There has been a fair amount of chatter lately about the possiblity of the bear being let loose in the wild. The bear in this scenario, while invoking a cute and cuddly image, has been anything but to some webmasters out there. I’m referring to the Panda update which was primarily implemented earlier this year in February, which in the last few days speculation has arised it’s currently loose. Google of course is tight lipped about it’s algorithm and of their method of being deployed, this all together just leads to more specualtion and hyperbole.
One of the stranger aspects of the search game and the internet in general, it seems that people forget the internet is always changing. It’s not shifting a little, it doesn’t even shift somewhat throughout the week. It’s constantly shifting, pages being created, websites being launched and search, shopping and social algorithms are continually being tweaked and modified. And because these algorithms are always changing, always moving, so do the indexes. Shopping, social, search, none of the indexes you search for and look at today, even somewhat resemble what you would have found even a few months ago.
Is Google+ a contender, or is it merely a flash in the pan like Wave and Buzz were? If the recent trends where the beta testing of Google+ are the be taken seriously, then Google’s iteration of the social network is most definitely a contender. Even Mark Zuckerberg seems to be taking the upstart seriously as he’s recently reactivated his Plus account and has been spending some time using the network. It’s most definately a good idea and competition of course breeds innovation. Only good things can really come from the continued growth of Google+.
Saying that the social network being offered by Google is a contender in the social space, really isn’t as massive a deal as at first glance. Calling Google+ a contender in social is much the same as calling Bing a contender in the search game. Bing is holding onto a solid 1/3 of search volume occuring online, and if you use the same percentages for argument sakes, that would give Google+ a strong membership somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 million members. Definitely a contender, have you tried Google+?
It’s fairly easy to find an article or blog with the viewpoint that Google is too big to be considered ‘not evil’ and they’re just a data hungry machine. It’s also not uncommon to find a writer who’s convinced that Facebook is the embodiment of forward progress online, that you need to have your eggs in the social basket to move forward. The American Customer Satisfaction Index came out recently, and while Facebook and Google are in different categories, only one of them comes out on top; as a hint it’s not the social one.
The average satisfaction mark for the public for social networks is at the 70% mark, and Facebook came in at a 66% approval rating irregardless of being the biggest on the block. The leaders of the social category as it were, are Wikipedia, the largest online publicly edited information source, and Youtube whose billions of hours of video can help wile away the rainiest of days. Those who answered the poll cited issues such as privacy and security concerns, unexpected changes to service and overcommercialization as the reasons for ranking Facebook so low in the results. This doesn’t mean of course that Google+ will immediately supplant Facebook as the social experience destination on the web, but after looking at the poll numbers, Facebook has to realize that their platform they’ve been on for so long isn’t as stable as it first appears. It does give Google and Google+ a bit of a cheat sheet however when it comes to user experience.
In the search engine portion of the same poll, Google did come out on top of their category with an 83% customer satisfaction score, it’s a 3% increase from the previous years score. Bing also climbed swiftly up the ladder as well, from a 77% rating last year, to an 82% rating this year. Bing has seen some solid gains in the customer satisfaction experience while serving up 30% of the webs searches to Googles 70% served. In the realm of search, Google is still the king of the mountain even with Bing making some headway in the space.
When it comes down to the bottom line, what will really determine the shape of the web at this time next year is what happens with these companies in the next 12 months. Facebook could turn around and make privacy a no brainer and Google may completely flub the search game. Or Google could submit their offering to the social web and Facebook may see a trickle of users slowly leaving for a more controllable social experience. Competition is a great tool to help improve the quality of the user experience on the web, putting strangle holds in place for these web giants where their every move is scrutinized by the public, lawyers and the government, is the surest and quickest way to stunt online growth.
In a 180 switch from where we were a few years ago, it’s fairly quick to find a post or two about why Google absolutely can not beat Facebook. Googles version of the social site in Google+ is a more finely tuned machine at the outset than Facebook was. And as any who’ve been a part of Facebook from the early days can tell you, the site now isn’t even reminescent of what it used to be, and it’s still going through growing pains.
