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Google's Reaction to the Link Tax
#SEOisAEO with Andrea Volpini at #colosseo

Google formalised its reaction to the Link Tax on 23rd September. I was a bit confused. Luckily Within Andrea has already figured it out and gives me the rundown / lowdown on the EU copyright Directive, Google's reaction to it and the practicalities for publishers... Google News publishers are opted in by default, other publishers are opted out by default. Search Console gives publishers he means to control this. Schema markup is the solution if you want to opt-in and yet keep your rich results. Could this perhaps even be an opportunity to take control of our content? Brilliant !

Release date Saturday 28 September 2019

Andrea Volpini

Andrea Volpini

Jason Barnard
SEOisAEO, welcome to the show Andre Volpini.
Andrea Volpini
Wow, it's the second time that you do that.
Jason Barnard
We're in Rome. We're at a Colosseo meet-up organized by WordLift. It's looking brilliant. The the place is amazing. Before the MeetUp, we're going to talk about what I'm going to call :

The So-Called Link Tax or Perhaps 'Google' Tax

Andrea Volpini
I think it's interesting. We can call it Google Tax. We can call it Link Tax because it's about linking. It's a very controversial new European directive that's been debated for for quite some time now, and basically it's designed in order to prevent platforms like Google using content from Publishers for creating their own services without redistributing the value. In principle.
Jason Barnard
Yeah, I mean and that sounds incredibly sensible … but that's a big debate - saying I need the traffic Google's got it. So if I try and get Google to pay obviously I'm going to lose the traffic
Andrea Volpini
Well, there's more than that. I think that when you're talking about links on the web, well you're talking about the web! The web is built with links. So if you start talking about taxes on links. Would the web still exist? That's the debate in a nutshell.

Right Now This is Aimed at Google - But Where Does it Stop?

Andrea Volpini
Yeah and there's not really a stop because I mean if you think about you know, Wikipedia, it's very similar. I mean if Wikipedia would need to pay for every link that sends traffic back from Wikipedia articles to a third party, then that would not be viable.
Jason Barnard
Especially as they're already struggling financially.
Andrea Volpini
So I think that the whole point is really to get these big platforms to get into agreements with Publishers. So so that's why it's been called link tax or even Google tax now it's focusing Google. But what happened is that Google is playing hardball and just change the way it displays.

What Google is basically saying if we have to pay a tax, we won't send any traffic

Andrea Volpini
Right. As simple as that! And it's happening now - it's been enforced a few days back on and it's now an option in the Google Search Console available since September 27.
Andrea Volpini
Yes, the 27 … but the tax will become active on October 23rd in France.
Jason Barnard
I thought it was already active
Andrea Volpini
The option has been introduced into Google Search Console since a few days. But the law is coming from the EU and France is the first state that has embedded it into its own National law system.
Jason Barnard
So, Google is putting in place the system for them to deal with it, but the law hasn't come into place. And in Europe the first place it will come into force is in France on the 23rd of October. So Google have actually got themselves ready because they really want to play hardball.
Andrea Volpini
Yeah. That's it.

What are the Publishers' choices?

Andrea Volpini
As a publisher you can first say that you belong to European Publishers, and then as a European publisher, you can benefit from these this new digital rights protection law, and opt out from advanced search features.
Jason Barnard
Which are what I call rich elements?
Andrea Volpini
That's it. Any Rich results that can be: Video, Top stories, Featured Snippet, a Carousel ...
Jason Barnard
and you mentioned top stories. That's Google News.
Andrea Volpini
Yeah, well top stories is a Google search feature that that it's highly related with the presence on Google News...
Jason Barnard
I was making the assumption it was the same :)
Andrea Volpini
Not at all. It's quite interesting because...
Jason Barnard
Barry Adams will kill me for that !
Andrea Volpini
Barry is really into it. He's a terrific figure when it comes to Google News.
Jason Barnard
So, News sites who are in Google News - what's their choice?
Andrea Volpini
They can opt out and say look, I don't want to be featured and that means that Google will present just the headline - the good old blue link - and that's it.
Jason Barnard
But then they're going to push it down the results and present something as bit more sexy with somebody who's willing to play their game.
Andrea Volpini
YOU said that. I didn't say that! But yeah, that's that's how it's gonna happen.

By default Google News publishers are opted in, and other publishers are opted out

Andrea Volpini
Today. By default they are opted in.
Jason Barnard
Other Publishers who aren't in Google News are they opted in by default?
Andrea Volpini
You will have the option
Jason Barnard
Opted out by default, with the option to opt in available.
Andrea Volpini
I'm still seeing different behaviors because it's an option hidden inside the search console. But if I share the link with you, then you will see it on your site. But if you are a news publisher within the you News system in EU countries then you will see the option appearing under the setting in the Google Search Console.
Jason Barnard
And your advice is?
Andrea Volpini
Don't touch it! The first time that I saw it, is with a publisher we work with in Greece and then a publisher we work with in the Netherlands. I said - don't touch this because if you do become protected by the law, you're going to lose all the traffic that you have.
Jason Barnard
That's the big red button that
Andrea Volpini
For my clients, I cannot say “get out of Google”. It would be a little bit misleading.
Jason Barnard
So the question is: if you press the button you say “I'm a European publisher, do not use my rich content in your results” and that means Google can only use the URL and The Meta title.
Andrea Volpini
Yeah, but thr reality is that they enable a more granular way of controlling what can be done with our content...

