Results tagged “google”

There's a rather famous graph of Buzzfeed's traffic kicking around. I've used it a bunch of times in lectures and training, and it looks like this:

facebook-google-buzzfeed-referral-traffic.png

There's a crucial point where the Google referral traffic drops sharply for a while. Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed founder and CEO, has talked about what happened to Buzzfeed's search traffic:

As it turned out, it was an error on Google's end. It took Peretti about a month to track down the right people at Google (he name-checked Google's head of search quality at the time, Matt Cutts). Google saw that BuzzFeed was embedding widgets from a related domain it owned, apparently for traffic management purposes. Google assumed it was malware being injected into BuzzFeed, Peretti said, and gave BuzzFeed a penalty.

Whoops. But while Buzzfeed was trying to sort it out, it also started focussing on social traffic:

By the time the error was resolved, BuzzFeed had shifted direction. Rather than try to balance content aimed to do well with both social and search, BuzzFeed was forced to focus entirely on social to get through the search slump -- and it kept that focus going forward.

The whole story is at least somewhat indicative of the increasing split between content that works well for search - things that answer questions or inform - and those which perform well for social - stuff that's amusing, or informatively entertaining. It's hard to optimise for both these situations - so sometimes you're forced into choosing.

Peretti also talks about some of these issues in a recent podcast:

Coffee in Tom Foolery

Four good reads that I think are worth your coffee time this morning:

  • Looking for a job in journalism? Kevin Anderson, who recently landed a great one, has some really excellent advice for preparing for the journalism job interview. His point about researching the community the title serves is very well-made, and all too often neglected by job hunters.

  • Meanwhile, Paul Bradshaw has some excellent advice for journalists looking to the security of their work, their online presence and their sources. You're not paranoid if they're out to get you, and given the nasty piece of legislation that was pushed through yesterday, I think we can assume that no online communication is secure, unless completely encrypted.

  • An interesting look at the media consumption habits of the under-24s. Consume with caution because we know that people habits change with age, but that's more than balanced by the fact that they're starting from a very different place that earlier generations.

  • Google has finally given up on its "real names only" policy for Google+. I'm not going to make the standard joke about G+ being a ghost town - as I can see clearly from my feed over there that it isn't. However, the activity there is limited to select communities - but that was the case for Twitter and Facebook at the same stage (time-wise) in their evolution.

Enjoy your coffee.

Google+ Insights

Remember all those tech press stories declaring Google+ dead after the departure of Vic Gundotra?

This happened a week ago:

Many of you have asked for more data about how your social content is performing and who your audience is on Google+. So starting today, we’re offering all Google+ pages access to Insights reports. Insights provides key info that helps you tailor and optimize your Google+ content, including:

  • Visibility: All time total, photo, and post views, and how page impressions have trended over time.
  • Engagement: Which types of posts are getting the highest level of engagement on Google+.
  • Audience: Get an overview of your follower demographics.

And then yesterday, Google+ premium happened:

Apps customers have long been able to host Hangouts with up to 15 people, but now the sessions will be available in HD-quality — together Google believes that will “save time and money”. Premium also enables more granular privacy controls, letting Google+ users set their posts as restricted to their domain (thus visible to colleagues and employers only) if they wish, or hide their profiles from public searches.

There's a full break-down of what's being offered on the Google Enterprise Blog.

These are not the moves of a company winding down a product.

Beware online journalists who report or repeat rumour and speculation as if it was fact…

Saying Goodbye to Gmail

Last night I switched the e-mail hosting provider behind @onemanandhisblog.com from Gmail to Hover's e-mail service.

Why?

Two reasons mainly:

  • I very rarely use webmail. Maybe I'm just showing my internet age, but the majority of my e-mail is done through Mail.app on a Mac, or the equivalent on my iPhone or iPad. The interaction between these and Gmail is less than stellar, and I'm not really using all the Gmail stuff that comes with the interface.
  • Following the revelations of the last year, I'm less comfortable than ever in having the bulk of my commercial e-mail handled by an organisation like Google. While I see the value in tools like Google Now, right now I don't feel I have the level of control over the data harvested to make me feel comfortable enough using it.

