Google I/O 13, Google’s annual developer conference, happened last week, and I had the fortune of following a few great people on Google+ through their experiences at the conference. There was a lot of talk about Glass and the new Google+ format, both of which I have experienced vicariously through a few people on YouTube. The really interesting part about I/O was the overarching theme of what Google is doing.
Jeremiah Owyang sums it up best in his post about the key trends at I/O:
Google products are being enhanced and interconnected, with no new products added.
Google is virtually replicating planet earth, but “improving” the quality.
Google knows what and who you love as we trade convenience for our data.
It’s all true! Google didn’t make any big product announcements at this year’s I/O—they took care of that with Google Glass a month ago. Instead, they made major improvements to all their products.
Google Maps: It’s now better than ever. The improved Google Maps suggests related places and integrates friend’s social information into your map searches. It has a new interface as well, making the map more prominent on the page. Google also combined Google Earth into the maps so you can get the 3D experience on your browser.
YouTube: A new channel layout was announced a few weeks back and is now becoming official for all users. This update makes content discovery on any channel easier.
Search Improvements: With the implementation of Google+, Google search results now include your social graph results as well. Google uses your data to generate better suggestions across all searches, including Maps, YouTube and Images.
So what are the business implications of these changes? Well, if your business is not on Google+ yet, and you’re not +1’ing your own content, you’re missing out on great SEO advantages. If you have a retail business or a restaurant, don’t forget to also include our business in Maps and promote reviews on the platform. Google is still the reigning search engine, and all that data generated by other Google users will help your search positioning and discoverability.
The future looks bright for Google and Android users alike. The company is using big data in all the right ways to create better a user experience and opportunities for businesses to promote themselves.
Google took full advantage of April Fools this year with almost every major app having a great gag.
First is Google Nose, where search integrates with 15 million “scentabytes.” You can even smell “success!”
Althought Google Nose didn’t offer any real functionality; a personal favorite at Renegade is Google Treasure Maps. Where together we can discover the clues to a great treasure! It actually has a setting that will change your Google Maps to the treasure map mode.
Google+ had an emoticon layer you can add to photos. This actually works! Any photo you own and have uploaded to G+ will have a button where you can click to enable the emoticon.
Google Schmick is an Australian Google Street View app that helps you spruce up your house. Now you can give your house a lick of fresh paint for free on Street View with Google SCHMICK (Simple Complete House Makeover Internet Conversion Kit).
Gmail Blue is the great of all inventions! Transform your Gmail inbox into the deepest blues of blues. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to actually be an option.
For those office proficiency geeks, Google launched the “Levity Algorithm” to help make your appointments and documents more exciting! (no iteration of this is really available)
YouTube was by far the best April Fools with the greatest collaboration of pranksters!
Stay tuned tomorrow when Renegade explores pranks from all over the web!
Search Engine Optimization is the language of the Internet. The rules consistently change and everyone has a point of view on how to do it best. There is also the big debate of whether web design or SEO is the higher priority. All that aside, here are the key things you should focus on that don’t have anything to do with search algorithms and are effective no matter the design of your blog!
Site Traffic: How much traffic your blog gets plays a big role. It validates the information on your blog. After writing, focus as much as you can on driving traffic. You can also do this with backlinks fairly easily, by leaving comments on other blogs that mention your topics and putting your address in the “website field” to drive traffic to your post. You should also share your post on social media, especially Twiter, as this creates backlinks as well.
Post Length: Your post needs to be digestible by Google's web crawlers, although this is not as important as some of the other items on this list. If you can, beef up your post to a decent paragraph, to include enough room for a good “keyword ratio,” and then you’ll be well off.
Links: The links you put into your post that cite sources help your ranking. You could also leave a comment on the original source with a link to your site. Completed link-loops won’t hurt!
