The logo for Google Pay displayed on a phone screen. Jakub Porzycki | NurPhoto via Getty Images
At least one tech giant has decided it’s better to serve banks rather than taking them head on. Google is shuttering its bank account product nearly two years after announcing ambitious plans to take on the retail finance industry. One key factor:
The new head of the business, Bill Ready, decided that he’d rather develop a digital banking and payments ecosystem instead of competing with banks, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.
For the past few years, bank executives and investors have shuddered whenever a tech giant disclosed plans to break into finance. With good reason: Tech giants have access to hundreds of millions of users and their data and a track record for transforming industries like media and advertising.
But the reality has proven less disruptive so far. While Amazon was reportedly exploring bank accounts in 2018, the project has yet to materialize. Uber reined in its fintech ambitions last year. Facebook was forced to rebrand its crypto project amid a series of setbacks.
“We’re updating our approach to focus primarily on delivering digital enablement for banks and other financial services providers rather than us serving as the provider of these services,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.
Google, which is owned by parent company Alphabet, could help banks provide more secure ways for consumers to make online purchases like via virtual cards or single-use tokens. That’s according to the person with knowledge of the company who declined to be identified speaking about business strategy. Those methods cut down on fraud by protecting users’ credit-card numbers.
Google may have ultimately decided it wasn’t worth antagonizing current and prospective customers for its various businesses, including cloud computing, according to a Friday research note from Wells Fargo..banking analyst Mike Mayo.
In recent years, Google has funneled more resources to its cloud business, which still lags behind Amazon and Microsoft in market share. However, it has made steady gains under cloud boss Thomas Kurian, who, along with Google CEO Sundar Pichai, has repeatedly touted financial services as a target in terms of customers they hope to attract.
“Banks are worried about disintermediation, and I think it’s likely that Google executives were getting signals that banks weren’t on board with what Google was going to do,” said Peter Wannemacher, a Forrester Research analyst who advises banks on digital efforts. “They made the bet that there was a greater gain in selling to banks rather than selling to customers.”
Being the customer-facing entity for banks may have risked inviting greater regulatory and Congressional scrutiny, he said. As it is, the public has already become suspicious of technology firms’ reach, he added.
“Financial services is a difficult space to get into,” Wannemacher said. “Everyone knows that, but it’s often more vexing and knotty than people expect.”
Your bounce rate can be such a scary number, right?It’s common knowledge that a high bounce rate is bad, and a low rate is good.Every time you log into your Google Analytics account, it’s right there waiting for you. I understand the feeling when you see that number creeping up.
But the problem is that numbers can be misleading.After all, how high is too high, really?In this post, I’ll show you how to fully measure and assess your bounce rate. That way, you’ll know if it’s actually too high for your industry or if it’s perfectly normal. I’ll share tips and tricks on how to audit your bounce rate and understand what’s driving it up.I’ll also tell you some of my secrets for lowering your bounce rate. But first, let’s talk about exactly what a bounce rate is and why you should care.
What is a Bounce Rate and Why Does it Matter?
A “bounce” occurs when someone visits your website and leaves without interacting further with your site. Your bounce rate shows you the percentage of your visitors who bounce off of your site.By default, Google Analytics considers a visitor to have interacted with your site if they visited at least one additional page.
The bounce rate you see in your overview report on Google Analytics is your site-wide bounce rate. It’s the average number of bounces across all of your pages divided by the total number of visits across all of those pages within the same period. You can also track the bounce rate of a single page or a segment or section of your site. I’ll show you how once we start looking at the different segment reports.
The bounce rate of a single page is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the total number of bounces divided by the total number of visits on a page. Inspired by common questions that we’ve heard, this infographic provides answers to the most asked questions about bounce rate and provides tips to help you improve your bounce rate.
If you run an e-commerce site with a blog, you may want to implement a segmented bounce rate.Why? Your blog posts may have a very different average bounce rate than your product pages. We’ll get into the exact details later, but segmenting the two can make your numbers more meaningful when you’re looking at the data. So, why is bounce rate important? According to SEMrush, bounce rate is the 4th most important ranking factor on SERPs.
Can they both be right?Yes, and I’ll tell you why. Google’s algorithm may not directly take bounce rate into account, but what it signifies is very important to it. As of 2016, RankBrain was the third-most important ranking factor of Google’s algorithm.If you’re not familiar with RankBrain, its main purpose is to improve users’ search results by better understanding their search intent. If a user clicks on your page and leaves without any interaction, that could signal to RankBrain that your site isn’t what they’re looking for.
