Category Archives: facebook

Social Search – Google Wasn’t First

Over the last couple of weeks people have been hacking and slashing at Google because they’ve rolled out a change to how your results pages show up when you conduct a search. They’ve dubbed the change “Search plus Your World” and the idea is you receive Google+ data while signed into your Google account and conduct a search. Personally, I really don’t see the issue with their idea and here’s why.

Number one reason, if you’re signed into your Google account, searching Google.com, why would it surprise you to find publicly available information from Google+ in your results pages if it’s relevant? And from all of the screenshots of the integrated social results, a click of a button and they’re gone. Another argument I’ve seen about Google integrating the information into the SERPs is they are prioritizing its own content instead of linking out to third-party sites, which arguably is the whole point of a search engine. Valid point to bring up, but again, you can simply shut the option off with a few clicks at most. In the online world where 800 million or so people are used to the “opt-out” model thanks to Facebook, it’s almost surprising that it’s taken this long for another major web player to try it. Twitter and Facebook even backed a small browser bookmark of sorts to help cull out the Google+ results from your results pages. It’s outraged enough people, that bloggers are already forcasting that Bing is the new King of Search.

It’s perhaps those last two points which contributed to my puzzlement. For all of the people up in arms with Google and switching over to Bing, I can only assume two things. You were born on January 1, 2012 and you don’t have a Facebook account; amazing really considering there are so many. Here’s a brief excerpt from an article stabbing at the changes Google has recently made:

The new feature is baked right into Google and aims to personalize your search results by including Google+ data when you are signed into your Google account.

And here, is an excerpt from an article written in May 2011:

The worlds of SEO and social media were rocked the other day when Bing announced they will incorporate Facebook data into their search results for the most personal social-search integration to hit the web. What does this mean for the user? If you search for something on Bing and are logged into your Facebook account, you will see which pages, products and websites your friends Like and recommend high in the results, regardless of where that page ranks in the general SERP.

Perhaps Facebook should recite the idiom, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, as Bing and Facebook have been at social search integration coming up quickly on a year of implementation.

SEO What they don’t tell you.

An optimized website

What they say: Even if you don’t actually sell products online, a website gives potential customers and investors the opportunity to find out more about you and your company. For a website to be effective and bring new customers and investors to your doors it needs to be seen. Search engine optimization can help position your website on the first few pages of the search engines which means it’s much more likely to receive visitors.

As well as ensuring the copywriting on your website is optimized with keywords, you need to make sure your web developers or designers have created an SEO friendly website.

With 65,000 new websites coming online every day, not including new pages and blog added to existing websites daily the chances of you ever seeing high traffic and rankings without a BIG cost is near on impossible. Nobody ever mentions the cost do they.

Fact: Investment for marketing the website from approx. $1500 – $20,000 per month depending on size and your competition.

Active social media channels

What they say: Having a profile set up on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (plus the numerous other social media networks) isn’t enough. For your social media campaign to be a success you need to continually interact with your network.

And to be honest who gives a crap what bus stop or pizza shop you’re at or what you have just eaten, Your top score on a farm game or flirting teens pretending while the parents are out. Get a life. Limited for business unless very local.

Fact: A full-time job to do it properly along with a full-time salary approx. $30,000 – $50,000 per annum.

An up to date blog

What they say: Blogging is one of the quickest and easiest ways to forge an identity for yourself online. Blogs allow you to share your expertise with your visitors and it encourages them to see you as a leading authority in your industry sector. As you build up your blog with opinion pieces, news stories and reviews you will create an online resource for your blog visitors.

Fact: Takes your time and money, time is money or employ someone to do it, another salary.

While there is a lot of information and help out there to get you started, do not be taken in by all the BS that people and company’s shovel out. Sure Google also has SEO guidelines which cover what you should and should not be doing in order to create a well optimized website. Check it out  Rand at SEOMoz have a multitude of free blogs, videos and podcasts on their website to help people understand the basic (and more advanced) SEO techniques too, but the cold hard facts are it takes time, money and knowledge to be a real player. As I have said many times, pay peanuts and you will get monkey’s.

As a small business if you don’t have at least $20k a year to throw at marketing your online presence, forget it, you will never even scratch the surface, if some company gives you bullshit about the must have Facebook, twitter and rest accounts, run for the hills, these usually are the wannabe online marketers, with sharp tongues (usually forked) and snappy suits. You can get business from social, but it’s limited, search is and has been #1 from the start and will continue for a very long time.

Ask yourself what you do when you want something, whether on your phone, laptop or desktop, you search first.

Opinions are those of the writer.