But going back to the point of Google+ can not beat Facebook (at their own game of course) I’d think it’s a little early to discount any players in the social space. At this point there are really only 2 social platforms that people work and focus on, Facebook and Twitter. Twitter of course delivering pint sized pearls of wisdom, 140 characters at a time. And Facebook a social behemoth with hundreds of millions of users, close to 750 million at last count, countless apps and means to wile away your hours. I find it a premature evaluation that Google+ has no chance in the social space, when some of it’s greatest strengths are what it openly lacks, time wasting apps.
Facebook is quick with the stats and saying they have 750 million ‘active’ users on the site, when in actuallity it’s probably closer to half of that. Even still, having nearly 400 million active users on your website, is a mighty hammer to hold up to any competitors which may look your way. By that same token, Google fields hundreds of millions of searches each day, just like Facebook has their millions of active users. Basing opinion upon the current beta testing population against the hundreds of millions of users on Facebook is as fair as comparing Facebooks search prowess versus Googles, they’re completely different animals.
Some articles I’ve come across have stated that Google screwed up their last social (mis)adventure when they threw Buzz at the public and made the erroneous error of automatically making everyones Gmail contact list public. And that the public is going to be gun shy about venturing into their newest social offering because of that. Well unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, Google isn’t the only company to have privacy concerns. Facebook for a while was in the news weekly with new questions being posed to them via the FTC about the access to information and their heavy handed approach to social and automatically opting your account into applications you might be interested in. Anyone who has tried to navigate the Facebook privacy settings as well without a manual at their side can attest to the jungle of links and drop down boxes which offer no clear direction. Google+ currently, has much a simpler and potent philosophy, you’re private unless you want to be public. And if you want to be public, managing your settings is simple, you can share with everyone, only your friends and circles, or you can pick specific circles to share with.
Now the circle idea has been gaining some traction in that it’s actually quite simple to operate, provided you don’t do it with your eyes closed. The circles in Google+ would most easily be described as creating a group on Facebook and inviting people into that group. The difference however, is you control who is in your circles. You can create specific groups for yourself, in order to share in the way you like best. The option on Facebook currently is to create multiple groups and dissect your friends list and invite them one by one. Creating and adding to a circle is as easy as drag and drop from your friends list and you’re done. No waiting on those people who only login once or twice every couple of weeks and hope they’ve caught your group invite.
Currently Google+ is in a good place, it flows well, it’s easy to work with, and the hangout feature is a really neat idea. If they can get the bandwidth to work out properly for it so it doesn’t destroy monthly caps, I can see getting lots of use out of the feature. Think of it from a business perspective, face to face video/audio conference calls between all relevant parties, for the cost of your internet connection.
Google Realtime search is officially dead in the water with the expiration of the agreement with Twitter. But is it truly finished with the beta testing of Google+ social site going on in the background?
It’s no surprise that when Facebook rolled out their version of search some months ago it did worse than bombed, it was a terrible smattering of Facebook pages somewhat related contextually to your terms. Where as when Google made their first in roads into social with Buzz, they really messed up with pretty much everything where privacy was concerned. Facebook hasn’t really rehashed their search algorithm or modified it to be any kind of a competitor in the search arena, but Google is making a play on their turf.
By all accounts Google+ so far in it’s beta testing is a fairly decent product. With the ability to essentially sort your friends into your own personal groups and the ability to turn the privacy knob up to 11 has the newest offering on some solid ground out of the gate. Google has an immense suite of products already on the table with documents, calendar etc which could even make the social site a place of productivity as well. And with their Realtime search now defunct, having their own social site gives the search giant the tools to use their own posters to fuel that engine. Google+ also has a group video chat they call Hangout, that with some tweaks (rumor says it devours bandwidth) could be a great way to collaborate with friends and even colleagues. Facebook in what could be construed as a response to the Hangout feature released the integration of Skype into the social sites chat features.
At this moment it looks like Google+ beta testing is going to be a solid competitor in the social arena, it just remains to see what they can continue to plug into it. Being able to say, completely migrate all of your Facebook friends into the Google+ site would be a good start.
