Candour

BERT, new Google Shopping experience scorecard, Page Experience update for desktop and a WordPress plugin vulnerability

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What's in this episode?

In this episode, you will hear Mark Williams-Cook & Jack Chambers talking about:

  • Google BERT and how it understand language
  • The rollout of the Page Experience update for desktop
  • A vulnerability found in a popular WordPress plugin
  • The latest from SISTRIX Academy
  • New Google Shopping experience scorecard

Show notes

Transcript

Mark: Welcome to Episode Seven of season two of the Search with Candour podcast, recorded on Wednesday, the 23rd of February, 2022. My name is Mark Williams-Cook and I'm joined by co-host Jack Chambers. Today, we'll be talking about BERT and how it understands language, which is a new primer that Google have released. The rollout of the page experience update for desktop. A large and rather important vulnerability found in a popular WordPress plugin and really exciting news on a new Google Shopping experience scorecard.

Jack: Search with Candour is supported by SISTRIX, the SEO's toolbox. Go to sistrix.com/swc if you want to check out some of their excellent free tools, such as check out your visibility index, Google update impact, keyword research and page speed checker. That's sistrix.com/swc for free tools and sistrix.com/academy for the SISTRIX Academy, which we'll talk about later on in the show.

Mark: I thought it'd be really good to kick off this show with a really nice BERT primer that Google's just released on YouTube. It sounds like this.

Google YouTube video: If a pancake recipe told you to mix the batter with the banana, you probably wouldn't think to use the banana as a mixing spoon. But, what's obvious to humans, things like context, tone and intention, are actually very difficult for computers to pick up on. At its core, a Google search is about understanding language. In order to return the right information, Google doesn't just need to know the definition of the words, it needs to know what they all mean when strung together in a specific order.

That includes the smaller words, like for and to. When you think about how many different meanings a single word can have, you start to see how writing a computer program that takes all these nuances into account is pretty tough. See? Case in point. 'Pretty' here doesn't mean beautiful, it means very. More and more, people talk to Google the way they think and speak. More and more, Google is getting better at understanding what they mean. One of the biggest leaps forward in the history of search came about with the introduction of Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or as we like to call it, BERT. BERT is a machine-learning model architecture that helps Google process language and understand the context in which it appears. Search used to process a query by pulling out the words it thought were most important.

For example, if you said, "Can you get medicine for someone pharmacy" You would've gotten general results about pharmacies and prescriptions, because it would've essentially ignored the word 'for'. But with BERT, the little words are taken into account and it changes things. Search now understands you want to know if you can pick up medicine prescribed to someone else. But, how do you train a language model to pick up context? There's a big difference between knowing words and understanding meaning. The model learns context by applying the same fill-in-the-blank principles it takes to complete a Mad Libs. So, we take a phrase, we hide about 20% of the input words, and then we make the computer guess the words that are missing. Over time, the model begins to understand different words have different meanings depending on what's around them. The order in which they appear in that text really matters.

When you search something complex, like, "fly fishing bait to use for trout in September, Montana." Search knows all the little words are important and because it now takes them all into account, it can tell you the perfect bait for that time of year. BERT isn't foolproof, but since implementing it in 2019, it's improved a lot of searches. We should always be able to learn about whatever we're curious about. That's why search will always be working to understand exactly what you're truly asking.

Mark: We covered BERT back in, I think it was October 2019. 2019, Episode 33, which we'll link to in the show notes. This was when BERT first came about, it got loads of attention. As you heard there, BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. Have to check that pretty much every time.

Jack: Me too, yeah.

Mark: I see that acronym, but yeah, makes you sound dead smart. There's two lines you can go down with BERT, which is the, "Hmm, let's explore what transformers are and get knee-deep in machine learning." And path two, with BERT, is just trying to understand actually what it does, which is what this primer does and has done really, really well.

Mark: So, I think it's a great resource to share with internal SEO teams or your agency. Because actually, I still see a lot of people misunderstanding how BERT works and that there's articles out there about how to optimize for BERT. This breakthrough that Google's made, as they gave such a brilliant example there, is about understanding the relationships and context between words. What they mean in different scenarios and like the example they gave, about who to pick up a prescription for.

