Posts Tagged ‘Google’
The big announcement at Google I/O last week was the release of details about Google TV. And it should make TV advertisers of all stripes angry and concerned. VERY concerned. So much so, in fact, that they should be actively seeking technologies and business models to deflect/prevent what is effectively an advertising power play by Google.
Google TV is the latest attempt to merge the television experience with a web-based TV (also called IPTV) experience on the television set (as compared to bringing TV to the web, as say a SlingBox does). There have been numerous attempts to bring the Web to the television, going back all the way to 1996 when Steve Perlman, Bruce Leak and Phil Goldman brought to market the WebTV set-top box, marketed by both Sony and Phillips. (Find a list of TV/Internet hybrids in the next post). None of these has been particularly successful, for numerous reasons:
- Most require an extra set-top box that is expensive (Google is no different. As an example of technology that uses the consumer’s computer or laptop as the interface to the TV, see Kylo).
- The experience doesn’t truly integrate. You either watch the web-based offerings or Live TV, but not both at the same time. In many cases, the box is meant for the delivery of movies or TV shows on-demand, as compared to being broadcast in real-time. The Roku/Netflix platform is an example of this. PopBox is another example, but they also deliver more content – websites, social media experiences from Facebook and Twitter, images, YouTube videos, games, and music from sources like Photobucket and Pandora.
- The interface requires a separate remote control, which adds another layer of complexity to the consumer experience.
None of these really impacts the effectiveness of a “single” broadcast TV advertisement in any meaningful way. They are separate experiences from broadcast television and, as a rule, they do not take away from live TV viewership. Some amount of consumers’ time is given to the Internet and movies on-demand nowadays. Whether I interface with that experience through my computer screen or TV screen doesn’t change the amount of time I spend in an “online” mode versus a TV viewing mode, and it does not impact my current behavior around the TV ads themselves.
Google TV has come up with a different approach which, at least during an initial search, overlays the Internet on top of the television experience (see first image). When it overlays, the interface is transparent so you can see your TV behind the browser interface that lets you search for the shows and information you want.
There are other times when the interface switches completely and the TV experience is put on hold while the viewer interacts with Web content (see second image), which is more like the experiences of the current generation of web-to-TV offerings. But the difference here is how easy and seamless Google TV makes it to switch between all three of these user experiences – live TV, TV in the background, and Internet-only. The other difference, and one of critical import for this article, is that Google intends to sell advertising within the Google TV platform. Where, how, and how much are still to be determined.
Google has definitely come up with something unique that I believe will be very compelling to television viewers as it now truly integrates the television and web experiences for the first time.
But if the consumer loves this, traditional TV advertisers should hate it.
Today, television advertising is a $70B market versus $25B for Internet and mobile search advertising.
In 2010, TV advertising is projected to grow 4.3%, or $3 billion on a base of $70.2 billion. This compares to non-search on-line advertising which is projected to grow 12.9% or $1.6 billion on a base of $12.2 billion during this period. So even though Internet advertising is growing at a faster rate, television advertising real-dollar growth is twice that of Internet advertising.
Google knows this. Rishi Chandra, the product manager for Google TV, mentioned the $70B factoid at Google’s I/O conference last week. Moreover, Google also gets that despite the fact consumers are spending an increasing number of hours per day online, television viewership is at an all-time high, with 180mm US consumers watching TV for over 5 hours/day on average. Rishi mentioned this, as well. The guys at the Googleplex are no dummies. As the old saying goes, they can see a mountain in time. In this case, the mountain they want to cash in on is TV advertising.
What both Google and the advertisers also know is that television advertising is broken. In 1987 an advertiser could reach 80% of viewers by airing a 30-second spot only three times. Today, that same commercial would have to air 150 times to reach 80% of viewers. The rapid decline of TV ad viewership is due to the “TiVo” effect and today’s viewers’ multi-tasking habits – texting, phoning, emailing and web surfing while watching TV. Brands are urgently seeking a solution to reengage viewers of their TV commercials as brand expenditures on television dwarf what they spend on all other ad mediums.
