Whilst watching the Olympic marathon I wondered about the length, so I asked Google what 26 miles is in kilometres, knowing it’d give me an instant conversion. A pleasant surprise was that Google figured I was probably watching the marathon given the timing of my query and also showed me the live results, as you can see from this screenshot.
Occasionally I see articles pop up from people (mostly copyright holders) whining about this kind of use of information by Google. The fact is, it’s incredibly useful to the user. These kind of intelligent results show exactly why Google commands such a massive dominance in the search market.
Google’s contextual advertising doesn’t get a lot of love from anyone; publishers or advertisers. Publishers slam the low revenues and advertisers are disappointed with the high-cost, low-return they seem to get when choosing to advertise on the content network.
Having spent years managing campaigns through Google’s AdWords program (the advertising platform that supplies ads to contextual service, AdSense) I’ve experienced advertiser’s frustration over the content network. Indeed, one of the first things I did when creating or optimising campaigns would be to turn off the content network, ensuring that my client’s ads only ever appeared on Google search results.
This was the thinking;
About two years ago I re-visited the content network and figured that actually, it’s not that bad at all. You can target very effectively. I began taking a more traditional approach to online marketing. I researched the target market and found the sites that my target market was frequenting. Then, I pumped those sites into AdWords and it told me if they ran AdSense as well as some similar sites that definitely did. I could then easily create a campaign targeting only those sites that I’d identified. The situation then looked very different;
It’s a very crued way of demonstrating the point, I know. What it does make you think about as well is the amount of wastage you get from search. I’ve always had great difficulty dealing with ‘keywords’ because it’s impossible to know what searchers are thinking when they type them in. Let’s take the common example of ‘mp3 players’. Is someone searching for ‘mp3 players’;
Looking to buy an MP3 player?
Researching MP3 players with the intention to buy at a later date?
Trying to figure out what an MP3 player is?
Looking for a supplier of MP3 players?
Searching for a local shop selling MP3 players?
Attempting to find software that will play MP3s?
Researching in-car MP3 players?
I could go on… Imagine you are selling portable MP3 players by Sony. You find an MP3 player review site, add that to a Google AdWords campaign and target keywords including Sony. Your ad will only display on Sony MP3 player reviews. The great thing about that is you are catching your target market right at the point where they are trying to make a purchase decision. If they’re happy with the review there’s a good chance they’ll want to buy that MP3 player and conveniently, your (hopefully well-written) ad is sitting right along side.
I liken it to being able to cherry pick people off the street to pull into your high street shop. It really can be that powerful. So is it really the case that Google’s contextual targeting is flawed? Or is it just that advertiser’s aren’t taking full advantage of the system?
Well, it’s a bit of both. Google’s system needs to be smarter – showing ads for hotels in Lichfield isn’t very relevant on a site who’s target market all live in Lichfield. Google is also just doing what it can with the ads it’s been given though. Advertiser’s need to get smarter, too, and realise that this power is at their fingertips if they only look. Having said that when Google updated the AdWords interface a while back they manage to bury all the features I’ve just told you about. It took me ages to actually find them again!
Google make a big song and dance about how quickly and easily you can be up and running with AdWords. It’s true, anyone can do it in less than half an hour. It’s rarely successful though and to make a success of AdWords you need to really know your stuff, to the point that you can pass their certified professionals exam.
So what’s the solution? Pay a pay-per-click agency thousands to do it for you? Spend hours learning AdWords inside out? Well, yes ….and no. Why not KISS?
When we put AdSense on The Lichfield Blog we weren’t surprised that it didn’t generate a lot of revenue. After something like 3 months we switched to the much simpler and easier Addiply system. In the first month we had secured £42.50 of advertising revenue, beating those 3 months with AdSense by miles. It took some phoning around and it’s by no means a living but it pays some costs and considering it’s very much a ‘suck it and see’ effort, it’s gone very well.
There’s still some ground to be covered… Addiply is simple and easy to use, AdSense is feature rich and powerful once you know what you’re doing. There’s a middle-ground somewhere and in this period where local media is looking for ways to make the web pay, that middle ground is going to make publishers and advertisers everywhere very happy… as well as a small pot of gold for the person who gets to that middle ground first!
