Fast Five in Search – Week 45, 2014

fast-five

 

This week I’ve been spending a lot of time in Google Analytics and looking at the most popular pages on this blog.  Turns out that the Q and A posts are the most popular, so this week’s Fast Five is a collection of my most popular Q and A posts for 2014.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five:

1) Q and A: Will Google penalize me for redirecting my old site to my new site with duplicate content? In this post, I help a webmaster who has moved domains and is concerned that his redirect may be penalized by Google as duplicate content.

2) Q and A: How many AdGroups should a single PPC campaign have? A Google AdWords advertiser is concerned about how many adgroups her campaign has and asks me for advice.

3) Q and A: Is rewriting content from another blog a legitimate SEO tactic? In this more recent Q and A, I help out a guy whose sister has hired a SEO company using dodgy site-scraping tactics for SEO purposes.

4) Q and A: How do I login to my YouTube channel The number of people who lose control of their YouTube channels is surprising. In this post, I assist someone who has forgotten their YouTube login and needs help getting it back.

and finally…

5) Q and A: Do Gmail accounts ever expire? In this post, I answer the age-old question of whether Google accounts every expire and whether they can be re-activated.

Happy reading!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.

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Q and A: Do YouTube Accounts Ever Expire?

QuestionDear Kalena

Thanks for clarifying in your blog post yesterday about Gmail account expiration. Is it the same situation for YouTube accounts? Do YouTube accounts ever expire and can you acquire the username over time if no-one is using the account?

thanks
Phil

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Dear Phil

Thanks for your feedback about my recent blog post about Gmail account expiry. Because Google owns YouTube, there are some similarities in terms of account expiry and also some crossover in relation to YouTube account hijacking and username impersonation.


YouTube Account Expiry and Transfer

The creation of a YouTube channel requires a Google account. There is no brandname protection over YouTube account creation. Whoever registers a channel name first *owns* that channel.

If someone owns a Google account permanently linked to a YouTube channel e.g. brandname@gmail.com linked to YouTube.com/brandname, to use that channel you would have to convince the Google account holder to transfer the whole account over to you.

Just like Gmail, when a YouTube account is closed, the username is no longer available for use. It’s permanently reserved so you can’t have it transferred to another YouTube account. A closed YouTube account will bring up an error message like this one.


YouTube Account Hijacking

Unlike Google accounts, YouTube have a clearer policy when it comes to username squatting and brand impersonation. From their Username Policy guidelines:

“Impersonating another user by copying their channel layout, using a similar username, or posing as them in comments, emails or videos is considered harassment and is a violation of our Community Guidelines… In cases of username squatting, YouTube may release usernames in cases of a valid trademark complaint.”

Despite the clearer policy guidelines, YouTube still prefers to take a *hands off* approach when dealing with trademark complaints:

“If you are a trademark owner and you believe your trademark is being infringed due to a username issue, please note that YouTube is not in a position to mediate trademark disputes between users and trademark owners. As a result, we strongly encourage trademark owners to resolve their disputes directly with the owner of the username.”


YouTube Account Recovery

If your brand-related YouTube account is being squatted, approach the owners and politely ask if they would be willing to hand over the account/s. Keep in mind that they will have to agree to hand over the related Google account as well. If that fails, you might consider negotiating a price for hand over, as I recommended in an earlier post for Gmail accounts.

If you own the trademark for your brand/company name being squatted on YouTube, lodge a YouTube Trademark Complaint. If the YouTube channel in question is in violation of the YouTube Community Guidelines or is clearly impersonating another user or brand, you can report it via the YouTube Help and Safety Tool.

Good luck.

Kalena

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Q and A: Do Gmail Accounts Ever Expire?

QuestionDear Kalena

I was just wondering if you knew whether Gmail accounts ever expire? About 6 months ago, my company tried to register our brandname @gmail.com so we could associate it with our Google+ account, but somebody was already squatting it. I have been emailing the account every month but my emails are never returned. Is there an expiry period for Gmail accounts and if so, can we apply to take over the account if it relates to our brand name?

thanks
Hannah

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Dear Hannah

I was researching this issue earlier this year for a client who was trying to recover a brand-related YouTube channel and Gmail account being squatted. It took me quite a while to find the answer to this one because Google accounts are a bit of a rabbit hole – even Will Wheaton has trouble with his Gmail accounts!


The Good News

According to a post by a software engineer on the Google Product Forum, a Gmail account does expire and will be deleted after approximately 9 months of inactivity.

It’s not made clear what sort of activity counts, whether logging in, POP/IMAP, forwarding or something else. But if you check the *Last account activity* while logged into your Gmail account, it will show you what type of activity is registered. This link at the bottom of every Gmail page shows you information about recent activity in your mail. Recent activity includes any time that your mail was accessed using a regular web browser, a POP1 client, a mobile device, etc. It will list the IP address that accessed your mail, the associated location, as well as the time and date, so you will be able to determine what Google considers *activity* on your Gmail account and make sure that activity happens on a regular basis to prevent expiration of your email address.