Now Google would argue that it has found the solution, and from its perspective I truly think they believe this. The Google culture is driven by data and metrics. Current television advertising with its lack of performance measurement is anathema to a Googler’s mindset. If you are a fanatic about data-driven marketing, Google TV “solves” this problem because of its ability to bring CPC and other easily measurable formats into the web-based part of the new integrated television experience.
Interesting and correct as far as it goes. But wrong – and I mean dead wrong – from the perspective of television advertisers who focus 3x of their dollars on television versus online advertising because it is still the most potent means of getting a message to the consumer. Moreover, it is a power play by Google to disconnect the brand advertisers from their traditional advertising providers and drive them, willingly and like lemmings, onto the Google platform(s), thus providing Google an even stronger power position relative to advertisers.
Let’s think about this. Television advertising is already much less effective than it used to be. Now along comes Google TV with its overlay and ability to seamlessly move away from the live television experience. Let’s say you are a viewer watching Lost, that you are using Google TV, and you have left your laptop in the other room because – heck – you don’t need a two-screen solution to access the Internet during live television now that you have Google TV. Something on the show triggers you to want to look up some factoid on the web at a Lost fan site. You plan to type in “Lost fan site.”
When are you going to type this in? During the time the episode is airing? Absolutely not. You’re not going to want to miss one minute because Hurley is about to tell Jack his real name. Or take another example – a sports case. Are you going to put the potential touchdown play in background mode while you look up Brett Favre’s completion percentage in third down and long situations? Absolutely, positively not, to the extent that the sports fan is thinking “don’t you dare touch the remote or there will be one less thumb in this family.”
No. You are going to switch to the Internet experience when the television ads come on and you can safely move away from the live broadcast to find what you need before your show comes back on.
There is another interesting fact that only makes this seem a more likely behavior on the part of cross-platform TV viewers, at least the early adopters of Google TV. In a recent study of US Online TV Viewership by Comscore involving 1,800 subjects, a majority (67 percent) of cross-platform (TV and online) viewers preferred online TV viewing because it has less interference from commercials. Since these folks are the likely early adopters of Google TV, the tendency to move away from live TV during commercials will be very strong.
So what does Google TV do? It makes the television ad spend of the major brands even less effective than currently. Because Google TV still provides an interruptive experience, it actually encourages cross-platform viewers who wish to increase the “information content” of their viewing experience from web-based channels to do so at the exact time that advertisers least want them to do so.
There is an even bigger implication of this for brand advertisers. In order to keep the cross-platform consumer’s attention as they move away from viewing television ads, the brand advertisers will be forced to place their ads on the web-based portion of the Google TV interface. And to a certain extent this makes sense going back to our previous point about measurability of TV advertising. The Google platform is measurable and consumers more and more are becoming habituated to interacting with web-based CPC or banner advertising. So the TV advertiser keeps the attention of the cross-platform viewer during the commercial break in the show and gets better metrics. It’s an obvious win-win for both Google and the advertiser, and a very seductive business proposition to marketing executives looking for better measurability around TV advertising.
But for TV advertisers, Google TV is the equivalent of the poison apple given to Sleeping Beauty. As Google TV penetrates households, more and more TV viewers will become habituated to the dual-use experience and will spend more and more time on the Google platform during broadcast television advertising pods. And despite the fact I haven’t said much about mobile in this article until now, Google TV will also move onto the mobile platform and will provide an even more integrated experience for the consumer across the two screens, with a whole host of implications for the two-screen experience that I won’t discuss here. Given the timing of historical consumer behavior transitions in the television market, this could take ten years. But over that time, Google will take a larger and larger share of the currently $70B TV advertising and the $2.7B mobile advertising markets. This means that as much as an advertiser is currently dependent on Google for web advertising, they will become even more dependent on the single provider that is Google because of its reach in these other channels.
If you as an advertiser aren’t concerned about the implications of this for your business, where Google can set effectively monopoly prices you pay for ads across every major advertising platform you have, you should be. You should be very concerned and mad as hell at this attempt to manipulate your advertising dollars even further into the maw of the machine that Google has become.
If I were a brand advertiser right now, I would be talking to my peers and looking for a second-platform solution from someone that can constrain this power play by Google before it becomes a fait accomplice. If I were Yahoo or Microsoft, I’d be developing or investing in a prototype of something I could show to brand advertisers today and get them to invest strategically in order to prevent Google from locking up this market before it is too late.