Jack: Yeah, I think we think about search intent so much and we talk about it as a topic in the SEO community so much. But actually, having the context of stuff and having the search engines understand that context. Like they talk about in the video, we have the ‘for’, ‘in’, ‘to’, those tiny little connecting words that we often just get rid of. If you're thinking about it in terms of like “I'm an experienced person of searching Google, I don't need to include those tiny little words. Actually, you do, because that gives things a lot of context.”

I know a lot of search terms you'll see don't include those words by default. If you're looking at some of your keyword research tools and stuff like that, you'll notice these weirdly structured sentences that are missing those little connecting tools. What BERT does is use those words and creates and understands the context around them, to build a better understanding of the sentence you're actually searching for.

Mark: Yeah, I joined in a conversation on LinkedIn a few weeks ago, the font of all SEO knowledge. Someone was saying, basically, that words like ‘to’, ‘from’, ‘the’ ‘and’ were “stop words” and that search engines didn't pay any attention to them. And they didn't even index them, which is obviously barmy, because you can literally see them in the cache, but they were saying they don't use them at all. That couldn't be.

Jack: Did Google make this video in response to that person on LinkedIn? Like, by the way, we've built an entire machine-learning structure around these specific things.

Mark: I just think it's really important to appreciate that when you're doing this kind of research because it has actually got Google a lot closer. They refer to this BERT as a breakthrough. What it is, I think at the time they estimated around 10 odd per cent of English language queries, it was going to affect. Which is obviously a huge amount of-

Jack: Yeah, 10% doesn't sound like much. But, as we've talked about a couple of times on the show already when you're talking about billions, if not trillion of sets of data, 10% is a lot. You can't underestimate that.

Mark: I think from a practical point of view, the knowledge of, okay, this is what BERT does is important, because it moves Google closer to, it was over 10 years ago, they made this statement about they're moving towards things not so strings. Which is when they were starting talking about entities. But, BERT allows them to move further away from strings.

Mark: Which means, now I see lots of pages ranking for queries, where sometimes that string isn't on the page or it isn't in the title. But, it's the same intent. Because they've gone backwards and worked out it means roughly the same thing. That was a cool detail I thought was in this video, about the Mad Libbing?

Jack: Yes, yes.

Mark: The removal of the words and guessing what should be there. Because we were having a play around with the GPT-3 Playground the other day and we were really impressed about-

Jack: Incredibly impressed.

Mark: Yeah. How that was formulating answers. That was kind of what that was doing, it was working out which words should be in those gaps.

Jack: Yeah. The GPT-3 thing had, it was an option to add context to result or something like that, it was a tick box. You could have just the answer, so it would just say "Jack Chambers" as the answer. Or, it would say, "One of the hosts of Search with Candour is Jack Chambers." You can tell it to give you a full sentence structure. I think, yeah, you're totally right, Mark. I think Google is getting closer towards that.

Jack: How people are speaking in real life is actually how people are searching now as well. They specifically say that, as you've heard in the video. People search how they speak, more and more, as people are getting used to using search engines on a daily basis. Even if you're not working in the SEO community, you are probably using Google multiple times a day yourself. Just in your everyday life, shopping, for your own work outside of the SEO community, all that kind of stuff as well.

Mark: I think this will be a big part as well. In, it was May, I want to say 2020? It might have been 2021. Big difference there, with the Google MUM update-

Jack: It's a pandemic. Time is a flat circle. 2020 and 2021 basically didn't exist.

Mark: They do kind of merge for me.

Jack: Yeah, pretty much.

Mark: But, the Google MUM update, which was essentially around Google being able to pull together several different sources of information and essentially write the answer itself, because it understands the context of the question and it understands the nuance of the answer. That nuanced answer might not be present for that very specific query on one page.

Mark: So, it will just go, okay, well I know these things and I know how to write sentences. As we saw, even with GPT-3, which I imagine is not as good as what Google's using and they could just generate that answer. I've seen a couple of examples of MUM being used out in the wild, but nothing on any kind of scale yet. But, I think that's definitely where we're going with that.

