Now that the dust seems to be settling a little bit since the Google Search Plus Your World (SPYW) change, one question remains. If you have an online presence, do you need to have a Google+ presence to achieve better search engine rankings? Has Google successfully leveraged its search engine to strengthen its social media product (Google+)? For many people with limited resources, it is probably too soon to be reallocating resources from something else to strengthen your social media presence.
A good social media strategy is sometimes a part of an overall online presence management strategy, but not cost effective for every type of business. A good online presence manager can advise you if social media is a cost effective way to strengthen your online presence, but Google has apparently changed the playing field. In the past the effectiveness from social media was from the social media exposure itself. Now, on Google+ at least, a strong social media presence could conceivably improve search engine rankings.
At least one online retailer who depends on search engine traffic thinks the change now requires them to become more involved with Google+. This article on businessinsider.com details the strategy of the Gilt Groupe (gilt.com). The online retailer relies heavily on search engine traffic to its website.
Jason John, Senior Director of Online Marketing at the Gilt Groupe was quoted as saying “Search is extremely important to us” and “Google will have its way and we will have to focus on Google+. We launched our presence on Google+ yesterday.”
That probably sums of the general consensus of SEO consultants everywhere. Google will have its way. If you want to improve search engine rankings, Google+ has become a part of the SEO mix, whether we like it or not. As SEO experts rush to take advantage of search engine rankings bumps that can be achieved by a strong Google+ presence, don’t get too caught up in the hype. When planning a social media strategy as part of your online presence management strategy, just know the game has changed. If you do anything in social media, Google+ has made itself the place to start.
An article in USAToday this morning stated “Google and Facebook might have finally gotten the average consumer riled up about privacy”. Google and Facebook both made big announcements yesterday concerning user data and how it will be collected, used, and displayed. I wrote a blog post yesterday about Google’s announced changes. Basically, Google will begin sharing all of the data that it collects across search, Google+, Gmail, Youtube, and it’s other properties. They changed their privacy policies by rolling some 60+ privacy policies into just one.
Facebook announced yesterday that within the next few weeks their new timeline feature will become the profile for all users, and no longer an option. The timeline feature makes it easier for Facebook to profile users. As people adjust to the change, they may feel like data that was private before has been pushed to the timeline. They will have to adjust to new privacy settings under the new feature, and I expect the outcry against it from the general public will be louder than the last feature change that changed the newsfeed.
Both Google and Facebook have seemingly thumbed their noses at any question of privacy violations. They both seem to have the attitude they can do whatever they want with data that they collect from the users of their services. There are huge stakes here, as they battle to provide more detailed user profiles, which allow them to offer better targeted marketing. The global online advertising market is expected to grow from $80 billion this year to $132 billion in 2015, according to eMarketer.
So who or what can stop them? Both companies have had their problems with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and there have been calls for further inquiries into both. Both companies have increased their lobbying budgets, Google from $5.2 million in 2010 to $9.7 million in 2011, and Facebook from $351,000 in 2010 to $1.4 million in 2011. Don’t expect more than a slap on the wrist from the FTC. The only thing that could stand in their way would be users turning away from their services because they just get too fed up with privacy violations.
The USA Today article went on to say that the changes announced on Tuesday seems to have struck a chord with users. Have Google and Facebook finally hit a tipping point in their race to profile users at the cost of privacy? Will users begin to walk away from either of the two services out of frustration with privacy violations?
If you are an online presence manager who uses search engine internet marketing, changes allowing improved targeting and retargeting of customers across all platforms could be in the very near future. As long as Google and Facebook manage the reaction to privacy changes so that there is no significant pushback from users, some of the best targeted pay-per-click advertising opportunities ever could soon become a reality.
The PC may be dying a slow death, thanks in large part to the rise of mobile computing. A very interesting chart compiled by Horace Dediu was also then referenced in a businessinsider article that hypothesized that the PC may be in the beginning stages of a slow painful death. The chart is shown below. For anyone old enough to remember TRS-80’s it’s also kind of an interesting high-tech trip down memory lane. (Full Disclosure: In 1977 I was a TRS-80 early adopter thanks to my paper route nest egg of $500.)