Tags/Keywords: Use tags and include keywords as a label/tag. A neat trick is to use the site Wordle.net to create a word cloud of your posts’s source article or, if your post is long enough, your own post. The five largest words in the word cloud will be your keywords. It's also important to use different instances of your keywords, e.g., not just using "light,” but also including "lightbulb," "bulb," "lamps," "light bulb" and "lamp."
Site Info: Make sure you have your site’s general keywords in your site description. You can also create a line that is similar to but not the same as your header in the footer of your site with the keywords, as well as a byline for your posts. For instance, you write a lot about recipes of fruit desserts, so “fruit,” “desserts” and “recipe” should be in your site description and bylines. “Charlie’s tasty creations blog” won’t be nearly as effective.
Other Blogs: If you can manage it, create relationships with other bloggers in similar or complementary topics. Offer to reference their work and link back to their blogs. As a group you can help drive each other up in the ranks through backlinks on similar subject matter. You can also guest blog for these blogs and include your byline in your post on their site, which will also help create relevance in the eyes of the web crawlers.
Avoid Copying and Pasting: Create original headlines and content in your blog. Google will go the original source and ignore your blog entirely when it comes to search results.
Google Authorship: Specifically for Google, the Google Authorship program will help your SEO. You must enter a bit of code on your site or byline and then register with Google. Any content that you create will be tied to your Google profile and Google+ account.
So, don’t get hung up on technicalities of SEO. Just focus on these key concepts and you’ll do fine as a blogger. When your site traffic hits a record amount, you can then dive deeper into the SEO game.
Graph Search is officially here! That is, it’s available for individual users, but we know that won’t stop you, the savvy marketer, from thinking about how you can use it. We know you’re ready to take advantage of the next biggest thing since the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button.
It’s important to note that because Graph Search is connected to a your personal profile, results are ordered by the connections closest to you or by the number of fans of the pages.
Facebook created the dynamic, long-tail, natural language search tool so that users can find people and pages with nearly infinite combinations of variables. For example, you could use Graph Search to find oxymoronic results like “People who like Beer and joined Alcoholics Anonymous” or “Christian Males who like Fifty Shades of Grey,” but that’s probably only good for a few laughs (or if you’re a troll, a few weeks worth of amusement). Putting self-amusement aside, Graph Search has serious implications for your brand.
Now that Graph Search has launched, consider cleaning up your social media policy as soon as possible. The last thing you want anyone to find is that your brand is listed under “Places where people who like Racism work.” But how far you go as an employer to tell your employees what they can and cannot like is an ethical issue you’ll need to work out in your own company.
The real value of Graph Search lies in its ability to support your marketing research. The easiest and most obvious way to use this functionality is to find out who likes the brand and what their interests are. Search for “People who like [your brand]” and click on “More pages they like” on the right column of the screen to learn more about your fans. After figuring out their common interests in brand page, combine multiple brand pages in your long-tail search to find which brands are similar to both. This can have great insight to complementary brands. Now try selecting “Activities they like” in the right column and you may find a few sponsorship opportunities.
By going through these steps you can find a broad pool of people you can potentially convert into fans based on the brand correlations you found above. You may even include geographical constraints to see where in the world you should concentrate marketing efforts.
Finally, another way to use Graph Search is to research your competitors using the same steps. Where are their fans located? What do they like? Which activities do they do? See, we knew you weren’t going to be deterred by the fact that Graph Search is only open to individuals, not brands. You savvy marketer, you!
Think back to the days when you used to actually write on paper. I’m talking about school papers, journal entries, and letters to your pen pals. Okay, are you back there, before the days where everything started as a Word document, a blog post, or an e-mail? Just how often did your paper wind up looking like this?
I know, in my life at least, doodling has overtaken many a sheet of paper as I search for an idea... or admittedly just procrastinate. Therefore, it should be no surprise that this blog post starts with the modern-day equivalent.