Jack: A quick little update about page experience rolling out for desktop. I know we covered this before and you're probably sick of hearing it by now. It will hopefully be completed by the end of March. That's pretty much the update from Google at this point. We're getting there, it's happening and it's slowly rolling out for desktop. You probably have already noticed it in your Google search console. You can now see a desktop option comparing to your mobile options. Yeah, it should hopefully be fully rolled out by the end of March.

Mark: I am super excited about this, because-

Jack: Really? Okay.

Mark: Yes, because there are so many rubbish websites that rank well. Forbes. I'm interested to see how these sites. So, I pick on Forbes there, Forbes has a lot of stuff going on, to put it lightly. They're like my canary in-page experience mine. So, I'm really interested in seeing sites like Forbes. There's some sites that cover search engine type news as well, that are quite pop up and CLS nightmares-

Jack: I have no idea what you're talking about, Mark.

Mark: Yeah. I'm really interested to see if Google can help clean up the web a bit, because-

Jack: That's interesting. Yeah, yeah.

Mark: It's good that we've got a deadline now. Deadlines always instigate action. Hopefully, people weren't ignoring the page experience stuff from desktop. When I communicated page experience stuff unless someone specifically asked whether it was just mobile, I just presented it as, why don't we just make a good website and try and fix everything at once?

Jack: Why not cover both?

Mark: But yeah. So, yes, it's a short update. The Google search central tweet was, "The page experience update is now slowly rolling out for desktop. It will be complete by the end of March 2022." You have T-minus five weeks to sort your stuff out if you haven't already. But of course, you already definitely have.

Jack: We've touched on a few plugin updates over the last few weeks. We talked about Yoast moving over to Shopify, we've talked about a few WordPress bits and pieces and actually, a vulnerability in the UpdraftPlus plugin on WordPress. Potentially compromised over 3 million installations worldwide. Very interesting thing. If you've suddenly noticed some issues happening on your site and you have UpdraftPlus installed, it's probably done an auto-update, because they also forced an auto-update upon you to fix this issue.

Mark: It's really rare that WordPress actually does that, which is-

Jack: Incredibly rare. Yeah, yeah.

Mark: Yeah. It just pushes updates down your throat, but this one obviously was quite serious. UpdraftPlus, for those that don't know, it's a really, really good, actually, backup plugin for WordPress. I've used it before on my sites and it allows you to do things like sync your whole site, including databases, on a scheduled job, to things like Google Drive. Really, really nice place to keep your backups.

Jack: We've got note here from Automattic's Jetpack, who discovered it during an audit. They're a security researcher and they discovered two previously unknown vulnerabilities. The first was related to how UpdraftPlus, their security tokens, called nonces, could be leaked. This allowed an attacker to obtain the backup, including the nonce. According to WordPress, nonces are not supposed to be the main line of defense against hackers. So, there's a vulnerability there.

Jack: It explicitly states that functions should be protected by properly validating who has the proper credentials, by using the function called current_user_can. Here's a exact, direct quote from WordPress here. "Nonces can never be relied on for authentication, authorization or access control. Protect your functions using current_user_can and always assume nonces can be compromised."

That's the first vulnerability. The second vulnerability was tied to an improper validation of a registered user role, precisely what WordPress warns a developer should take steps to lock down in plugins. So, it sounds like the UpdraftPlus people made an issue there as well.

Jetpack describes it as: "Unfortunately, the UpdraftPlus admin made me download backup from email method, which is hooked to the admin in it, didn't directly validate users' roles either. While it did apply some checks indirectly, such as checking the F page now, global variable, past research has shown that this variable can contain arbitrary user input. |Bad actors could use this endpoint to download file and database backups, based on the information they leaked from the aforementioned Heartbleed bug."

Jack: It's a lot of technical stuff, but basically, it's been fixed. But, it was a fairly significant compromising situation for UpdraftPlus, as I said, across 3 million installations around the world.