 “Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising” Himpe, 2008
 Yuki, Tania “Comscore Study of US Online TV Viewership.” http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2010/4/Viewers_Indicate_Higher_Tolerance_for_Advertising_Messaging_while_Watching_Online_TV_Episodes
In my last post, I discussed the underlying issues regarding site loading times and SEO rankings. What I tried to do was help the reader understand why site loading times are important from the perspective of someone designing a search engine that has to crawl billions of pages. The post also outlines a few of the structures that they would have to put in place to accurately and effectively crawl all the pages they need in a limited time with limited processing power. I also tried to show that a search engine like Google has a political and economic agenda in ensuring fast sites, not just a technical agenda. Google wants as many people/eyeballs on the web as possible, so it is to their advantage to ensure that web sites provide a good user experience. As a result, they feel quite justified in penalizing sites that do not have good speed/performance characteristics.
As you would expect, the conclusion is that if your site is hugely slow you will not get indexed and will not rank in the SERPs. What is “hugely slow”? Google has indicated that slow is a relative notion and is determined based on the loading times typical of sites in your geographical region. Having said that, relative or not, from an SEO perspective I wouldn’t want to have a site where pages are taking more than 10 seconds on average to load. We have found from the sites we have tested and built that average load times higher than approximately 10 seconds to completely load a page will have a significant impact on being indexed. From a UE perspective, there is some interesting data that the limit on visitors patience is about 6-8 seconds. Google has studied this data, so it would probably prefer to set its threshhold in that region. But I doubt it can. Many small sites are not that sophisticated, do not know these kinds of rules, and do not know how to check or evaluate their site loading times. Besides this, there are often problems with hosts that cause servers to run slowly at times. Google has to take that into account, as well. So I believe that the timeout has to be substantially higher than 6-8 seconds, but 10 seconds as a crawl limit is a guess,
I have yet to see a definitive statement by anyone as to what the absolute limit is for site speed before indexing ceases altogether (if you have a reference, please post it in the comments). I’m sure that if a bot comes to a first page and it exceeds the bot’s timeout threshold in the algorithm, your site won’t get spidered at all. But once the bot gets by the first page, it has to do an on-going computation of average page loading times for the site to determine if the average exceeds the built-in threshold, so at least a few pages would have to be crawled in that case.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. What happens between fast (let’s say < 1-2 second loading times, although this is actually pretty slow but a number Matt Cutts in the video below indicates is ok) and the timeout limit? And how important is site speed as a ranking signal? Let’s answer one question at a time.
When a site is slow but not slow enough to hit any built-in timeout limits (not tied to the number of pages), a couple of things can happen. We do know that Google allocates bot time by the number of pages on the site and the number of pages it has to index/re-index. So for a small site that performs poorly, it is likely that most of the pages will get indexed. Likely, but not a guarantee. It all depends on the cumulative time lag versus the average that a site creates. If a site is large, then you can almost guarantee that some pages will not be indexed, as the cumulative time lag will ultimately hit the threshold set by the bots for a site of that number of pages. By definition, some of your content will not get ranked and you will not get the benefit of that content in your rankings.
As an aside, by the way, there has been a lot of confusion around the <meta name=”revisit-after”> tag. The revisit-after meta tag takes this form <meta name=”revisit-after” content=”5 days”>.
This tag supposedly tells the bots how often to come back to the site to reindex this specific page (in this case 5 days). The idea is that you can improve the crawlability of your site by telling the bots not to index certain pages all the time, but only some of the time. I became aware of this tag at SMX East, when one of the “authorities” on SEO mentioned it as usable for this purpose. The trouble is that, from everything I have read, the tag is completely unsupported by any of the major engines, and was only supported by one tiny search engine (SearchBC) many years ago.
But let’s say you are one of the lucky sites where the site runs slowly but all the pages do get indexed. Do Google or any of the other major search engines use the site’s performance as a ranking signal? In other words, all my pages are in the index. So you would expect that they would be ranked based on the quality of their content and their authority derived from inbound links, site visits, time-on-site, and other typical ranking signals. Performance is not a likely candidate for a ranking signal and isn’t important.
