Category Archives: Google Products

Control what Google knows about you with a Google Dashboard

Google Products

We’ve covered online privacy and behavioural targeting quite a bit on this blog.

At its basic level, due to the way that web technologies work, almost every website collects and aggregates data about each visitor. Its for this reason that every website should have a privacy policy.

On a deeper level, ‘behavioural targeting’ describes a kind of online advertising that reaches you based on your online activities.

On this blog we’ve always argued that its worth giving up a bit of online privacy if you get a personalised, tailored version of the web. A company called ‘Phorm’ has pioneered this type of advertising, although not without considerable resistance, even on this blog. In fact, such has been the level of friction that they have decided to give the UK a miss for now.

Google also wants to get into behavioural targeting. Their version is called ‘interest based’ advertising, which targets you… based on your interests.

As is so often the case with Google of course, they’ve thought about it all a bit more and have put in place an idea which may quell the fears of privacy groups.

Google have a tool that lets you look at the data and information that Google hold about you and delete it if you wish to. Google are calling this a ‘Dashboard’, and claim it gives you ‘unprecedented’ control over your personal data.

You can get to grips with your Google Dashboard on the settings page in your Google account.

The Dashboard summarises the personal information that Google has collected and stored about you, based on your use of their products.

“It’s important for people to be aware of what data they have online and to be able to manage that data – Google Dashboard should help to make this a reality.” said Alma Whitten, a Google software engineer on privacy and safety.

“We think of this as a great step towards giving people transparency and control over their data, and we hope this helps shape the way the industry thinks about these issues,” Whitten added.

Find out what Google knows about you using the Google dashboard. Any surprises there? Does this lay any privacy fears to rest? Leave us a comment below.

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Google & Microsoft stoke up ‘Real time’ battle by… doing exactly the same deal with Twitter

Google Products Social Media

A couple of months ago we talked about the ‘Real time’ battle being played out by Google and Microsoft. The emergence of Twitter has a search engine that can tell you what people are discussing right now, made both Google and Microsoft to develop their own angle on ‘real time’

Whilst Microsoft’s Bing opted to include Tweets from prominent Twitters within their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), Google decided to rapidly index and promote blog posts and other recently added online content.

Both major players have now elected to try and beat each other at the Real Time game by… doing exactly the same thing. A couple of week’s ago they announced that they would feature live Tweets from the full Twitter index.

This is how Paul Yiu from Bing put it: “Twitter is producing millions of tweets every minute on every subject you can imagine. The power of those tweets as a form of data that can be surfaced in search is enormous… Working with those clever birds over at Twitter, we now have access to the entire public Twitter feed and have a beta of Bing Twitter search for you to play with.” The service is currently only available in the US.

And on the same day, this is what Marissa Mayer from Google had to say “We have reached an agreement with Twitter to include its updates in our search results. We believe our search results and user experience will greatly benefit from the inclusion of this up-to-the-minute data and we look forward to having a product that showcases how tweets can make search better in the coming months.”

Bing is already starting to include Twitter results in the US. In the UK we have to wait; and everyone has got to wait a while for Google,

Seeing as they have decided to do exactly the same thing, the winner will probably the search engine that chooses the most effective integration. Twitter produces a lot of ‘noise’ – irrelevant or irreverent Tweets that people may well not find useful to see in the SERPs.

As for what it means to website builders and your social media strategy, this means that is going to be more important than ever to make sure you are effectively using Twitter to communicate with your website visitors about your website. If you use Twitter as a customer service and communication tool, more people than ever will witness your customer care. As we discussed previously, the SERPs for your brand searches influence a lot of potential visitors to your website. More than ever they need to see that yours is a website that they want to interact with.

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Google Squared gets even better

Google Products

As we discussed back in our Google the innovator series, Google Squared is where Google attempts to answer your search query with a table of facts, rather than a list of websites that might contain the actual answer.

Google Squared is good when the answer to your question may lie of many different websites. Google tries to extract all the meaningful information and present it in a clear way.