It makes it look like your result doesn’t match the searcher intent well. As a result, RankBrain says, “Maybe this page shouldn’t be so high in the results.”Can you see how these connect?If you understand bounce rate properly, it can tell you if your marketing strategy is effective and if your visitors are engaging with your content. The key is to understand what your “target” is and break down your bounce rate in a way that provides meaning.
What is a Good Bounce Rate?
Many different variables determine what a “good” bounce rate is.Things like your business type, industry, country, and the types of devices your visitors are using all influence what a good average bounce rate would be for your site. For instance, Brafton found that the average bounce rate is 58.18%. However, their research shows that bounce rates are higher for B2B businesses than B2C businesses.
If you’re still unsure about the bounce rate you should be targeting, Google Analytics can help you figure it out.Google Analytics provides a quick visualization of the average bounce rate for what it believes is your industry. It does this by benchmarking.First, you need to set up benchmarking in Google Analytics. Under the admin section, click on “Account Settings” and then check the “Benchmarking” box…Read more..
While Google Maps increasingly offers information on where bike lanes are, its routing algorithms don’t offer the same level of nuance that drivers enjoy. Google Maps has a suite of features to make driving easier. The app gives users options to avoid tolls and highways and even recommends low-emission routes where available.
Bikers using the app, though, have far fewer options, particularly when it comes to determining how safe a route is. Fixing that could get more people on bikes and e-bikes, two of the most accessible forms of no-carbon transit available today. Given that the transportation sector is the biggest contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, encouraging the use of alternatives to driving — especially driving gas-powered cars — is more urgent than ever.
With its abundant data and mapping resources, Google Maps is well-poised to create a powerful tool that keeps people safe while navigating their city by bike. Doing so could encourage the use of one of the most reliable zero-emissions transportation technologies, a benefit that dovetails nicely with Google’s ambitious emissions reduction goals.
That’s not to say it’s a cut-and-dried task, though. The puzzle of how to set up a mapping algorithm for driving is relatively simple compared to doing so for biking. Estimating roughly how long it will take to drive somewhere requires little more than knowing speed limits and whether or not intersections have stop signs or stop lights. For biking, though, finding the “right” route is a lot more qualitative.
Often, safety trumps speed. A quiet residential road with speed bumps but without a bike lane can feel more comfortable for bikers — especially new bikers — than a busy thoroughfare with a painted-on bike lane where delivery trucks tend to idle.
While Google Maps and other mapping apps increasingly offer information on where bike lanes are, its routing algorithms don’t offer the same level of nuance that drivers enjoy. Routing options for bikers, whose goals range from commuting to exercising, are largely missing from the platform. As a consequence, bikers have tended to rely more on crowdsourcing, either via the rider-to-rider grapevine or a patchwork of tech-focused alternatives that vary by country and city.
But the lack of a single, comprehensive bike-routing app represents an opportunity for tech companies like Google and Apple, especially given that the pandemic-related boom in biking seems to have staying power. Both companies have rolled out new features to flesh out their bike mapping features in the last year and have plans to continue improving them, but there’s still a long way to go before the mapping apps serve as a reliable alternative to crowdsourcing.
The status quo of simplistic routing options on the most popular mapping apps, said Warren Wells, the policy and planning director of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, represents a barrier to entry for new riders. He worries that first-time riders will rely on Google Maps in the same way they do for driving and follow a route blindly; even if they use Google’s bike lane layer, it is not clear which bike lanes are fully protected by a physical barrier and which are simply painted onto the shoulder of a busy road.
“For 100 years, we have engineered every street to work fine for driving, more or less,” said Wells. “We have put just so little effort into making every street easy to bike on.”
If a new biker ends up on one of these many high-capacity roads that happen to have an often unprotected bike lane, they are liable to arrive at their destination scared or jaded and never get on a bike again. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1,000 bicyclists are killed and over 130,000 are injured in the U.S. each year.
Some biking groups have stepped in to fill the route-mapping void, creating their own apps for cyclists. In the Netherlands, for instance, the national cyclists union, Fietsersbond, created its own mapping software that gives users qualitative options for their journeys. While the interface is not nearly as advanced as Google’s — Wells compared it to the early 2000s version of MapQuest — the app offers bikers many more ways to explore routes, including options like “easy,” “car-free,” “shortest” or “nature” routes.