If you thought that, then you were wrong. Historically, Google has said, and Matt Cutts reiterates this in the video below, that site load times do not influence search rankings. But while that may be true now, it may not be in the near future. And this is where Maile’s comments took me by surprise. In a small group session at SMX East 2009, Maile was asked about site performance and rankings. She indicated that for the “middle ground” sites that are indexing but loading slowly, site performance may already be used to influence rankings. Who is right, I can’t say. These are both highly respected professionals who choose their words carefully.
Whatever is true, Google is sending us signals that this change is coming. Senior experts like Matt and Maile don’t say these things lightly. They are well considered and probably approved positions that they are asked to take. This is Google’s way of preventing us from getting mad when the change occurs. Google has the fallback of saying “we warned you this could happen.” Which from today’s viewpoiint means it will happen.
Conclusion: Start working on your site performance now, as it will be important for SEO rankings later.
Oh and, by the way, your user experience will just happen to be better, which is clearly the real reason to fix site performance.
And it isn’t only Google that may make this change. Engineers from Yahoo! recently filed a patent with the title “Web Document User Experience Characterization Methods and Systems” which bears on this topic. Let me quote paragraph 21:
With so many websites and web pages being available and with varying hardware and software configurations, it may be beneficial to identify which web documents may lead to a desired user experience and which may not lead to a desired user experience. By way of example but not limitation, in certain situations it may be beneficial to determine (e.g., classify, rank, characterize) which web documents may not meet performance or other user experience expectations if selected by the user. Such performance may, for example, be affected by server, network, client, file, and/or like processes and/or the software, firmware, and/or hardware resources associated therewith. Once web documents are identified in this manner the resulting user experience information may, for example, be considered when generating the search results.
In does not appear Yahoo! has implemented any aspect of this patent yet, and who knows what the Bing agreement will mean for site performance and search. But clearly this is a “problem” that the search engine muftis have set their eyes on and I would expect that if Google does implement it, others will follow.
Let’s continue our discussion of Twitter economics.
The average Twitterer has 549 followers. Now this is skewed by corporate accounts (e.g. like our travel sites) and news sites that have a very large number of followers. I have gone through a number of accounts to determine what seems like a realistic average number to use – and I am going to assume 200 followers. Our experience is that for the first generation of followers, 10% pass along an offer (the theory of this is also quite enlightening but I will not cover it here). For subsequent generations it is much lower, usually in the 2-5% range. We mentioned previously that 15,000 is the average number of followers for the Big 3 sites (Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity). The calculation therefore looks something like the following:
+ (15,000 * 200 *.1) = 300,000 (first generation pass along)
+ (300,000 * .02 * 200) = 1,200,000 (second generation pass along)
= 1,515,000 (total number of individuals)
The number of impressions is then this base of 1,515,000 multiplied by the number of offers “seen”. Expedia seems to be making offers every five minutes, as does Hotwire (they must have set up some kind of automated feed into their Twitter accounts). Travelocity and Orbitz seem to be making offers once a day (or even less). The big unknown is how many offers does the average follower actually see? They aren’t always online, or if online, they are doing other things and their attention is not focused on Twitter. Or they are on Twitter, but the offer doesn’t register through the noise of all the other tweets. Without any really good data, I will assume that each individual “sees” two offers/month – which I hope is a conservative number.
This means that the total number of impressions is: 1,515,000 * 24 = 36,360,000 per year
Given this number of impressions, what is the potential economic impact for Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity? Typical conversion rates on these sites runs 3-5% according to various published data I have seen. But, this is not a situation where someone has either typed in a keyword or clicked on an ad that appears when a keyword is typed in. This is much more of a grazing situation. Many offers are made, but only a few are relevant to any specific individual. So the response rates look more like email, and yet they are even smaller. Why? Because while the first generation is signed up to receive notifications (parallel notion to an email, in this case), the second and third generation are not. Our first benchmark is therefore an email conversion rate from the initial mailing – which is calculated as follows (I am ignoring losses due to bad addresses, since that is not an issue for online accounts - although see below for a related issue of dormant accounts):
# of impressions * open rate * conversion rate
Typical average open rates for good emailings are 10-12%, and conversion rates vary but let’s assume 2%, which is a number that comes from my experience with emailings. That would yield the equivalent of a .2% conversion rate for the first generation. But for the second and third generations, the response would be substantially smaller, maybe .1% or even as low as .05%. Since the first generation is such a small number of individuals, I will use .1% as the conversion rate for the entire base of impressions.
