Google’s Jolt of Caffeine

As major Google updates go, the search community must concede that Google Caffeine was launched with plenty of warning.

And Google Caffeine is officially live according to a post in The Official Google Blog by engineer Carrie Grimes.   Her post explains that instead of refreshing some parts of its search index every couple of weeks that Google continuously updates its index now.

There are many reasons (some spelled Facebook, some spelled Twitter and some spelled iPod apps streamed to the web) for Google to move in this direction.  Real-time search–you’ve undoubtedly seen Twitter results on a Google search page by now–has been around for months.

Do Not Fear The Caffeine Monster

Real time search is going to be more prevalent.

But your key takeway is that rankings will change more often.  They’re already subject to a variety of personally specific issues like your location, people in your social network, your personal search history and more.

Now the flavoring added to this stew is going to be Caffeine.

I adore her explanation of the process:

Caffeine lets us index web pages on an enormous scale. In fact, every second Caffeine processes hundreds of thousands of pages in parallel.

Your takeaway as a small business leader is that you should have stopped chasing rankings a long time ago and it really doesn’t matter how vast Google’s computing power is this year versus last.

Last November, I wrote that leaders should stop demanding high rankings especially on arbitrarily chosen terms and learn about their analytics so they could focus on profit.

That doesn’t change, no matter which way you take your Caffeine.   Search engine results will be more dynamic, which means your SEO person (in house or hired gun) has a few more challenges, but we were already in a log rolling contest.  The people who guaranteed high rankings are bs artists at best.

Follow the money.  Focus on profitability.  And don’t stress about the changes because too much of this Caffeine will only hurt your health if you let yourself become stressed about the less important stuff.

Photo:  Lee Brimelow

Download Patent, Trademark Data

NLM computer room in 1969For anything you may like or not like about Google, we have to stipulate that the company has an amazing search functionality.  You may hate Gmail or Google Docs or Maps, but the search engine is great at chewing through huge blocks of data.

Now the company has announced that anyone can download patent and trademark data from Google.  This is the latest in a series of initiatives Google has taken in the public sector, and the scope of this project is somewhat staggering.   Google is making 10 terabytes of information available for download to open the program.

Let’s size up that whole terabyte thing.

You know the disk drive you’re proud of with all your music and photos?  The 200 gigabyte drive?    If you downloaded everything, you would need 50 of them.

Perhaps most puzzling about this partnership is the statement made by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  ”The USPTO does not currently have the technical capability to provide this public information in a bulk machine readable format that is desired by the intellectual property (IP) community,” the agency wrote in a statement yesterday.

That’s kind of interesting.  I know federal technology is iffy at best and when I’ve been exposed first-hand to agency initiatives I’ve longed for a communicator with Scotty on the other side, ready to beam me to the current decade.  But the USPTO can’t technically handle making its database public in a bulk format?  Maybe this kind of data failure is why Super SEO Rhea Drysdale had to spend $17,000 of her own money to block a trademark application for the term SEO.   And maybe that’s why psuedo agencies like the USPS have FexEx boxes out front and much of Europe and Japan enjoys high speed rail while we plod along on Amtrak when it’s available in that market.

So Google continues cozying up to federal agencies and your takeaway as a small business is that there are likely plenty of opportunities for you in the federal sector.  Start your research at the Small Business Administration’s federal contracting pages.  Sometimes you just have to ask.

And fill out a lot of paperwork.  That paperwork thing isn’t going away any time soon.

How Much Webmasters Make From Ads

coins with clock

Pennies and dimes add up over time

This morning’s announcement that websites keep 68 cents of every dollar spent when visitors click Google ads is the latest salvo in the company’s scramble to woo webmasters.    Google has a seemingly insurmountable lead in search.  We’ve written before that Google’s lead mirrors Microsoft’s software lead a decade ago and IBM’s hardware lead a decade before that.

Something will come along.  There’s already a shift led by Facebook which provides entertainment and Google which provides utility via search.   That’s not to say that Google is going anywhere… yet.   And I’m certainly not ready to proclaim this the Facebook Decade.

