Never would competitors admit they’ve made changes based on what each other implement, but it’s the oldest game of keep up that exists. Beginning today, Facebook is rolling out a whole bunch of new privacy and sharing controls which they say, have “been in the works for months”. It’s not like Google+ was tearing away tens of millions of users per day from Facebook, but the more granular and easy to use privacy controls were a big positive note for those already looking for a change in their social landscape.
Primarily, you’ll finally be given a stronger grip on your profile and how you share with your friends. Items can be public (everyone) or only shared with specific people or groups. Visibility of your profile as well will be able to be administered on a friend to friend basis if you desire. Allowing you to share the things you like with those who would appreciate them. In addition to being able to control your profile image on a deeper level, so to will you be able to control any tagging which may occur.
Tagging, the attachment of a name to a photo on Facebook, can be harmless or harmful depending on the image used. Previously if you were tagged in a photo, it would appear as part of your profile, and you would need to ask to have it removed or report the picture. The change that’s being made in this area allows you the option to remove the photo from your profile, even with your name remains tagged in your friends/colleagues picture. So now you’re able to control somewhat if someone tries to attach your name to a distasteful image.
It’s only a smattering of the privacy controls that Facebook is working on doling out to their userbase. Easier to understand and granular are the order of the day and going forward, although it does bring up a thought. If Facebook did have the changes percolating and waiting for months, why did it take the beta test of Google+ for them to finally push them out? Perhaps suddenly Facebook realized there was another game in the social arena, and considering the strength of the backer, couldn’t wait to hold anything back. There is of course another option I’m personally more inclined to believe, that Facebook liked Google+ privacy controls and used the same model.
When Google launched their first salvo into the social war with Buzz, they made some really big mistakes. Allowing anyone who was on your contact list basically be able to browse your contacts was a pretty big breach of trust for any social network, and it nearly sunk all of Google’s aspirations in one swoop. But fast forward 18 months or so and we’re over a month into their latest social offering with Google+.
They’ve made some serious improvements to their social understanding by watching the explosive growth of Facebook and their flop with Buzz. Privacy controls are easy and intuitive to manipulate, friends are easy to arrange and messaging controls are plain and straight forward. It’s easy to say that Google+ may be a contender in the social arena with hitting 25 million accounts in a fraction of the time that Facebook had, but public understanding and acceptance need to be used to temper their growth. People are beginning to understand the nature of social web sites with Facebook having been the king for so long. Many, myself included, find they have as much as entire friend feeds blocked as all they do is play Farmville or Cafe World. Facebook boasts having high day to day activity and retention rates, but if the majority of those people are just there to play games the quality of the use is definitely in question.
But just like Google’s AdSense and paid advertising you see on results pages, those game players on Facebook are served ads. Social Media Marketing is a very real avenue to explore if your a small company on a tight budget. Google+ at present doesn’t have business options setup, but they’ve made clear that yes, they are coming. So get your practice in with Facebook, Twitter tweets and PPC/AdSense marketing because even with a “paltry” 25 million users, Google+ will be a qualified market for advertising.
All of the taglines you generate with Twitter, Facebook and soon with Google+, may have more strength than you might think. Nicholas Schiefer recently won a Canada Wide science fair and made interesting inroads in the realm of search. The 17 year old is being compared to Mark Zuckerberg for his idea and implementation of his search algorithm, and those are no small shoes to fill.
The algorithm as it’s written, searches short documents like tweets, Facebook statuses and news headlines for starters. That 140 character string of gold is crunched and parsed by his infant algorithm to deliver results. It may not seem much different from what Google, Bing or Yahoo offer, but where it does get different is when his search algorithm applies context to the results. The advantages of a semantic algorithm which could determine context in the results it retrieves would be a great improvement in the realm of social search. As an example, you’ve been out for dinner and had a poor experience, you could use that type of search engine to determine if others have had the same experience. It’s possible to do so with the existing search engines, but it takes a bit of work to sort through the results to find customer reviews if you don’t include it as part of your initial search. It’s an impressive start for a young man who may be a part of changing the way the world searches. Time will tell how interested the world is in semantic, contextual searching should Mr. Schiefer continue his project.