How often do you find yourself staring at the Google homepage poised for greatness, if only the right inspiration would come? There I was just a few days ago. The “I’m Feeling Lucky” button was particularly grating my nerves, as I was feeling quite the opposite. So I clicked. With that single click of the mouse (okay, tap of the touchpad) I opened the treasure box that is the Google doodles archives.
Most of us are familiar with Google doodles, even if we don’t know they have a specific name. A doodle is the way Google modifies their logo to celebrate a special date or person. This practice started back in 1998. Google explains it best:
“In 1998, before the company was even incorporated, the concept of the doodle was born when Google founders Larry and Sergey played with the corporate logo to indicate their attendance at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. They placed a stick figure drawing behind the 2nd "o" in the word Google, and the revised logo was intended as a comical message to Google users that the founders were "out of office." While the first doodle was relatively simple, the idea of decorating the company logo to celebrate notable events was born.”
Some doodles are more memorable than others. Some are reminisced about long after their 24 hour featured life-span, while others fade into oblivion. Some doodles made a big cultural impact. There are many doodles you may have never seen, because some are specific to a country other than your own. Personally, I wonder what the Google doodle will evolve into next, but for now, one thing is for sure… everyone has a favorite. Without further ado, here are my top 5:
5) 30th Anniversary of PAC-MAN
In my experience, this is by far the most talked-about Google doodle. In fact, Google keeps a playable version here. According to Mashable, the PAC-MAN doodle consumed 4.8 million hours of time, which was broken down to cost $120,483,800 in productivity. Truthfully, I don’t want to admit to how many hours I contributed to that total, but I am happy to say I didn’t factor into the monetary productivity hit, since I was still a student.
4) Scientists Unveil Fossil of Darwinius Masillae
Find a kindergartener and ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You are likely to hear answers such as “doctor”, “teacher”, and “police officer.” I was the strange five-year-old that replied, “paleontologist,” and often had to explain to the questioning adult what that word even meant. (For those of you who don’t know, a child-like explanation is a person who digs up dinosaur bones.) For many of my younger years, I put a lot of effort into learning about dinosaurs and trying to become an actual paleontologist. Although I have since set aside this goal, paleontology still sparks a glimmer in my eye.
3) First Day of Spring 2009 - Design by Eric Carle
I am very thankful that a love of reading was instilled in me during my impressionable childhood years. I don’t know exactly who to thank, but I’m sure my bookishness can be attributed to my family and first grade teacher. Anyway, one of my favorite books was Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I loved the format, and style of the book. This doodle conjures up fond memories of an easier time. As an aside, I recently bought a finger puppet version of this book as the “perfect” first birthday present for my friend’s son. Terrified doesn’t even begin to describe how he felt about the caterpillar puppet. Needless to say, I don’t think this will be on his list of favorite doodles when he’s older.
2) SOPA / PIPA
This one might only make the list because it’s fresh on my mind. That being said, there is no denying the impact this doodle had. Users who clicked on this doodle were directed to a petition to tell congress not to censor the web, and over 7 million people signed it. I probably particularly like this censored Google image because I love books such as Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World and 1984 in which the government CONTROLS and CENSORS. And while I enjoy works of fiction dealing with these themes, I have no desire to live in a world of censorship.
1) Alexander Calder's 113th Birthday
I’m an artsy person (notice I didn’t say artist!) and if forced to choose, I would pick Alexander Calder as my favorite artist. I’ve written a couple of reports on him as a matter of fact. I love whimsical, I love bright colors, and I LOVE 3D design. What makes this doodle really noteworthy is the fact that it was Google’s first doodle made entirely with HTML5, so it was the first doodle that really did something. I happily recall my excitement that day as I made the doodle mobile bob serenely. So, the fact that this commemorates my favorite artist, coupled with the game-changing nature for Google doodles, makes this the number one doodle in my book.
