The Google Roller Coaster

It has been an interesting few weeks for Google:

  • The EU have launched an official investigation into Google’s business practices.
  • Look like they are acquiring local coupon goliath Groupon for a rumoured $5.6 Billion.
  • Have added to their algorithm to filter businesses with perceived bad customer feedback.
  • Have launched boutiques.com as they advance into ecommerce territory.
  • Highlighted social media signals that may affect ranking of a web page.
  • Have had numerous product updates.
  • The list goes on.

When you read the magnitude of some of these elements you cannot help but admire how they appear to act nimbly and in an entrepreneurial way and also appear to take in their stride investigations that would finish most businesses.

Having said that the quiet (or not so quiet) assault on the new markets (for Google) and further dominance they are gaining across our lives, that is driven from data that you and I provide, is really going to change the ecommerce landscape for ever.

Lets take Googles recent more aggressive push into price comparison. They don’t dip their toe in the water they go straight after the juggernaut. Financial Services – probably one of the most lucrative industries for lead generation online.

Do a search for mortgages or credit cards – number one spot – Googles own comparison engine. Don’t under estimate the significance of this – they are basically giving themselves free number one PPC ad slot. This is huge – the volume is incredible – the money they receive for each lead will be huge and margins will be extremely high. Much, much higher than their competitors. How and why did they choose this market? – the likes of you and I told them this is the most lucrative. They have our adwords PPC data, our Google Analytics data, our conversion data, our landing page data, click data of users that land on our pages etc etc. Oh and yes they also own their own affiliate network so no real middlemen to snip away at margin either.

Staggering.

And then…

Lather rinse and repeat.

Boutiques.com – apparel – same model (more or less) CPA driven – they drive into fashion.

Where next – who knows. But it will be somewhere and how deep will this get? Socks, skateboards, wedding favors, baby gifts ?

Of course we knew this was coming – people denied it, but it was relatively easy to spot in hindsight. Oh lets buy an affiliate network- what the heck else are they going to do with it.

And yet we continue to feed the mighty G with data that may one day put us out of business.

What are the alternatives – if you operate online frankly very few – but ecommerce companies must, must, must start to diversify their traffic sources and start to look at other ways of tracking and monitoring. Is this anti Google – no – this is just good business practice. You can’t rely on one (external) company to provide your livelihood.

In what other industry would a company be allowed to collect data from every customer of a product, every supplier of a product, provide the marketing, payment and data platforms and then turn around and use that data to dominate a market, and in the same process put swathes of businesses out of business.

And the EU got pissy with Microsoft just for bundling the Internet Explorer browser – this is a significant order of magnitude higher in my book.

Of course this is my opinion, but it doesn’t take much thought to cause you sleepless nights.

Google TV

Very quick post to highlight an update from Google on their Google TV product.

It is a natural extension for Google to expand their product set further into the living room and our bet is Google TV will be a huge game changer.

For the full details see Googles New Website dedicated to their TV product.

http://www.google.com/tv/index.html

A Blog Post From Google with updates is here:

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/here-comes-google-tv.html

Google’s World

Last week part of the UK could not access most of Googles properties. I was one of them. The disruption lasted for an hour or so from what I can remember.

I am not sure where the problem was – if it was Google or some kind of internet backbone that failed – to be honest I don’t really care – the point of this post is to highlight the impact of that outage.

This outage got me thinking. Now keep in mind that it was just Google sites that were inaccessible.

The impact was absolutely staggering.

  1. Could not access www.google.co.uk – 90% of my work is related to search results. Major Impact for me. Our clients who pay to advertise, our clients who achieve stellar search rankings… etc etc.
  2. I could not access email – not sure if this was me but I use gmail extensively and google calendar etc – Fairly major impact when you have clients emailing you etc.
  3. Every, that is 100%, absolutely every website I visited in that outage period did not load correctly. Why:
    1. They were using Google Analytics on their site (Google Analytics relies on websites communicating with Googles Servers – which at this point were not accessible).
    2. They were using Google Adsense to monetise the site with adverts.
    3. They were using Google Ad Planner as the advert management platform.

Ok, so on the surface this does not appear to be a huge deal. But lets really think about this for a moment.

If the outage was prolonged. A massive proportion of websites would have been affected.

They would have lost revenue.  An hours worth of issues most companies can suck up, but a days worth of revenue, a week?

Our reliance on Google as web entrepreneurs is absolutely colossal.

