Friday, 30 April 2010

Facebook's 'Like' button replaces links

The CNN website includes an article about the new "Like" button which has recently been introduced by Facebook. If this new feature takes off, then the article suggests that this form of "social links" will create a potential problem for Google in the way that it measures links between sites, and how these could have a significant impact on the 'link value' used by its algorithm to help determine the order of search results.

By using the new "Like" button, websites can drive visitor traffic from Facebook by including Like buttons on their pages - every Like posts an update to a user's Facebook page. In addition, a website can customize its experience for users so that if you're logged into Facebook the 'liked' content can be ranked by the source as well as by friends on the social networking site.

Since these "social links" are related to a specific user they can potentially work better than the standard links that exist between websites. Facebook wants to replace this open system of links between pages with the "social links" (or Likes) that it controls. As the article explains, Google and other search engines won't have full access to all these Likes, so the company best positioned to rank on the web will be Facebook.

Some experts are therefore concerned that Facebook will begin to 'stockpile' all of the personal information and preferences of users. This can help place Facebook in a much more dominant position to control the search results on the main search engines and so companies will rush to implement the new "social plug-ins" from this networking site. Consequently Facebook may build a stronger base to 'organize the web' so that optimisation of Facebook's 'Like' buttons and user base will become a new focus for SEO.

The article concludes that advocates of the 'Open Web' have reason to be concerned and privacy experts are also raising red flags. Google is expected to be concerned and will fight any structures that will affect their search algorithms, although ignoring the role of these "Like" buttons may be one option. Because without access to the 'stitches that bind web pages together', the article suggests that the search engine could falter.

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Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Women 'dominate Facebook'

An article on the Forbes website says that Facebook, the largest social networking tool in the world, is dominated by women.

Using data from a number of recent surveys and advertising tools, the report says that the 400-million member site is 57% female and attracts 46 million more female visitors than male visitors each month. Women are more active on Facebook, having 8% more friends and participating in 62% of the sharing activity. Women are also seen as the majority of users on many of the other large social networking sites, such as Twitter, MySpace and Flickr. In contrast, men are most active on sites like Digg, YouTube and LinkedIn, which are more content-oriented and promotional than discussion-based.

The article explains how data shows that women don't just visit different sites from men, they also use social media differently than men. While women often use online social networking tools to make connections and share items from their personal lives, men use them as means to gather information and increase their status.

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Thursday, 22 April 2010

Google's Local Business Center become 'Places'

The Google Blog has announced that they are renaming the Local Business Center as 'Google Places' as part of a rebranding process for their maps-based data, and to mark the inclusion of some new features. Every company should be listing their business details on this part of Google's service, particularly if they target a localised area, and the updated Places service will enable new ways to market to customers through search.

Google launched 'Place Pages' last September to provide users with more detailed information through the Google Maps service, with locational information such as restaurants and hotels to dry cleaners and bike shops, as well as non-business places like museums, schools and parks. The renamed Google Places now coordinates business listings with this branded service and allows businesses to verify and supplement their business information to include hours of operation, photos, videos, coupons, product offerings and more.

The new features being made available include the ability to define 'Service areas' covered, new advertising options on maps using tags, the option for businesses to request a free photo shoot of the interior of their business to supplement existing photos of businesses, and customized QR codes for use on mobile smartphones, which can be placed on business cards or other marketing materials.

These features are initially being made available to companies in the USA, and in some cases limited to selected cities, but are expected to be rolled out to other countries in the future. Google is also providing more detailed analysis within Google Places that includes data about how many times people have found a business on Google, what keywords they used to find it and even what areas people traveled from to visit the business.

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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Google reveals government data requests

The BBC has reported on new details released by Google for the first time that show how often countries around the world have asked the company to hand over user data or to censor information. Brazil comes at the top of the list with 3,663 data requests, while the US made 3,580 and the UK came a distant third with 1,166.

As the issues with Chinese censorship continue to rumble on, Google seems to have revealed this information in the hope of providing greater transparency and to reveal the different pressures that come to bear on the search engine. However, Google said it cannot provide statistics on requests from China as these are regarded as state secrets and the company has agreed to keep this private.