The last pieces of data we need are the number of tickets purchased, the number of purchases per individual in a year, and the average revenue to the travel agency from each ticket purchased. Again, I am going to use data that is fairly well known in the travel business. These are gross averages and do not take into account a number of variables, such as the type of travel (business vs. personal), destination (domestic vs.international), and type of flier (managed vs. unmanaged)
Number of trips per year: 2
Average number of tickets purchased/trip: 2.2
Avg revenue per ticket to agency: $25
So now let’s do the annual revenue calculation for the economic impact of Twitter for a large online travel agency:
36,360,000 * .001 *2 *2.2*25 = $3,999,600
For a big travel agencies, which have around $1B in annual revenue, this is small (.4% of revenue) but it isn’t chump change either.
Before I close, one other issue needs to be explored – and that is the issue of dormant accounts. The model presented assumes that every individual who is following or who receives a retweet or direct message is an “active” Twitter user. But as we all know, many from our own experience, you may set up a Twitter account and then never go back to it. Or you may visit it only rarely. I call these dormant accounts. There has been a lot written on this topic – just type “dormant twitter accounts” into Google. Nicholas Carlson recently wrote a post for BusinessInsider.com titled “60% Of Twitter Users Quit After A Month“. Carlson cites Oprah (@oprah) as an example of someone who has become “bored” with Twitter and reports that Nielsen Online estimates that 60% of Twitter users quit after a month. The post goes on to say that the 60% number may be misleading as Nielson only measures Twitter usage based off Twitter.com and not from mobile use or apps like TweetDeck. Given this data is pretty consistent with other social media sites, and the fact that a lot of tweets happen off of twitter.com, I think we can safely assume that the dormancy rate for Twitter is 50%.
In this case, our approximately $4mm in annual revenue has now become $2mm in annual revenue.
Not huge, but I think we could say that the ROI on the costs associated with maintaining a corporate Twitter account for this purpose are probably pretty spectacular.
I do not doubt that this post will cause a lot of discussion/controversy (at least I hope it will), and I look forward to all feedback.
I have avoided (like the plague) weighing in on the tempest Matt Cutts unleashed at SMX Advanced in June regarding Google’s change to the use of the <nofollow> tag for PageRank sculpting. I have avoided it for two reasons:
- In my mind, more has been made of it than its true impact on people’s rankings.
- As far as I’m concerned, in general (and note those two words) the use of the <nofollow> tag is a last resort and a crutch for less than optimal internal cross-linking around thematic clusters. When internal cross-linking is done right, I don’t believe the use of the <no follow> tag is that impactful.
Bruce Clay had a great show on Webmaster Radio on the subject of the <nofollow> controversy, and basically he was of the same opinion as me. There are also many more heavyweights who have weighed in than I care to name. So adding my comments to the mix isn’t all that helpful to my readers or the SEO community generally.
But I was searching today for some help on undoing 301 redirects when I found this section on the SEOMoz blog (click here for the whole article) from 2007 that provides some historical context for these conversations – so I thought I’d share it here. My compliments to Rand Fiskin of SEOMoz for reproduction of this content:
“2.Does Google recommend the use of nofollow internally as a positive method for controlling the flow of internal link love?
A) Yes – webmasters can feel free to use nofollow internally to help tell Googlebot which pages they want to receive link juice from other pages
(Matt’s precise words were: The nofollow attribute is just a mechanism that gives webmasters the ability to modify PageRank flow at link-level granularity. Plenty of other mechanisms would also work (e.g. a link through a page that is robot.txt’ed out), but nofollow on individual links is simpler for some folks to use. There’s no stigma to using nofollow, even on your own internal links; for Google, nofollow’ed links are dropped out of our link graph; we don’t even use such links for discovery. By the way, the nofollow meta tag does that same thing, but at a page level.)
