Tag Archives: google

Google Gets Into the Hotel Business

I had an idea: Now that Google is expanding into non-Internet related businesses like self-driving cars and mining asteroids, something they might want to consider are hotels.

Why? Because they already don’t care about your privacy, and this could be a big advantage for a hotelier. Hear me out.

Every room is wired with microphones and cameras – everything you do and say is recorded. This way, if you’re hungry and you say so, you get a call from room service asking what you’d like to order. Granted, maybe you want to go out to eat, but Google needs your money so you’ll just have to get through them first.

When you do brush off room service because you want to go out, you get another call from the concierge. They heard what you said, and so they called you a cab from the company the hotel has partnered with.

If you come back later that night with someone you met, maybe you’ll have sex. That’s when the bellman will show up at your door with a selection of condoms from the gift shop you may be interested in purchasing.

Don’t worry about who is going to see and hear all of this information they’re recording, though. It’s all anonymous. So if that person you took back to your room isn’t your wife or husband, no one will ever know.

Unless your wife or husband is a law enforcement official. Then it will magically be pretty unanonymous.

After all, if you’re doing something in a hotel room you don’t want other people to know about, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it, right? Hey, if you don’t like it, you can always go to another hotel.

Unfortunately, in this scenario, Google Hotels controls 66.8% of the market, and it’s nearest competitor Bing is doing the exact same nefarious shit.

If all that sounds crazy, why are Google’s online policies not considered just as crazy?

All of this is just about exactly what they did when they decided all information would be shared across all of the platforms they own. On the surface, it never sounded too terrible: If you’re searching for an Adam Sandler movie, maybe later on YouTube will show you some more Adam Sandler movies since you showed an interest in it. So what?

The problem is if you don’t want that kind of help from Google, it’s damn hard to get out of it. The privacy policy may be shared, but there are a number of different avenues you have to take to opt out of them.

And in some cases you can’t. I own an Android phone – the OS created by Google. In order for it to function, I have to use a Google login. Once I do, Google records my name, address, phone number, and the serial number for my device – and adds it to my Google account record. I cannot tell Google to leave that information out, I cannot delete it once it has been added. I am locked into their idea of “convenience,” which does more for them to learn about me than it does to make their products function better.

Also, like in the metaphorical hotel, Google says their data collection is anonymous, that no one could determine who you are based on what they get. However, Google can easily give law enforcement officials your search records at the drop of a court order.

Now, I actually have no problem with law enforcement officials getting this kind of information with a valid court order. What I cannot understand is how something supposedly “anonymous” can tell the police anything about an individual user. If this data really didn’t point directly at me, police wouldn’t have any use for it. That the police keep subpoenaing this information shows Google can tell whose records are whose, and is telling its users a bald-faced lie.

The one way I’ve found around giving Google too much of what I think is too much, I use separate logins for all of their properties. I have one Google login for work, another for socializing on Google Plus, another for YouTube, and yet another for my phone. The idea is they cannot share between accounts because they don’t know each of these profiles is me. I can’t be sure this works, though. For all I know, they collate all this data into one profile for me, with the notation that I’m a smart ass. If they did, I certainly wouldn’t expect they’d tell me.

It also means, oddly, that I cannot use my G+ account on my phone for fear of Google. If they’re tapping my phone conversations, (which they are capable of doing,) it doesn’t matter to me because all they have to connect these to are the fake name I gave them when I created the phone’s Google account. If they tied it into my original Google login, the one I created back when they were still dedicated to not being evil, they would know EVERYTHING about me. And I’d have no way of stopping them.

I’ll leave you with this story, which is apocryphal but I hope true, because it’s brilliant: When Google Maps debuted Street View, a number of people complained because their homes, their cars parked outside, and the license plate numbers on those cars were all visible. These people said their privacy had been invaded. In response, Google’s resident cold, vicious demon – heretofore known as Eric Schmidt – again said that there is no more privacy; You know, that old chestnut.

In response to this, some enterprising bloggers got on Google Maps, and hunted down the view of Eric Schmidt’s house. Then they blogged about it, including the Street View picture, to give him a taste of his own medicine.

Shortly thereafter, Google started to blur the license plate numbers on vehicles it captured.

Whether this is true or not, it does illustrate that privacy isn’t just a concern for criminals or philanderers or people who do things they “maybe shouldn’t be doing in the first place.”

Google vs. Facebook? No. Google vs. Bing

We love the horse race in America. Whenever there are two choices that even appear to be in competition, we choose sides. Such is the case this week, now that Google has unleashed what everyone (except Google) is calling a Facebook killer, Google+.

In this case, picking a favorite to “win” isn’t really the point.

There isn’t any point (read as: money) in Google killing Facebook. Google makes their money from their search network. Facebook makes their money from… well, no one’s quite sure of that yet… maybe venture capital sources that don’t ask too many questions?