For example, a search for ‘US presidents’ gives you a table where each row represents a president, and each column contains facts about him.

Here’s what it looks like:

The first update is that the square now contains up to 120 facts, whereas previously it had just 30.

The information is better quality too. The table is ranked based on relevance and whether Google squared can find enough high quality facts. For example, previously there would be a column for “First Lady” even if Google could only find 2 or 3 of them. Google now gets rid of a row or column if it can’t find the facts.

Since Google squared allows editing and corrections, it has also improved from the personal input of thousands of individuals amending the information.

You can now also sort the columns, which allows you to rank and compare items.

Here are european countries ranked by population and area.

Here’s a list of the newest baseball stadiums.

You can now also export the data to a Google spreadsheet or CSV file.

Google Squared shows where Google wants to go next with search. Rather than trying to answer search queries by listing websites that contain the answer, Google is trying to include and publish all the information itself. As to how they intend to make money out of that remains to be seen!

Have a look a Google squared and let us know what you think.

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Google gives the green light to ‘You(Tube) been framed’

Google Products

Can you remember the first time you watched a video clip on YouTube? For many of us, it was a web funny of someone falling off a bike / having an accident / singing with their teeth out…

Many of these become incredibly popular and end up getting watched millions of times, despite never appearing on television. The clips ‘go viral’ as links are emailed from person to person, since people are keen to share the humour.

The popularity of these user-generated clips isn’t new. TV shows like ‘You’ve Been Framed’ have been cashing in on home video calamities for the best part of 20 years.

I was always amazed that ITV managed to cobble together enough clips to fill half an hour of TV every week. Until I realized, that is, that every person sending in a video received £250 if the video ended up in the show.

Now YouTube has recognised the revenue potential of user generated clips like these, and – just like the TV show – want to reward people if their video becomes popular. They’ve decided to copy the ‘You’ve Been Framed’ model and pay users for the video clips they upload.

Users who upload a successful video clip will receive an email that includes a link saying ‘enable revenue sharing’, next to the video on the watch page. Once the user agrees to participate in the revenue sharing process, Google will place ads around the video, and pay a percentage of the money generated into the users’ Google Adsense account.

“To determine whether a particular video is eligible for monetisation, we look at factors like the number of views, the video’s virality and compliance with the YouTube Terms of Service,” said YouTube product manager Shenaz Zack.

There has already been plenty of news about how Google wants to forge closer links with TV production companies. But this shows that even successful individuals can get rewards from producing popular content.

Ever fallen into a hedge on camera? Fancy trying to cash in on it? Do you think that paying content producers is the way forward for YouTube? Leave us a comment below.

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Google Map widget error!

Google Products

Google map error

As some of you will be aware the Google Map widget on your sites have come up with a zoom error.

This is due to Google changing it’s API (and failing to let everyone know) recently and throwing our maps into disarray.

Our tech guys are onto the issue and will update you soon with any info on when they are likely to be back on-line.

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Google can now predict the future

Google Products Softwate Update

Earlier this year we talked about the Google Insights for Search tool. This can show you the trend for people searching with a particular keyword on Google, in all countries of the world. Google Insights for Search also lets you compare two or more search terms to see not only their trends, but which is the most popular. The data can stretch all the way back to 2004.

Google has now unveiled a new version of Google Insights which not only tells you about past trends of keywords, but predicts their future too. The intention of the tool is to give advice to advertisers about how much money to set aside for AdWords paid-search advertising, by predicting not only what people will search for, but how often too.

This means that the graphs produced by Google insights show search trends not only including past information but with future results too.

Google say they can do this by analysing past search query information. Google found that search query trends in more than half the most popular search terms are predictable from year to year.

There are some types of keywords, such as those in food and drink, travel and health, that are really easy to predict, tied as they are to particular sporting events and holidays. Other keywords, particularly those to do with social networks and other newly emerging topics, are more problematic

Google have also produced a new map which helps to visualise the way searches change as time goes by, in different regions. Google hopes that advertisers will use the tool to make better judgments about where to target their ads, and how much money to spend on paid search advertising.