Mark: Yeah, we don't usually cover security stuff on the podcast. We've covered before a couple of WordPress vulnerabilities. Mainly because I know a lot of the SEOs that listen to this show will be dealing with sites that are running WordPress because it's such a popular platform.

Mark: Actually, the reason lots of sites get compromised now, is related, unfortunately, to SEO. Which is that lots of sites will have links injected, really common to where, if sites do get compromised, to see this cloaking thing that happens. Where the site still looks fine, but then your results sometimes look weird in Google.

Mark: What's happening is, there's the hacked version of the site that's being shown to search engines. Which then links off, well, to wherever normally a lot of these sites are actually parts of networks of people that are selling links. When these kinds of vulnerabilities get published, how that then works is, they just need to write a script to basically scan for these vulnerabilities. They just take sites down as they go. Which is, again, with this kind of severity of vulnerability, why WordPress is pushing these updates on people.

Mark: It's just, I think, the classic WordPress problem of the plugins you own end up owning you. That meaning that WordPress itself, the core WordPress is actually really secure. It's really decent. Almost every security problem I have seen with WordPress is related to plugins. Because you've got that environment where, I mean, how many plugins were on the site you were working on the other day? It was 60 something?

Jack: 63, yeah.

Mark: 63 plugins?

Jack: Yes. That's 63 active, currently-running plugins. Not 63 in the library that are available to use. 63 active plugins on that site. That was fun. You dare not press the update all button or we just absolutely crashed that website.

Mark: This is the thing. This is something I think SEOs and anyone needs to be aware of if you're running WordPress. Which is, in that case, you've got, potentially, 63 separate third parties that are then responsible for, by proxy, the security of your site. Like you say, it can be scary pressing the update all button, because those plugins not only have to be updated to work with whatever updates core WordPress is getting, but sometimes, they can actually conflict with each other as well.

Jack: That's the main thing I've seen in my experience with WordPress sites, is clashing plugins trying to do the same thing, or a similar thing on the same page. Then, you update one and it crashes the other one, because it's not been updated, and all that kind of thing. I know I got into the habit, when I was more active on WordPress sites back in the day, of making sure I went through each plugin, update that, just double-check everything's fine. Just reload the page, make sure the site is okay, then update the next plugin.

Jack: I'd got into of the habit of not pressing the update all button, but I kind of am a bit obsessed with keeping everything up to date. I do it on my phone as well. I make sure all of my apps are up to date. I do a daily check of all my apps and games and stuff on my phone and my laptop as well. I think that comes from my habit with the experience with WordPress sites in the past, of just making sure everything is up to date as it can be, to try and avoid stuff like this.

Mark: Daily?

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: Wow.

Jack: Yeah, it's just a bit of a bit of an OCD thing for me.

Mark: I didn't know you were that paranoid. Daily? That's impressive.

Jack: The amount of games and apps and stuff I have on my phone, I often have 25 updates required. Welcome to my obsessions.

Mark: To be on the safe side, if you want to be on Jack's safe side of the fence here, if you were running UpdraftPlus, this publication says that, obviously, it was a previously unknown vulnerability. I'd point out it's a previously unknown vulnerability publicly. It doesn't mean that someone didn't already know this.

Mark: So, if I were is in your shoes, if you have UpdraftPlus, it might be worth just cycling your credentials for all of your logins. Because there is a small chance that someone has them somewhere. This does sometimes happen, where, if people do discover these kind of zero-day things, that not everyone's a good actor that's then going to tell everyone about it.

Mark: If you know something like this, that nobody else knows, that's the best time to exploit it. There isn't any evidence that's happened in the world, but it doesn't take long. So, if I was running UpdraftPlus, I would definitely now just change all my admin passwords, change the user logins and then you don't have, really, anything to worry about.

Jack: Yep. Just if you are running UpdraftPlus free, it was before the 1.22.3 update. If you're running the premium version, it is the 2.22.3 version, so make sure you're updated past those versions and you should be okay. Like we said, WordPress did force an update through, which is very unusual, so you should already be covered on that. But, as you say, Mark, it's worth just double-checking. Make sure your admin passwords are secure and sorted. Just in case.