So, one quick DNS change later, and someone else is now handling adam@onemanandhisblog.com. No complaints so far.

cloud-and-cables-berlin.jpg

Benedict Evans defines the fundamental philosophical difference between Google & Apple:

For Google, devices are dumb glass and the intelligence is in the cloud, but for Apple the cloud is just dumb storage and the device is the place for intelligence.

Given all the news we've had in the past year about how very interested our Governments are about what's going on in the cloud, I think I'd rather have my intelligence in the devices.

Lots of other interesting stuff in his analysis of Apple's announcements on Monday. My own take is up on the NEXT Berlin site.

Forked Once upon a time, when the digital world was young and full of idealism, people would occasionally guest post on other people's blog, to comment on something they didn't normally write about, or to bring expertise into a different conversation.

Then, some people - let's call them "probloggers" - decided you could actually use this as a vast content pyramid scheme, by getting would-be bloggers to write posts for your blog. They hoped that they might get a trickle of your traffic, but you got free content to support your ads, so you didn't care much either way.

And then the SEO business noticed that these guest posts brought with them links, and links equal pagerank. And in that moment, guest posting contracted a terminal illness:

So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it's just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn't recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn't recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.

That's Matt Cutts of Google talking. But that sort of thing only carries weight if he gives a coded warning that an algorithm update is coming.

Oh, here it is...

So there you have it: the decay of a once-authentic way to reach people. Given how spammy it's become, I'd expect Google's webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward.

I'm sure I've got a bottle of champagne around here somewhere...

Photo by Holly & Chris Melton and used under a Creative Commons licence

Marco Arment has used the demise of Google Reader to explore how Google has changed since the rise of Facebook - and how the big three web players (Facebook, Twitter and Google) are no longer "webby" in the sense we once used the word:

The bigger problem is that they’ve abandoned interoperability. RSS, semantic markup, microformats, and open APIs all enable interoperability, but the big players don’t want that — they want to lock you in, shut out competitors, and make a service so proprietary that even if you could get your data out, it would be either useless (no alternatives to import into) or cripplingly lonely (empty social networks).

The rather annoying part of all of this is that these services initially built their success on open web principles:

That world formed the web’s foundations — without that world to build on, Google, Facebook, and Twitter couldn’t exist. But they’ve now grown so large that everything from that web-native world is now a threat to them, and they want to shut it down. “Sunset” it. “Clean it up.” “Retire” it. Get it out of the way so they can get even bigger and build even bigger proprietary barriers to anyone trying to claim their territory.

I can see the appeal of the proprietary platforms to both individuals and companies. Brands want single companies they can deal with, while individuals don't want all the hassle of maintaining the infrastructure to support their presence. Companies, though, should think twice before handing their online profile over to a company like Facebook who can change - and diminish that presence - at a whim. Facebook can be part of a strategy, but should never be the only home to it, unless you're willing to cede effective ownership of your presence to a third party - two third parties, if you're using an outside agency to a mange that work for you. Equally, individuals who have a vested interest in maintaining a web presence - artists, consultants and the like - should be wary of putting time and effort into a platform they can't extract their data from.

I think it's beholden to those of us who remember and understand what the open web standards were about - interoperability, data portability and their ilk - to keep fighting those battles, and to keep promoting their benefits to the people who "own" content and materials that they value. Those proprietary platforms are useful, and shouldn't be ignored. But they shouldn't be trusted, either. Who knows which service will be the next to be shut down - and how easy it will be to reclaim your data and content.

Or, as Marco puts it:

Well, fuck them, and fuck that.

Update: Just after posting, I saw Neville Hobson tweet this:

Further evidence, if you needed it, that Google is slowly backing away from providing useful tools that link their systems with yours.

Jasper Jackson:

But is Google's content store anywhere near being a credible competitor to Apple's Newsstand, which has had a year headstart and can tap into Apple's customer base of more than 400 million?

Spoiler: The answer's "no".

It's interesting to see how much Madhav Chinnappa, EMEA head of strategic partnerships for Google News and Magazines dodges around the issue of actual sales rather than publisher representation on the store.