For more information about Google insights, watch the Google video below.

Being about to predict when there are peaks and troughs in search volumes helps you make sure that your advertising is timed right. If you sell Valentines’ day cards, then it’s important to make sure you’re maximising your budget when people are actually buying cards, rather than just the day before Valentines day. Here’s an image from Google insights showing the search trend for Valentines day cards:

As you can see, you need to make sure your campaigns are in full flow on 11th February, to give yourself the best chance of maximising Valentines’ day card sales.

Google have admitted that it could not make perfect predictions about the future, but that they were continuing to work on more advanced forecasting models to ‘close the gap between reality and the future’.

Have a go with the new Google insights and let us know what you think.

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Wake up and smell the coffee: Google injects caffeine into Search

Google Products

Google has just made available a new version of its search engine. With a project name of Caffeine, the new platform boasts quicker, more relevant and more comprehensive results.

Described as the “next-generation architecture for Google’s web search”, Caffeine has been in development for most of this year.

A Google spokesman has said that this is just the first phase of a process that will “push the envelope” in terms of the search engine’s size, accuracy, comprehensiveness, indexing speed, and (bizarrely) “other dimensions”.

You can test Caffeine yourself and give Google feedback before the full public release.

Google have said that most users won’t notice much difference in the search results. The changes have been made at a deep level within the search architecture, and affect the building blocks on which all the search algorithm is based.

Since Google always lets you know how quick the search has been, if you give it a quick test you will notice that the results come back a few fractions of a second faster. There are also thousands more results that the main search engine.

I for one have never had a problem with the speed of results from Google – there already seems to be a small enough gap after I press ‘search’.

All this means that if you have a Search Engine Optimisation programme in place, you will have to take account of a new set of rules. As to what exactly those rules are, we’ll make sure you are kept up to date.

Rather than a reaction to the launch of Bing, Google said it has been working on Caffeine for months. This evolution of Google is designed to keep it one step ahead of any threat from Microsoft, so is unlikely as simply a market reaction to the launch of Microsoft’s Bing.

Check out Caffeine now and let us know if you see anything interesting.

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Google wins at Search AND making money

Google Products

The big three search engines all reported their quarterly earnings last week. No guesses for who came out top of the heap.

Microsoft online ad revenues, the part of the business in which their search engines sit, were down 14% for the quarter. Even further behind, Yahoo figures were down a whopping 16%.

And Google once again confounded the critics and the recession by revealing revenues up another 3%.

This is as much about what Google does right, as what the other two do wrong. When it comes to Microsoft, as we mentioned previously, Bing has gone down very well with both consumers and experts, although some have questioned whether bing will end up being a has-bing

Microsoft is making other moves to boost its online advertising revenue, with a recent announcement of an online version of their desktop based Office Suite. Although that might be as much about pressure from the likes of Linux based Open Office and of course Google Docs.

Google has recently made further inroads into areas previously dominated by the other two. This month they announced the launch of ad exchange where banner inventory can be openly traded. Yahoo are already in this space, and Microsoft say they too will enter next year. The company that gets it right is ensured another huge revenue stream.

Who is going to win the race? Well from a users perspective I think few can doubt the ease and depth of searching on Google compared to the other two. And the rate of innovation at Google means that anyone else is going to have a hard time catching up. Of course as any advertiser will tell you, Google’s tools far outstrip the others for ease of use and for results too.

Google’s dominance looks pretty set. But I wonder for how long will we put up with a single big company occupying our online experience? Leave us a comment below.

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Can Google make computers work better than Microsoft?

Google Products

Anyone with an interest in computers can’t have failed to notice the announcement last week about Google’s plans to develop their own operating system.

The operating system (OS) is the basic software that organises the circuit boards, transistors, wires and chips in your computer into something that we can actually use. For example, it turns your monitor from a blank screen into a series of windows and icons. It is the building blocks upon which other programmes (such as Word, Excel, and Firefox) can sit.