The case that they make from the chart is that it appears PC sales have gone flat, and perhaps even peaked. Also from the chart it is quite obvious that the meteoric rise of iphones, ipads, and android phones and tablets could very well be one of the main contributing factors to accelerating the decline of the PC.
What does this mean if you have an online presence and you want to market your business on the web? For any online presence manager, it means mobile cannot be ignored if you want to command a strong online presence. At the very least a mobile version of your website needs to be developed. Tablets and smart phones could become the browsing method of choice in the very near future for most of the potential clients looking for you. Will you be ready?
There’s a new buzzword in the internet search marketing world, and it deserves some attention because it represents a convergence of a few major trends. The new word is SoLoMo, which is shorthand for Social Local Mobile search. It has effectively replaced the term “hyperlocal search”, which was used to describe the localization of all Google Searches. Any search term that Google interpreted as having a local component would use your location to return relevant local results ahead of all others. The new terminology reflects the growing trend of throwing both social media and mobile search into that mix, and all of the marketing opportunities that this implies.
The proliferation of smart phones and mobile devices, and their subsequent use in conducting mobile search have changed local marketing. Players that dominated local marketing for years, like the yellow pages, are being pushed out. It began with all search becoming local, and continues now to an even greater extent by local search becoming both more mobile and more social.
A recent article by Samantha Murphy on Mashable.com identified this trend, and some of the emerging players poised to take advantage of it. Service companies like Groupon, Yelp, and Foursquare, and retailers like Starbucks have embraced geo-location strategies that attempt to fine tune location search. Initially local search could use IP address for locations, but by offering deals these services can entice users to give up more precise geo-location in exchange for more targeted deals. Facebook flirted with the SoLoMo concept with its check-in via places to check-in, and it’s now defunct competitor to Groupond, Deals. They haven’t gotten it right yet, but expect a new initiative soon to put Facebook back into the SoLoMo search mix.
If you are a business owner who competes for local business, these are important trends to understand. If you have a large yellow page marketing budget, are you really getting any bang for your buck? If you think your marketing dollar could be better spent, but you’re too busy running your business to understand the ins and outs of the rapidly changing Social, Local, Mobile search world, an online marketing consultant can help. At Primatir, Online Presence Management is our business, and we can help you develop a strong online presence in all of the places you need to be, to make sure you are found by today’s social, local, mobile searchers who are looking for you.
The SEO experts have begun to weigh in on the Google Search Plus Your World update, and how it is going to impact Search Engine Optimization. The responses seem to range from making a case for how wrong it is for Google to push Google+ content ahead of where it has any relevance, to acceptance and prediction of how SEOs will probably react, to strategies SEO’s need to think about moving forward with the change.
Danny Sullivan builds a case for how Google pushes Google+ content in this great article. He speaks of the coming anti-trust case, and how this has given all of Google’s competitors ammunition. He then gives examples where he logged in incognito, for certain terms like “music” Britney Spears Google+ page was prominently displayed on the first page sidebar. He goes on to make a point that if this creates an opportunity for companies, but only if they start creating lots of Google+ pages to pop up for all of the keywords.
In this post on mashable.com, Erin Everhart makes some good points with a pragmatic approach. If this change stands, and you want better search engine rankings, you better make sure you have Google+ business page, and you need to get that business page included into as many circles as possible. You also need to do anything you can do to get your site linked to other Google+ pages, such as having quest bloggers who have links to their Google+ pages. So her approach would be if peoples search results are going to have all these personal results ahead of traditional organic SEO, you need to be in a circle that is going to get you somehow into the Your World results. Is this really feasible? If someone is searching for something and you are already in a circle that would put you in their your world results, would they be searching in the first place.
Another article by Jon Henshaw in the Raventools.com blog hypothesizes as to Google’s motives for this change and speculates on how SEO’s are going to react. He predicts that SEOs will attempt to create circles will empty profiles to build a websites social credibility and therefore their rank in the social component of the search results. This is analogous to the way link farms created empty links to boost rankings before the Panda update. He predicts that this will fail, but goes on to say that websites need to think about being positively connected to people and influencers.