The Bad News

According to a post by John Nu, (an official Gmail Top Contributor), an expired Gmail account can’t be reactivated. Here’s an extract of John’s post:

“Google tracks to determine which accounts have been essentially abandoned by people and eventually deletes them. Each account has essentially two sets of information associated with it, the definition of the account, which includes the account name, ownership information, recovery information, etc.; and the contents of the account. There is also a list of reserved names, which contains every account name that was ever issued by Google and, by implication, variations of the name (e.g., if an account is in the name of “JohnDoe,” then “John.Doe,” “johndoe,” and other variations are implicitly reserved).

The contents of the account are the first to go after an account is deleted. When the account is deleted, the contents only exist in backups. Google only keeps the backups for a limited time, so once the last of the backups that contained the account contents expire, the contents are no longer recoverable.

The record of the account itself is stored separately and has a different retention cycle. That information does not expire until a while after the account contents have completely expired. Once that is deleted, Google has no way to validate ownership of an account.

That leaves only the entry on the list of reserved names. Google leaves the names on that list indefinitely to protect users from potential identity theft: If you abandoned or deleted an account and someone else could reuse the name, it would be very easy for them to present themselves to other websites, etc. as being you. Unfortunately, however, the prior owners are locked out as well, though, because Google lost the ability to verify ownership when the records of the account expired and were deleted.”


Google Account Deactivation and Recovery

According to Google there are several reasons why a username may be unavailable, but they don’t reveal specifics: “To help protect your privacy, we don’t reveal details about why a specific username is unavailable, or whether a username has been deleted.”

Depending on the stage of the deactivation, a Gmail account may still be recoverable. Visit Google Account Recovery and enter the email address.

If it takes you to a *reset password* page, then the account is still recoverable. If you get a message that the account is no longer recoverable, it means that it has likely reached the last phase described above and there is no known way to recover the account or even reuse the email address.


Username Squatting / Brand Impersonation

So having a Gmail account deactivated is one thing, but what if you notice your company name or brand being used on an active Gmail, Google+ or other Google-related account?

Firstly, you’ll need to determine if the profile is being used to deliberately impersonate your brand. It may be simply that another entity shares the same or similar name as your brand and is using the profile legitimately. Google won’t take action against these profiles. However, if you discover content with obvious intent to damage, you *may* have a case for Google to intervene and force a handover of the account or at least, account closure :

“Profiles or pages with clear malicious or personal attacks will be removed, with no proof of identity necessary from the person making the report… Pages that impersonate another company or organization will require an authorized representative of the company or organization being impersonated to provide a form of business verification.”

The process to follow in this case is to click on the Report This Profile link while viewing the profile. Obviously it will help your case if you own the trademark for your brand / company name.


Google Account Deactivation Prevention

There are three lessons here:

1) Reserve your brand or company related Gmail accounts NOW, before they get squatted.

2) If you currently have one or more Gmail accounts, make sure you log into each account on a regular basis to keep them active and make sure they don’t expire. Implement more challenging passwords and other security measures to make sure the accounts don’t get hacked or stolen.

3) If your brand-related Google accounts are being squatted, approach the owners and politely ask if they would be willing to hand over the accounts. If that fails and you don’t have an obvious case for impersonation, trademark violation or copyright infringement, you might consider negotiating a price for hand over. If you own the trademark for your brand/company name being squatted, Report an Inappropriate Profile to Google. If that fails, give up.

Hope this helps!
Kalena

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Introducing Gmail Priority InBox – Email that Sorts Itself

We all hate email overload. Web-based email programs like Gmail have built-in smart spam filtering and advanced labelling, but you can still miss important emails if you receive hundreds per day.

In an attempt to solve this problem, Gmail software engineers have today launched the Priority InBox.

Basically, this is an advanced sorting tool for your incoming mail. Your new Gmail InBox will be divided into three sections: Priority InBox (unread), Starred Emails and Everything Else. Based on a variety of signals about the importance of an email, Gmail will flag it and move it to the top section of your InBox, giving it priority over all other mail.

For example, if you are in daily email contact with a person, Gmail will determine that emails from that person are important and should always arrive in your Priority InBox.

You can also manually promote or demote emails to/from your Priority InBox by using the “+” and “-” buttons provided. You can use filtering to control your Priority InBox and you can customize the three InBox sections to suit your needs.

The longer you use Gmail, the smarter the Priority InBox gets at sorting your mail. From the official blog post:

“Gmail has always been pretty good at filtering junk mail into the “spam” folder. But today, in addition to spam, people get a lot of mail that isn’t outright junk but isn’t very important ‘bologna’, or ‘bacn’. So we’ve evolved Gmail’s filter to address this problem and extended it to not only classify outright spam, but also to help users separate this “bologna” from the important stuff. In a way, Priority Inbox is like your personal assistant, helping you focus on the messages that matter without requiring you to set up complex rules.”

In a side note, news of Priority InBox was leaked early, despite a strict media embargo that was meant to be in place until this evening. Maybe it’s just me, but a media embargo seem ridiculous in the age of social and real time search. A media embargo from Google, the foremost advocates of social and real time search just seems ludicrous. But anyway, I digress.

While internal Google staff and some BETA testers have been trialling Priority InBox for some months, the feature will begin rolling out to all Gmail and Google Apps users over the next week or so.

You’ll know if you have the new feature if you see the “New! Priority Inbox” link in the top right corner of your Gmail account.

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