Online Marketing Budgets Increasing

It’s reassuring, that even though some businesses out there are slow to improve their websites or their online marketing toolset, the trend is slowly but surely shifting. While still only a fraction of the marketing dollars spent out there, the numbers are showing that around 17% of most businesses marketing budgests are being spent on online marketing. Any positive growth is good for everyone involved.

A great graphic depicting some of these changes has been put together, which outlines some of the changes coming about in the marketing world. In the US, 70% of the businesses out there have indicated that they will be increasing spending on social media advertising (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) and 64% also chimed in to add their budget is increasing for SEO as well. With consumers spending more and more time searching online for their next purchase, it’s much more advantageous to get into the game now, as opposed to later. The longer you wait, the greater your costs are going to be. Surprisingly however, it came back that 17% of businesses out there planned on increasing their marketing budgets on print media, which is much like buying stock in Yahoo these days. I kid, I kid, all jokes aside however, almost anyone out there who has a job has access to the internet. It should be no surprise that on average people spend 3+ hours browsing the internet. 84% of people who use the internet, spend their time searching for information on what has caught their interest, there are billions of searches per day.

There’s a great deal more information which can be gleaned from the stats, have a look and take a moment to conisder your marketing plans. Are you on the side of innovation and forward thinking? Or trying to cling to an outdated, unmeasurable stand by. Just remember that the longer you wait, the more difficult the game becomes.

Google+ is Evolving and Growing

It’s been just around a month now that Google+ became open for business, and Google remains undaunted in its effort to go toe-to-toe with Facebook.

Vic Gundotra, vice president in charge of Google+ said, “We are in an enviable position that we have people who come to Google, we are in this for the long haul… By Christmas you will see Google+ strategy coming together.”

Google+ has attracted more than 40 million users since it opened to the public , but has a long way to catch up with Facebook’s membership of approximately 800 million.

Google is looking at tying all of their current Apps and extensions into Google+ accounts, the goal being able to synch the whole mess together with Docs, Youtube etc. Eventually, Google aims to open the platform to outside developers to make games and other kinds of installable “apps” that have been part of Facebook’s success.

Google is moving slowly and cautiously to make sure its social network is a safe, stable haven for families, friends, and other associates who connect with one another in “circles” created at the service.

Gundotra acknowledged that Facebook has the advantage of a “network affect,” in that complex webs of friends are established there and people might find it daunting to up and relocate to Google+.
“The incumbent (Facebook) has a huge advantage, if you play the same game, you are not going to win… So we are going to do it differently.”

One of the larger contrasts between the two networks, Google+ offers much more discretion on what you share, with whom.
“We do not believe in over-sharing,” Gundotra said. “There is a reason why every thought in your head does not come out your mouth… We think a core attribute to being human is to curate.”

Google+ launched with a requirement that people use their real names online in order to let others find them more easily, but they are aiming to eventually allow people to use pseudonyms on your account as opposed to your real name. It’s been a thorn in the fledgling social network since early in it’s beta incarnation.

“We wanted this to be a product where you can discover people you know,” Gundotra said. “You don’t know ‘Captain Crunch’ or ‘Dog Fart’.”

Based on the rest of the discussion from the conference, it’s looking like Google can’t wait for Christmas to get here.

Free Search Listing Options

There has been blogs written many times about the cost of SEO and about how the return on investment is one of the highest in the marketing industry, there are times when optimization is just not in the budget. Whether you’re a brand new business with little to no marketing capital, or perhaps an aging business that needs to completely rework your advertising and marketing campaigns. Don’t fret however if you can’t pour vast amounts of money into organic SEO, there are still a couple of tricks you can do which can at least help you in your local marketplace.

First off, if you have a business, then you’ll have a name for it. There are a few free avenues you can explore to begin promoting yourself to your local area and if done right, your name will spread. Facebook, while primarily a social location for friends and families also has their own business listings. Instead of creating a personal profile, you create a business page with which you can begin to share information with your customers and clients in an open format. Within Facebook as well, you can use paid advertisements which will display on profiles which are interested in your business. Pre-qualified traffic can go a long way to helping your bottom line. The ad placements within Facebook do have a cost however, but the page listing does not.

Also tieing in with the free angle, using a Twitter account can be a creative way to send out advertisements for flash sales or discounts to your subscribers. Frequently updating your sales or hosting a conversation in your stream is a free way to generate buzz about your business and your products.

If you find that the information you need or want to share with your customers is too long for Twitter, having a branded blog is a great step forward to get the word out. Use your blog to promote new products which need a description, or a place to layout the details of an upcoming contest or sale. A blog is a free, simple way to get stories out to your current and future customer base.

Continuing in the realm of free, be sure to also create your Google Places page. Creating a quality page with all of your relevant location and contact information can place you within the organic search listings should you be part of the search terms entered. The Places pages are displayed just as the Google Maps listings used to be, typically at the top of the organic listings with their identifiable red arrow markings.