Google Maps usually offers bikers three options for a biking journey, but it is generally not clear what distinguishes one from another, especially for someone new to a city or new to a bike. In 2018, the Chicago Reader’s John Greenfield created a guide to the city’s lowest-stress bike routes, dubbed the Mellow Chicago Bike Map, which incorporated the opinions of riders in a biking community forum online. (It was later updated as biking interest swelled mid-pandemic.)
Jean Cochrane, a Chicago-based civic technologist and casual biker, stumbled upon the map and turned it into a website with routing capacity, primarily for her own use. However, it has become widely used by others looking to get around Chicago.
“I think that has really been its own huge sea change in the way that I experienced biking,” Cochrane said, “where I do bike much further distances in the city between neighborhoods in a way that I never really have before because I feel like I have a way of accessing other neighborhoods safely.”
The website distinguishes between off-street bike paths, mellow streets (which are largely residential and often have infrastructure like speed bumps or traffic circles to slow down cars), main streets (which usually have bike lanes) and other streets. The simple routing software that Cochrane incorporates into the site prioritizes bike paths and mellow streets in suggesting routes to users.
Demand is high for this kind of resource. Cochrane said people have reached out to her about creating a version of the same webpage for other U.S. cities, but absent the crowdsourcing that Greenfield did initially for Chicago’s “mellow” streets, redoing the project from scratch is a heavy lift. This is in part because determining which streets are “mellow” is harder than it might appear: Cochrane characterized it as a “data problem.”
At least in Chicago, installing infrastructure to slow traffic is a largely decentralized process, and public data is hard to find. The open-source project OpenStreetMap has some of that information, Cochrane said, but it’s incomplete and user-generated, and thus difficult for her to rely upon.
“I know exactly what I would build, if I could know where every speed bump is in the city of Chicago,” she said. “I would love to be able to restrict my directions to residential streets or to streets with traffic-calming infrastructure.”
But, Cochrane said, if anyone is able to cobble together the data that’s relevant to bikers, it’s Google, which she described as a “data leviathan.” The company confirmed that it uses a combination of imagery and data from both government authorities and community contributions, and has partnerships with more than 10,000 local governments, transit agencies and other organizations globally. Google also has access to data on road type and quality, stairs, hills, and elevation.
“The value proposition of Google is that they have this omniscient understanding of all of the streets and businesses in so many different places in the U.S.,” Cochrane said.
In July, the company outlined plans to offer more bike route information. The routing sample included in the post illustrates a detailed breakdown of the type of road bikers encounter, from major thoroughfares to shared paths, and gives riders choices between routes with descriptors like “more bike lanes” and “less turns.” This functionality is slated to roll out “soon” in cities where Google Maps already offers biking directions, including New York, London and Tokyo; the company did not respond to questions from Protocol about a more precise timeline, though.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report emphasizes that walkable communities — including protected pedestrian and bike pathways — can help cities reduce their emissions by encouraging low- or no-emission transportation options. With a user base that is more than 1 billion strong, Google Maps is uniquely positioned to effect a virtuous cycle: If more people are comfortable navigating their city by bike, that’s more people with a stake in improving low- and no-carbon infrastructure for getting around.
Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Behind every Google Map, there is a much more complex map that’s the key to your queries but hidden from your view. The deep map contains the logic of places: their no-left-turns and freeway on-ramps, speed limits and traffic conditions. This is the data that you’re drawing from when you ask Google to navigate you from point A to point B — and last week, Google showed me the internal map and demonstrated how it was built.
It’s the first time the company has let anyone watch how the project it calls GT, or “Ground Truth,” actually works. Google opened up at a key moment in its evolution. The company began as an online search company that made money almost exclusively from selling ads based on what you were querying for. But then the mobile world exploded. Where you’re searching from has become almost as important as what you’re searching for.
Google responded by creating an operating system, brand, and ecosystem in Android that has become the only significant rival to Apple’s iOS. And for good reason. If Google’s mission is to organize all the world’s information, the most important challenge — far larger than indexing the web — is to take the world’s physical information and make it accessible and useful.
