Archives for posts with tag: Google

This video is so great, so stupid, and–least surprisingly–so Microsoft.

I’ll explain that but, first, let me give you some context. A few months ago, Google announced that it’s somewhat popular but often ignored free service, Google Shopping (formerly Froogle), would become a pay-to-play environment. These new ads would be called PLAs or Product Listing Ads. This was met with a lot of pushback by some who were ranking well in Google Shopping but met also with some optimism from those who weren’t ranking well and had nowhere to go to find out what they could do about it. Therefore, although nobody likes ads, the system is still powered in an identical fashion (i.e. shopping feeds from e-commerce sites). The only thing that has changed is the way that Google determines rank, which is now done by willingness to pay in addition to relevance.

Chances are good that you had no idea about any of this, unless you worked at Wpromote or an agency like ours. Chances are better that, now that you know, you still don’t care. That’s precisely why this video is so strange. It’s actually a nifty little indictment on the abundance of ads on a Google search engine results page (SERP) but it’s a criticism of something that, ultimately, is esoteric at best and irrelevant at worst.

That’s why it’s so very Microsoft. They’re not wrong but, ultimately, I think they’ve missed the mark. Reminds me a little of this guy:

[TechCrunch]

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Happy Valentine's Day! Today's Google Doodle features a short film in which a boy wins a girl's heart by Googling different gift ideas. Of course, like any male in a cartoon, he gets it completely wrong until he finally gives up and inadvertently wins her heart by buying something that she already owned (a jump rope). It was cute but nobody cared about the cartoon until an image of two men in tuxedos popped up; you can see them bottom center in the image above. Does this mean that Google supports gay marriage!? 

Well, yeah. Google has come out publicly on this issue in the past, vocalizing their opposition towards California's Prop 8 and participating willingly in the "It Gets Better" campaign. With the Republican primary in full swing, the recent Ninth Circuit Court ruling against Prop 8 and the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military's rear view mirror, gay marriage has been back in the news and remains controversial in some areas of the country. Some might feel as though a company with Google's clout shouldn't be weighing in on such polarizing topics but, personally, I applaud Google for including imagery of same sex couples alongside imagery of an interracial couple and a more "traditional" couple. It's a pleasant reminder that in a year where Google is being criticized for it's "evil" privacy policies and "evil" business practices, that it's still a company made up of actual human beings. In this case, those human beings took a little time out of their Valentine's Day to support equal marriage rights for same sex couples, albeit ever so subtly. 

On the other hand, I cannot condone Google's support of intergenus and interplanetary jump roping. Everyone knows that trying to get a dog and a cat to jump rope together is a recipe for disaster and don't even get me started about the potential fallout of letting the aliens learn all of our Earthling jump rope secrets! Before we know it, we'll be taking home bronze in the Space Olympics! For a company that so bravely defends equality in marriage, you'd think Google would be a little smarter than that!
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It wasn't all her fault, but Carol Bartz's resignation as CEO of Yahoo likely will be remembered as the final straw that broke the back of the once-great Internet company. Bartz oversaw the deal that essentially gifted Yahoo's search revenue stream to Microsoft and abandoned future search ambitions by allowing its engine to be powered by Bing. Bartz was dealt a really difficult hand by the former custodians of Yahoo but her direction for the company seemed flawed from the start. From all of her rhetoric, it was clear from the outset that she did not hold search as a particularly important aspect of Yahoo's holdings and she doubled down on display advertising efforts. In my opinion, this was a big mistake.

When Bartz took over, people in my business talked about Google, Yahoo and Microsoft–in that order–when discussing the search landscape. Google was the juggernaut but Yahoo was the company that first began to invest in building out a revenue model to accompany their popular search engine. Yahoo purchased Overture, they rebranded it, they relaunched it, they tailored it, they supported it and, ultimately, under Bartz's stewardship, they discarded it. Now, when people talk about search, they mention Google and Bing; Yahoo very justly doesn't enter the conversation. It's a shame that Yahoo has suffered this fate when they were once so innovative or, at least, so good at recognizing innovative companies to acquire and paths to pursue. 