Have you been inspired to create a doodle? While there is already a team of illustrators and engineers (called doodlers!) in place at Google specifically for this purpose, Google accepts submissions for future doodles at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, they run an annual contest, Doodle 4 Google, with the winning doodle being featured on the homepage. Unfortunately, I certainly stand no chance of winning a Doodle 4 Google contest in the modern era of doodle animation, so instead I’ll continue to enjoy the doodles of others in times of procrastination need.
What are your favorite Google doodles? Did you know you can buy customized items with your favorite Google doodle?
-- Allison Rossi
Maybe it’s leftover from my days as teacher’s pet or my short stint as a Girl Scout, or perhaps it’s just a human need for positive reinforcement, but social media badges thrill me. I checked into a coffee shop on Foursquare on my way to work this morning and my phone dinged to tell me something new and exciting happened. A well designed, merit badge-type icon appeared, “Look at you, Juan Valdez! That’s an impressive 30 cups of coffee. Now that you’ve had your caffeine fix, get out there and conquer the day – one twitchy step at a time.” With witty text and the satisfaction of having earned something, I felt rewarded for getting my morning coffee. Foursquare, a social media check-in app and website, has gained popularity by “game-ifying” everyday activities. Foursquare also has started to partner with brands like Starbucks so that when a customer checks in they are rewarded with a badge and occasionally other perks like free items or discounts for their loyalty. While offering coupons or discounts to repeat customers may seem predictable, badges are changing how people connect with brands and products while attracting consumer attention and engagement in a saturated advertising environment.
Do you remember when you were given stickers or prizes for reading in grade school? Well, Google News has taken its cue from this old teacher trick and made reading news interactive and even competitive. Google users can earn badges (Bronze, Silver, Gold and Ultimate) based on how many articles they read on a specific topic and then display them on their Google+ profile. The badges add a competitive edge to an otherwise typical daily activity and encourage readers to puff out their intellectual chests and declare, “Look how well-read I am! See – I have an award to prove it!” Readers vying for virtual bragging rights may then visit Google News more frequently and continue to share what they read on the site.
Speaking of school, education is also getting a bit of a facelift from social media badges. A young start-up called Skillshare empowers people to teach classes on topics on which they are knowledgeable and take classes from others. Classes range from fun (“How to Make Scones”) to more serious (“Learn Microsoft Excel”). Recently, Skillshare revamped its site to include badges that highlight users’ expertise and learning interests. All users' profiles are adorned with the badges and then enhanced with the details of their class attendance or hours taught. By browsing profiles you can easily see who may be a cooking master or a novice from the number of hours they have from teaching or attending culinary classes. Or you can sniff out who is just a Skillshare lurker, with no hours in classes in any capacity.
As an unabashed narcissist, social media badges indulge my desire for reward and praise while also letting me flaunt my achievements and brag about them with status updates and new tweets. Businesses should take a page from these social media badge forerunners because badges give you the best of the social media world - starting conversations and connecting with otherwise elusive groups while driving the conversation back to you.
What else could social media badges do for us? How do you think social media could take advantage of competition and vanity for innovation?
- Kristi Murphy
If you are one of the 91 million people who seeks refuge in the familiar feeling of letting Google answer your everyday queries, then you are beginning to see changes beyond the daily theme that drapes their iconic logo. They are trickling in incrementally (they introduced author information results over the holiday), however these small changes have the potential to ultimately accumulate in a force that could not only alter SEO, but also drastically change the way you use technology to satisfy both your simple and complex informational needs. Many people have already ditched Google, preferring Siri's knowledge and soothing medium to the often arduous task of mining through Google search results. There appears to be an upcoming battle between Google, Apple, Facebook or wherever else you get information from, and whoever can integrate the most is likely to prevail.
Launched in June of 2011, initially in a field test/invite only phase, Google+ is still yet to seriously challenge the holy trinity of social networking that is Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It currently has around 40 million active users, a far cry from the 800 million people that maintain a Facebook profile. As it becomes increasingly popular, the question emerges: will slow and steady win the race? If Google+ integrates, can it become a dominant force in social media or is it merely the movie sequel that you wished you hadn’t wasted 10 bucks on?