Maybe I’m missing something here, but I don’t see how being positively connected to as many people as possible is going to help you social ranking for a particular searcher if you are not already in a circle directly connected to that person. As for the earlier examples where searching while not logged into your google+ account, what are going to be the criteria to get your website to the top of the social rank? How come a search for music returned Britney Spears in the top 3 results? It is because she has a Google+ page, but a lot of musicians have a Google+ page. Was she ranked highly because of her number of followers? There are still a lot of unanswered questions about how these results are ranked, and until a little more exploration is done, It is still too early to be allocating too many resources to ranking in social search. With the public outcry and the coming FTC probe, it is not inconceivable that this change will be rolled back. If you have an online presence, or if you are an online presence manager, my advice would be keep an eye on this story as it develops, but don’t jump onto the Google+ bandwagon just yet.
If you are logged into your Google account while using Google search, you may notice a change in your results in the coming days. If you also use Google+, you may find some of the changes a little alarming at first. Monday they began rolling out a new feature called “Search plus Your World”. Basically, your search results will now display anything Google finds in “Your World” that are relevant to what you are searching for. By “Your World” Google means anything in your Google+ account that it can index. Any content you’ve posted to your Google+ account, anything friends have shared with you via Google+, any photos that you have tagged, will all be indexed by Google. If any of that Google+ content is relevant to what you are searching, it will be returned at the top of your search results in the “Your World” results section. Danny Sullivan explains some of the details in his blog post in searchengineland.com and with the following images of what the feature:
And what kind of search result you can expect:
The toggle on the right with the person and the world allows you to toggle between personal and web results.
This raises so many issues I hardly know where to begin. The online presence management websites that I follow and the SEO blogosphere have been blowing up about this new feature, and it’s almost all negative. This article in allthingsd.com reviews the responses being voiced all over the web.
The first issue raised, and the one that could potentially cause Google the biggest headache, is that some users who don’t follow search engine news and have heard nothing about this new “feature”, are going to go to Google one day soon, search for something, and see something they thought was personal in their Google+ account splashed across their search results page. The method that Google has chosen to differentiate between personal or “Your World” results and the web results is not immediately intuitive to the casual user, and they are going to feel violated. That’s the last thing Google+ needs right now. Even if they understand the difference, when you go to a search engine are you really looking for personal stuff in the search results? Is anybody going to feel like this feature adds value to the Google experience? I think most people’s reaction will be more like “How come my pictures from my vacation showed up in search results?” possibly followed by “and who else can see them if they search for the right thing?”
Another issue that this raises has anti-trust ramifications in a battle that Google is already waging. Google is already accused of unfairly giving preferential treatment to Google properties such as Youtube in their search results. An FTC hearing is already pending into these matters. Into this mix they are going to throw this “Your World” feature that indexes Google+? Wouldn’t “Your World” online also include Facebook and Twitter for most people? Was this really the time to give the FTC yet another example of how Google intends to leverage their advantage in search to strengthen Google+ as a competitor to Facebook?
It has also heated up Google’s battles with Twitter. Twitter has already spoken out about the new feature, as reported here in allthingsd.com. Twitter General Counsel Alex Macgillivray called Tuesday’s launch “a bad day for the internet”. In case you’re not familiar with the history between Google and Twitter, Google used to have a paid deal to access Twitter’s “firehose” of live feeds, but last summer Twitter decided not to renew the agreement, and Google was forced to remove it’s real time product, and now has to crawl to index tweets. Twitter said in a statement yesterday that they think the changes will make it harder for users to find relevant data for real time events (tweets), and they said the Google’s changes are “bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users”.
A final issue I have with the change is how the new feature raises will affect Search Engine Optimization (SEO). How is this really going to impact SERP results? If searchers have more personal results, it will push organic results down the page. Will there still be ten organic search results on the first page, no matter how large the personal results are? I think there is no questions that it will impact search engine result page (SERP) in some way, but it probably too early to fully estimate the impact here. If you are an SEO consultant, you may need to prepare yourself to explain to your clients why their rankings look different to them. Online presence managers need to keep an eye on this developing story, and how it could impact your search results.