“If you look at the offline world, the real world in which we live, that information is not entirely online,” Manik Gupta, the senior product manager for Google Maps, told me. “Increasingly as we go about our lives, we are trying to bridge that gap between what we see in the real world and [the online world], and Maps really plays that part.”
This is not just a theoretical concern. Mapping systems matter on phones precisely because they are the interface between the offline and online worlds. If you’re at all like me, you use mapping more than any other application except for the communications suite (phone, email, social networks, and text messaging).
Google is locked in a battle with the world’s largest company, Apple, about who will control the future of mobile phones. Whereas Apple’s strengths are in product design, supply chain management, and retail marketing, Google’s most obvious realm of competitive advantage is in information. Geo data — and the apps built to use it — are where Google can win just by being Google. That didn’t matter on previous generations of iPhones because they used Google Maps, but now Apple’s created its own service.
How the two operating systems incorporate geo data and present it to users could become a key battleground in the phone wars. But that would entail actually building a better map. The office where Google has been building the best representation of the world is not a remarkable place. It has all the free food, ping pong, and Google Maps-inspired Christoph Niemann cartoons that you’d expect, but it’s still a low-slung office building just off the 101 in Mountain View in the burbs.
I was slated to meet with Gupta and the engineering ringleader on his team, former NASA engineer Michael Weiss-Malik, who’d spent his 20 percent time working on Google Mars, and Nick Volmar, an “operator” who actually massages map data. “So you want to make a map,” Weiss-Malik tells me as we sit down in front of a massive monitor. “There are a couple of steps. You acquire data through partners.
You do a bunch of engineering on that data to get it into the right format and conflate it with other sources of data, and then you do a bunch of operations, which is what this tool is about, to hand massage the data. And out the other end pops something that is higher quality than the sum of its parts.” This is what they started out with, the TIGER data from the US Census Bureau (though the base layer could and does come from a variety of sources in different countries).
In 2014, if you were to Google “King of the United States,” you would have seen a picture of Barack Obama, yelling passionately into a microphone while at a podium. That’s not true, of course. But Google proclaimed it with authority after surfacing a Breitbart article entitled, “All Hail King Barack Obama, Emperor Of The United States of America!”
The episode highlights how clumsy Google can be with snippets, search results that the company elevates to the top of the page as a definitive answer to a query. The problem has persisted throughout the years, with Google stating plainly that certain presidents were in the KKK, or that women are evil.
Google on Thursday unveiled a handful of new features aimed at combating these kinds of falsehoods on its search engine, one of the most widely used information tools on the planet. Far from its origins as a simple website that listed 10 links as search results, Google is now a sprawling and cluttered site that highlights news stories, tweets, maps, hotel bookings, and more. As the site has grown — and as misinformation peddlers have become more sophisticated — the search engine has become more vulnerable to spreading lies and wrong information.
“In recent years, the growth of misinformation has become even more of a pressing challenge for us as a society,” Pandu Nayak, a vice president of search at Google, told reporters on Wednesday. “We can only deliver on our mission if we can deliver high quality results.”
Google said it would use its artificial intelligence systems to improve search snippets. The company will use machine learning software, called MUM, or Multitask Unified Model, to check information across multiple reliable sources that agree on the same facts. The process will allow the system to come to a general consensus, Google said, even if the sources don’t phrase the information in the same way.
The company is also expanding its “About this result” feature, originally released last year, to include more context about search results. In addition to seeing a short description of the website or company and when the result was indexed, people will now also see more granular information about the result. For example, it will tell you if a company is owned by another entity.
On the flip side, if Google can’t find much information about a result, it will disclose that as well. The company is also launching “About this result” in more languages, including Spanish, German and Indonesian.
Google is also updating its “content advisories,” which it displays usually during breaking news situations, like a mass shooting or natural disaster, when the situation is developing rapidly and not much information is available. Now, in addition to telling people when information is scarce, it will also warn people when information is available but may be unreliable, based on Google’s ranking system for search results.
The new features underscore the ongoing and escalating battle that tech giants are fighting against purveyors of misinformation. The problem will only become more heightened as the United States turns to midterm elections later this year. Google, along with Facebook and Twitter, has been under fire for years for having its platforms exploited when it comes to conspiracy theories, Covid-19 information and extremism.
None of the updates, however, apply to YouTube, which Google also owns, and has long been a major culprit in the spread of misinformation. “Their problem is a little bit different than ours in search,” Pandu said, noting that YouTube hosts content and uses a personalized feed. “We don’t work on YouTube directly, and YouTube doesn’t work on us directly.”