Less than a month ago, Google+ made a great leap when it released its Business Pages feature. Like Facebook’s “Fan Pages,” Google's version allows companies and brands to foster trust, identification, sense of community, and direct communication with its customers/users; but Google+’s version has the potential to have a far greater impact on the social networking landscape.
The key word here is integration. While many scoff at Google+ as it crawls through its infantile stages, Google has big plans for “Plus.” First, as more companies create pages, it offers a quick, efficient and reliable way to locate small businesses. Rather than spending 3 minutes squinting at a flower shop’s poorly curated website in search of an address or phone number, the user can merely type “Flowers4Her+” into Google and its basic information will be immediately available; plus the number will be linked for easy calling. Additionally, as these pages are “in house” results, they will appear more frequently when a user searches for “Flowers near Union Square.” Page admins are able to use segmentation to target a specific demographic of their customers, and improve their customer service by chatting face-to-face. The future integration is expected to include, but not be limited to, the Apps for Business Productivity suite, word processing, document sharing, Calendars, Gmail, E-Commerce, Google Adwords and Analytics services, and Maps and location based tie-ins. If all Google utility is integrated, Google+ could become a one-stop shop for social networkers. And if a user is already using Google+ to find flowers for his girlfriend, paying with Google+'s E-Commerce feature, putting a reminder in his Google+ calendar, and finding a restaurant for dinner, it is likely that he will also connect with an old college buddy while he’s there. For his sake, let's just hope he doesn't consider an an e-card and opts for the real thing.
So what could this mean for the future? Attempts to answer that question can only lead to speculation and yep...more questions. Nonetheless, you can almost feel the techtonic plates shifting under your feet. November has been the most active month for IPOs since July with 13, including technologies Yelp and Groupon (which has plummeted 42% in price in its last 5 days of trading). Will Yelp’s popularity be short lived when customers can get the same utility elsewhere? Or in an easier format? As new technologies emerge, they bear great uncertainty. But ultimately, accesibility, utility, and usability will decide this fight. Furthermore, with the impressive aptitude of Siri, iPhone users were opened to a world in which the consumer could circumvent mobile tools like the Google search bar, and third party apps like Yelp and Urban Spoon. (Plus, they didn't even need to look at the screen, let alone type and decipher the results) The iPhone 5 is rumored to release this coming spring, and all signs point to a reinvented body type and an improved version of everyone’s favorite digital companion. We can expect that by then Google+ will have made the necessary integrations to make finding information easier. Plus, who knows what the new Facebook phone, (codename Buffy) is going to bring to the table. (Mark Zuckerberg has publicly expressed reluctance to an IPO for months, but recently is becoming more open to the idea even as early as this Spring) This technology slugfest could have greater implications than Ali-Frazier!
So what do we know now? People are currently using, and loving Siri; but how much of that use is due to the “cool” factor of a fresh piece of software? Siri consolidates your answer sources, generating results from a growing multitude of partners including OpenTable, Yelp, Yahoo, StubHub, Movie Tickets, Rotten Tomatoes and Wolfram Alpha (to name a few); allowing you to get all your information in one place. If Siri 2 combs out some glitches, and more and more people join the iPhone family, how it affects Google’s utility and what Google+ looks like down the road could truly reshape the social information landscape. Both Google+ and Siri have the potential to be disruptive technologies, with the power, resources, and reach to replace competitors in the information world. It is hard to predict now, but as a social networker and technology addict, I am beginning to wonder who will be telling the future me where to find the nearest pumpkin latte this time next year.
In the meantime, connect with Renegade's Google+ page here and like us on Facebook!
