Thursday, 31 July 2008

Google provides Gmail to NSW schools

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a new deal for Google to provide a free email service to schools across NSW. Said to be the biggest single client in the world for Google, they have managed to secure the contract away from the incumbent Microsoft system and will service up to 1.3 million new users for the Gmail service.

The NSW Department of Education has said that the new email system would be in place for the start of the 2009 school year and is a $9.5 million contract over 3 years. These costs cover the development of tight security options for the Gmail users and integrating the system for teachers and students within the existing education portal within the State. The attraction to Google is that students will become familiar with Gmail through the use at school and then continue to be users through their own accounts in later years.

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Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Another serious rival for Google?

Every few months the press will announce the launch of another new search engine that 'may' challenge the dominance of Google. This week sees the launch of Cuil which has got the press more excited than usual and is notably different to many other new search engine launches, due to the people behind it.

Cuil - pronounced 'cool' from the Gaelic word for knowledge - has been developed by a number of ex-Google employees who worked on the development of Google's search technology. The site already claims to be the web's largest search engine, with "three times as many (pages) as Google and ten times as many as Microsoft".

They are also standing out on the privacy stakes by saying that "we believe that analyzing the Web rather than our users is a more useful approach, so we don’t collect data about you and your habits, lest we are tempted to peek. With Cuil, your search history is always private."

Also Cuil says that rather than rely on 'superficial popularity metrics' they search and rank pages based on their content and relevance, so that when a result is found they will analyze the rest of the resulting site's content as well as "its concepts, their inter-relationships and the page’s coherency". In doing so, Cuil will offer users more choices and suggestions to give them enough information to find the page required and other relevant information.

It certainly sounds like a great concept and the search engine looks pretty good as well, with a clean black search page (to contrast with Google's clean-ish white page), and search engine results being presented in 3 columns (or 2 depending on the user's preference) within a frame, with many sites also displaying small images. There are no sponsored ads showing at the moment although there is space for these to appear later.

Danny Sullivan has written a typically detailed and insightful assessment of Cuil over at Search Engine Land and the new launch is certainly attracting attention from the industry media (as well as immediate criticism). The question is whether it will catch on with users who are entrenched as Google-searchers and can break into the market through the same process that made Google so successful - quality search results and word-of-mouth recommendation.

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Monday, 28 July 2008

Google officially launches Knol

Google first announced the development of its 'Knol' website back in December last year and they have now 'officially' launched the site, although it is still showing as a beta version. Although seen by some as a potential competitor to Wikipedia, Knol is positioned as a source of authoritative articles on specific topics, written by experts in the field. It is therefore unlikely to develop at the speed of Wikipedia and to the same scale of content, but intends to be seen as a reliable source of information.

At the moment, much of the content on Knol is of a medical or scientific nature. Google wants this site to encourage people to contribute their knowledge online and make it accessible to everyone, with the key principle behind Knol being 'authorship'. Every knol (or unit of knowledge) will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content. There are likely to be multiple knols written on the same subject, which Google will encourage, as long as content is informed and reliable.

Knol will promote "moderated collaboration" so that authors work together to develop each article that they specialise in, so that any reader can make suggested edits to a knol which the author may then choose to accept, reject, or modify before these contributions become visible to the public. This allows authors to accept suggestions from everyone in the world while remaining in control of their content.

It sounds like a potential source of disagreement or debate on many contentious subjects from a multitude of real or 'perceived' experts, but Google is hoping that these knols will include strong community tools which allow for many modes of interaction between readers and authors. People can submit comments, rate, or write a review of a knol.

It's unlikely that Wikipedia will be too worried about Knol, at least for now, although Google retains strong control over the visitor traffic coming into Wikipedia, where the site is often a ubiquitous part of many search engine listings. Google could easily adjust their algorithms in the future to make Wikipedia less visible and to promote the use of Knol as a primary research tool.



Friday, 25 July 2008

Google AdWords Placement Targeting

Google AdWords has pushed the Placement Targeting option to mainstream PPC advertisers by making this option a more prominent part of the AdGroup management panel. The development of placement targeting is also another way that advertisers can now gain more control of the content targeted network and target their adverts on other relevant third-party websites.

Placement targeting can either be included within existing AdGroups, or set up as a separate campaign. A new Placements tab in the AdGroup control panel provides advertisers with the option of including this feature and targeting specific domains, or even sections of large sites, through a number of selection tools.

The advertiser's advert will still appear within the content targeted network if this is selected, but with Placement Targeting there is now more control over bidding strategies on domains that are more relevant to their market. You can select sites by browsing subject categories, searching sites related to keywords, or by finding similar sites to known domains that are relevant.

The list of suggested sites that Google presents includes details on the ad formats available and the likely impressions per day. The focus of the tool does leave something to be desired in some markets, but by selecting specific websites and adjusting bid levels, advertisers can put more focus on this part of their AdWords campaign and combine targeted sites with specific keywords for greater focus.

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Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Wireless social networking trends

An article from Information Week reports on research from the US that forecasts major changes in the use of media and telecommunications over the next decade due to the growth of wireless social networking. In preparation for this, companies will need to plan and adapt for this change to take advantage of the market.

The widespread adoption of mobile Internet devices - such as the iPhone - will create a new generation of wireless social networking businesses and business models beginning in 2009, according to the research by iSuppli. It is forecast that nearly 7 billion wireless accounts will exist by 2020, with many people holding two or more accounts, and these wireless devices will facilitate primary communication, service, and content delivery for most users.

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Thursday, 17 July 2008

US spammer gets prison sentence

Reuters has reported the outcome of a US legal case where a man has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for sending spam emails to over 1 million users of AOL. He pleaded guilty to breaking anti-spam laws and by-passing the Internet company's spam filtering system - he also has to pay $180,000 to AOL in compensation.