As I mentioned at the top of the show, we are sponsored by SISTRIX, and this week I want to talk about SISTRIX Academy. There are now two parts to SISTRIX Academy, which is available for free. You can go and sign up there by going to sistrix.com/academy, nice and easy URL there. The first part is keyword research, which is about 50 minutes long. It's a full-guided video tour using real-life examples, real-life keywords, actual data using the SISTRIX tools and things like that.

Then part two, that was released this month, is a competitor analysis, which runs a little bit longer at 70 minutes. You can find, yeah, a full video tour done by SISTRIX's own Steve Payne. He goes through how to identify your competitors, examining those competitors using SISTRIX, his tool. Understanding website structures, getting an idea of the keywords your competitors are ranking for, understanding their links and then really drilling down into what you can do to outrank your competitors and do better. Funnily enough, I think it ties into our SectorWatch discussion we had last week, where we were talking about how you get a little glimpse into the data of other competitors. This is the kind of thing, if you really want to learn how to use SISTRIX's tools and you have an idea of who's competing with you in your sector, you can drill down into their keywords, into their sites.

Get an idea of who's doing what in a good way and who's doing what in a bad way and how you can beat them to the punch in rankings. That's sistrix.com/academy, and you can get a free two-part academy guide for keyword research and competitor analysis using SISTRIX as tool.

Mark: To end off the show, we have an update on Google Merchant Center. Again, lots of things I'm really excited about in this episode. So, this email went around to people using Google Merchant Center that says, "We are introducing the Shopping experience scorecard program in order to measure the level of customer experience you provide. The goal of the program is to reward businesses who provide an excellent customer experience with increased visibility in the shopping tab.

Mark: The metrics being measured by the Shopping experience scorecard program are one, delivery time. Two, shipping cost. Three, return cost or return window. Based on your performance in the metrics above, your listings may be eligible for, one, a boost in ranking. Two, a badge. Three, other benefits that will help consumers find your business."

Jack: The badge does feel a bit Blue Peter-y, doesn't it? Like, "And you get a badge as well." Like, "Yay, thanks, Google."

Mark: They end off saying, "Note that you will not be penalized if you don't offer a certain level of customer experience or if you don't link some or all of the metrics to your Merchant Center accounts." So, my initial reaction to this was, actually, I don't know if you remember if it was the last episode or the episode before. I was talking about my dismay of finding cool stuff on Instagram, but then having to try and work out if the seller was actually legit?

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: Because the Google Ads experience or ads experience is separate from the digital footprint of those companies, their reputation. I said I was trying to find a review website. This is, I guess, in a way, how you have eBay that collects feedback on sellers, on delivery time and things like that? Pulling that into that shopping experience. Which, as a user, as a shopper, I'm looking forward to that, I think.

Mark: Again, we've had previous discussions on the podcast, like with Lily Ray, when she came on around Google looking at the kind of aspects of companies that people actually like and want to recommend. Apart from the very classical, okay, let's look at the link graph, and the reason we're looking at a link graph is because that is an expression of how people feel about something. i.e. lots of people citate it or people we trust citate it, therefore it's good. But, when maybe we're talking and, for those of you that follow me on Twitter will see, I moaned just this week on Twitter, that's what I do, about two e-com experiences I had.

Mark: Which was someone had bought me a t-shirt for a Secret Santa, I didn't have any receipt or anything like that. It had the label on. I emailed the company and I was like, "Hey, it's the wrong size. I haven't worn it. Do you mind if I exchange with you? I've got no proof of purchase." They were like, "Yeah, sure. No worries. Post it back." Another company that we'd spent quite a bit of money with, we'd bought-

Jack: A long-time regular customer with this company.

Mark: Yeah. We'd bought 11 of one item and they all matched. Basically, we bought another one and it came as a different colour and they were adamant that that's how the website was when we bought it. We were just like, "Well, look, can we have our money back?" They were like, "No. Because it's your fault." That, for me now, as a customer, I'm like, "Well, I don't like them any more."