In a somewhat strange twist of irony, Googles social site Google+ most followed member is Mark Zuckerberg. “Mark Zuckerberg isn’t banned from using Google+” you might ask but its probably the best indication that the two giants don’t really compete with each other. On the other side of the argument, Google is making some decidedly strong headway into the social arena with the beta of Google+ so who better to push it’s boundaries than the head of the largest social media network on the web.
Some of the reports coming out of the beta testing waters are interesting. Little tweaks to the social experience like a group video chat, better friend controls and more powerful privacy tools go a long way to providing a unique enough experience over Facebook. Google+ being one of the search giants products is going to be widely accessible right from the get go as it’s development on multiple platforms occurs in tandem. It will be available in browsers, on mobile, through search and as rumor has it, as an enterprise product as well.
Staying within the boundaries of the social aspect of the web, Farmville creator Zynga filed their S-1 form last week. For those of us (myself included) who have no idea what that means, the social gaming innovator is working on becoming public. Contained within their filing spells out just how dependant they are (at present) on their relationship with Facebook to remain as profitable as they are, for as long as possible. And with the switch to using Facebook credits as currency for their online social offerings, Facebook stands to earn a good lump sum, as Zynga reported their ‘hardcore’ players spent $600 million alone last year. A little more than pocket change at their 30% share of the pie for Facebook.
Major companies from Nestle to Ford are increasing the proportion of their ad spend on the Internet to the detriment of traditional press ads and big ad agencies are scrambling to evolve.
The changes have given birth to a slew of tech start-ups trying to come up with more sophisticated ways to match ads to consumers, often with sophisticated data mining techniques and algorithms.
While traditional advertising groups jostled for awards at a recent annual industry gathering in Cannes, the year’s biggest star was a newcomer to the beaches: the social network Facebook.
The company has gone from nowhere a few years ago to become the biggest single seller of online display advertising in the United States with more than $2 billion in revenues this year, according to research firm eMarketer.
“If I have a good experience with a brand I’ll tell a person offline — I might tell my friend — but if I do it on Facebook the average person is telling 130 people,” said Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.
When you logon to your computer, fire up your browser and start your internet trek for knowledge, entertainment or what ever it is that has your mind occupied, are you going to be able to find your answer? It’s a question which has been gaining more and more traction in the last year or so, and DuckDuckGo, a new start up search engine has been shaking the search cage in an effort to forge it’s own path.
Recently they have put up a page detailing how when you perform a search on Google, Bing or Yahoo, you’re not getting a true results page. The screen shot of the search results clearly shows that different people will receive different results searching for ‘Egypt’ as a search term. Without reading the link text, it’s clear that the results pages are vastly different. But why are they different comes down to dozens, if not hundreds of different reasons. It can be as simple as your location in the country, the time of day or the trend in the news lately. The short pictorial provided on the DuckDuckGo page details essentially how search engines, Facebook, Twitter etc are all delivering pre-packaged results based on your web usage and they also contend that this shouldn’t be happening.
DuckDuckGo is a search engine which doesn’t save your search results, doesn’t pass your search terms onto referred websites, has a nifty red box they call zero click info (handled by Wolfram Alpha) which appears on some searches and after all that, is throwing their hat into the search engine ring. Being a new player at an old game is a tough market to break into, and DuckDuckGo is performing search in a way that is attempting to deliver a filtered *and* unfiltered internet. It’s a noble idea and does have some merit if you’d like to perform somewhat private searches on sensitive matters it may be an alternative for you. Google Chrome and Internet Explorer however both offer a cookieless browser which accomplishes the same result so you don’t really have to give up the engine you know and are familiar with.
The only real way to test if you genuinely live in a “search bubble” is to perform the same search, with 0 clicks on multiple computers. If you begin seeing that your results are significantly different than other peoples then perhaps you have a case. Personally after viewing the screenshots, when you look closely at the how many pages were fetched for each search term, there are tens of millions of pages of difference, so of course the results are going to be different. Part of Google, Bing and Yahoo’s success comes from the fact that they pass some search data to the referred website in the form of the search term, it’s what enabled the search engines to build their ad programs for web users. There are dozens of different variables when you receive your search results after you click that search button and even a simple variable like which data center sends you your results influences your page. If it happens to be running with an index which is a few hours older than others, you can very easily get different results when performing the same search multiple times.