Schema.org markup brings good news, right?

Andrea Volpini
Yes, there is a positive side. So now we have these meta robot directives that allow me to say on a page by page basis "Look, this is what you can use, so create a snippet from this particular part of the text". And, in a way, we've seen this system already with the speakable item. The publisher is an able to say: "this is the the XPath for rendering – here's the voice response I want you to render from my content”. And that is getting more granular so I can say "hey you can use this image at this size".
Jason Barnard
And you were saying the other day is that if you put something in your schema markup Google is liable to think. "Yes, I can use that" or is it specifically in robots.
Andrea Volpini
Well, you can do it in different ways - you can do it with robots or (more easily) with structured data. So that means if you use structured data, then you are automatically opting in to the advanced features.
Jason Barnard
Oooh we're coming back to what Jono Alderson from Yoast says... structured data is the future and this new change makes that even more true... we can't just think Google will figure it out. We're in a situation now where if I need to give explicit permission, I need to use schema structured data
Andrea Volpini
I think it goes over that. I mean it gets to the level of bringing back the importance of open data in the marketing world.
Jason Barnard
That makes you happy :)
Andrea Volpini
yes it makes me happy because that's that's what I've been saying since 2011 - open data does play an important role as we evolve from pages to data and as we evolve from the ten blue links to conversational interfaces or multi model experiences that Google is offering.
Jason Barnard
I like multimodal
Andrea Volpini
No, multi model... multi-model means meaning that you can start a conversation on this system and then you can move on a another screen and then you can jump in the car … and there is an interaction that goes back and forth regardless of the device.

The situation with Google's reaction to the Link tax in a nutshell

Jason Barnard
This is how I understand the situation... You'll tell me if I've got this wrong. I'm a European Google News publisher, I'm opted-in by default, but I can opt out. I'm not a European Google News publisher, I'm opted-out by default and I can opt in, but if I opt in, Google will only show my meta title and my URL, UNLESS I give it structured data that gives explicit permission to show specific pieces of content.
Andrea Volpini
Worst-case scenario is that only the headline and link will show... not even the meta description. So it's pretty harsh. "if you don't want to give me your content, then all I'm going to show is what I'm allowed to show”. It's a little bit extreme in one way because what the publishers were expecting was that they would sit together for a negotiation and look at the numbers. It's important that that we understand the numbers in the European world. In all European countries, we are talking about three thousand clicks per second that Google is sending out for news and media publishers.

It's important that that we understand the numbers in the European world

Andrea Volpini
In all European countries, we are talking about three thousand clicks per second that Google is sending out for news and media publishers.
Jason Barnard
So just News and media?
Andrea Volpini
Yes, it's just news and media. It's a total of 8 billion queries per. And the estimated values, you know, we can argue about it, but it's between four and six cents per click. The capacity of a publisher to monetize the traffic that comes from Google ranges from 4 to 6 cents per user. That's a lot of money.
Jason Barnard
I think it might be 400 million €, but I'm probably wrong
Andrea Volpini
Obviously, it depends on country by country - the UK has the highest stake in terms of value that is coming from Google News and then second is France, then Germany ...
Jason Barnard
But we're talking about a lot of clicks and an awful lot of money that these publishers are actually making out of the traffic from Google. They could make, but it depends on the monetization strategy of the publisher and we know that there is an issue...

The Publishers' dilemna

Jason Barnard
There must be a terrible debate in their minds "we are making this money, but I also want to force Google to pay me, and can I afford to close the water taps here?” The reality is that the bigger Brands do have the capacity to fine tune a little bit the information that they provide for free and so we're back to "what does open mean?” Open in this context means that someone else can use your content for building their own experience with your brand. So if your brand is strong enough, then you do have chance to create your own funnel and then you can play with the system well. But if you're small, if your brand is not as strong as The Guardian or The New York Times or Republica in Italy, then of course, you might struggle - regardless of the fact that you're probably not monetizing properly, you know that traffic is worth a lot for you.
Jason Barnard
Okay! Well, I just realized SEMrush asked me "What's the thing to learn for 2020?” I said learn entities and Knowledge Graph theory, but in fact, what I should have said is Schema and structured data.
Andrea Volpini
Yes, in fact... Learn open data because open data goes WAY beyond structured data
Jason Barnard
Brilliant stuff.