But Google VP Neil Mohan writing in what he calls the interest of transparency disclosed a number that has been hotly debated for years.  Even if the number isn’t exact or there are extenuating circumstances, one has to look at the intent behind the disclosure and ask what has changed.

The difference is the fragmentation in ancillary markets.   As a small business, you may choose to earn money on certain pages of your site (please don’t do this on your pre-sales pages!) with Google’s AdSense program.  As Mohan points out, you’ll get 68% of the earnings and if someone promises you 80%, how much more are you going to get from the trust created by the industry leader and its partner companies?

Mohan’s argument is compelling, and the number is important.  Because here is the math he hopes that you do:

Assume you have ads running on your website and that those ads generates $4.00  for every thousand pageviews.   Google’s announcement today would tell you that its advertising network receives $5.88 in advertising for those thousand views.   At 100,000 pageviews, the number is $588.  So if those pages are generating that much, couldn’t you just sell them for $600 at that level?

Sure.  But you can’t find a buyer at that level because you’re a small business and those 100,000 pageviews are your week or even your month.  That’s why there are other advertising networks:  AOL’s Advertising.com, Chitika (which works with Google and Yahoo!) and niche marketplaces like Glam Media.  In all, there are more than four dozen active ad networks.

Google’s announcement today of its revenue sharing percentages just may be the company’s recognition that this area of the business needs to be protected.

Free Form Templates From Google

Google did so much this week that one of the more immediately useful announcements may have been overlooked.

You’ve probably heard about Google TV, improvements to Google AdSense for businesses who use that advertising network and the attempt to revive Google Wave by making it available upon request.  For practical purposes that impact small businesses, the item that caught my attention was one I urge you to consider.

Using Google’s easy but powerful forms just got easier with new free fonts and templates.   I also have to give a special hat tip to Googler Melissa Louie, who identified herself this week as the creator of Google Chrome’s Zen/Spring theme.  I’ve used that theme almost exclusively for months, and it has become Google Chrome’s face for me.    Way to go, Melissa. That theme rocks, err, is tranquil and calming.

Why Google’s New Themes Matter

Google Forms is already the easiest, most cost-effective (free) way to gather data online.   I already use Google Docs with dozens of clients and partners.  When I revert to the Microsoft Office swap via email and trying to track version control, I develop a little tic and I’m pretty sure I grind my teeth.

Google's new form themes

Click for detail

With the release of 24 new free fonts and the use of images from iStockphoto, Google Forms are pre-made templates that should satisfy most small business needs.   You can use them internally or with customers.

Surveys and similar data are automatically filed in spreadsheet view.   Even better:  you can share that spreadsheet to anyone with an email address.   It’s perfect for small businesses, but it even works for the small business softball league you’re in because everyone doesn’t have to be on the same domain.

What you see to the left are templates that the Google team has put together for various industries and generics for others.  There are even new social forms like party invitations.

The templates have been added to Google’s free template library.  As I was discussing with my partner yesterday on the phone, Microsoft’s attitude toward templates frustrates me to no end.  Registered owners of expensive Microsoft software (she uses a Mac, I have a PC, but I don’t use IE’s browser most days) can only access Microsoft’s free template library using the company’s browser.  Sure, it’s probably legal.  It’s just dumb customer service.

Google’s free solutions cover at least 80% of what Microsoft offers with the added benefit of being accessible using any browser.  And remember, they’re free.  Free is good for any small business paying attention to cash flow.

Give it a whirl.  I think you’ll like any of the forms you try out.

Google Analytics Improves AdWords Reporting

Google’s quest to be the one stop shop for anyone advertising online takes another leap forward today. That’s because the company announced robust reporting changes in Google Analytics that intuitively define how AdWords campaigns are performing.

Without running highly detailed analyses, you’ll be able to click through the Google console and essentially cross-tab different advertising dimensions. Everything from day parting to the URL in placement advertising is now available in Analytics’ easy to use drill-drown menus.

