Some would think it foolish to continually bail out a sinking ship, as it springs more and more holes the longer it’s in the water. Yet as strange as a metaphor as that may be, that’s exactly what Microsoft has been doing for the last 4+ years with it’s search engine, first Live and now known as Bing.
Realistically you may initially think that it can’t really be that bad, search is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, Bing and search powered by Bing has about a third of the market so how bad could it really be. Bing search share has been growing slowly, abeit steadily since they rebranded themselves and growth and change has been positive. So how bad is it really? Since 2009, Bing has lost $5.5 billion dollars for Microsoft.
The image itself should put into stark contrast the amount of money that’s been lost in the search game. But Microsoft isn’t without tricks or ideas, and in an interview they hinted at some upcoming surprises.
Microsoft President of Online Services Qi Lu gave an impassioned speech about how Bing would improve search by “reorganizing the Web.” To do that, Microsoft plans to leverage its network of products and partnerships to gain a better understanding of what the user is after when they enter a query into a Bing search box.
And as if to emphasize that Microsoft has recognized the necessity for radical change, Lu also said in the same interview:
Microsoft could not and would not try to “out-Google” Google. Instead, it must “change the game fundamentally.”
If Bing stays the course, even the money analysts are predicting positive cash flow in the next 3-4 years, provided of course Bing continually earns search share from Google. Lu’s statement however, sounds as if Bing is being poised to be sent in a new direction.
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.
comScore has put out the August search numbers, and while it shouldn’t be a surprise Google’s search marketshare is nearly 65 percent while Yahoo and Bing are collectively in the low-30 percent range.
Google had 64.8 percent last month, down from 65.1 percent in July — dropping by a third of a percent. But as Google dipped ever so slightly, Yahoo and Bing picked up its losses. Yahoo’s share grew by 0.2 percent to 16.3 percent from the month before, and Bing rose too by 0.3 percent to 14.7 percent.
While Google drops slightly, the other two in-duo are raising their user base. Considering the Microsoft-Yahoo deal last year, whereby Microsoft handles search queries for Yahoo’s pages, the combined effort alone is beginning to show its mark on the search statistics front.
Americans conducted 19.5 billion total core search queries in August (up 1 percent). Google ranked first with 12.5 billion searches (up 1 percent), followed by Yahoo! with 3.6 billion (up 5 percent) and Microsoft with 2.6 billion (up 1 percent). But as Microsoft is still behind Yahoo by nearly two percentage points, one has to wonder whether all the investment and deals with Bing is even worth it.
In the last couple of days in the world of search there’s been a bit of a rumbling about Google’s latest acquisition. Google is punching out the numbers to pick up Zagat survey, basically the first version of Yelp. Yelp if for some reason you haven’t heard, is a site which allows visitors to post and read reviews about businesses locally. Yelp has been around for the last 7 years or so while Zagat has been around for 30 years and climbing. Their chief difference? Zagat offers their reviews in print as opposed to purely an online offering.
Google places already has a minor version of a local review offering when you start drilling down into results, but nothing as in depth as Yelp was able to offer. With their picking up the tab for Zagat, it could very well give them the nudge they need to push hard into local review and advertising markets globally. Google in the past little while has garnered the ire of sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor for basically scraping their reviews to have them on the Places profiles pages, so Googles current offerings have significantly waned.
Besides restaurants, Zagat also offers ratings of entertainment venues, wine and travel. The online version of the site has an established community, so there’s a social networking dimension to consider as well as the content being purchased.
Zagat co-founders Tim and Nina Zagat said that they “will continue to be active in the business as co-Chairs, however, the merger of our resources, expertise and platforms with those of Google will give us the opportunity to greatly expand.”
Google said in its blog post that “Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering.” It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise or stretch to see Google pulling the Zagat ratings and reviews onto their Places profiles pages in time so as not to hurt the name brand of Zagat.
As part of the education process with clients, we often have to explain to them that their position on the search index is basically directly tied to their success in their online business. It’s normally a fairly easy concept to grasp for most, as most people just don’t navigate past the first page of results. In other words, the more prominent your positioning for your terms, the higher chances of success.
In the last few days, Google has released a free tool which makes this even easier for businesses to see. It’s basically a monitoring system for their adwords platform, but the statistics it can quickly and easily generate are applicable. Being that the sample size is small at the moment, it will take some time for the numbers to become formal, but they portray almost exactly what SEOs have always known. Searchers don’t navigate much further than page 1, page 2 at most. Anyhow, now for some numbers!