In my view, Google are just snapping what any general member of the public can see in that place at that time anyway. It’s already “in the public domain”, so to speak.
I haven’t had the fortune to come across a staunch opposer to StreetView yet, but if I did, as I commented over at MySociety, I would ask them, “What part of your privacy goes Google StreetView encroach upon exactly?”
Sunbathing naked in your back garden? I’m your neighbour, I can see you out my window…
Walking to the shops? I’m walking my dog, I see you. We even pass each other on the pavement and say hello.
Leaving an adult video store? You’re in public, the public will see you. If you don’t like being seen, stay at home and order off the internet or by phone.
Are you an anti-StreetView kinda person? Tell me exactly what it is that makes you uncomfortable about StreetView. Am I being too dismissive, missing the point etc?
“Top media laywer Mark Stephens” was quoted saying, “I suspect the husband’s lawyers will claim it was an invasion of privacy that will cost him his marriage and Range Rover.”
He may well lose his marriage and precious shagg wagon but it’s not Street View that’s brought that cost upon him, he’s done that all on his own.
And here, my patient readers, is where my point comes in.
The internet is an open and democratic medium. Get filmed, photographed or otherwise captured doing something you shouldn’t and you could well face the consequences.
It’s not the fault of the internet, of Google, of ISPs or of web site owners. It’s your fault.
Moaning about having your ‘privacy invaded’ because you got caught humping your cleaner thanks to the internet is akin to complaining that you got caught speeding because you happened to have been followed by an un-marked Police car.
The solution is quite simple: don’t do anything you wouldn’t want anyone knowing about. Especially cheating on your wife!
And guess what, the same applies (even more so, in fact) to companies.
On an almost daily basis my twitterstream contains tweets pertaining to bad customer service. I always worry for those companies. I wish, for their sake, that they’re monitoring Twitter, and the rest of the web.
If not, they are potentially letting their reputation sink lower and lower. As tools like Twitter, Facebook and Get Satisfaction gain traction, more and more people are making themselves heard. Word of mouth as a communication medium has rocketed to new heights.
So, if you’re a business do two things right now.
Smarten up. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t mind the world knowing about.
Keep an eye on what’s happening to your brand online. Failure to do so could result in a seriously damaged reputation.
A great opportunity for the AdSense team at Google to get instant feedback on what people are finding difficult so that they can make some improvements.
There could be lots of people talking about your product or service not just on Twitter but throughout the web. Are you finding them and addressing their concerns? The impact on your reputation either way could be dramatic.
I was one of many who were shocked yesterday when Google announced the changes in Checkout processing fees. They’ve also announced that AdWords spend will no londer fund free processing of transactions.
Plenty of sellers have been complaining about the move but is it a deliberate attempt by Google to get rid of them?
The previous fees were very, very low and along with the free processing offer based on AdWords spend, Google Checkout was a very attractive alternative to the well-established PayPal.
Could this all have been a ruse to get testers for Checkout, though? It’s possible that Google was simply entering in at such a low price to deliberately get thousands of e-commerce sites on board to test the waters.
Now they’ve decided they don’t want to be in the market afterall they’re deliberately matching PayPal’s prices knowing that PayPal is a better service. It becomes a no-brainer for Checkout customers to switch to PayPal or another service.
So, nonsensical pricing structure, or deliberate exit strategy?
I’m getting might pissed off with all this talk about some “deal” between Microsoft and Yahoo now. I don’t see how Microsoft forking out $15 billion for Yahoo’s search business would have any impact on Google‘s share.
Sure, on paper, Yahoo’s share would drop to 0% and Microsoft would jump from 8.5% to 29%, but Google’s share would still sit at 63.1%. (Based on comScore’s latest figures.)
Today, a large Yahoo shareholder, Ivory Investment Management urged the company to sell to Microsoft to maximise shareholder value.
How exactly does “maximising shareholder value” increase either Yahoo’s or Microsoft’s chances of stealing market share from Google and actually making a difference in search?
