Google Up, Yahoo Down, World Continues Spinning

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Google’s share of U.S. search was up again last month

Oh, you’ve heard it?  Good.  Google up a fraction, according to comScore.  Yahoo down a fraction.  Microsoft holding around 11%.  Ask and AOL combine for a little over 6%.

It’s a big world.  Billions of searches.  One tiny percentage of one percent is huge.   And that’s what comScore calls the core search market.  Add in properties like YouTube, which has more searches than Yahoo! according to this study and Google laps the field.  comScore sizes overall search at 22.2 billion searches with Google properties accounting for 60% of search and Yahoo! accounting for 11%.

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There are really two places you need to be aware of as a businessperson:  craiglist at just under 3% and Facebook closing in on 2%.  I think the Facebook number is grossly underreported.  Even if Facebook’s search number is accurate, comScore says Facebook search traffic grew 10% between January and February.

When you’re dealing in the hundreds of millions of anything, ten percent is a staggering number.

Google Buzz Privacy – Fast Friday Fact

Yes, you’ve been buzzed.  We all have.

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The way that Facebook’s Beacon project or Amazon’s long ago Buying Circles shredded another layer of privacy.   Using Buzz it’s deceptively simple to share a private email address with a group of people.  Part of that is tied into the use of what is fast becoming an Internet standard:  an @ symbol in front of someone’s name.

Google Buzz includes an email address that you or your correspondent select as part of the reply.  So if I have one regular email address and another super-secret one and you use the @ reply with the super-secret address (maybe because it’s the one you have), you’ll send the email address out into the ether.

Google is rightfully taking lumps because the company didn’t explain this in this beginning.   The folks at Lifehacker have written the perfect primer on Google Buzz privacy.   I encourage everyone to read that work.

But before you go, are you using Google Buzz?  If so, what do you think of it, and did you know about the privacy issues?

Google Buzzes Facebook

“Hey, it’s way more better than status updates

That’s the implication, if not quite the words used in today’s video introducing Google Buzz.

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What’s a Google Buzz, you ask?   Well, as Google continues to embrace social media, the company is looking for connections between people much as it looked for connections between webpages when it originally began indexing the web a decade ago.  Buzz is a hybrid of Google Wave and Facebook comments with a dash of Twitter thrown in.   Having just logged in to Google Wave for the second time this year and again seeing nothing, I’m reminded of how the cool can often seem desirable until we actually attain it.

Linking email to social media seems like a cool idea, and maybe this interactivity will help Google Buzz succeed where Google Wave has yet to catch on.    Just like any other social media list, Google Buzz will likely require grooming and maintenance.  My son’s history teacher probably doesn’t care to be linked to me in a social graph.  Google previously dealt with such issues by putting addresses labeled “friends” or “family” into a social graph.  But again because I code my cousin’s husband as family doesn’t mean that he cares what I think about anything related to social media so a little maintenance will be in order.

Whether Google can suck even more users into the Gmail vortex and away from Facebook remains to be seen.   By all accounts, the company is seeing Twitter become the real-time search engine of relevance while Facebook becomes the Internet’s playground and chat room.  That leaves Google to be the library — not a bad place to be, but the folks in Mountain View want a little more buzz than that.

Searching Now Influenced By Your Friends

social-network-graphIn December, we wrote that Google had “fundamentally changed the search engine results for everyone in North America…

At issue was the notion of “personalized search”.   That’s where Google builds a dossier of people’s interests and then tries to tailor search results to meet those interests.  The entire process’ details are much more complicated than anyone except a math whiz specializing in search engines should delve into and certainly not in a blog.  But Google changed the rules.  Previously a user had to opt-in to this program. Now anyone who didn’t want to participate had to opt-out.

Do No Evil takes a hit as a company grows.  The philosophy takes a huge hit when an entity completely avoids permission marketing.

Google Tries To Out Facebook Facebook

You know your friends on Facebook?  And you know your Flickr photos?  And maybe that blog or forum you frequent?   Not just you, but the people who interact with you — your social graph — will soon influence your Google search results.

That process is opt-in for now and so far seems to be limited to Google Images.

Then again, personalized search was opt-in until about 7 weeks ago.

Google cheerily calls its announcement “Search is Getting More Social“.  That’s their name.  Our headline today is “Searching Now Influenced By Your Friends”.  Hope more than you hope for most things that Google doesn’t opt-in for everyone for “social search”.

As many shots as we take at the company, their search results remain the defacto standard in North America and in much of the world.  And while I love some of my friends and like all of them, I don’t want their biases to take a valuable “page one” spot away from another source.  I think it’s bad enough that my biases can alter search results.  I certainly don’t need my friends and family altering my  results.

10 Google Chrome Extensions Still Installed

Geeks old enough to remember using MS-DOS will undoubtedly remember the feeling of automating their bootup programs using a batch file. Around the same time that Bill Gates muttering that 640K ought to be enough memory for anyone, those same geeks looked at each other and begin whittling down their batch files so there was more memory. After all, Gates’ developers were working hard on Windows and the Office suite which would suck the memory out of anyone’s system.