It’s long been the area of the PC where Microsoft completely dominates the market. Microsoft’s OS – called Windows (until 2004) and then XP, and now Vista – is installed on over 90% of all computers. It makes Microsoft the gatekeepers to computers the world over. Nothing can happen on a computer until the Microsoft OS is installed. And as a consequence, it comes pre-installed on 99% of all PCs sold. You can’t imagine a market more dominated by a single company.

Microsoft isn’t the only option. Macs run on their own OS called OSX. And the super nerdy can choose to download and install Linux. But for the rest of us, there’s just Microsoft.

So there has to be a few people at Microsoft HQ who were a little perturbed by the news that Google plans to develop their own OS, to launch in 2010. Its long been thought to be in the pipeline, especially since Google launched an operating system for phones, called Android.

Google have said that initially their OS is going to be tailored to smaller ‘netbooks’, computers that are designed purely to access the Internet, and carry out few other tasks.

But since Google’s vision for the future of computing is in the ‘cloud’ – where all the applications that normally go on your PC actually sit on the Internet – the netbook OS is the perfect fit.

Google reckon there is no point in having loads of software installed on every PC in the world, necessitating all PCs to have loads of storage and processing power. Far better, they say, for there to be a single version of the software on a server on the Internet, and allow users to access it whenever they need to.

The Google OS will be called the same name as their browser – ‘chrome’ – and is supposed to be as ‘fast’ and as ‘lightweight’ as possible. It’s supposed to have no bells and whistles, similar to both their browser and search engine.

The news will be hugely welcomed by PC owners frustrated by the slowness of their PCs, and by the frequency with which they crash. Microsoft software has also been criticised for slow loading times and their vulnerability to viruses.

Google reckon that the problem with current OSs is that they were designed in an era when there was no such thing as the Internet. They’ve been adapted and developed, but that fundamental design flaw still exists.

The other key thing about a Google OS will be the fact that it will be open source, which allows other developers to create applications that will run on it.

To help developers, Google said the source code for their OS would be released at the same time as Microsoft launches its new OS Windows 7. This will give developers a chance to start working with it so as to have applications ready for the launch date.

Would you make the switch to a Google OS? Or are you a big fan of Microsoft? Are you worried that Google is going to end up dominating all things computer led in the same way that Microsoft always has? Leave us a comment below.

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Google the Innovator – Part 2

Google Products

The Google Searchology event we talked about a few days ago produced some other great innovations.

We previously talked about a new sidebar that allows you to refine your search to specific areas such as video, forums, or reviews.

The so called “search options” sidebar in addition includes a “wonder wheel”. Google describe this as a great ‘visualization feature’. It basically lets you refine and improve your search query by successively adding new suggestions to the original query.

The example they gave was a search for ‘DVD’. An original search for ‘DVD’ might be refined – at Google’s suggestion – to “HD DVD”, or “HD DVD vs Blu-ray”, or even just “Blu-ray”. The feature allows you to preview the results, whilst still being able to revert back to the previous search results.

What does it mean for those of us trying to improve our position in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)?

Well the most obvious issue is to make sure that your website is optimised not just for general search queries in your area, but also specific ‘long tail’ search queries.

In fact, by using this sidebar Google itself is encouraging users to get more specific in their search queries, which makes those even more important to focus on.

And the advantage this brings you is that those longer, more specific search queries will be far easier to optimise for, since at the moment there is far less competition from other sites doing the same thing.

For example, let’s say you run a taxi service in Kent. Rather than focusing on search queries such as ‘Taxi’, or ‘taxi in kent’, you can focus efforts on more specific queries like ‘taxi in sevenoaks’, or even ‘taxi to gatwick from ashford’. Of course it all depends what service you do and where!

So this innovation looks like providing a boost to website builder enthusiasts like us.

What do you think? Leave us a comment below.

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