We rely on Google for the majority of our traffic. Without traffic no commerce takes place. We rely on Google to serve relevant adverts on our pages (publishing sites / news sites etc), we rely on Google for our statistics regarding what is profitable and what is not. We rely on Google for email communications (well several million of us do anyway).

Web businesses are now responsible for employing millions and millions of people from small one or 2 person e-commerce shops to larger businesses like play.com, amazon.com etc. not to mention a lot of mid range news sites and other publishers.

Of course I am not stating that Google is responsible for all of these employees but even the big brand websites that have a captive audience of returning customers would be severly impacted if their Google traffic went away.

So indirectly Google is responsible for the livelihood of millions of people.

Why. They build good products. Everyone wants to use them and for the most part they should.

But do they have too much leverage?

If Google controls the traffic (generalisation), controls the advertising, controls the statistics and analytics, controls the communcation (email and soon to be voice), will soon control the ads we see on TV (my guess) – couple this with the enormous amount of data they hold on pretty much every customer that uses their service and you have a goliath that has more control than most of us would be comfortable with.

If you then add in to the equation that Google can stop web traffic at will – either through change of algoithms, banning sites, throttling traffic etc.

There really is no point to this post other than my observations, but to me this is getting very, very scary and diversification is the order of the day. Traffic diversification, tool diversification, monetisation diversification.

If Microsoft got in trouble for bundling internet explorer with Windows surely Googles power is ten fold of that.

Having said all of that – fair play to Google. The have created something really, really powerful that many entrepreneurs can only dream of replicating.

Domain Industry Pioneer Receives Accolade

Few people outside the domain name industry will have ever heard about one of the true stars of the Internet age: Rick Schwartz

Rick was recently the recipient of the Domain Industry Pioneer award from Epik at their recent domain developers conference.

Rick is a truly great inspiration, the classic American dream story, followed through with passion, rigour and vision.

Rick is very deserving of this award, in my opinion, for the changes he has made in people lives. From the world class domainers he has helped to the likes of me. Rick has been a mentor to me (although I have never met him or spoken to him) through his blog and formerly his bulletin board. I can truly say together with the likes Frank Schilling & Sahar Sarid, they have changed my life and helped us steer our business and stay focused on the importance of TARGETED TRAFFIC.

To see all of the comments received from other domain industry leaders, watch this video.

Rick Schwartz & Epik Domain Pioneer Video.

Well Done Rick, and thanks.

New Twitter

Twitter announced a new update yesterday evening. Although we are not seeing the new changes, at the current time, when we log on to Twitter, they are being rolled out fully over the coming weeks.

According to some of the information I have read some areas are seeing the upgrade already.

You can get more information about the changes here:

http://twitter.com/newtwitter

Looks pretty nice.

Google Instant Search

It has been a few days now since Google launched ‘Instant’. We have had a few days to play with it and a few days to absorb all the immediate online comment and feedback.

Our views at this time:

  1. Does not alter the SEO landscape much at this time. But…
  2. We are sure that searcher behaviour will alter over time so SEO efforts will have to mould to reflect this.
  3. In initial user testing (very ad hoc, informal, group of 10, non technical) we have performed 85% of them did not notice a difference. Main reason was they are looking at the keyboard when typing and did not notice changing results. A few people have commented on the more prominent search suggestions, and again a few people have commented on the centering of the page on the search results.
  4. When we point out the changes to users they appear to be ‘wowed’ by the speed and general ability to produce results as they type.
  5. Our views are the more prominent use of search suggestions appear to be the big change to most users and it is this in time that will alter search behaviour. We realise this is obvious, but our point is it has less to do with Google Instant and more to do with Google Suggest – a feature which has been around for a while.
  6. We have noticed very few changes in the SERPS we monitor. We have noticed some more prominent use of social media listing e.g. Twitter feeds on the more competitive SERPS – again these have been around a while but have noticed on a few more results.
  7. It is too early to judge effects on PPC. We think this is perhaps where we will see the most change initially in terms of impression data and / or click through data. But to date on some of the accounts we work with very little has changed. We are monitoring for a 30 day period initially and will do a follow up post on initial findings.

So thats our very quick round up of our thoughts – much of this is opinion. Too early to gather any significant data.

For more information on Google Instant see, these posts:

http://www.google.com/instant/

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/search-now-faster-than-speed-of-type.html

http://searchengineland.com/google-instant-complete-users-guide-50136