Category Archives: facebook

Popping the Search Bubble

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.

Be a Brand or Be Forgotten

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.

EPIC and FTC Square off Against Facebook?

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.

Search and Socially Adjusted Results

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.

Eric Schmidt – I Screwed Up

Previous long running CEO of Google Eric Schmidt during a conference yesterday had a lot of thoughts to share about the online world.

Facebook for example, had connections to all of the friends you have, have ever had and even the friends you forgot about. They’re almost all there ready for you to find and become reacquainted with. Microsoft has their finger in the business pie so to speak, as that is their strongest market. Amazong Schmidt shared, is seen as the largest “store front” on the internet and Apple makes pretty things.

For all of the merits he bestowed on his comrades in the online world, he was also quick to add that as strong as they are, one of the companies being discussed was out of the expanding loop of the internet. The giant who just seems to be missing the bus is Microsoft, they just don’t seem to be using the same “platforming strategy”, as Schmidt called it, as the rest of the bunch.

The discussion however, was not limited to Microsofts perceived weakness in the current digital age. Schmidt in a rather candid moment declared, “I screwed up.” Of the laundry list of complaints people have had the world over about the search giant and their practices and procedures, the mistake Schmidt was speaking of was missing the boat to the social party. That’s not to say that Google is a one trick pony of course, just that he missed the social boom so to speak.

Schmidt has since passed the CEO reins to Larry Page, who’ve shifted the companies focus towars social with a very focused vision of becoming a serious player.

Global Panda Effects & Google’s Threats

There are some interesting threads around the web at the moment around the recent global Panda roll out. Some websites are noticing that when the initial introduction came out a while back and they were dropped from the engine, their traffic is starting to return to previous Panda metrics. It would have been frustrating for sure to have to deal with the not knowing if you had in fact been in breach of scraping content, or been penalized for it when you hadn’t done anything wrong. It’s an anxiety which Google could have eliminated with even just a quick little post along the lines of “We’re addressing your concerns in an upcoming roll out, please be patient with us” as opposed to staying quiet.

Anyhow, the global roll out has occured and it looks like for the moment the farmers have been hit with a drought. The initial numbers have started to appear on various communities online and there are some familiar names in the list with some big losses in ranking. And what seems to be a long time coming, ehow.com has received their penance. Long touted as one of the worst offenders for aggregating content, the site was left virtually untouched in the preliminary Panda roll out. It seems however, that what ever loop hole they slipped through the first time, it snagged them on the second pass. Initial reports are showing a drop of over 80% representation in search results for the site. Other sites which were hit hard were live123.com, findarticles.com and associatedcontent.com. No real surprises there.

And just to mention something which is a little of a pet peeve of mine, the over thinking, or sensationalizing of somewhat arbitrary numbers on the internet. It was a thread I had been following for a few days in which the discussion was centered around the idea of what could be considered Google’s biggest threat to their online presence. The top three came back at no real surprise with Bing, Facebook and Google themselves, all being the threats to the giant.

The part of the discussion which really made me question the reading comprehension of the poster, was that because Facebook is most likely going to become public, that automatically makes them the biggest threat to Google full stop. Their resoning was based around an online tool in which they showed that Google had dropped 2.5% in their yearly traffic and Facebook had grown by 15%!! That clearly said to them that Facebook is the winner in the dominance race.

My issue with their reasoning, besides the point they were spouting their opinion as fact, was they never compared the metrics used to reach those percentages. Problem number 1, Google and Facebook are two different online tools. One is social, one is search. Only if and/or when Google becomes more social, or Facebook focuses on search, can comparisons begin to be drawn. Problem number 2, in comparing apples to oranges the numbers will always be skewed, yet that was ignored. Problem number 3, Bing was unfairly ignored in the comparison. Throwing Bing into the mix really tosses a monkey wrench into the comparison, as they experienced a 44%!!! growth from April 2010 to February 2011. In following with comparing apples to oranges, I contend that Bing is actually Facebook’s largest competitor, excluding the fact that they have an online partnership.

Google versus Facebook – This is only the beginning

Yesterday was an interesting introduction for Wall Street, Larry Page made his first appearance as Google CEO. It wasn’t an unexpected move for him to be in this position, in fact we knew about it months ago, what was a surprise though was how just how the market reacted. The market shunned Google at present, dropping the stock by 5% of it’s value. But what was it that happened?

Page didn’t pull up stakes on the company, he didn’t outline a plan in which everyone will be living in tents in 5 years. What he did do however in his short time at the helm, is to steer the megolith at a very huge target, the social audience. When you think of anything social on the web, it’s near impossible to leave Facebook out of the equation, so is this the first (real) volley of fire in the Google versus Facebook battle?