A quick search on Google and your page will be comprised of 4 main elements: the search box with your term in it at the top, the organic results which will populate the bulk of the center of the page, search modifiers which will help you refine your search on the left side of the page and finally the adwords, which will be served at the top with a colored background, or on the far left of the screen. Adword groupings are as few as 1 to a page and I have seen as many as 8 different adword campaigns for a highly competitive search term on the page split between the top position and the left hand side. Google’s new tool will actually tell you precisely where your terms are being served on the page! Whether you’re in the top listings, the side listings and even which page you’re on.
Because of the information you’re able to glean from your positioning, you can actually calculate your ad potential for conversions. Some of the averages which are starting to be discussed may be a surprise to novices of the web and search. In terms of traffic, 97% of traffic generated came through from page 1 placement, 2% from page 2 placement and the traffic became abysmal beyond there. Essentially the lesson would be, if you’re not on Page 1, you’re missing out on 97% of your potential! Besides which page you’re served on, the position on the page also plays a big part. Any SEO worth his stones will tell you that being in the top 10 is a great start, but the top 5 is where the real money is. If you’re ready to stop messing with the little stuff and playing with the big boys, it’s time to step into the organic listings. And that is where the SEO experts come in.
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.
In the largest federal forfeiture of funds in US history, the largest pill pusher in the US has been held accountable. At a ‘fine’ of $500 million dollars, Google’s reign as the pill pusher is over. I guess calling Google a pill pusher is a bit of a stretch, but the way the news is coming out over the course of the day it’s almost like they were running the largest operation in US history.
The main points of the story would be, Google has AdWords, the US has expensive medications. Enter the opportunity for online pharmacies to sell the same medications for a fraction of the cost and voila! Canadian online pharmacies found that a lucrative market existed using Google’s AdWords platform to advertise to Americans who needed medication, yet lacked the funds to pay for them offered on the US side of the line. While the US government lacked the desire to pursue individuals who purchased the pills online, they focused their attack on the method by which they were advertised.
“This investigation is about the patently unsafe, unlawful, importation of prescription drugs by Canadian on-line pharmacies, with Google’s knowledge and assistance, into the United States, directly to U.S. consumers,” said Peter Neronha, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island in a written statement. “It is about holding Google responsible for its conduct by imposing a $500 million forfeiture, the kind of forfeiture that will not only get Google’s attention, but the attention of all those who contribute to America’s pill problem.”
By that statement, I guess Canada and Google are to blame for all of the pill users in the US. A little interesting point, the $500 million that Google has to pay out? Just a little over 20% of their earnings.. from the first quarter. I don’t think they’re really strapped for cash in the end. It just turned out that us Canadians were a little more clever with online marketing and Google provided the means for Americans to continue getting their meds at a reasonable price. What’s happening now is anyone’s guess.
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.
This past Monday, Google finally has tipped it’s hand to the world. To the tune of over $12 billion, the search giant bought up Motorola Mobility, best known for their quality cellular phones.
It’s common knowledge at this point in the industry, that the Google Android operating system has been devouring market share on handheld devices. By adding the Motorola feather into their cap now, Google includes both them and Android, Google voice and fibre optic service plans, as well as their internet voip phone services which are still growing and booming in usage. Providing that all of the industry watchdogs say yes to the deal, Google has bought itself a powerful arm to add to their arsenal with more than 17,000 patents in the Motorola company.
With Android being so popular on so many different handsets, they’re still all going on the record and saying the Motorola purchase doesn’t worry them in the slightest. In fact, they’ve reportedly endorsed the deal as a patent protection measure. That sounds all well and good, but paying $12 billion+ for patent protection is a stretch even for the search giant. Android is a powerful, moldable operating system which many handheld device makers have adopted, but the longer the lifetime of Android has been stretched, so do the problem tickets and the wait of a solution. By having Motorola in their stable, Google will be able to solve some hardware misunderstandings which have dogged their Android OS.
“With Motorola, Google will get a better understanding of how hardware works,” said Ramon Llamas, mobile device analyst at IDC. “They can then offer better help to guide their partners about how to develop hardware for future Android products.”
No one thought 6 months ago that Google would want to buy up a handset manufacturer — or launch a head-to-head assault on Facebook, as it did with Google+. Four months into Larry Page’s tenure as CEO, he’s already proven he’s not afraid to make high-stakes bets. Forget “don’t be evil.” Google’s new motto seems to be “expect the unexpected.”