As always, Android bears watching - but it's clear that the iOS and Android ecosystems are really different right now.

Google Reader last night:

The former state of Google Reader

Google Reader this morning:

The message on the dead Google Reader site

You know, I thought I'd mourn, but I'm actually enjoying the revived ecosystem of apps and RSS Readers. It makes me wonder what other innovation is being stifled by Google's dominant position.

Talking of the demise of Google Reader, a snapshot from Google's "Bring Your Parents to Work Day":

Unsurprisingly, someone asked Larry Page a question about Google Reader and got the scripted “too few users, only about a million” non-answer, to which Sergey Brin couldn’t help quip that a million is about the number of remote viewers of the Google I/O developer conference Page had just bragged about. Perhaps the decision to axe Reader wasn’t entirely unanimous.

Jean-Louis Gassée does a great job of putting Google's Reader-killing decision in context.

Talking of the demise of Google Reader, a snapshot from Google's "Bring Your Parents to Work Day":

Unsurprisingly, someone asked Larry Page a question about Google Reader and got the scripted “too few users, only about a million” non-answer, to which Sergey Brin couldn’t help quip that a million is about the number of remote viewers of the Google I/O developer conference Page had just bragged about. Perhaps the decision to axe Reader wasn’t entirely unanimous.

Jean-Louis Gassée does a great job of putting Google's Reader-killing decision in context.

Livia at #B2BHuddle.jpg

Livia Giulia Zuppardo, Google+ product specialist, Google

Why could Google+ be useful in the future?

Google+ is the next generation of Google - they're using it to add more features to Google to make it a more personalised experience. The personal element should make it easier to find exactly what you're looking for.

Elephant in the room: users. There are lot of communities that have established themselves on Google+.

The latest numbers suggest that they have 500m users who have created Google+ accounts and started using the product. Active users? 135m users visit the Google+ site. But 235m are using any of the social features of Google+. That's in 18 months - they see this as remarkable group.

They want to add sharing and social ability sot all of their products. They're integrating it into all of the products - and this will continue. 

What about businesses? There are four things:

Better discovery - things are relevant only when people are interested. A recommendation from a  colleague can be forgotten about, but if that shows up in search, that makes a difference. This is about socially inspired brand awareness. Search + your world aims to bring social recommendation to search pages. The left hand column is based on personalised results, the right hand side on brand-submitted material. KLM used this to respond to a website hack. It's not about dragging people to a destination social network.

Deeper engagement: what tools could we give to give better user engagement? Topshop and Google+ worked together to create a whole different launch experience. It wasn't just about the marketing, but allowing a more social buying experience. Circles allow for more targeted marketing messages. LateRooms.com divided their users into circles based on language, and only share with the relevant language groups. Hangouts - video chats - allow 10 people to interact. You can use screenshare and Google docs collaboration. You can event build apps around it. Dell does this really well - they do regular customer support and unboxing work, using Hangouts on Air - a live streaming version of Hangouts. You can add anything you can add to a webpage to a Hangout. 

(Can it be used internally? Yes, just schedule it as a meeting with just the people involved. That's how Google uses it.)

Communities reflect the fact that they see Google+ as a place where like-minded people come together. She found a 19,000 member fibre broadband community. 

Marketing Performance across the web: Ocado uses videos from hangouts as ads - and they perform better than their conventional ads. Social annotations are the personal recommendations they show on search - and which can be added to ads, for a 5 to 10% uplift in click through rates. In automative, it has reduced the cost of conversions by 91%.  

Measure the impact: Ripples are a great way of identifying advocates and influencers. They track comments and reshares. If you identify the people who triggers shares, you can put them in a special circle, and share special material with them. Integrates with Analytics to show how conversions are helped by social interactions. You can prove both direct social conversions - and assisted conversions. 

Questions & Answers

How could we measure success of our Hangout? Follower increases, Ripples around shares...

If we invested a lot of time and money - what assurances do we have you won't kill it like Reader? Google+ is not going to be like Reader - it's the next generation of Google. There's no end date. It's something we're strong invested in. It's about adding to the user experience, and we nurture this. 

