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.
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.
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.
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.