Gene Simmons was in Winnipeg last night on his speaking tour, and we even gave him the key to the city! Before he came to town however, he’d given an interview which touched on a very important business point. The KISS frontman is entirely self made and merchandised the group to super stardom, so it’s safe to assume he knows a thing or two about making a buck.
In a quick interview he made a very important business point, one which all business owners new and old, need to take heed of. “..everybody is really in the same business: The fame business. You have to make your name mean something and people have to recognize your name is synonymous with quality. Your name and your story should precede you.” His response is exactly what we’ve been trying to tell clients old and prospective in the search game, you need to begin branding yesterday because the world is changing today. When you have quality products or services, your name should be on the lips of those in your niche without a hesitation and you should be found online with a simple search of your brand.
Even Google is getting in on the brand band wagon so to speak. Recently images and reports have cropped up on a change to the way the SERPs are being displayed. Typically your title is in blue with a snippet of information and your website url is displayed on the bottom in green. Lately however, Google has been playing with the idea of displaying on the brand name of the result; displaying Facebook instead of http://www.facebook.com as an example.
The time to make your brand is now and the time to make your brand known is now. Making your company brand name synonymous with quality, integrity and worth can carry your company to great success. Or you can sit on a dated website with your yellow pages ads and radio spots, and wonder why the new guy in town is making it rich while your customers slowly flit away.
Since they’ve up and done it again, Facebook that is, they’ve stepped over another line which has prompted EPIC to petition the FTC to get involved. The feature that has stoked their fire? The facial recognition software which Facebook enabled to auto-tag members pictures.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) stepped forward and asked the FTC to become involved in the new software because the new service in their eyes is unfair and deceptive in it’s use and methods. They’ve called for the FTC to force Facebook to suspend the entire program until stronger privacy standards are put in place and the feature is set to opt-in only. Facial recognition software and technology has been a touchy point since Facebook announced they were beginning to test it in Decemeber, and they’ve decided to make it like the rest of their programs and make it opt-out; hence the attention of EPIC. The statement EPIC released on the issue:
“users could not reasonably have known that Facebook would use their photos to build a biometric database in order to implement a facial recognition technology under the control of Facebook”.
To change the tone a little, location based mobile services, including search and advertising, is projected to reach more than $10 billion in the next few years. Location based advertising has attracted a lot of negative attention lately namely because the privacy angle of how much data your phone stores about you. Both Apple and Google admitted that yes their phones temporarily store your location data but that information was obtained by triangulating your position using cell phone towers.
Location based advertising and marketing, say like flash sales for consumers in the area, is only just starting to become a lucrative angle for businesses. The full potency of how far the metric can take you and your business is only just starting to be realized. Google is far and away the leader of the pack in mobile search, and with a click through retention rate of more than 75%, mobile search advertising is becoming the newest marketing tool for businesses everywhere.
With the addition of the Google +1 button to the social world, an old question has been starting to make advertising agencies take notice again. Is the social ranking element of search, beginning to shape where you show up in the SERPs?
It has been long known that when you “Like” a topic via the Facebook button, you can generate a fair amount of traffic just with a simple click of a button. It’s only recently been entrenched in the Bing results now though that those “Like”s are beginning to shape your personal results pages. When you’re signed into your Facebook account and you perform a search for model racecar in Bing for example. You’ll be able to see mixed within your search results if any of your friends are involved in the same model racing scene as you are. It can create a good deal of traffic if your site is catering on a social level. With the addition now of the Google +1 button, it’s assumed we’ll begin to see the integration of the same types of results in Google as you would see in Bing and the Facebook “Like” button.
Part of the idea is you can determine which of those people on your friends list, you may have more in common with that you didn’t already know. It’s really a personal preference at this point in the game, as you need to be signed in to both services to view your friends likes in your search results. It’s going to be an interesting shift in the search game depending on how heavily your friends connections are valued as opposed to the organic listings as they are presently.