code DAY55

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100 Liters Of Monster Energy Drink Vs. A Fork

If you’ve seen this guy filling up a big tank full of stuff and then consuming it, his name is user name is wallywhatthe and, yeah, that’s his whole deal. I have to think these are fake in some way. He did one where he claims to have eaten 100 liters of strawberries, which I just can’t imagine is possible. But I enjoy his content nonetheless!

Who Is The UK’s Sexiest Man?

The Daily Mail had a big viral hit last week with an article that claimed that former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson was voted the sexiest man in the UK. Clarkson reportedly beat out actor Tom Holland and Prince William. Screenshots of the list did big numbers on X and it was even picked up by the most important news outlet of our time, Pop Crave.

Well, I hate to question the editorial sensibilities of esteemed publications like The Daily Mail, Pop Crave, and, uh, random users on X who are mindlessly sharing this, but this ranking is not exactly definitive.

The source for all of this comes from an annual poll conducted by a website called IllicitEncounters, which is an app that helps married couples in UK find affair partners. Weirdly, this little detail does not appear anywhere if you try and google this.

(Google)

The Iranian President’s Helicopter Was Not Downed By A Mossad Agent Named “Eli Copter”

Shayan Sardarizadeh, the BBC’s dutiful disinfo reporter, wrote yesterday that “the sheer volume of viral misinformation… regarding Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's helicopter crash posted by fake OSINT accounts and blue tick grifters for engagement has been something to behold.”

And Sardarizadeh has written previously about the new wave of fake OSINT accounts that have popped up on X after Elon Musk changed how verification works on the platform. OSINT btw stands for “open source intelligence” and before Musk bought the site, it was a genuinely useful new field of investigative work that was really flourishing on Twitter.

One of the big rumors that was circulating after Raisi's helicopter crashed yesterday was that it was downed by a Mossad agent named Eli Copter. Obviously, this was a joke, but that didn’t stop it from making the rounds on all kinds of Telegram channels and, unfortunately, was cited on air by French news station i24.

AI Workflows Are Getting Better Very Quickly

0xframer, the user on X that made this, shared their workflow and I think it’s useful for understanding how easily you can chain these AI services together now.

First, he grabbed a Midjourney image for the background. Then he put his phone up on his condo’s balcony and filmed himself walking around. He put that footage in Runway, which removed the background and isolated just his body on a green screen. From there he used another AI service called Domo to rotoscope himself as an anime character. And then he used Capcut to overlay himself onto the Midjourney background.

Let me just say, this does not look good. But it looks a lot better than it should. And looks a hell of a lot better than similar projects even six months ago.

Who Is “Ian” And Why Are People Excited About His Mixtape?

There are a lot of people on X asking this question right now. And I thought that if I dug around I’d have some kind of answer, but, honestly, I’m even more confused. Ian, or Ian O'Neill Smith, according to his extremely brief Wikipedia page, is a rapper from Texas that appears to have dropped out of the ether about a month ago with a fully formed fanbase.

His EP, Valedictorian, dropped last week and already has millions of listens (it’s awful). His first-ever upload to YouTube was in March and it has a million views. He put out a second music video, starring Marshawn Lynch, last week. And he’s now popping up in cities all over the country, swarmed by fans.

The only real hint I’ve found to where this guy came from was buried in a Reddit thread on r/hiphopheads. Before this new EP, he was releasing a bunch of weird, ambient, experimental hip hop and I guess he built a small following. And from there he managed to get the attention of a well-known producer and, I guess, that’s it. Extremely weird!

If I Understand This Correctly, There Are People Who Think The Pyramids Were Under Water?

(x.com/EthicalSkeptic)

Every once in a while you lift up a digital rock and discover something underneath it that really defies all explanation. It took me several minutes and a bunch of scrolling to really wrap my head around this post, but, apparently, what this user — and many others in the replies — believe is that the pyramids of Giza were, at one point, under water? Seems like most of the people sharing this post believe this proof that the flood from the bible happened.

Anyways, the best take on this I found was from comic publisher Jackson Clarke, who wrote, “I don't get it? This is just surface damage from when the US Navy launched missiles and airstrikes at Megatron, the Fallen and Devastator when they were on top of the pyramid trying to get the star harvester inside the pyramid.”

Some Good Pigeon Content

@aliceetchescomedy

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P.S. here’s the bowl.

***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***

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