Along the way, we learned to be judicious with all of our new toys when we stretched them to the breaking point.  One more phone app? Okay, okay, but that’s a pretty clunky menu.

Google's Chrome extension page

Google's Chrome extension page

And then Chrome, the uber-fast browser expected to be at the heart of Google’s operating system launching in 2010, went down the Firefox path and started added extensions and themes.  There are some under-the-hood differences that won’t slow down Chrome’s sleek browsing as much, but everything — even wicked cool plugins — in moderation is a good axiom.

I think I’ve installed darn near everything I could lay my hands on up until now.  One reason that is so much easier is because you don’t have to reboot Chrome for changes to take effect.

As of today, here are 10 Chrome Extensions I still like and have kept installed:

1.   Feedly.   I may have kept Firefox as active as I did simply to use this amazing UI for Google Reader.  Feedly is my favorite extension.

2.  Lorem Ipsum Generator.  We do a lot of mockups.  This easy dummy text generator ends the need for copy and paste.

3.  Xmarks.  This critical bookmark synchronization tool came out in Chrome’s dev channel as alpha.  It is a must install everywhere.

4.  Google Wave Notifier.  You may use Wave for business one day so it’s worth letting a process keep tabs on your incoming Waves for now.

5.  StumbleUpon.   You don’t use this wisdom of crowds page suggestion tool?   So start already.   Results become relevant as you do.

6.  News Reader. A Google contribution.  Click the button and get a balloon with the latest 5 US News stories — with hyperlinks.  Great.

7.  Cooliris. Another port to Chrome, this is the best browser image viewer on the planet

8.  Facebook. Warning — it’s unofficial.  But it’s a useful way to track your FB happenings without getting caught in the main site’s time suck.

9.  AddtoAny.  Another unofficial port, this of the terrific browser plugin that lets you spam communicate among multiple channels.

10.  DotSpots. There are only 17,000 users so far, but this is my darkhorse pick for annotating web pages and sharing across the world.

I’ve tried to give you a good mix of ports, new stuff and old favorites.  As of this writing, only the Wave notifier, Cooliris and Xmarks are in the top 10 downloaded Chrome extensions so hopefully you got some great ideas here.  Just please don’t install AdThwart and AdBlock on that list.  We all have to make a living, right?

Stop Demanding High Rankings

Drawing of a self-service store.

Do you want visitors or profit? Image via Wikipedia

I watched another potential lead go by today and decided not to purchase the information because the prospect was in a medium sized market.  Their sole criteria was that they wanted to rank in the top 3 spots for a certain local phrase.

It’s important that you as a small business don’ t make this mistake:  there are no more ways that rankings can be counted. There are lots of SEO specific phrases that tie into this concept.  Ignoring them for a minute, here’s what you need to know:

  • The Google results you see for a query will likely vary based on the physical location of the Internet connection you’re using.
  • The Google results you see for a query will likely vary based on whether you have a Google account and are logged into that account.
  • The Google results you see for a query will likely vary based on how other searchers have interacted with a page and query over time.
  • The Google results you see for a query will likely vary based on constant testing Google does for thousands of variables.
  • And our new favorite, Google Social Search.

Forget about Social Search for a moment.  Remember this because it’s critical business advice that predates the Internet by thousands of years.

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Fast Flip: Google’s Newsstand

Google Fast Flip

Google's Future Newsstand - Image by Esteban Trigos via Flickr

I love magazine subscriptions.

I especially love free magazine subscriptions, but I love all sorts of print.   Magazines, newspapers, catalogs.   How many marketers do you know who still keep a copy of Famous Catalogs on their bookshelf between a PHP book and Robert Spector’s book about Amazon‘s business model called Get Big Fast?

In a world of Kindles, on demand cable television and smartphones, print may be dying as a media, but the print layout is something many still seek.  Google Reader add-on Feedly is maybe the best RSS platform I’ve ever used.   And now Google itself enters the fray with Google Fast Flip, currently in development in Google Labs, but available to all.

Fast Flip is just about the coolest news platform ever.   Enter the microsite to be greeted by your choice of periodical, subject or popular stories (with links to the most popular in each category).  The periodicals are simply A-list: The Washington Post, BBC and The New York Times are just a handful of the news periodicals available.  Subject-specific periodicals like Billboard, Cosmopolitan and Popular Mechanics are also here.

Fast Flip gives a thumbnail view of a periodical page.  Text links float around the top or bottom (Google is always testing, after all) although simply clicking the thumbnail itself brings forward a copy of that publication’s online article.    Subjects are on target for world events.  Today’s topics include Nigeria, Facebook, Pakistan, Tsunami — actual news.  A recommended link will undoubtedly make smart use of Google’s algorithims and create a newsstand populated by your previous choices, biases and likes.

In its quest for increasingly granular micro-targeting, Google started with big brands and refines their content to the reader’s biases.  What’s not to like about a fast Google rendering with a familiar New York Times logo showing that someone was at least paid to edit and fact check the article?