The enhancements look like Google’s best improvements to Analytics in a long time.  The AdWords information that has appeared in Analytics for a while now seems rudimentary.  These bells and whistles are shiny and loud.;

As always, there are a couple of caveats.   The feature is rolling out to accounts over several weeks.  You may not have it yet or even for a while (that’s okay, there’s a nifty video below).   And if you’re working on a closed platform (some of Yahoo and GoDaddy’s site builders come to mind), you’re not going to be able to sneak Analytics code on there.

And, of course, the functions work best with aut0-tagging turned on.  If you’re running your own few campaigns, auto-tagging might work best for you.  If you’re using a third party tool, maybe not.  But if you’re using a third party tool, that shouldn’t bother you, right?

This is a nice step forward for Google Analytics. I’ll always recommend someone using Google Analytics also use something that provides clickstream data, but this extra layer of data is going to make small business PPC a lot easier to manage on accounts that use primarily Google AdWords and track their site on Google Analytics.  I like this move a lot.

Backing Up Your Online Data

The best technology executive I know used to regularly walk in my office and threaten to cut off my email, my Internet access or various appendages.   This was back in the bad old days when he had rolled out email to a startup, but he and I were two of the only folks who already had our lives in email.

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Like every good coach says, this guy read his email, responded or ignored and went about his day.  I kept my email open all day, dragged items into folders that were nested two deep and seemed hell-bent on creating the best archive system for mundane and trivial corporate news in the world.

Stop snickering.  I don’t do that anymore.

In the spirit of honesty I have to say that I don’t do this anymore because Gmail now lets me search on anything I want.   I use some filters to sort out everyday email that doesn’t need to be read every day, but other than that, my Gmail box is one big repository.  Okay, Gmail boxes.  But I don’t catalog email anymore, and I clean out my inbox every time I visit so that it’s no longer a de facto task list. No 100 plus message inboxes for me.   After all, that’s what Gmail’s “Send and Archive” labs function is for.

But what would happen if I lost access to that email?  That’s when my pack rat sensibilities are most offended.  And that’s where a relatively new service called Backupify comes in.

The service, still free with no indication on the site that there will ever be a charge, promises to backup Gmail, Flickr and even lifestreaming sites like Twitter and Facebook.   The site has the story of someone who lost 200 photos when a friend quit Facebook, as well as other horrifying tales. I have to admit I wasn’t especially moved by someone who had lost their Twitter DMs, but everyone values something.

Unlike backing up your hard drive because it might fail, you’re not typically using Backupify to protect against Google suddenly losing every bit of Google Docs.  You’re still protecting yourself against  yourself–an accidental deletion, for example.  That makes perfect sense to me, and if you can trust yet another company with your information, Backupify seems a sound option against accidentally deleting or losing access to an account where the only storage was in the cloud.

Update: Thanks to Rob at Backupify who reminded me that I blew right past the Premium and Business level plans, which seem like pretty good deals.  Premium is only $40/year and allows 5 accounts per service and a monthly backup.  Business is only $60/year with more accounts and weekly updates.  Either sounds like a good deal if you need your data in the cloud backed up.  [That's the "Are you sure you want to delete everything?" question we all sometimes race through]

Google Maps Adds Local Info To Street View

I’ve been talking about this day for years.    And although Droid wasn’t out then, one of the favorite BS topics around search conferences was how Google could leverage Business A to advertise or at least contribute data.  The answer is a mashup of Droid, Google Maps and Business B willing to advertise.

The actual news part

Google announced today that Street View will have local business annotations.   Street View is that nifty section of Google Maps when the traditional maps disappear and are replaced by photographic images of the area.   Street View now has those little boxes from Google Places overlaid on the images.  Take a look at the image below that Google is using on its blog.

The wildly speculative part

So this is a terrific upgrade to functionality.   I’ve asked more than once while looking at Maps, “Hey what building is that again?  No, not in this picture.   Even an East Coast guy like me recognizes San Francisco landmark buildings.  But look closely at the photo.    Now you can see individual businesses in those buildings.

