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Google+ Your World + Online Advertising

If you are in the online advertising industry you will want to read this.

And when I say online advertising, I mean if you have any work involving SEO, SEM, SMM, YouTube, Facebook, Bing etc… The recent change by Google really impacts alot of us.

If you want to skip the examples and find out what you should do as an advertiser click here.

If you want to skip to the summary click here.

What did Google just change?

Google integrated social results from their Google+ network into regular search results on Google.com for people signed in. This is not your usual algorithm update. This doesn’t really change how they rank you but what else they might show before an old school SEO ranking.

What did this change really do?

If you are signed in, it has changed the whole meaning of SEO. Google’s concept of a ultra deep index is quickly being destroyed. They are trying to give you one page which has versions based on who you are associated with. Here is a quick example of Google + world in action.  As you can see in the video – the results from Google+ are not well organized at all. I think I would be frustrated by the random organization for certain searches. I could see this working well for seeing what videos your friends are watching. Eg – That Rebecca Black video…

Here is what has changed from what I can observe. Note Google is rolling out the features over the next few days, so things may continue to change.

Top things that changed:

1) Ads on branded terms have been reduced in many instances. Many product ads now showcase pictures. If you search for Ipod. you will get a graphic like this in your search results.

2) Mentions of terms by friends in your Google Circles can change page 1 results completely. Google+/Circle results now show like a news feed.

3) It looks like the right column is now widened significantly. You will now see maps on the right and youtube links.

4) Generic terms like “insurance” “online education” don’t seem to be affected just yet. This is partially because many lead gen players have not created Google+ pages with their brand name or key terms.

5) The Google mobile search results are different too since most mobile users are signed in. (Screenshots on AbsoluteVariety.com)

6) Twitter results are no longer part of the index.

7) The number of search ads shown when you are signed in may be greatly reduced due to all the new types of content being shown in the search results.

8) CTRs of text based search ads may drop since there are so many images / different types of content on a search page now. Text ads easily get lost.

9) Search ads can be interactive now. See the REI example on AbsoluteVariety.com. This looks like a feature isolated to products that can be reviewed on Google Products.

10) Being on Page 2 of Google now is completely useless.

I did a few sample searches signed in on Google. Here are the videos:

H&M – considered to be one of the largest brand pages on Google+. This is a good example of a brand that is interacting with people on Google+ but doesn’t offer them a way to purchase anything.

Ford – Another large brand on Google+ now has its organic results greatly modified. Ads are pushed down on the page and a Map/Google+ pages are more prominent.

Here is a quick example of how the new Google+ results show up on an Android phone. As you can see there are still some bugs to be worked out with Google+ and how they have constructed their URLs. This is for the same search term “ford.”

Next up is an example of a local school listing for Grand Canyon University Phoenix. They have registered a place location, listed a phone number and have reviews. It seems like they do not have a Google+ page yet though.  Key takeaway from this video is to list an inbound lead gen phone number on your Google Places page along with a regular phone number if possible. Keep in mind not everyone wants to be sold something if they are calling a school…

 

What should I do if I am advertising online?

1) Set up a Google+ Brand page – Tutorial is here 
Official business sign up for Google+ is here 
key with building a Brand page is to make your profile as complete as possible. Pictures, Videos, Tags, Descriptions, Locations etc. All must be filled in.

Note – Vanity URLs in Google do not exist yet.

Consider this page on Google “social insurance” just in case Google + starts taking off and people start using both Facebook and Google+ regularly.

2) Ask people to +1 your page or posts. Make sure you +1 your own content when it is published.

3) Audit your search accounts. You may need to implement a more aggressive search strategy to stay in the top 3 spots. Also check impression volume over the next week or so.

4) Start using Google+ regularly to get familiar with the interface.

5) Talk to your Google rep. Ask them to be part of any beta product they offer.

6) Physical campuses should be listed in Google Places and rated if possible. EG – Search for your school brand in your city or where a campus might be. Examples on AbsoluteVariety.com.

7) Find universal connectors to help distribute your brand. Celebrities are a great way to do this. They have massive followings. You want to be friends with the popular kid. Welcome back to 8th grade….

8) Make sure all of your ALT tags on images and videos are updated with brand oriented keywords.

9) Fact remains – Facebook dominates the social space. Take the Google+ talk with a grain of salt. I suspect that people still spend more time on Facebook than they do on Google. From a cost benefit point of view, Facebook is still a better use of resources. However, plan for the future, especially mobile since Android is growing rapidly.

10) Create content that is truly shareable and high quality. Make sure to ask people to share the content at the end of each article/video/form etc.

11) Stay tuned, I am sure as the weeks go by there will be more info on how this change affects all of us.

12) Last but not least – always include a link or CTA in each post. Check out this example from H&M.