Anyway, the most likely point of Google+ is to keep people on Google, performing their searches on Google, which include their paid search ads, which makes Google money. If people continue to search with Google, they aren’t doing it somewhere else.

So Google+ isn’t about beating Facebook, but beating the Bing/Yahoo junta.

Google has been the absolute leader in search for years because they developed a better search algorithm than what already existed. This meant better search results, and a better product.

The methodology they created is now used by sites like Bing and Yahoo, and to many the variations in results between the three aren’t important. If that were to continue, Google might not be able to prove that they are better than their search rivals.

Enter Google+, something that will keep people close to their search product. They could actually trump Facebook with this. Personally,  I doubt it’s really their goal.

Can Facebook and Google+ both be popular at the same time? As long as Google+ members find their way to ads via their Adwords program, I don’t see how Google could possibly care.

A Better Way to do Customer Reviews Online

Online customer reviews have become the way everyone decides what to buy it seems. When we do anything from buy a camcorder to rent an apartment, we always check the reviews. If that blender has a lot of complaints, we move on. If a lot of people say they love that restaurant, we give it a try ourselves.

The problem comes in when there are only three reviews, and they all say, “Wow this thing is great! Really! Wow wow wow!” When you see a review that good, you feel pretty sure it was left by the owner.

Or the review from the person who drones on for three paragraphs about how awful his experience was. (I say, “his” because only we guys waste time trying to get vengeance by leaving bad reviews.)

So here’s my idea

A review system needs to be built that counts how many reviews individuals leave, and the general tone of those reviews. Then based on those reviews, the reviewer is given something akin to a Google Adscore – next to their name, you see a gauge of their trust level.

Since most review sections only show the last three to five people who visited the site and left reviews, that group has the most say about the product. If there was a score for reviewers, the most trusted ones could be placed on top. Perhaps you could balance the reviews against the age of the review, so they’re still always changing. If a restaurant gets a lot of bad reviews, then shapes up and starts doing a great job, they should be allowed to show off the new, positive reviews, right?

Why would anyone sign up for a review system where they might be bashed? A review system like this would eventually catch on because of it’s trust level, just as Google became the de facto search engine because of the quality of it’s search results. Over time, businesses would be hurt by not being listed.

Look at Amazon: They’re a huge marketplace that manufacturers need to have their products listed on. Still, people can leave horrendous reviews of their products if they want to. You take the good, you take the bad.

A site like Facebook could pull this off, seeing as how they’re already trying to be everywhere online all at once. Yelp would be a more logical choice, though, since they’ve built their business on intelligent reviews. Google has the trust factor to get people to install the comment widget that would be necessary. (And that would doubtlessly help the business’ website do better in search. Google products ALWAYS seem to help sites in search.)

Whoever uses this idea, I just want credit for having thought it up. That, and a pile of money.

Bing search traffic is much smaller than you’d think

If you’re still fretting over how to get some of that juicy Bing search traffic, stop.

Bing vs. Everyone

Above is a comparison of unique visitors (individuals visiting each site) for Google, Bing, Myspace and Facebook. When Bing launched, they had a massive jump in traffic – in large part because of all their television advertising.  Still, they’ve yet to get much more traffic than Myspace. Myspace, as you remember, is the social networking site everyone has decided is done and no longer worth worrying about.

Instead we are all concentrating on Facebook, and with good reason – their traffic is fast approaching Google’s. It’s pretty obvious that Facebook should be of greater concern to you than Bing. Google and Facebook have completely different kinds of traffic, granted. But if sheer numbers are important to you, Bing doesn’t have them.

Now look at the comparison between Bing and Microsoft’s other search platforms – the ones they wish you’d stop using now that “Bing” is here:

Bing vs MSN vs Live

While all three use Bing results, their numbers still don’t measure up to the collective traffic of Facebook or Google. More importantly, Bing itself is not popular. If Microsoft’s search engine were really impacting the search market, it would have overtaken these older properties of Microsoft’s. Bing had the same leap in visitors at launch, again because of all the television advertising and people’s love of something new.

I still maintain Bing will not rise anywhere near to being a Google competitor until they do something massively right, or Google does something massively wrong. When Yahoo! starts showing Bing search results at the end of the year, Microsoft’s paid search revenue will increase, but it remains to be seen if any of Yahoo!’s traffic comes over to Bing.com proper. Yahoo! will still have all of their other cool properties that people use – Yahoo Mail, Answers, Delicious, Flickr, Messenger – and Bing will still be… well, whatever it is now.

And don’t get me started on how little traffic there is for mobile!

Yahoo Bows out of Search – Bing Becomes the New Number 2

As you probably read last week, Yahoo! has given up on chasing Google in the search engine market. Microsoft’s Bing will now supply Yahoo’s search results, and Adcenter will replace Panama in PPC delivery.