-Scott Anthony Procops
He tweets here: @TheS_P500
Somewhere along the way to smartphone ubiquity and tablet trendiness, offline became an unsavory word. Not as repugnant as dial-up or spam, but certainly not magnanimous like 3G. Social networks, web searches and general connectivity became more important than offline activities like word processing and Minesweep. The short-lived popularity of netbooks is a testament to the notion that if you’re not connected, you might as well turn your [insert device] off.
But what if you’re in a cafe that has no wireless? What if your Aunt Elsie’s house is out of range of your 3G network? Unless you had the foresight to download your work beforehand, such situations serve as flashbacks to pre-2008 computing. The only difference is that now your choice of activities is even more limited as offline has been left to the wayside by many digital innovators.
One of the tech behemoths that started this shift was Google: It introduced free programs like Gmail and Google Docs much to the chagrin of software developers. This May the company released its own netbook, the Chromebook, which seemed to solidify its commitment to the online occult.
You can imagine my surprise when I learned that Google was rolling out an offline version of Gmail. The application, which can be downloaded through the Chrome Web Store, is similar to its tablet version in appearance and functionality. As a dumbphone user who loves frequenting wifi-free cafes with my laptop, the ability to read, respond and sort through old e-mails without a connection is a major boon. Traditional mail servers like Outlook, Thunderbird and Apple Mail have worked offline for years, but their mobility limitations, screwy settings and bland appearance kept them from reaching Gmail rock star status.
Google announced that it plans to extend this capability to Google Calendars and Docs as well— the latter of which will prove tricky given its collaborative nature. And if the search-engine-turned-tech-giant decrees “offline” to be an option for the 3G world, others may soon follow in its path.
— Nicole Duncan
Google has finally entered a serious contender into the social sphere with its launch of Google+, the new project that turns the established search giant into one, collective social network. Known as “Google’s answer to Facebook,” the program introduces some new and improved ways to share and connect with people. Here are some of the coolest:
The Circles+ feature is a new approach to the well-known friend lists. Unlike Facebook or Twitter lists, Circles+ allow users to make several different friend groups for sharing different content. Now, close friends, family, and professional connections can be organized as such. Plus, the company has added a little fun with animation accompanying the creation of a circle.
Sparks is a new content feature. Users can choose certain topics like fashion, health, or entertainment and the engine recommends interesting and relevant content based on the information from other Google products like Google Search. The idea is simple- make it easy for people to explore their interests and allow them to share it with their friends. Sound familiar to Twitter?
Hangouts are a new way to group chat. Instead of inviting one person to chat, a user can just start a “hangout” and let other friends join. The best part is that the chat screen shows whoever is currently talking, so although you could be in a group with 10 people you will only see one person at a time.
Google+ has been in the works for over a year, and the final product is well designed and innovative. The company has already dominated the search field, but until now has never made an impact on the social sphere. Is Google+ serious competition for Facebook and Twitter? We’ll find out.
I have a lot of friends who discount the significance of social media (in business use, not personal use). These friends are both college aged and technology users. For many, social media is personal and recreational, not a job, so they have a hard time recognizing the business side to Facebook or Twitter.
An article from SEOmoz (click here) shows Google search’s recognition of social media. To sum it up, the article explains that your search results on Google are being influenced by your “likes” on Facebook and the companies you “follow” on Twitter.
For example, if you follow Renegade on Twitter, and one day you search for marketing firms in New York, Renegade will appear higher in the results. However, someone else searching for the same thing may not see Renegade because they are not following the company.
Essentially, this move by Google gives companies incentives to gain more followers and likes. Even if followers do not visit a company’s Facebook page often, their search engine results will be affected by simply liking the company. Check out this article by Christopher Penn to learn more about how this move affects marketers and consumers.
I think this is quite obviously beneficial for companies, but I also think it is helpful to consumers. Why shouldn’t your search results be more personalized? Seeing what your friends “like” on Google searches may help you establish the credibility of the website or company.
News and search engine results are evolving from “one-size fits all” to custom-tailored, and social media is going to play a giant role in the transition.