Summary

 
I think Google has made a good attempt at changing what search means. The reality is that the old model didn’t make sense anymore. People don’t want 2 billion results. They want to know what their friends are doing and know what the general public thinks of a topic first.

However, I think this change blocks out key data from sites like Facebook, Twitter, and other “authority” sites which heavily skews the results which you see. If none of your friends are on Google+ this has virtually no effect on you. You are not getting any of the benefits.  This does not give you a realistic view on what the world thinks since not everyone is on Google+.

If you are a company running paid search campaigns, your CTRs will start change simply because your ads are not as prominent and may not be verified by a friend in your circle.

The other downside of this change is that if the search ads are so heavily compressed or moved down on the page, Google’s revenues will start to move in the wrong direction. I suspect that this change will not go away but it will be iterated upon. There will be new ad units and new cost per click models based on the results presented.

The other part of this equation is that in the next few years, people will be doing more voice searches via technologies like Siri. This move towards voice will also require a massive change in terms of UI for Google. I think Google is moving much faster with their new leadership but without the critical mass in Google+ alot of this new strategy could work against them.

Keep an eye on the following in the next 6 months:

1) Voice search

2) TV search

3) Facebook potentially revamping their search engine.

4) True growth of the Google+ user base.

5) Ipad 3 & Apple TV.

All have major implications on Google.

 

 

Rebecca Black spells the end of Google Search

Google Zeitgeist recently announced the most searched terms for 2011. In the past this list has such celebrities like Brittany Spears and so called Hollywood talent.

This year Rebecca Black, the singer of the Friday song, which has been repeatedly named one of the worst songs of all time. As you all know the video blew up on Youtube.com and became one of the largest viral videos of all time. The video was also noted for the number of dislikes on it. It is probably one of the most hated videos of all time also.

How does all of this relate back to Google? It shows a clear social phenomena that people are viewing things that their friends recommend to them and not actively search for new music online. The rate and speed of which this video grew is a clear indicator that people use technology to “share” things which are interesting. As more and more people share curated pieces of content on sites like Pinterest and Facebook, the world will see a much lower dependence on sites like Google.  I would love to see how many people shared the Rebecca Black video on Facebook versus searched for it in 2011. That would really show the velocity and power behind the social sphere versus the search sphere. Facebook has in some ways taken your real life conversations and put them online and allowed you to share important pieces of content while you are having a real conversation. Google is a system you use after you get home or back to your desk to check out what your friend was just talking about. It is not longer instant.

Google unfortunately is an antiquated way of finding something. It doesn’t recommend anything based on your current activity on the web, nor does it effectively create a way for your friends to share the content they like.

Google+ makes a decent attempt at being real time and merging the conversation with the actual reference media but it also shows you that Google knows it’s search business is under attack. In the coming years, traditional home computer based search on Google will die. People just don’t need it anymore.  Mobile will be replace a lot of the traditional type in search but the monetization of Google AdWords there may be substantially lower.

Google really needs Google+ to work or they need to start integrating their search technology into other devices such as cars to help continue their growth curve.

 

What Siri means to online marketing

Siri, the new personal digital assistant by Apple came out a few days ago and everyone has been playing around with it. The real questions we should be asking Siri are the following:

1) How does Siri actually work?

2) What will Siri means for my business?

3) What does Siri mean for online marketing?

How does Siri actually work?

Siri was originally previewed at the All Things D conference in May 2009. The original presentation video can be found here.  Siri is a semantic search engine. What that means is that it takes into account multiple factors like your location, the previous thing you mentioned, your previous searches, etc to determine what you might want next. Think of it like this – it is like a childhood friend, as you have more experiences together, it starts to know what you might do next.

Could you tell which guy or girl your best friend might approach at a bar? Eventually Siri will be able to do that. It just needs more info.

Siri being so closely integrated into the iOS platform is now getting millions of data points and voice samples from people all around the world. All of that is fed back into a central algorithm which is constantly learning. Siri is almost like a giant re-targeting platform. You create a datapoint for every action you make, the only difference is that this data is being generated in real life not just from your home computer.

What does Siri mean for my business?

It is hard to say for certain what Siri will mean for everyone’s business but I can tell you what you will need to make sure Siri is able to find you.

1) You need to make sure your phone number is available online. Also make sure your correct address is registered in multiple places on the web. Siri takes into account location data. If you own 3 restaurants make sure they are all listed separately.

2) Your website should be mobile compatible. Start simplifying your site, get rid of flash and check it on an iPhone and Android device to make sure it is easy to navigate.

3) If you are a commerce company – I would suggest that you take a look at Apple’s SDK and see how you can create an API for Siri to access. For instance if you ask Siri – can you look up the price of the new Steve Jobs biography – Siri will need to get the info from somewhere. I think Apple will start to undermine the world’s dependence on Google and make sure they have direct data pipes into each site.