Let us partake in a litmus test, if you don’t know what that is here’s a very basic definition for you : A test that uses a single indicator to prompt a decision. So here’s the question to answer: Do you have a website for your business? If the answer is yes then the answer to this next question is yes as well; you need to have a solid SEO plan in place.
It’s not voodoo or black magic, it’s not about putting videos up on Youtube and tweeting to your Facebook fans (that’s social marketing and it works as well) SEO is about making the search engines love your website. SEO is about telling the world that “Yes I am the authority on <your niche> in <your location>. I can take care of all of your needs.”
Now here comes the tricky part, there are some simple things you’re going to need to come to grips with when it comes to search engine optimization. The number one point you need to realize is: SEO costs money. Who’d have thought that having someone go through your website, clean up it’s code, properly build it’s navigation and make it faster online would cost money! It’s like putting a new engine in your car, if you’re incapable of putting the hours and skills into doing the work yourself, you’re better off paying the professionals. Even those very simpe steps I mentioned can help to increase traffic and visitors to your website. Another extremely important point, arguably the most important, SEO is not an instant quick fix to your search rankings. It takes time to re-tune your website, update the content and clean the code. After all of that the spiders need to come and crawl your site and decide if it’s better than the last one you had and how you would stack up against your peers now. You could be re-indexed in a day, you could be re-indexed in 2 weeks. You may be on page 6 when you started your campaign and after first pass you’re up to page 3, while not the page 1 where all of the action is you’ve literally improved 100% from where you previously were. The most common metric we tell our clients new and old is, you’ll begin to see significant long lasting results in a 6 month plus time frame.
Enough of those two big scary ideas (money and time), lets talk more about what’s going to happen to your website once you’re up in the rankings. Sitting on page 1 enjoying all of the new visitors you’re receiving, you need to begin to take a good hard look at your home page. Traffic is useless without a conversion of some sort. Sign up for my newsletter, subscribe to our coupon book, buy our product. You need a call to action on your website where visitors arrive. Because if people show up to the party and there’s no party, then the visit was wasted.
To recap: SEO will cost you money and it will take time. Once your campaign is in full swing, breakdown your website and determine your call to action on your landing page. Because without these 3 key understandings, it doesn’t matter if you’re number 1 on the SERPs, or number 1000.
So if you’ve been tracking your sites progress on Googles search results pages, and you noticed some funny movement in the last week or so, you’re not imagining things. Google came out with it finally and admitted, yes they’ve had another regular update, but with Panda as part of the equation this time. Some have noticed that their sites have shifted a half dozen places or so, and some have noticed that for some of their optimized terms they’ve just completely disappeared.
As shocking and distrubing as it may be to suddenly find you’re not in the results where you were in the previous weeks, you may want to hold off on that complete site revamp to address your disappearance. To put it another way, Google took their search index, full of billions and billions of terms, tossed it up in the air and all of the websites are still coming down. Being filtered into all of their most relevant terms based on the current algorithm, it’s safe to wait just a few more days to see what happens through the weekend.
Google and +1
So search, it’s a funny game, moving, shifting, always changing. Facebook has their ‘Like’ button, which Bing has added their own special metric and weight to. And Google has their newer +1 button which they’ve come out and said basically ‘Yes it’s good for you to have on your site along side the Like button’. Basic fact though, the implementation of the +1 button on your site was actually bogging it down as of late, cutting your performance in half by almost half in some extreme cases.
While the Facebook ‘Like’ button is a flat blue color, the +1 button is a script or two which glows and stands out from your web pages. Definitely a hindrance to performance conscientious site owners, it wasn’t long until another disturbing trend was noticed. Visitors to pages with the +1 button, were slowly and steadily dropping. Almost strangely and on cue, Google has released a new version of their +1 button, faster, sleeker and much more in line with current web speed standards.
And just like the Facebook button, and those scandalous people making a living selling their browser clicks. It seems that because the +1 button can have a positive effect on your search ranking, some of the less scrupulous SEO companies out there are now selling their clicks. It’s not much of a stretch or a surprise really, as there are grey SEOs to be found all over the web selling all manner of SEO tricks. Selling links, scraping and rewriting content for you, Facebook ‘Like’ sellers and now +1 sellers. Just cut the SEO juice from the button and it’s true use will emerge, content promotion because it’s genuinely good content.
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.