Jack: Yeah, absolutely.

Mark: So, I think it's going to be interesting. Google is offering this boost in ranking and if there's one way to get websites to do something, I'm thinking like HTTPS or Core Web Vitals, it's offering them a potential boost in ranking to do that. Really interesting how all these things are going to tie in, especially things like, I don't know what your thoughts are around delivery and shipping cost? Because shipping costs is an interesting one, dealing with e-com, because I know for a fact some sites will bundle in shipping costs elsewhere in their price-

Jack: Yeah, definitely.

Mark: And then offer, quote, free shipping. That can be difficult to do with paid ads, because paid ads generally just show you the price of the item. So, if you strip out the shipping, it's stopping you doing that trick of being like, oh, look, it's five pounds cheaper here. Then, you go to buy it and actually, it's eight pounds shipping, where the other site, where it was five pounds more, the shipping's free.

Jack: Yeah, yeah. I think, interestingly, talking about shipping speed and available return windows and stuff like that, I think seeing shipping cost is a thing like you said, Mark, you notice straight away when you're shopping. But, a return window is not something I actively think about when I'm shopping.

Jack: Maybe that's my fault, for not looking into the details enough. But, thinking about how that could actually be actively shown on a page and say, no, this is actually an important thing. It's something I feel a lot of people, including myself, underestimate as an important factor when you're shopping somewhere. Having shipping speed, shipping cost, return cost as well, because again, I know we always talk about the power of the pandemic, but it's a thing that's been happening for the last two years.

Jack: Returning items and buying things online without being able to try them on has become such a big factor over the last two years for online shopping. Return costs and return windows are now more important than ever because more people are buying stuff. You can't go into a shop and just try a new pair of shoes on, or try a new t-shirt on. A perfect example for you, Mark, Secret Santa stuff. "Oh, I'm not quite sure what size Mark is, but I'll just guess it's this. It may be a size too small size, size too large." But, having that opportunity to return something for free, or at an affordable, a fair cost, I assume there's some factors in here of understanding what the average cost to return or ship that item is. Across industries and stuff like that. Like you said, if somebody's, "Oh, we are selling this thing for five pounds, but it's actually 15 pounds shipping." And somebody else sells it for 15, but with free shipping, how are we balancing that? It may shift the way people are handling, presenting themselves on ads and things like that.

Mark: I don't know how long they've been doing it for, but I did actually notice the other day, I was just looking to get some sport shorts of Amazon. They had an option which was allowing you to basically have the stuff for free and then just pay for what you keep.

Jack: Oh, interesting. Okay.

Mark: Yeah, yeah. Which I don't know if that's new, because I have an annual clothes shop.

Jack: Yeah. There's services that have done that before. I'm trying to think what they were called. It was like Threads or something like that, back in the day. I say back in the day, it's like four or five years ago. I was looking into this, where you work with a person who basically works like your style guru. They're like, "What do you like? Do you like wearing red? Do you like wearing blue? Do you wear t-shirts? Do you wear jeans? Do you wear suits for work?" All this kind of stuff.

Jack: They would basically send you a monthly box of stuff and if you don't want to pay for it, you don't keep it. You just send the box back to them. Or, whatever you keep, you pay for as part of that subscription. Yeah, it sounds like you can do that kind of stuff as well, where, again, we're in the age of online shopping. Especially for things like clothes. People are not going into shops and trying things on, because people don't have time for that stuff these days, you know?

I barely have time to do stuff in the evenings after working, doing podcasting, all this kind of stuff. Then cooking and feeding me and my partner. I don't have time after work to go out and go to Primark or H&M or Next or wherever it is and shop for stuff. Shopping online is pretty key for a lot of people who are busy now in the 21st century. Especially now, in sort of post-pandemic, but current-pandemic. Whatever we're calling this weird period we're in now.

Mark: I had this exact argument with someone and actually, there are a lot of people that, it turns out, had the opposite view. In terms of, they saw that going out clothes shopping as a leisure activity.

Jack: Interesting.