Those are only a handful of the free local advertising tools you can use as a business owner. When you’ve generated the traffic and are starting to improve your bottom line that’s when it’s time to take the plunge and invest in a quality built website and start building your brand on a wider scale.

Googles Non-Web Dominance

The anti-trust hearings versus Google and their supposed stranglehold of the web has been continuing in front of the senate. There are people on all sides of the argument it seems, Google on the defensive, Microsoft and a few others decrying that they’ve been wronged by the search giant. And one of the most basic arguments that Schmidt has used to rebut all of the claims of unfair business could very well win the day. Schmidt’s defence basically says:

“Google faces competition from numerous sources including other general search engines (such as Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo!, and Blekko); specialized search sites, including travel sites (like Expedia and Travelocity), restaurant reviews (like Yelp), and shopping sites (like Amazon and eBay); social media sites (like Facebook); and mobile applications beyond count, just to name a few.”

Now on one hand, yes Google can provide all of the services that are available on the web, but there are simply better options. If you’re big into social networking, Facebook is still the king, if you travel a lot you use Expedia to find tickets and deals. I’ve personally used Amazon, eBay and Kajiji to post and purchase items and even the smaller search engines like Blekko have their place and a few tricks that Google just can’t do.

So Schmidt’s argument that there are options available online, users just need to navigate to them, is utterly true. Google doesn’t so much have a dominance of the internet, as it has a dominating presence in the search arena. And there are many out there who would point out, Bing, Yahoo and the littls start ups like Blekko which come along, chip away little by little at that armour. Google’s search advantage or position isn’t going to disappear or diminish in any great capacity until a revolutionary game changer makes itself known, just as Larry and Sergei did with Google.

So don’t worry about Google’s “dominating web presence” so much, instead use your keyboard and mouse and investigate the alternatives. Just because one site offers similar products, doesn’t automatically mean you have to use them. After all, you wouldn’t call Coca-Cola to order some Pepsi.

Google+ Is Not Dead

The numbers are becoming more and more visible, and since it’s launch in late June, Google+ has attracted 25 million users in about a month. Facebook, in contrast, took about three years to reach those levels , while Twitter took just over 30 months. According to ComScore. Google+ has since hit the 50 million users mark.

So how could it be that people are calling Google+ dead in the water so soon? You could blame it in part on Googles checkered social history, or even on the privacy gaffs they experienced their first time out with Buzz. Some bloggers have recently used the terms “Google is dead” and “Google+ is worse than a ghost town” to describe their Google+ accounts and activity. The strongest language would have to be a Forbes commentator saying “Google+ is a failure no matter what the numbers say”. Harsh descriptions for what has been described as an alternative social network with the Hangouts and the strong security options built in.

Even with all of these doom callers, there are just as many reminding users out there to give it time. The internet wasn’t built in a day, Facebook didn’t reach social dominance overnight and Google+ will need some nurturing time despite explosive growth early on. A strong point to consider, just like SEO didn’t exist 10 years ago, the idea of a social network didn’t exist just 4 years ago.

The measure that’s been decided of success for a social network is the level of activity on the site. When you hold up the measuring stick of “700,000 pieces of sharing per minute” to *any* social network it’s going to look like a failure. Something that also needs to be kept in mind, if you’re experiencing a dead or slow social network, that is a result of the people you’re following and your own level of sharing. If you don’t share any information within your circles then why should you receive any feedback or activity into your account?

To say Google+ is already dead, is premature speculation at this point. Time will tell just how successful the search giant can be in the social arena, but with the recent addition of the games panel, the named hangouts and the collaboration which is possible with your circles on Google+. Giving Google the time to mature their social product is necessary before calling it dead.

Google+ Free For All

It’s been just over a week now that Google allowed open registration to test the Google+ platform and what a week it’s been. At last count, the budding social network had in the neighborhood of 25 million users in the “invite only” beta. In the last 10 days of open registration, traffic to the site has jumped like water hitting hot oil. Visits for the week of Sept. 17th were up 1269%, blasting to 15 million visits over the 1.1 million of the week previous.

Rough estimates with that increase in traffic, is that the fledgling social site is likely near the 50 million users mark. It’s literally a drop in the bucket in terms of the traffic Facebook gets, nearly 2 billion, but it’s made Google+ jump from number 54 in ranking to number 8 on the Hitwise social networking and forums category of sites. Currently that ranks Google+ squarely behind MySpace (yes it’s *still* around) and climbing higher.

Just as analysts are estimating that G+ has nearly 50 million users at this point, that doesn’t mean you can start building a social profile full of your high school friends and distant family. The numbers seen on G+ are primarily the early crowd, the tech generation who likes to tinker with stuff which may or may not work 100%. Something to consider says the Hitwise results, is that the numbers do not include any mobile search traffic or traffic coming in via the Google bar, so the visits are most likely much higher.