Can you talk about the demographics of the Google+ users? In vague terms - otherwise I get fired. In the first few months it was skewed towards male and technical. In the year since, that has normalised. I wouldn't be too worked about that. Male technical people tend to be quite vocal (no offence) - they start a lot of the conversations, but they are not the only ones out there.

How do we best connect personal pages with brand pages? You need a personal profile to create a brand page - which you can use as a brand. The best interactions we've seen are around those who show who the people are working on the page. Dell and Virgin America are using their CEOs to interact on the brand page. 

Livia at #B2BHuddle.jpg

Livia Giulia Zuppardo, Google+ product specialist, Google

Why could Google+ be useful in the future?

Google+ is the next generation of Google - they're using it to add more features to Google to make it a more personalised experience. The personal element should make it easier to find exactly what you're looking for.

Elephant in the room: users. There are lot of communities that have established themselves on Google+.

The latest numbers suggest that they have 500m users who have created Google+ accounts and started using the product. Active users? 135m users visit the Google+ site. But 235m are using any of the social features of Google+. That's in 18 months - they see this as remarkable group.

They want to add sharing and social ability sot all of their products. They're integrating it into all of the products - and this will continue. 

What about businesses? There are four things:

Better discovery - things are relevant only when people are interested. A recommendation from a  colleague can be forgotten about, but if that shows up in search, that makes a difference. This is about socially inspired brand awareness. Search + your world aims to bring social recommendation to search pages. The left hand column is based on personalised results, the right hand side on brand-submitted material. KLM used this to respond to a website hack. It's not about dragging people to a destination social network.

Deeper engagement: what tools could we give to give better user engagement? Topshop and Google+ worked together to create a whole different launch experience. It wasn't just about the marketing, but allowing a more social buying experience. Circles allow for more targeted marketing messages. LateRooms.com divided their users into circles based on language, and only share with the relevant language groups. Hangouts - video chats - allow 10 people to interact. You can use screenshare and Google docs collaboration. You can event build apps around it. Dell does this really well - they do regular customer support and unboxing work, using Hangouts on Air - a live streaming version of Hangouts. You can add anything you can add to a webpage to a Hangout. 

(Can it be used internally? Yes, just schedule it as a meeting with just the people involved. That's how Google uses it.)

Communities reflect the fact that they see Google+ as a place where like-minded people come together. She found a 19,000 member fibre broadband community. 

Marketing Performance across the web: Ocado uses videos from hangouts as ads - and they perform better than their conventional ads. Social annotations are the personal recommendations they show on search - and which can be added to ads, for a 5 to 10% uplift in click through rates. In automative, it has reduced the cost of conversions by 91%.  

Measure the impact: Ripples are a great way of identifying advocates and influencers. They track comments and reshares. If you identify the people who triggers shares, you can put them in a special circle, and share special material with them. Integrates with Analytics to show how conversions are helped by social interactions. You can prove both direct social conversions - and assisted conversions. 

Questions & Answers

How could we measure success of our Hangout? Follower increases, Ripples around shares...

If we invested a lot of time and money - what assurances do we have you won't kill it like Reader? Google+ is not going to be like Reader - it's the next generation of Google. There's no end date. It's something we're strong invested in. It's about adding to the user experience, and we nurture this. 

Can you talk about the demographics of the Google+ users? In vague terms - otherwise I get fired. In the first few months it was skewed towards male and technical. In the year since, that has normalised. I wouldn't be too worked about that. Male technical people tend to be quite vocal (no offence) - they start a lot of the conversations, but they are not the only ones out there.

How do we best connect personal pages with brand pages? You need a personal profile to create a brand page - which you can use as a brand. The best interactions we've seen are around those who show who the people are working on the page. Dell and Virgin America are using their CEOs to interact on the brand page. 

Reader Closing

Sometimes, checking your news reader before you hit the sack is an error. Last night was one such night - because I flipped through articles to find that Google is killing off Google Reader.

