Category Archives: Google

Googles Non-Web Dominance

The anti-trust hearings versus Google and their supposed stranglehold of the web has been continuing in front of the senate. There are people on all sides of the argument it seems, Google on the defensive, Microsoft and a few others decrying that they’ve been wronged by the search giant. And one of the most basic arguments that Schmidt has used to rebut all of the claims of unfair business could very well win the day. Schmidt’s defence basically says:

“Google faces competition from numerous sources including other general search engines (such as Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo!, and Blekko); specialized search sites, including travel sites (like Expedia and Travelocity), restaurant reviews (like Yelp), and shopping sites (like Amazon and eBay); social media sites (like Facebook); and mobile applications beyond count, just to name a few.”

Now on one hand, yes Google can provide all of the services that are available on the web, but there are simply better options. If you’re big into social networking, Facebook is still the king, if you travel a lot you use Expedia to find tickets and deals. I’ve personally used Amazon, eBay and Kajiji to post and purchase items and even the smaller search engines like Blekko have their place and a few tricks that Google just can’t do.

So Schmidt’s argument that there are options available online, users just need to navigate to them, is utterly true. Google doesn’t so much have a dominance of the internet, as it has a dominating presence in the search arena. And there are many out there who would point out, Bing, Yahoo and the littls start ups like Blekko which come along, chip away little by little at that armour. Google’s search advantage or position isn’t going to disappear or diminish in any great capacity until a revolutionary game changer makes itself known, just as Larry and Sergei did with Google.

So don’t worry about Google’s “dominating web presence” so much, instead use your keyboard and mouse and investigate the alternatives. Just because one site offers similar products, doesn’t automatically mean you have to use them. After all, you wouldn’t call Coca-Cola to order some Pepsi.

Google+ Is Not Dead

The numbers are becoming more and more visible, and since it’s launch in late June, Google+ has attracted 25 million users in about a month. Facebook, in contrast, took about three years to reach those levels , while Twitter took just over 30 months. According to ComScore. Google+ has since hit the 50 million users mark.

So how could it be that people are calling Google+ dead in the water so soon? You could blame it in part on Googles checkered social history, or even on the privacy gaffs they experienced their first time out with Buzz. Some bloggers have recently used the terms “Google is dead” and “Google+ is worse than a ghost town” to describe their Google+ accounts and activity. The strongest language would have to be a Forbes commentator saying “Google+ is a failure no matter what the numbers say”. Harsh descriptions for what has been described as an alternative social network with the Hangouts and the strong security options built in.

Even with all of these doom callers, there are just as many reminding users out there to give it time. The internet wasn’t built in a day, Facebook didn’t reach social dominance overnight and Google+ will need some nurturing time despite explosive growth early on. A strong point to consider, just like SEO didn’t exist 10 years ago, the idea of a social network didn’t exist just 4 years ago.

The measure that’s been decided of success for a social network is the level of activity on the site. When you hold up the measuring stick of “700,000 pieces of sharing per minute” to *any* social network it’s going to look like a failure. Something that also needs to be kept in mind, if you’re experiencing a dead or slow social network, that is a result of the people you’re following and your own level of sharing. If you don’t share any information within your circles then why should you receive any feedback or activity into your account?

To say Google+ is already dead, is premature speculation at this point. Time will tell just how successful the search giant can be in the social arena, but with the recent addition of the games panel, the named hangouts and the collaboration which is possible with your circles on Google+. Giving Google the time to mature their social product is necessary before calling it dead.

Google’s Chrome is on the brink of replacing Firefox

google-chromeGoogle’s Chrome is on the brink of replacing Firefox as the second-most-popular browser, according to one Web statistics firm.

Data provided by StatCounter, an Irish company that tracks browser usage using the free analytics tools it offers websites, shows that Chrome will pass Firefox to take the No. 2 spot behind Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) no later than December.

As of Wednesday, Chrome’s global average user share for September was 23.6%, while Firefox’s stood at 26.8%. IE, meanwhile, was at 41.7%.

Google+ Free For All

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.

Google Sweetens the G+ Pot

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.

Broadcast Hangouts
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.

The Negative Bing

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.

Time To Be A Google Engineer

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.

Google Stays Consistent – Is Bing Worth Your Time?

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.

Google Stepping Up To The Local Plate

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.

Your Positioning Counts – Google Proves It

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.