John Battelle said it best in this blog post about the situation: “Remember when Google used to be a neutral player that crawled the whole dern web?”. He goes on to make a good point that the internet big five (Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Facebook) are all trying to be all things to all people. They are all trying to build private ecosystems where we are happiest if we never leave. Strengthening the Google product offering is one thing, but building walls around the Google ecosystem to keep things out (and us in?) is another. That may serve the best interest of the big five, but I sure don’t think it serves ours.
In his predictions for SEO for 2012, one of the things that Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOMoz.org predicted was that overly aggressive advertising will trigger a backlash against Google. If there is a backlash, where will searchers go? Bing and Yahoo are really just Google wannabes, who aspire to be making all of the same privacy invading, advertising driven mistakes Google will be making. If people are fed up with invasion of privacy and more advertisements then results, what other options are there for search? Is there anyone waiting in the wings, a dark horse who doesn’t seek to invade our privacy or push advertising along with our search results? Can we ever move on as a culture from saying “Google it” to “Blekko it” or “DuckDuckGo it”?
I did a blog post last month on two potential search engines, Yacy, a peer to peer search engine, and Volunia, a new concept in search engines that has yet to launch. They were both in the news about the same time and got me wondering a little bit about alternative search engines. Now I want to take a little broader look at alternatives. I found a great history of search engines, both still active and failed, in Wikipedia. They also had a comprehensive list of search engines categorized by type. Although the list is interesting, they are not all candidates as a replacement for Google. I worked my way through the Wikipedia search engine list. First I eliminated the specialty search engines, like yummly.com (a recipe search engine) and goby.com (an activity search engine, whatever that means). I eliminated aggregators (WebCrawler, Dogpile, etc.) if they only aggregate Google, Yahoo and Bing. If they had as much advertising as Google, I eliminated them (this means you, Lycos). Of those left, I ran through each one with a few simple search terms. I eliminated the ones that were unresponsive or had no results for some fairly common search terms.
Here is my short list of possible Google replacements that you should try:
Blekko.com – Their stated mission is to “provide a differentiated editorial voice in search”. Their Search Bill of Rights includes “Search shall be open”, “Ranking data shall not be kept secret” and “Spam does not belong in search results”.
DuckDuckGo.com – This site is an aggregator, pulling its results from over 50 sources including their own crawler, Yahoo, Bing, Blekko and WolframAlpha.
Yacy.net – This is a peer-to-peer search engine. To really take advantage you must download their open source peer-to-peer software. In a blog post last month I explored this search engine. Their tag line is ”search by the people for the people”. It is still early, but this interesting alternative to search is worth keeping an eye on.
And a few other specialized search engines more people should know about:
WolframAlpha.com – The place to go if your question is a little deeper than looking for a business. Questions on science, astronomy, history, geography, music, technology or sports can probably be more accurately answered by this “knowledge engine”.
If you start exploring what’s out there as an alternative, you might be pleasantly surprised. I’ve made a new year’s resolution to use Google less and Blekko, the “spam-free search engine”, more. In June of 2011 they released a new version code named Zorro with some new slashtag features. One slashtag that I found interesting is there 3-card monte, which games Bleeko against Bing and Google. You can go to Blekko, type in any search criteria and add the slashtag “/monte” at the end of your search term. You will then get 3 different search results in three columns. It asks you to pick the results you want to investigate further. It will then tell you if the results you picked were the Blekko results, Google results, or Bing results. Try it with a few of the keywords for your site and you might be surprised which one you pick.
If you are an online presence manager , an SEO expert, SEO consultant, or just anyone concerned with their website SEO, the growing anti-Google sentiment is a trend that bears watching. As a culture, we have gotten used to Googling anything we’re searching for. Googling something is now common vernacular for search. For Google to ever lose any significant market share, I think there is a cultural barrier to that change, as well as a certain trust in Google. But if they continue to give enough people reasons to look elsewhere, I think people will be surprised to find that Google isn’t magic. There are alternatives that work just as well, without surrendering privacy, enduring retargeted marketing, or in your face advertising that people are starting to find increasingly annoying. In their recent dealings with the FTC, Google’s main and often repeated defense for any non-competitive practices has always been “competition is only a click away”. So take them up on that, take that click, and take a look at the competition. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.