There is clearly room for two or more players in the field of search; it's sad that Yahoo lost its footing in that field without even putting up a fight. I wish the best of luck to Bart, to the company that she's leaving and to the company that lands with. She's an extremely capable person by all accounts that just didn't have the right tools or ideas to save Yahoo. I hope that this isn't the last we'll hear from Yahoo but it's going to be even tougher for Bartz's successor to turn the company around than it was for her. [Forbes]
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By now, almost everyone I know is aware of Google Plus (or Google+, I'm not sure which is the preferred method of writing it out in an SEO friendly way). Some of those that haven't yet signed up may be wondering what it's like. To them I would say that, it's like a slick version of Facebook with a fantastic idea called Circles which allows the user to group contacts so that he/she can express themselves selectively to those different groups. Oh, also, it's a total sausage fest.

Currently–and by that I mean 1:10 PDT on 7/13/2011–there are 947,996 people indexed by Google Plus according to findpeopleonplus.com. Of those users, a testosteronic 73.7% of them have a Y chromosome. That's right, dudes outnumber ladies on Google Plus by about 3:1, which is not a ratio of which Google should be particularly proud. Admittedly, findpeopleonplus.com is not affiliated with Google, Inc but it's one of the few services claiming to have access to this information.

Google is still scrambling to meet the voracious demand for invites and it's almost certain that that figure will be much closer to 50/50 as the weeks go on, however, with almost 1,000,000 users indexed by an impartial third party service, it might say something about Google Plus that such a small percentage of early adopters are female. What has caused this lopsided adoption pattern to date is difficult to know. Is Facebook particularly good at meeting the needs of its female users? Are male users disproportionately upset with Facebook? Did invites to Google Plus get sent to way more men than women? Are men just more likely to be interested in the newest social media product? Is Google Plus failing in some way to attract female users? Is it just a total fluke?

I don't have access to enough data to know for sure but I would imagine that the Googlers behind Plus are working on figuring out how to bring in more women presently. Until then, if you're a lonely fella looking for a date on Google Plus, you're probably better off sticking with your Match.com profile. 

PS: If you would like an invite to Google Plus, let me know!

1) First of all, I recently joined Google+. If you’re wondering what Google+ is, I will refer you to the incredibly witty webcomic, xkcd, which sums it up perfectly:

As soon as I’m allowed to invite people, I’ll do my best to get my friends on. For now, it’s a little lonely on Google+ but I must say, the Circles feature is really cool. Facebook, take a note!

2) Second of all, I saw this ad on Reddit today wherein a girl’s boyfriend charms everyone at the table. I have to admit, I found myself charmed as well! See if it has the same effect on you!

Good advertising… it really makes you hate bad advertising, doesn’t it? I’m looking at you, Ed-u-ca-tion Con-nec-tion!

3) Third of all, it’s been over a month since I posted anything at all! I’m really slipping and Google seems to have noticed. MichaelBlock.org has fallen to a PR1! Oh, the shame! I’ve got to get back on the posting horse and ride. More posting will be coming more often, whether you like it or not!

PS: I’m totally ripping Petros & Money with the “Three Things Thursday” motif. Hope they don’t mind!
PPS: If you didn’t see my article on Google Search by Image in the Wpromote blog, please check it out.

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"If we can't have Groupon, then no one can!" Is that what they're saying in Mountain View? 

Google was recently unable to acquire the king of coupon sites but that wasn't the end of the story. Just yesterday, Google went live with Google Offers, a competitor to sites like Groupon and Living Social. The initial launch will be in Portland, Oregon with expansion to New York and San Francisco soon to follow. It will be interesting to see how successful Google can be with this model. Groupon is certainly the "Kleenex" of this space; their name has become nearly synonymous with the concept of online deals. That said, the model is simple and Google should have no problem duplicating it and putting the necessary funding behind establishing relationships with interested businesses. This may turn out to be worse news for the Living Socials and smaller sites than it is for Groupon but it's still a move that puts the pressure squarely on Groupon to avoid complacency.