For many of you, this will mean little or nothing. But for many prolific bloggers and information workers, this is a disaster. An RSS reader - a piece of software that subscribes to feeds of information from websites - is the only efficient way to monitor a range of topics online. You don't need to visit each site individually, just spend some time in your feedreader. It's not a technology that ever hot the mainstream - which is one reason that Google dumping it. But the noise will be disproportionate, because so many people who write and create for the internet will be affected by this. Google Reader is a niche tool, but an incredibly important one for those who use it. 

What really rankles, though, is that Google killed off an ecosystem when they launched Reader. In the mid-2000s, there were a whole range of RSS readers available, but Google's own offering became the default over time, because it was so tied into the rest of the Google ecosystem. Google's free product left no financial oxygen for other, commercial offering, and they withered and died.

The recent rise in RSS readers on iOS in particular looks like innovation and diversity is back in the ecosystem - but this is largely an illusion. Pretty much all of these apps are just interfaces to Google Reader, and are dependent on it for feed management and, crucially, syncing between devices. One developer has made it plain that his app isn't going away just because the underlying mechanism is: 

I wonder how many others will survive? My preferred desktop client - Caffienated - is going stand-alone, which means I need a new app, that does have some form of syncing built-in. 

In the meantime, though, RSS reading is important enough to me that I'm already making preparations. So far:

  • Give me FeverI've reinstalled Fever on my web server. It's a self-hosted RSS reader, that does some nice analysis to show you what the most popular links amongst your feeds are. It syncs with the iPhone version of Reeder - and if that ability comes to the iPad and Mac version of the software, I have my solution.
  • I've added my Reader account to Flipboard, so those subscriptions won't be lost when Reader goes away.
  • I've installed Feedly, and added my Google Reader details, so they'll be transferred when they get their replacement API up and going

My City colleague Paul Bradshaw is crowd-sourcing a list of potential Google Reader alternatives

Hilter is annoyed by Google(Yes, there's a "Hitler discovers..."/Downfall video parody)

When journalists use social media, should they blur professional and personal lines?

My Interactive Journalism students at City University setup a Google+ Hangout (with some shepherding from Judith Townend) to discuss the issue, and I joined in with Nick Petrie from The Times and Sarah Marshall from journalism.co.uk. Here's the video:

(You can read the post on digital doorstepping I referred to, if you're interested)

Linking bird

My, my. It's been an interesting few days for web publishers, hasn't it?

Interflora's Search Death

First of all, Google wiped Interflora from the search rankings:

 Searching for the terms [Flowers], [florist], [flower delivery], [flowers online] and hundreds of other related search terms yielded the interflora.co.uk domain in first place – until yesterday afternoon.  Now the website does not even appear for its own brand name:

Eeek! There's some suggestion that because it was using blogger gifts to garner links, it was penalised for that. However, at least one commenter suggests that it was involved in more direct paid linking:

I have to say at this point that I know quite a few bloggers who posted the interflora links and it wasn’t in return for flowers or products but paid for links from a rather well known SEO company… Totally against Googles t’s and c’s – to be honest the bloggers themselves could jepordise their own pageranks of they don’t remove the links too.

Punishing Local Papers

That sounds pretty prescient, because it turns out that Interflora had been buying links from local newspaper sites - and they got hammered for it:

David Naylor, a consultant who specializes in search-engine optimization or SEO, described in a post of his own how the Interflora content had broken the rules, and how the company’s own PageRank had declined sharply as a result — and he also noted that the PageRank of the local news websites that posted the content hadn’t just declined, but had actually dropped to zero. According to Naylor, such a massive drop for a single infraction is unusual.

 What's telling is one of the comments:

So Google created a currency and is now pissed that people/entities trade it between themselves, am I getting this right?

No, she isn't. What people seem to be struggling with is what links actually represent to Google.

A link is a vote

The core innovation at the heart of PageRank - Google's system for assessing a page's relevance and importance - was that every link to that page can be counted as a vote for that page. The more votes, the better the page. If someone is taking the time or trouble to link to it, it indicates at least some level of significance. 

The SEO profession tends to obscure that truth – intentionally or not – by use of the words "backlinks". Take that jargon out, and put the word "votes" in, and you see how this becomes uncomfortable. You're not buying or selling "backlinks", you're buying and selling votes. Feel comfortable about that?