It’s starting to look like it at least. Page increased overall spending, and hired more employees for Google, and has challenged all of the engi-nerds to “integrate relationships, sharing and identity across our products” A.k.a – lets get social.

On the whole, even though the marketers may be fretting how things look initially for the search giant, on the whole focusing the company in a new direction is a positive move. Change is good in general, and competition feeds innovation. With Larry Page pointing their guns at a specific prize it leads me to the conclusion we’re going to be in for a hell of a ride.

The Internet Told Me..

The internet is an amazing place, it has pretty much anything you could possibly want on it. It has examples of every facet of humanity and culture, it will be somewhat a wonder what it’s going to look like in the next 15 years considering the leaps and bounds it has changed in the first 15 of becoming widely accessible.

You can find essentially anything online. Recipes, songs, programs, services, information, the list is inhibited only by your own imagination. But does that make what you find true? A court in Italy has recently decided that just in case it is, Google needs to filter and censor their auto complete data.

A little bit of background is probably in order. Basically someone searched for themselves on Google, and the autocomplete feature offered suggestions such as con man and fraud.

Defamation and slander will always exist in some form or another in the open world. Auto complete within Google searches is a relatively new feature, so when I read of the decision that was upheld in the Court of Milan I somewhat echoed Googles disappointed response.

It’s not up to the search engine service to censor the entirety of the internet, after all the pages which the terms were a part of still exist, are indexed and can be found when you look. This is where brand and image management come into play, if someone messes with your online image, it’s dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Perhaps this is just another strong example for anyone with prospective web ideas. Always go with the option to opt-in as opposed to opt-out. The web is experiencing it’s own version of growing pains, when you’re ready to make your tracks online just be sure you have the search experts on your side.

Facebook now owns Social Search

An advertising metric which has become more and more available for business owners to use has been social search. Facebook, MySpace to a degree, and mobile access to these online communities comprises a network of millions of people; both locally and beyond. Google is by far the king of search online, but Facebook recently has put a twist on the angle of social search. In October of 2004 Facebook applied to patent what was called “curated search” but for all intent and purpose is social search. As of this past February, the patent was granted.

The language of the filing is as such: “Visual tags for search results generated from social network information.”

If that seems somewhat broad and far reaching, you’re not alone. Digging through the information contained within the patent application it’s explained more thoroughly. Here is the definition of search via Facebooks patent application:

“A key metric in evaluating the performance of search engines is relevance of the search results. Search engine developers are always striving to deliver search results that are relevant to the search query being processed. A frequently used technique is analyzing how web pages link to each other. A web page gets a ranking boost based on the number of other web pages that are linked to it. Click-through rates of search results are analyzed in some search engines. The general rule is: the higher the click-through rate, the higher the ranking.”

And their definition of social search is defined as well.

“According to an embodiment of the invention, search results, including sponsored links and algorithmic search results, are generated in response to a query, and are ranked based on the frequency of clicks on the search results by members of social network who are within a predetermined degree of separation from the member who submitted the query.”

The idea is that relevance is dependant partly on the number of clicks your friends give to links, as well as how closely tied you are to your friends. The awarding of the patent likely won’t vastly alter the social search game, it does prove however that Zuckerberg had search in mind the entire time for Facebook; the company was launched in February of 2004, the application made only a few months later in October.

Simple Content & Advocate Questions Answered

Content You have 2 options: 

1) Good content without promotion

or

2)  Good content with promotion. 

#2 wins every single time.  As long as there is a profit motive for good content, there is a profit motive for promoting it.  SEO is one tool.  SMO is another.

Advocates

So why does word of mouth from brand advocates work?

Consumers trust Word of Mouth. Which means conversion rates are higher.
You don’t pay advocates. There are costs of course, but you’re not paying advocates to make referrals.
Brand Advocates are not just for Christmas. Paid clicks are ‘perishable’ advocates are not.

I’d add a couple of other reasons myself:

Advocates are integrated marketers. They are online, offline and through the line. They don’t differentiate the way your agency or media campaigns do.

They give your marketing campaigns wings. Advocates are often spurred to advocate your products and services when they come across your marketing messages. They increase coverage and impact of your other marketing activity.

Advocacy means UGC. Brand Advocates write nice things online about your brand. They create keyword rich content just because they love you. And we all know what search engines love.
Longer and Deeper love. One other benefit of identifying and cultivating your brand advocates is of course that they are likely to stay more loyal for longer – so your CRM gets a boost too.

So advocates are great, but how do you find them? aren’t they as elusive as a four leaf clover?

The answer is so simple it hurts. You ask them! The simplest survey question of them all ”How likely are you to recommend us?” – and BINGO, you know who your advocates are. Now you just need to cultivate them.

“Traditional marketing has companies speak to many to reach one. Today we speak to one to reach many.”