Not to be outdone, Groupon took a cue from just about every other major company in the online space and poached one of Google's top executives, Margo Georgiadis. The former Google VP of Global Sales and Planning will be joining the Groupon team as their new COO. Google has lost plenty of employees to Facebook, Twitter, Apple and others, so it's likely that they'll be able to cope with the loss of yet another talented top executive. That notwithstanding, Groupon may come out ahead in this exchange if Google Offers suffers the same fate as Google's other notable, social side projects like Google Buzz and Google Me (what happened to that?!). If Georgiadis can provide the leadership, direction and knowledge that Groupon seeks, they may have the online deals niche locked up for the foreseeable future.   

It seems like Silicon Valley is becoming a real-life soap opera, with Google playing the central role. There's the Google/Microsoft feud over desktop apps and search, the Google/Facebook fight over which one is the most pervasive online company in everyday life, the Google/Apple battle over mobile operating systems and now the Google/Groupon competition over online deals. Of course, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook aren't big fans of one another either but that just adds to thrilling nature of the twisting and turning plot line! Grab your popcorn, this is far from over. [Wired and TechCrunch]

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Kudos to the folks over at Level343 for putting together such a simple and informative infographic detailing the history of Google and its fickle algorithm. The "Google Dance" used to describe the shake up of the search results caused by tweets and adjustments to Google's search algorithm which is constantly being updated to improve results. This infographic makes the progression nice and easy to understand without being inundated with junky imagery. Great job!

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Yesterday morning, Aaron Kronis, Wpromote’s SEO Evangelist, sent me a fascinating article about JCPenney’s rise and fall in the Google organic search results. I really suggest reading it if you have any interest in the dangers of black hat practices in search engine optimization. What struck me as most interesting, though, wasn’t the article itself but the very limited amount of space that the NY Times dedicated to actual news. Check out the image above and refer to the key below to classify the delegation of space on the page:

Red = Ads
Orange = Internal linking
Blue = Social network linking
Purple = Absurdly giant image
Green = Actual news article

Using this image as a guide, it would seem that the NY Times dedicated less than 9% of the real estate on the page above the fold to the actual article that I was trying to read. This estimate is fairly generous, as my monitor is pretty darn big. According to Google’s handy Browser Size tool, less than 10% of users would even be able to see the first line of text in the article without scrolling down.

I have no way of knowing how many people were as put off as I was by this–maybe that number is very small–but I can’t imagine that presenting information in this confusing package is good for the user experience. I’ve been tired of all the junk on content sites for long enough that I’ve downloaded Readability, which presents that same article like this, and does so for free. I highly recommend that anyone interested in getting their news in a more legible, less busy package invest the zero dollars it costs to download Readability right away.

I have nothing against ads or optimizing a site as much to impress Google as the actual user. In fact, my livelihood depends on both. I do object, though, when design focuses solely on these two issues and ignores the user experience altogether. The most valuable asset that the NY Times has is the content generated by its reporters. To dedicate so much real estate to ancillary assets seems counterintuitive to me. Without knowing what the analytics account for the NY Times looks like, though, I can only speculate at whether this strategy is hurting or paying off. I just know that for my experience, I’m going to continue to actively remove all excess content through the use of applications like Readability. If more and more users agree with me, it could lower the page views per visit, decrease the interaction with ads and ultimately harm the NY Times in their ability to brand their content.

After all, everything looks the same on Readability. This writeup which I envisioned being a editorial on the JC Penney story ended up being an endorsement for a third party reading application. The more people who are turned off by the way the NY Times presents its content, the more difficult it will be for the NY Times to leverage that content and stay competitive in the increasingly digital world of reporting the news. 