From Google's point of view, people buying their way to the top of search rankings is a problem. It means that content which people don't feel is important enough to link to in the general run of things is placing higher than things which people do feel is good. That's undermining their core search business - so no wonder they're penalising it harshly. People want the best results from their search engines - or they'll go elsewhere. If you think your content is the best, but no-one's linking to it, you need to figure out if your assessment of content quality is wrong, or if you're so disengaged from the rest of the web that no-one thinks to link to you. (And this is where a decent SEO consultant can help you.)

You can't sell what you don't own

Your PageRank - and you ability to convey benefit to someone else's site via a link - isn't yours. You don't own it, and can't sell it. It's just Google's opinion of your site's worth. It's more akin to a credit rating than anything else - and try selling your credit rating and see what happens to you then…

Here's what you should bear in mind: you can sell the attention of your readers to others. You can sell the chance of traffic from your site to them. You just can't convey search benefit to them when you do so. That's why Google has guidance about using nofollow on those links

If your bothered by that, think about this the next time you do a Google search - do you want the best result back, or just the one that someone has paid the most to get there?

Sarah from journalism.co.uk has been looking into this as well…

flipchart-funster.jpgI've just finished another session of my SEO for Journalists course, run via journalism.co.uk. I love running this course - not only do I get paid for it (always a good thing), but it gives me the chance to spend the day talking to and working with journalists engaged in thinking deeply about how and what they do when the publish.

Today's thought-stirring topic was the rise of the authorship issue in Google and the presumed AuthorRank that rises out of it. Two big concerns emerged as we discussed it:

  • As authorship is often linked to your Google+ profile - are you going to have to maintain two seperate profiles on the service if you want to keep work journalism and personal blogging seperate? Will Google allow you to do that?
  • How about titles where they don't credit individual authors - are they going to be penalised for that approach?

The first point is the common clash on how people construct identity in the real world - often with multiple senses of self depending on context and company - and the attempt of many of the engineer-derived social tools to force us into a single, defined online identity. That battle will run and run...

The more interesting one to me is the dilemma that this poses for traditional journalism outfits that want to place brand value over author value. Google simply isn't supporting that at the moment. The answer to the second question above is "yes" - the site will be penalised. You can't assign authorship to a brand, just to a person. That means that your precious website will have to appear as a loose coalition of authors in Google if you want to take advantage of the SEO benefits of authorship.

This the the journalist-as-brand, site-as-metadata concept I've talked about in the past, as my experience of how people sample things like blogs from traditional publications online. However, now it's being encoded into the structure of the search engine  that many people use as their entry point to the web. That's a fundemental challenge to publishers on the way they view their brands - I wonder how many of them will attempt to ignore authorship so as to not open this particualr can of worms? 

Let's not beat about the bush here. Google Authorship markup - which lets you claim authorship of an article - has just gone from a "nice to have" feature to something vital for SEO:

When Google introduced authorship markup in 2011, Google did note that they were "looking closely at ways this markup could help us highlight authors and rank search results."

Now Schmidt has made it explicit: in the future, you can boost your rankings by using Google authorship, and as we've reported before, Google+ has been designed to be an identity verification network.

[Search Engine Watch]

This is based on a passage from former CEO Eric Schmidt's forthcoming book The New Digital Age, found by the Wall Street Journal

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

Glad I got it all sorted a while back.

Authorship analytics in Google+

John Pozadzides of Geekbrief.tv has spotted something interesting - Google has started including authorship analytics in some people's Google+ pages

Authorship, you might recall, is the markup you can add to your webpages, that "claims" them as your work, and which can lead to them appearing in Google with your profile pic, like so: 

Authorship markup

This change means that authors now have access to the sorts of analytics that you had to be a site owner and user of webmaster tools to have before. Great news for journalists who want greater insight into the performance of their work - and a fascinating insight into how Google is incorporating social into the way it works. 

If this is rolled out universally, it's another major step in Google stepping away from the website as the core unit of the web, towards the page and its author - with authorship and author reputation a core part of how search works. 

Google's adoption of social looks like its embedding itself very deeply into its core search product.