Mark: Which, for me, I'm like, "What? It's like a chore." But apparently, yeah. Lots of people, not like me, who absolutely love doing that. I actually tried that, I think it was called Thread?

Jack: It is called Thread, right?

Mark: That site. Yeah, I tried that, because yeah, I need help basically. I tried that and it recommended some clothes which I would just never wear. So, I decided I was just broken from a fashion point of view. I never actually got it, it just generated some results for me and I was like, "That's not me."

Jack: It is called Thread, ladies and gentleman. That is confirmed. We're not sponsored by them, I'm not endorsing Thread. There's other ones, like Stitch Fix and a few other things where you can do a similar kind of thing. But yeah, I think that's becoming more and more common, where people are buying stuff without being able to try it on.

I think it's interesting, going more directly into the Google documentation here, and talking about how they'll give you a rating for stuff. I wonder, at the moment they're saying, we will not penalize you, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Eventually, will they roll the negative side of that and the drawbacks of that, of, if you do not connect this up? Because we've seen that in many different tools over many years, from Google.

Seeing how they start off with like, "Yeah, if you'd like to do this thing, it's an optional thing to give you a little bit of a boost." Then, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 months, a year, two years down the line, eventually it becomes, "You need to put this thing and you don't have a choice and it's connected to your account. If you don't do it, you will be penalized and if you get bad reviews and just choose to not put them on there, tough."

It's connected automatically. I'm interested to see how this develops. I think you're totally right, Mark, this is a good thing that is exciting in the initial run, but could turn negatively down the run, for people who don't have good shipping costs, good return costs and that kind of thing as well.

Mark: Yeah. When they say you won't be penalized, a penalty would always really anyway, be in context to how other people are ranking. But, if you're giving one set of people a boost and not other people, a little bit like a penalty anyway?

Jack: Kind of, yeah. I think the term penalty is thrown around a lot in SEO. Especially related to when you're looking at Google and that. Looking on Search Console for manual actions and penalties and all that kind of stuff. That's a very specific phrase, it is thrown around a lot, but what is not gaining something that other people have, if not being penalized, basically?

Jack: By definition, it's very similar. But, I think Google wants to have that very clear definition of that phrase of, we are actively affecting your ranking possibility negatively. Rather than, everyone else is getting a positive and you are being left in the dust. That's your problem, not our problem, kind of thing.

Mark: The other thing that crossed my mind with this is, recently, Google started using the Merchant Center feeds for adding some organic listings into their shopping. At the time, we were saying this might be to expand their inventory. Their shopping vertical becomes a little bit more competitive to Amazon. In that Amazon has a huge inventory, Google Shopping with just paid people as big gaps in their inventory and they don't want people going straight to Amazon to shop. They want people to use Google Shopping.

If they can get that structured data, even if people aren't paying to be listed, it's good for Google. It's a win-win for them, in terms of they get to take a bigger bite out of Amazon. What isn't clear about this, and I will endeavour to find out, is if any of this shopping experience could then be tied into the organic visibility of these products as well.

If they work out, okay, well, they've got that structured data of, even if you're not paying for ads, this is the company, this is the products. If you can link up that other information as well, oh, okay. Is that going to increase your potential organic traffic?

Jack: That ties into what Valentin Pletzer brought up last week. We mentioned a tweet from him recently, saying about how Google is encouraging people to review stuff. It was the, "Do you own this? Could you review it please?" I think this is becoming such a key thing for Google, both organically and on the paid side of things.

Where they want users to tell them, they want that data, they want users to tell them, "This is a good product. This is a good experience when it comes to the shipping and the returns and things like that. This is a good seller. This is a good shop." Whatever it is, I think this is heading in a similar direction from that other kind of point of view, right?

Mark: We've already got some clients now that are signed up for this shopping scorecard. So, we'll follow up, I think, in a few episodes, when we know a bit more.

Jack: Yep, definitely.

Mark: That's all we've got time for in this episode. Thank you for joining and listening. We'll be back in one weeks' time, which will be Monday, the 7th of March. Until then, from Jack and myself, have a lovely week.

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