Google is kicking off a new publicity campaign today to pressure Apple into adopting RCS, the cross-platform messaging protocol that’s meant to be a successor to the aging SMS and MMS standards. The search giant has a new “Get The Message” website that lays out a familiar set of arguments for why Apple should support the standard, revolving around smoother messaging between iPhone and Android devices. Naturally, there’s also a #GetTheMessage hashtag to really get those viral juices flowing.
For most people, the problems Google describes are most familiar in the form of the green bubbles that signify messages to Android users in Apple’s Messages app. While the iPhone app uses Apple’s own iMessage service to send texts between iPhones (complete with modern features like encryption, support for group chats, and high-quality image and video transfers), they revert to old-fashioned SMS and MMS when texting an Android user. Not only are these messages shown in a color-clashing green bubble but also they break many of the modern messaging features people have come to rely on.
“iMessage should not benefit from bullying. Texting should bring us together, and the solution exists. Let’s fix this as one industry. https://t.co/18k8RNGQw4— Android (@Android) January 8, 2022
To fix this, Google has been dropping a series of not-so-subtle hints in recent months for Apple to support RCS, which offers most (though not all) of the features of iMessage in a protocol that’s usable across both iOS and Android. The company said it hoped “every mobile operating system… upgrades to RCS” onstage at its annual developer conference this year as well as in varioustweets over the months.
The iPhone maker has everything to gain from the current situation, which has a lock-in effect for customers. It provides seamless communication (but only between iMessage users) and turns Android’s green bubbles into subtle class markers. It’s why Apple execs admitted in internal emails that bringing iMessage to Android would “hurt [Apple] more than help us.”
RCS has also slowly been gaining feature parity with iMessage’s encryption. It now supports end-to-end encryption (E2EE) in one-on-one chats, and E2EE in group chats is due later this year.
So, will Google’s new publicity campaign finally be the thing that pushes Apple to see the light and roll out RCS support on its phones? Given the huge incentives Apple has for not playing ball, I have to say the search giant’s chances don’t look good. At this point, Apple adopting RCS feels about as likely as the US collectively ditching iMessage and moving to an encrypted cross-platform messaging service like WhatsApp or Signal.
Google’s new “Get the Message” campaign consists of a page on the company’s Android website listing all the reasons why Apple should “fix texting” by supporting RCS in iMessage. It points out how Apple’s reliance on outdated SMS and MMS when texting non-Apple devices leads to a series of problems, not only for Android phones but iPhone users as well.
This includes low-quality media, group chat incompatibilities, the inability to send messages over Wi-Fi, and the lack of read receipts, typing indicators, and end-to-end encryption. Google even goes so far as to say that Apple’s green bubbles are hard to read. Google points to several articles and examples on social media expressing frustration over Apple’s lack of support.
It’s definitely a story we’ve all heard before and likely one we’ll continue to hear for some time: messaging between Android and iOS is a bit of a mess. And as much as we would all like to imagine a world where iMessage came to Android, that will never happen, so we have to settle for RCS coming to iMessage. But even that seems unlikely, and this isn’t the first time Google has publicly called out Apple.
Google has tried to mitigate the messy texting situation with RCS, which sports many of the features iMessage users are used to. The company even introduced a way to translate reaction emojis across platforms, so Android users no longer receive a “Nick liked an image” message. Google has also been rolling out new Google Photos integration to send videos without any of the expected quality loss.
And Google is also working on expanding its end-to-end encryption to support group chats in Google Messages. However, Google’s efforts are pretty one-sided, at least until Apple adopts RCS in iMessage. It also doesn’t help that Google’s messaging around messaging has been confusing, to say the least. However, there are signs that the company is now trying to clean up its act by shedding its superfluous messaging apps.
That said, Apple seems pretty content with not supporting RCS and has remained mostly silent on the matter. Court documents revealed that company executives saw iMessage as a big way to lock customers into the platform, so extending any additional support for Android was essentially a no-go.
So, while it seems unlikely that Apple will bring RCS support any time soon, at least no one can say it’s due to a lack of effort on Google’s part. Meanwhile, you can head over to the “Get the Message” website to share Google’s message on your Twitter account, complete with the #GetTheMessage hashtag.