Well, we could all sort of see that coming though, couldn’t we? Between bid offers for Y! and talk about the number of balls they’d dropped over the years, it was only a matter of time.

But so what? The real question for everyone else is, “how will this effect me going forward with my SEM campaigns?

1. You now have to know how to optimize for Bing. Last month I was still telling people, “don’t worry about Bing. It’s just another Microsoft search property that will be changed out for something else completely new in two years, without ever gaining any traction.” Microsoft Network, MSN, Windows Live… there was no reason to believe Bing would be any more important.

With this deal, however, their market share in search jumps from a paulty 13% and fading slowly to 33%. Google still has more eyeballs of course, but Microsoft’s reach has just jumped dramatically.

2. Get used to Adcenter. This is actually a minor Godsend, as Yahoo’s Panama was always something of a pain. I’ve been a fan of the simple yet utilitarian Adcenter for a while, and now, again, it’s worth doing. If Microsoft can manage to squeeze more convertability out of the traffic analytics they just inherited from Yahoo!, you may end up spending more of your PPC budget there.

So what happens if Micorsoft makes their PPC traffic profitable?

3. Expect Google to Retaliate. Not in a sinister way, but in a competitive way, Google will answer the challenge that Microsoft presents. They have the most eyeballs, but to continue to make their millions they need to continue to be thought of as the best place to spend a PPC budget.

As for natural search, I don’t think people will be bailing on Google for Bing anytime soon. Whether they do or do not, however, Google is always updating their product, so you need to stay on top of what they like. The best way to do that is read the findings of other SEO professionals. Webmaster World is a good source of information I recommend – either for learning how to optimize for Bing or Google.

4. Go to the next Search Conference you can. In most any other year, these things are a waste of time. Speakers in a slow news year will talk about a lot of different things that may be useful, but hardly ever necessary. This year, however, it will be necessary for you to learn about what people are doing about Bing. You can also make good contacts there with other marketers and exchange information over time as you both come home and implement your changes.

5. You won’t have to pay for Yahoo! Search products anymore. It goes without saying this, but I’m just happy to be able to. This used to be de rigueur advice for doing well on Yahoo!. For example, the cost for being included in the Yahoo! Directory is $299, and while it did help rank better, it always made me feel dirty. No one should ever charge to be in a directory – if a directory has any quality, they don’t need to. They make their money from all the great traffic they bring in. A cash-strapped Yahoo!, obviously, didn’t mind. Now that they aren’t providing results, you don’t need to worry about it anymore. The directory itself delivers very little quality traffic – few do anymore. Don’t waste your money on it.

While I think it’s sad that search’s Big 3 is no more, it’s really only bad for end users – people searching for something now have one less venue open to them. There again, if there was any room for competition in search, surely by now some new search property would have come out to challenge Google, or Yahoo! or MSN. Since it has only been these three for so long shows there hasn’t been much innovation in a long time. If some new search engine can move into the vacuum left by Yahoo! it will. That one hasn’t in all this time may be a clue that none can.

In the meantime, the good news coming from this is all for us marketers. We now have one less property to worry about optimizing for or spending PPC budget on, while still reaching roughly the same number of people.

Breaking news! Yet another Google killer again for the hudredth time!

It seems every two years Microsoft announces some new development designed to compete with Google. First it was MSN. Then it was Live. (Yeah, that was a great idea.) Now it’s Kumo – due to release next week, and just as likely to change absolutely nothing.

Perhaps Microsoft is just so used to releasing ineffective “Google Killers” it no longer cares that each attempt gains them little ground over the long term. Their paid search is starting to do better for some markets, but overall they still get killed by Google and Yahoo!. 

Why? Well, Google has better search and Yahoo! has better everything else. The reason anyone still searches with Yahoo! is because they’re already using Yahoo!s other products – Answers, Mail, Yahoo! Radio, etc. What does Microsoft really bring? A lot of Hotmail users, who by and large are older users who were engineers in the 90s and are now retired. Hotmail was one of the first web-based e-mail clients, so those who stuck with it are an older demographic. They’ll search using MSN (sorry – Live) because that’s where they are anyway. Or, they are still using Internet Explorer because that’s what they’re machine came with, and their search engine is the default choice, and digging through all those options is far too much of an ass pain to bother with.

So Microsoft search is a hands down winner among the ludites and the lazy.

If they want to gain more ground in the search market, they simply need to provide better results. There will be a lot of talk about the results of Kumo in the coming days, but I discount this out of hand because frankly, if they knew how to give better results they would have just implemented it on their current platform and started bragging about that. Re-branding is way of changing people’s people’s perceptions without having to offer anything terribly new. If Microsoft is serious about competing in search, they need to cut it out with all the marketing about their latest new product yet again, and actually produce search results that give people what they need.

Ask did the same thing by bragging about their “algorithm” in 2007 – and it didn’t help them any more than it will help Microsoft.