Come on folks, instead of wasting Yahoo’s time and money on lining shareholder’s pockets, how about giving two shits about making the product worth using. Isn’t that what makes Google better than Yahoo and Microsoft? Isn’t that why you’re lagging behind? Come on, it’s not rocket science.
Apple are going to lose out to Google and others in the battle for the mobile market unless they book their ideas up and give users what they want.
Case in point: Opera.
Via InformationWeek I’ve learnt that iPhone users will have to go without the Opera Mini and Opera Mobile browsers because Apple won’t allow them into the App Store.
This is a great shame. I’ve heard good things about the Opera browsers and although I do love the iPhone browser I believe in giving users choice.
Google, on the other hand, with the Android Marketplace, are allowing any applications to be added to one’s Android-powered phone.
Flexibility will be a key selling point of the Android phones. Freedom and flexibility will allow Android user’s to adapt their phones to suit their needs, while Apple try decide user’s needs for them.
Give user’s what they want and they will reward you with loyalty. Restrict them and they’ll go where the grass is greener.
I ignore a lot of the news I come across on a daily basis. One recent example is the lay-offs at web companies. It’s just all a bit too depressing, really.
So why am I blogging about it?
Well, I’ve related it to a bug-bear of mine today. The lack of sensible business planning in internet start-ups.
It’s caught my attention today ’cause I’ve just read Alex Iskold’s post at ReadWriteWeb about Platforms. Alex highlights the examples of Facebook and Google’s OpenSocial as platforms that have risen with great fanfare, only to fall by the wayside. The reason: no business plan.
These platforms were developed without a clear view to monetisation. It makes me cringe every time I hear of a web company being injected with VC funds. I’m scared it’ll be another funky web start-up with a cool free app that makes no money whatsoever.
I’m concerned because the effect could be a bad image for web businesses. While some of us are trying to encourage companies to spend money on the ‘net (for good reason, may I add) all around us companies are laying off staff or closing altogether because they haven’t made enough money. Companies that had no clear road map for success. Surely that’s just bad business decision making?
If I were one of Twitter’s 17 staff members, I’d be pretty scared at the moment.
Let me tell you a secret: Last year I left a company I co-founded in part because money was being splashed out on projects that had no hint of a business plan. Now I’m scared that the industry is doing exactly the same thing.
Am I being too cautious and are these companies simply taking a calculated risk? Or is it time to step out of the box for a bit and re-evaluate?
Why is it somanypeople are jumping up and down shouting “OPERATING SYSTEM” now that Chrome is out. I mean come on, out of all the big four (IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera) it’s the most basic browser you can possible get. I has a grand total of 4 options (okay, I’m exaggerating slightly) and takes up a fraction of the disk space.
In fact, if Chrome is an OS, then so is Firefox. In firefox, I can blog, I can manage my e-mail, I can keep up to date with my favourite blogs, I can listen to my music, I can check the weather, I can see what time it is, and a whole host of other every day tasks that Chrome hasn’t even touched upon.
Hype has it’s limits and throwing words like operating system around because of a new web browser are very much going beyond those limits. Seriously, it’s not healthy. Stop it.
Now, I understand why Chrome is exciting. The ability to separate web apps from the normal browsing experience is big. It’s the way things are going. Eventually we’ll all be running thin clients using streamed and/or web-based apps and so the need for big operating systems like Windows simply won’t be there.
Google knows this so they’re simply making the next logical step – providing the tools to help make that transition. In the same vein, they’re fully aware that more and more people are becoming wise to the availability of services on their mobile phones and need a better user experience – hence the Android project.
I’ve long thought that Google is essentially setting itself up to be the new ‘backbone’ for web surfers. They’re already doing this with search by powering over 70% of all searches on line. Chrome is simply an extension that looks to the future.
We will still need operating systems and they will still come from the likes of Microsoft, Apple and the Linux community. Google may make a foray into that area but for now what they’ve done is build a damn good web browser. Nothing more, nothing less.
Update: I’m not the onlyone frustrated by all this “WebOS” talk.