And you know that really, really nifty feature about searching Google Maps for a business?  How about you search for George’s Pizza, but he happens not to be an advertiser.  Up on your Droid phone pops the lovely Street View with directions and reviews just like it’s shown above.  But Sara’s Pizza, just three blocks away, is an advertiser and has a coupon associated with their account.

*ding*

Up pops the coupon in a little window.  Sure, go have a slice at George’s, but you get 2 slices for the price of 1 at Sara’s.

That’s potentially how an information company leverages two small businesses against each other.   And that’s only one way.

But Google Maps’ Street View is an awesome tool.

Google Whiteboard

We already use Google Docs for communicating with our clients because it’s a free, simple solution that just works.  Yes, we still have Office 2007, but a new version is coming and we already compatibility issues when people asked us to revert a spreadsheet one version back.  An elegant cross-platform solution like Google Docs makes us happy and hasn’t failed us yet in a variety of scenarios.

Now Google is adding even more to their online product suite with collaborative drawing.  What’s so cool about that?  It’s a Google Whiteboard!

Being the person who once asked an engineer about the viability of marketing a desk made of whiteboard material that would not smear, this is a game changing event for me.

My partner Sara is in New York.  She’s the smart designer.  I just need to lay everything out visually.  Our clients are scattered all over.  Multiple clients are on the West Coast.  I don’t think either of us is within 20 miles of any of them and even visiting a “local” client takes up at least a half day.

But now we can even invite clients into a brainstorming session.  Sara can put the designs and images in front of people and get immediate feedback.  And if I’m laying out a budget or an ad campaign, I can diagram AdWords Ad Groups.

I can mindmap with my partner.

How cool is that?  I can mindmap online, and it’s real-time and collaborative and free.  As a small business leader, what more could you ask for?

google-drawing

Google's version of one type of diagram. Read more at their blog.

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.

Chrome Extensions – 3 Months Out

I’ve been careful about not bogging down my Google Chrome experience much like I did to Firefox, but there are so many extensions. And oh, they do really cool things!

Before the holidays, we wrote about 10 Google Chrome extensions that made our initial cut.  In the 3 months since then, about half of those original 10 extensions remain onboard, and they’ve been joined by a few new ones.  Here is a list of what Google Chrome extensions currently rock the Silver Beacon world.

Remaining From The December 2009 post

1.  Feedly  - The RSS feed reader that looks likes a magazine gets better and better.  The gang is now soliciting comments for the next version.

2.  Lorem Ipsum Generator – The de facto dummy text generator in any (browser) language.

3.  XMarks – Still works as a bookmark synchronization tool, but it feels like something is missing.  May not be on the list next time.

4.  StumbleUpon – A bit of a different UI in Chrome, you first have to activate the Stumble button.  A bit more spammy, but still good.

5.  CoolIris – The picture wall you’ve seen so many places.  Adding it to Chrome is a no-brainer.

6.  DotSpots – Collaboration by annotating websites doesn’t enough users to make it entertaining yet, but cool technology.

New on the Chrome Extension List

7.  Orbvious Interest – An unofficial port of ReadItLater.com works just dandy.

8.  SEO Site Tools – The best SEO plugin on any browser.   Carter Cole does a marvelous job regularly updating the code.

9.  Chrome SEO – Because marketers never stick with just one tool, I like Sean Bannister’s Chrome SEO plugin too.

10.  Speed Dial – Visual bookmarks in an 8×6 grid with background colors.  My favorite bookmark and utility plugin.

What Fell off the Chrome Extension List

A) Google Wave Notifier – If a Google Wave crashes on the Internet and no one hears it, does it exist?  Blech.

B)  News Reader – Another official Google plugin displays the top 5 news stories.  Easier to click a news site’s link.

C)  All the Unofficial Facebook plugins – I use Nutshell Mail. It works, I love it and you don’t need my password.

D)  Add to Any – Nice idea, but it wasn’t getting used.  Kind of where DotSpots is at now.  Good idea though.

That’s our quarterly look at Google Chrome extensions.  What are your favorite extensions and why?  Did we knock something off the list that should be here?  Are we completely missing something?