Google+ made its debut in late June with a limited number of users, and a Google+ invite quickly became the hottest ticket in town. The hysteria died down a bit after Google started allowing users to send out invites, but there was a lot of talk about whether Google had finally landed on a social networking product that could compete with Facebook.

With 25 million users at last count to Facebook’s 750 million, Google+ clearly has a long way to go. Still, it’s clear that Facebook and Google+ are taking cues from one another. Google+ has some very Facebook-esque privacy features and cribs the Facebook news feed structure. But Facebook recently unveiled some friends features that look a lot like Google+ Circles.

It won’t be a showdown of any kind until the users say so, but at this point it looks like G+ is making strong strides in the social arena and put the gaff of Google Buzz behind them.

Google Sweetens the G+ Pot

There’s been a shift lately in the Google+ world, it’s not longer set as invite only status. Just in case you haven’t noticed, just visit Google and you can sign up for your G+ account. That said, there’s been a number of changes and improvements to the social site, all of which to improve your experience on the site.

One of the biggest differences initially between Facebook and G+ were the Hangouts which were offered on Google+. Being able to invite groups of your friends to literally video chat to each other and, well hangout together. This past week there have been some upgrades to the service.

Hangout via Cellphone
Taking a cue from Skype, Google+ now offers live hangout streaming on your mobile phone. It is however, currently only supported on Android 2.3+ phones with front facing cameras.

Broadcast Hangouts
Speaking to a large audience just got a little bit easier. The recent launch of Hangouts On Air allows you to interact with a large group of your Google+ buds, or just view as a spectator. There’s even an option to record your session. The addition of this option in particular promotes training, and webinars.

To tie in to the idea of being able to reach a wide audience at once, Google+ has also added the ability to share each others screens (if enabled) and a sketchpad almost like using a white board to instruct.

Google has added integration with your existing Google docs with the Hangout feature as well. Share a document with a co-worker, link up together in a hangout and you can work together in real time to complete your projects in time.

Have a need to talk to others in a particular industry or with similar interests? Look for a public hangout about that topic and connect. Or create your own. This is a great opportunity for an up and coming designer looking to reach out to fashion bloggers, other designers, or to collaborate on designs to do so no matter where they are in the world.

Use these hangouts to meet up with a support group and invite others to join in on the conversation as well. Hold an online networking event and connect with prospective customers too. The possibilities are endless.

And two of the biggest ideas that have been added would have to be the access to the Hangout API to allow programmers to begin work on real time apps. And the one you would have expected, but wasn’t actually a part of Google+ until recently, was integration with search. Relevant content and connections will show up in addition to relevant posts. Easily sort through and find content related to what you’re looking for.

This isn’t all of the updates the giant has planned for their social site of course, it’s merely a beginning, but they’re great out of the gate. Hopefully they can continue the trend.

Time To Be A Google Engineer

It’s the beginning of the ‘social’ part of the Google+ platform. Google has released the first public APIs for Google+ so that external developers can start working with the fledgling social networking site and planning applications for it.

This first batch of APIs lets developers fetch only public data from profiles in a read-only manner, and access is limited to what Google calls a “courtesy usage quota” for now. Google sees this initial API release as the first step in building a more powerful developer platform.

“For all of you developers who have been asking for a Google+ API, this is the start. Experiment with it. Build apps on it. Give us your feedback and ideas,”

– Chris Chabot Google+ Developer Relations

Having a thriving developer community, as Twitter and Facebook have done, has proven a must for social networking sites to succeed, so a lot is riding on the Google+ platform. Twitter announced in July that some 750,000 developers have built about 1 million applications for its microblogging service.

Interestingly, Google is holding off on adopting for Google+ the OpenSocial APIs that it originally developed in 2007 and championed for years as a better alternative to proprietary tools for specific platforms like Facebook’s.

The OpenSocial technology has been adopted by a number of consumer and enterprise social networking providers and its development is managed and overseen by the nonprofit OpenSocial Foundation.

When asked about plans to let developers build Google+ applications using the OpenSocial APIs, a Google spokeswoman said via email that at this time the Google+ platform doesn’t support the OpenSocial APIs.

“However, we are using lots of the technology that was developed as part of OpenSocial, including the gadget application packaging model, and the Portable Contacts JSON schema, to power Google+ games. As we define the +Platform APIs, we are paying close attention to the future direction of the OpenSocial APIs, and converging wherever possible.”

Developers can use the OpenSocial APIs to build applications for other Google sites and services, including the Orkut social networking site and the iGoogle personalized home page service.