This section could go on and on but the key thing to remember here is that you need to engage the consumer or the consumer’s friends with your business to create data for Siri.

It is also important to remember that Siri may start to increase repeat business. Making sure that a customer engages with their phone in your business is going to be key to creating a data point in Siri’s algorithm. You might offer an in store coupon, a text message drawing or a free song to make the consumer pull out their phone in your business location.

What does Siri mean for online marketing?

Siri means a TON for online marketing.

As Siri grows and starts to be ubiquitous on not only all iPhones but also iPads, I think you will start to see mobile search actually decline. Siri will just get you the info you need rather than making you browse various websites. This is a massive change. If you haven’t used an Android phone before, it has had Voice Search capabilities for a while now, I suspect over the next 12-18 months you will see Android based Siri alternatives. Siri’s core speech recognition platform is based on Nuance communications which has an API making it easy for app developers to get the core power of Siri. The part that any competitor will miss is that Siri has a head start and has a semantic/contextual engine. This will be the hardest thing to replicate.

Ok back to marketing – Siri will have an impact on SEO marketing too especially from mobile devices. In the next 24-36 months I would suspect that the majority of searches are being done via voice commands instead of typing. Siri will pick the most likely choice for you, similar to Google’s “I am feeling lucky” button. This means that if you are not number 1 Siri probably won’t consider you unless there is another data point in its system suggesting another result will be more valid for you. Essentially this is how search should have been for the past 10 years. We don’t need 10 billion results. We need 1-3 results. And if we had someone like a friend who really knows you well suggest one – we will always go with the personal recommendation first. Siri will become the biggest word of mouth reference for your brand.

When we look at how Siri will affect lead gen marketing this is a perplexing situation. I tossed around a few ideas in my head about how this could pan out. But the simplest answer was always based on the following assumption “If I had a real secretary – how would she get me info on X.”

For instance if I asked my secretary or in politically correct terms “my personal assistant” – can you find me a bank that offers a better mortgage rate than 5%? She may do a bit of research but condense the results that she shows me to 1-3 initially. If I didn’t like any of those I could always tell her to find another one.  The thing that remains to be seen is how she finds the first 3. Will there be a large scale Siri ad platform? It sort of makes sense if they are building a giant semantic search tech, why not monetize it?  Remember Siri is going to be a human like experience. Start saying good bye to your keyboards and other computer specific input devices.

I believe Siri will get queries about what is the best school offering a MBA in healthcare management. It is just a matter of how a brand can really get in front of that consumer if they have never had any interaction with them before. This makes me think that Apple will go towards building a more robust ad platform. But knowing Apple it won’t be just a simple – here are three ad spots, they will force engagement and a unique customer experience. I could see them buying something like Quora and mashing that up with Siri. Imagine a quick presentation of 3 MBA schools in Quora’s format hand picked by Siri!

There will be a definite change in how mobile paid marketing is done. For home computers I think the time horizon is around 3-4 years before we see mass adoption of voice technologies. The fact is that most computers probably won’t be upgraded with voice tech, the computer itself will be replaced by devices which are more touch sensitive and voice activated. Think iPads or Windows 8 on steroids. Devices which could legitimately replace your desktop or laptop. They will remain small since most of your info will be in the cloud. They just need fast processors and fast internet connections moving forward…

This is all fine and dandy but when should I start getting my company to think about Siri?

The answer is now. The best way to watch how Siri will impact your business is actively watch people using Siri in real life, watch how they search for prices in a store, watch how they book tickets to a movie, and more importantly listen to how they ask the question. Within the next 12-24 months you are going to see the mobile usage model change drastically.

I would strongly suggest that everyone buys both an Android phone and iPhone if you are in online marketing. These two platforms are going to change your life.

Social has been fun, the semantic age is going to be even more fun. Siri will start to curate the web.

PS – if you are an app developer or business owner, I would love to hear how you plan on integrating voice technologies into your life.

A note from the lead developer of Siri

Google Mobile Advertising

Google announced that they are enhancing their mobile ads so that developers can now show search ads within the app search function and also point users to an existing app on their device.

1) Using in app search – Most apps will have a search feature, like a regular website provider you can use Google search to index your app’s content and potentially show Google mobile ads within the search results.

I personally think this is going to be a good product for the next 1-2 years but as voice search becomes more coming this concept may not be needed anymore.

2) If a user has an iPad, and they are searching for a new pair of shoes online and click on a mobile ad, the ad can actually direct them to an app experience instead of to a website. This is interesting since it really drives brand loyalty. It also allows you to aggressively cross promote products when the person is within your app. You get to eliminate the noise from other websites as the users are isolated in your app.

Keep an eye on how people are using these apps in stores while they are actually shopping….