Okay, that title is a little misleading. There is probably something about traipsing through the Renaissance streets of Florence on your way to the Uffizi or grabbing a bite to eat in the City of Lights after a day at the Louvre that Google won't be able to duplicate perfectly. Therefore, it's likely that the museums of the world have nothing to worry about, in reality. In fact, Google's Art Project might have the opposite effect; it could lead more young people toward the world of art, inspiring trips to the world's great museums! 

Either way, it's an impressive undertaking and another step toward Google cataloguing all known information on Earth like the giant brains from Futurama. Hopefully, Phillip J. Fry is safely in his cryogenic tube so that he can save us from Google in 989 years. [Engadget]
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Every football-loving American knows that that the best platform for fantasy football is Yahoo’s. If you disagree and you use NFL.com’s or ESPN.com’s platform for your fantasy football, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. Yahoo’s interface is easier, its iPhone app is better and the pages load faster and without noisy, auto-play ads. In order to use Yahoo’s fantasy football vehicle, though, you have to have a Yahoo ID. Well, that may not be the case next football season.

AllThingsD reports that Yahoo will soon begin to allow users to log in using their Facebook and (gasp!) Google accounts. Gizmodo’s take on the situation is that Yahoo is simply giving up, waving the white flag in a similar manner that MySpace did years ago. Yahoo was long considered one of the biggest, strongest, most important and most relevant Internet companies in the world. It was one of the few companies to survive the Dot-Com Bubble of the late 90s and was still going strong years later. In the past few years, though, Google’s dominance of the search space, Facebook’s dominance of the social space and Microsoft’s annexation of Yahoo’s paid search platform left very little for Yahoo to capitalize on aside from their display network (which has also lost ground to Google’s). The writing has been on the wall for some time and it seems that Yahoo’s best days are officially in the rear-view mirror.

In my opinion, the big news isn’t Yahoo’s retreat; that was a long time coming. It’s not even that Yahoo will allow accounts from its long time nemesis, Google, to log in, even if that does seem extraordinarily strange. The most interesting news is that Facebook logins will be able to be used to access Yahoo properties which will include recreational activities like fantasy football and more compulsory items like Yahoo email. Keep in mind that if you’re using Facebook to log in to anything, that means that Facebook knows who you are while you’re using what you’re logged in to.

Facebook already knows so much about you and, compared to Google, Microsoft and other ad delivery systems, it knows much, much more. Think about it, much fewer people have a Google profile than a Facebook profile; those that have both generally reveal much more about themselves in the latter compared to the former. Of course, it’s easier for Facebook to know who you are if you’re logged in to Facebook. Many of us log out as soon as we’re done but as Facebook accounts become increasingly available as means of logging into other sites (in this case, Yahoo) Facebook’s cache of knowledge becomes more and more valuable. Wpromote’s CEO, Michael Mothner has suggested that with this knowledge, Facebook could engage in display advertising in direct competition with Google. Whereas Google focuses ads based on where you are, Facebook could focus ads based on who you are. Whereas Google might populate clothing ads on a fashion blog or concert ticket ads on a music site, Facebook might know that you posted an update saying that you love the Lakers, and post ads related to Laker tickets and merchandise as a result. 

If Mothner’s theory is correct, then Facebook could very quickly dominate the display advertising landscape. If Facebook ads are better ads and better ads are more valuable, then it’s an easy decision for website owners to choose to run ads powered by Facebook over ads powered by Google. Yahoo’s decision to allow people to log in using their Facebook accounts could be a major step in the direction of display advertising dominance for Facebook. 

So, when you’re deciding on whether to start Rashard Mendenhall or Peyton Hillis next year, don’t be surprised if the ads on the page are eerily similar to things you’ve been thinking about buying… especially if you’ve mentioned it on Facebook!

[AllThingsD]
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