B) Sometimes – we don’t generally encourage this behavior, but if you’re linking to user-generated content pages on your site who’s content you may not trust, nofollow is a way to tell us that.
C) No – nofollow is intended to say “I don’t editorially vouch for the source of this link.” If you’re placing un-trustworthy content on your site, that can hurt you whether you use nofollow to link to those pages or not.”
Just some interesting background as you consider the current debate.
But of course, I don’t want to ignore the previous Vincent update – as that was the connection to post #1.
Orion first. Actually Google did not announce “Orion” – which is a search technology it purchased in 2006, along with it’s college-student developer Ori Allon. But my guess is that thanks to Greg Sterling’s new article containing that title the term “Orion Release” will stick. Here’s how Danny Sullivan described the technology back in April 2006:
It sounds like Allon mainly developed an algorithm useful in pulling out better summaries of web pages. In other words, if you did a search, you’d be likely to get back extracted sections of pages most relevant to your query.
Ori himself wrote the following in his press release:
Orion finds pages where the content is about a topic strongly related to the key word. It then returns a section of the page, and lists other topics related to the key word so the user can pick the most relevant.
Google actually announced two changes:
Longer Snippets. When users input queries of more than three words, the Google results will now contain more lines of text in order to provide more information and context. As a reminder, a snippet is a search result that starts with a dark blue title and is followed by a few lines of text. Google’s research must have shown that regular-length snippets were not providing enough information to searchers to provide a clear preference for a result based on their longer search term – as their stated intent is to provide enhanced information that will improve the searcher’s ability to determine the relevance of items listed in the SERPs.
Having said this, I don’t see any difference. My slav…. I mean my 12-yo son (who has been doing keyword analysis since he was 10, so no slouch at this) ran ten tests on Google to see if we could find a difference (I won’t detail all the one- and two- vs 3+ word combinations we tried – if you want to have the list, leave a comment or send a twitter to arthurofsun and I will forward it to you). But shown below are the results for France Travel vs France Travel Guides for Northern France:
As you can see, there is absolutely no difference in snippet length for the two searches - and this was universally true across all the searches we ran. So I’m not sure – I wonder if Ori Allon, who wrote the post, could help us out on this one.
Also, I am somewhat confused. If you type in more keywords, the search engine has more information by which to determine the relevance of a result. So why would I need more information? Where I need more information is in the situation of a 3- keyword search, which will return a broad set of results that I will need to filter based on the information contained in a longer snippet.
Enhanced Search Associations. The bigger enhancement – and the one that seems most likely to derive from the original Orion technology – are enhanced associations between keywords. Basically if you type in a keyword – Ori uses the example ”principles of physics” – then the new algorithms understand that there are other ideas related to this I may be interested in, like “Big Bang” or “Special Relativity.” The way Google has implemented this is to put a set of related keywords at the bottom of the first SERP, which you may click on. When you click, it returns a new set of search results based on the keyword you clicked. Why at the bottom of the first SERP? My hypothesis would be that if the searcher has gone to the bottom of the page, it means that they haven’t found what they are looking for. So this is the right place in the user experience to prompt them with related keywords that they may find more relevant to the content they are seeking.
From my perspective, this feels like the “People who liked this item also bought…” widget on most comparison shopping sites (which I know something about, having been the head of marketing for SHOP.COM.) I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this – I’m just trying to make an analogy to the type of user experience Google is trying to create.
Shown below is an example of a enhanced search associations from a search on the broad term “credit derivatives in the USA”:
As I expected, the term “credit default swaps” – which is the major form of credit derivative – shows as an associated keyword. What I do not see in the list – and was surprised – was any reference to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA), which is the organization that has developed the standards and rules by which most derivatives are created. It does, however, show up for the search on the keyword “credit default swap.” I’d be curious to understand just exactly how the algorithm has been tuned to make trade-offs between broad concepts (i.e, credit derivatives, which is a category)) and very focused concepts (i.e. credit default swap, which is a specific product). Maybe I can get Ori to opine on that as well, but most likely that comes under the category of secret sauce.
Anyway, fascinating and it certainly shows that Google continues to evolve the state of IR.
Well, I’ll just have to leave the Vincent release until tomorrow. Something else happened this morning I need to do a quick entry about. Sigh…..