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Monday, 14 July 2008

Yahoo! rejects Microsoft again

The Microsoft / Yahoo! saga continues with a new approach by Microsoft to buy Yahoo!'s search business. As reported by The New York Times, the new offer marks a formal alliance between Microsoft and Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor who has been trying to oust Yahoo!'s board and creating an increasingly hostile and aggressive approach to achieve his - and Microsoft's - desired outcome.

Yahoo! quickly rejected the new offer and the board, who are defending their own positions, appealed to shareholders to reject the approach as a bad move for Yahoo! This latest move is likely to reach a showdown at the annual shareholder meeting at the start of August. Yahoo’s board apparently indicated to Microsoft on Saturday that it was willing to sell the whole company at $33 a share, which was the price first offered by Microsoft back in May, which Yahoo had rejected.

More details about the latest negotiations are included in the article and this story is bound to generate much more coverage and comment until such point as a definite outcome is achieved.

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Friday, 11 July 2008

Google Keyword Tool adds search numbers

Since the demise of the Overture Search Suggestion Tool into Yahoo!'s new 'Panama' PPC system, the best free keyword research tool has been Google's own tool which is provided as part of a PPC account as well as a free tool available to anyone to use. This tool is important because it reports search activity on Google over the previous month, but the main drawback has been that no volume data has been displayed - just a comparative bar chart for each term to indicate relative popularity.

However, Google's AdWords blog has announced the new change which has appeared this week, whereby Google is now displaying volume data for these terms, at least within a general range, so that more information can be gleaned on the popularity of each term and the likely search volumes that they attract. So although these are approximated figures, it helps to add an extra level of data onto this already useful tool and should benefit all online advertisers as one of the core research tools to use when looking for the best search terms to target, either through PPC or SEO.

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Thursday, 10 July 2008

Google improves access to Flash

The Google Webmaster blog has outlined ways that they are now developing better access to Adobe Flash files, which have traditionally been very difficult for search engine spiders to index, either for content or to follow links. Adobe has been working with Google and with Yahoo! to improve the performance of these files, which is certainly progress but still doesn't make Flash as accessible as standard HTML content.

Google reports that they are now able to better index text content within all types of SWF files now, as well as identifying URL links and following these to index additional content or page files that may be linked from the Flash file. However, images and video files cannot be indexed in this way. There are also limitations with Flash files loaded through Javascript, as these can't currently be identified and indexed, nor will content loaded from an external source within the Flash file.

Further developments are apparently still underway and this area may improve further in the future, so that Flash developers need to be aware of these requirements if the web content needs to be indexed for search.

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Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Firefox browser downloads achieve world record

The BBC website has reported that Mozilla's recent launch of the updated Firefox Internet browser has officially made history with a new Guinness world record for the largest number of software downloads in a 24-hour period. The confirmed record breaking figure of 8,002,530 downloads took place in June as existing and new Firefox users avidly took to the new version of the browser, which has also taken on a revised look.

Mozilla had promoted the world record attempt on its website and download page. There were some initial problems when the servers handling the downloads failed under the weight of visitors checking to see if the new version of the browser was available. However, once the servers were working and supplying the downloads they were handling more than 9,000 downloads per minute at the peak. Within five hours the number of downloads for Version 3.0 exceeded the 1.6 million set by Firefox 2.0 in October 2006.

Apart from this record breaking event, the more significant issue is that Firefox continues to gain in popularity as an Internet browser favoured against Microsoft's established Internet Explorer and this event will have no doubt helped the spread and awareness of Firefox. The market share for this browser is now at 19% according to the latest figures and Mozilla expect to reach a 20% share of the market within the next month as there have now been 28 million downloads of the software since the recent launch.

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Friday, 4 July 2008

Google forced to reveal YouTube activity log

The ongoing court case in the US between Google and Viacom over the use of copyright video content on YouTube has taken a notable turn this week as the judge has ruled that Google must reveal the viewing habits of every user on YouTube who has ever viewed a video. As reported by the BBC, the ruling means that Google must hand over the viewing log to Viacom, which contains the log-in ID of users, the computer IP address (online identifier) and video clip details.

This development clearly has major implications for online privacy and Google are now arguing about the format of the data and the need to conceal individual user's details. This depth of information shouldn't be necessary for Viacom, who want to assess the total viewing patterns of their content through YouTube (which includes clips from MTV and Paramount Pictures). They have previously claimed that about 160,000 unauthorised clips of Viacom's programmes were available on YouTube prior to 2007 and that these had been viewed more than 1.5 billion times.

Viacom had also requested access to Google's source code for YouTube, but the court turned down this, since it recognised that it was effectively a "trade secret" and therefore shouldn't be disclosed. However, Google hope that the court will allow them to anonymise the data on individual user habits - nevertheless, this ruling means that Viacom will have access to a huge amount of activity logs in what is becoming an increasingly bitter legal case between these 2 giant US companies.

The eventual ruling in the case is likely to become a landmark case in Internet history and potentially affect the way that online video sites can operate in the future.

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Wednesday, 2 July 2008

July's web marketing newsletter published

The new July issue of the monthly Web Marketing newsletter has been published, covering some of the recent stories on web search and online marketing trends.

This month's edition looks at how search on the mobile web is gaining ground as a powerful source of new business for some companies and what needs to be done to websites to take advantage of this growing market sector. It also considers the issue of competitor activity within PPC advertising and how companies can keep ahead of the game and not to be drawn into distracting bid activity. Finally the newsletter reviews the requirements for optimising PDF documents, which are increasingly being indexed by the main search tools and can provide another route for searchers to find online content.

If you want to sign up for future issues of this newsletter, please do so by using the form at the bottom of this page. To view back issues of this newsletter you can see the archive by date or by subject.