Brazil is also reported to have made the highest number of requests to Google to remove content, with 291 requests between July and December 2009. In second place was Germany with 188, India with 142 and the US with 123 requests. Google's legal office has said that the large majority of these requests were valid and the information was needed for legitimate criminal investigations or for the removal of child pornography.

However, the information published by Google doesn't break out the data for the number of times the company complied or refused these government requests for information on individuals. The report says that Google is working to perfect the information being made available and that "it will get better". The next release will be in six months' time.

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Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Twitter announces new advertising scheme

As reported widely in the press, including The Wall Street Journal, Twitter has announced a new advertising model that they hope will start earning some significant revenue for the microblogging service. Called Promoted Tweets, the ads will appear at the top of results for searches users conduct on Twitter. Eventually, they may appear in the stream of posts users see when they log into the site.

Twitter is gradually rolling out this advertising to users and there are 10 initial advertisers taking part, including Starbucks, Virgin America and Best Buy. The company will start by charging marketers per thousand impressions of their ads. Over time, it plans to move to a more complex model, charging based on how users interact with the messages.

The article says that this new feature could appeal to the millions of businesses who have created accounts on the service to share deals and other corporate updates. Instead of getting users to follow their messages, they will now be able to push their message to users who search any keyword they buy. However, what impact this advertising will have on Twitter's millions of users will have to be seen.

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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

How effective is mobile advertising

An opinion piece on the MediaWeek website argues the case that mobile advertising is already becoming a powerful form of marketing, if used with the right strategy. Despite their smaller screens, different operating systems, richer location information and different use cases, compared to PCs, the author says that mobile platforms offer varying degrees of richness and interactivity, with strong marketing results now being achieved across them all.

Mobile marketers can track and measure conversion rates as well as the impact on brand metrics. Similar to PPC advertising, mobile marketers can track the cost to drive a purchase, opt-in, subscription, registration or phone calls so they can quantify their cost per acquisition. No big surprises here and these metrics are essential to gauge how a mobile campaign works, but the use of mobile marketing requires a particular strategy to target the type of users and business services that will get the best results.

On a similar subject, a blog on the MediaPost website also discusses the growth of online advertising and the role of mobile Internet devices which are helping to speed up the changes in advertising and measurement. The argument is that this growth will enable target marketing, interactive research, social referrals, hyper local discounts and secure quicker commercial transactions.

However, advertisers in the US spend only 8% of their dollars on the Internet, whereas consumers spend about 38% of their media time there, meaning that opportunities are currently being wasted by advertisers not targeting new media's unique real-time opportunities to build awareness, loyalty, referrals, purchases and repeat business. That means using a combination of online, social network and Internet mobile devices to make advertising relevant, and therefore, more valuable to individuals.

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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Google buys video hosting platform Episodic

MediaPost reports that Google has acquired Episodic, an online video hosting platform which will now be incorporated into YouTube. The article says that Episodic's publishing suite allows clients to manage and measure video content, as well as use its platform's monetisation services for ad insertion and credit card transactions for live as well as on-demand video streaming.

The suite of services developed by the company helps clients create video libraries and customer metadata fields, as well as encode video. Its video player works on both the Web and mobile browsers - currently just for the iPhone, but support for Android, Blackberry and Symbian mobile devices is reported to be on the way. Episodic also offers an ad server that can be used with all major ad-serving platforms, so users can insert ads into videos through a relatively simple process.

Google has clearly seen the future applications and benefits of the Episodic platform for its video and advertising services and will no doubt be developing these further with the expertise of the staff taken on through the acquisition.

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Thursday, 1 April 2010

Web marketing newsletter published for April

The latest issue of the monthly Web Search & Marketing newsletter has been published for April, covering some of the recent stories on web search and online marketing trends.

This month's edition looks at the latest figures published by the Australian Internet Advertising Bureau which show a further growth in spend in 2009 - with a 9% year-on-year increase - demonstrating that this form of advertising continues to grow in popularity despite the impact of the global financial crisis on most other forms of advertising.

It also looks at Google's new AdWords Search Funnels reports and how these can be used to analyse conversions more closely than was previously possible through AdWords. Finally, this issue reviews how Google won a legal battle in Europe over AdWords trademark issues and how this could affect advertisers that are using trademarks in their search engine advertising campaigns.

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 regular newsletter you can see the archive by date or by subject.

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