Fastflip isn’t the end of print.  Print already ended.  We’re simply watching its slow death now.   But the thin-slicing of Google information about its users and search patterns are fast resulting in something that could easily converge with YouTube and challenge CNN or the BBC with enough video content.  That’s a future phase.  Right now, FastFlip seems content to be an electronic newsstand.

Executive Summary:  Google’s Labs features enhancements and new services you should stay on top of to see where the search giant is headed as it morphs into an information services company.  The latest foray, Fast Flip, reproduces the online pages of traditional print media in an appealing filmstrip layout.

Social Vibe – Fundraising with Attention

The rap on monetizing social media, especially for charity, is familiar.  People engage in social media to have fun, not receive a pitch.  And some of that is certainly true for any interruption-based advertising, much less untargeted advertising.

Facebook and social networks are new ad platforms, and we’ve never had scalable one to one efforts where friends targeted each other and endorsed  a product or service.  That’s what makes Social Vibe so interesting.

By paying for attention, not asking for money, big brand advertisers like CBS, Sprint and Colgate supply a short advertisement and agree to support a cause.   I’m co-chairing the local StepOut for Diabetes fundraising walk so it was a no-brainer for me to send the spot to a few well-chosen friends.  Social Vibe is smart enough to cap the number of people who can receive a request.

Programs like Causes, a popular Facebook application, have been around for some time and are successful.  What makes Social Vibe different is that people pay in attention, not in money.  The model worked like a charm in email for companies like eRewards and MyPoints.  Of the social apps I’ve tested that monetize attention, Social Vibe seems to have the best reach and enough big names to make the platform worth looking at for non-profits and associations.

I suspect I’ll be experimenting with Social Vibe after our walk on October 31 (hurry — still time to register or donate!), but here’s my current spot:


5 Browser Tools To Use Daily

Plugins, skins and toolbars made browsers unique user experiences. During a typical workday, I will use 3-5 different browsers and more if we’re testing a new site or doing a site audit. But even visiting familiar sites in “standard” browsers can bring chuckles.

Visit Google’s main search site, for example, while using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and you’ll be prompted to “upgrade” to Google Chrome. That message won’t appear if you’re using Firefox, but the software guys get their revenge on the search folks when you try to download from Microsoft using a browser they didn’t create. Never mind if you have a legit copy of a Microsoft product you’re attempting to support. You’ll simply be messaged to use a supported browser.

Puhleeze.

But there are five tools I use every day in my browser of choice, which happens to be Firefox, closely followed by Google’s Chrome.  Try them out yourself and see if they make your workday easier.

1.  MeasureIt [Firefox only plugin] -  I don’t think there has ever been a time when I’ve sent a plugin to CDS (Creative Director Sara for those of you who haven’t been playing the home version of our game) and seen it installed it within minutes.  MeasureIt is simply that good.  Sitting almost hidden in the left corner, MeasureIt does one thing remarkably well:  it measure an area of real estate on your screen.

2.  A live character counter – I use the awesome, fast and easy program at JavaKit.  Yes, I could boot Word or install another plugin, but why bother?   Copy, paste, click and move on.  Sheer elegance.

3.  A date calculator – Someone tell you the project is due in 100 days?   Well, 100 days is a couple of clicks away.  The very long-lived timeanddate.com has a large selection of date calculators.  Figure out date intervals, go back in hours or weeks or forward in years and months.  The site is wonderful.  There are some fun calculators too.  I turn 400,000 hours old this summer.  We’re having a party.  And in lieu of the traditional one dollar for every year in a birthday card, you may bring pennies.  If writing a check for the 400,000 pennies is easier, that’s fine too.  Or Amazon gift certificates.  I take those.

4.  Color Data – More simple elegance online.  Go from hex colors to RGB.  Lighten or darken the values and hand them off to your developer.  Sometimes it really is that easy.

5.  The blogs you read in online magazine format.  This is my newest tool, and I don’t know if I can rave enough.   Feedly is in beta, but essentially acts as a front-end overlay for Google Reader.  You’re reading this as a blog entry.  Maybe you’re on Facebook, maybe you’re on the Silver Beacon Marketing site, maybe you’re on some other platform.  Feedly in your regular browser will change your mind.  This could easily be the blog interface that makes aggregation more familar and thus more accessible popular.  I just like it because it segments and sorts and content flows into the columnar format I’m familiar with.  Go play with this one if you read more than one blog.

OfficeGossip Opens For Business – Fast Friday Fact

SAN FRANCISCO - MARCH 10:  Twitter co-founder ...

If you co-found Twitter, you get to use a big display too. Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Pundits who live on Twitter and those who titter at social media often agree that companies and brands can take damage from anyone researching enough channels.  If I know Joe Smith and Mary Jones work at my competitor, rest assured that I’m monitoring both through a variety of free and paid tools.  That’s when the predator/prey game begins in earnest, but there is more than enough competitive intelligence being given away every day that spotting deliberate misinformation is easy.

And now former AOL exec Rick Robinson’s new company is making that process a lot easier by aggregating social comments about offices and brands on OfficeGossip.com.  Think of the site as TMZ for business geeks.  And beware.  That which you and others say about you is now that much easier to see at one shot.  Think about that on your three day holiday.

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