Google

Google is a true dominant giant in the world today. They are developing driverless cars and they are looking at ways of using balloons to allow internet access for the world. It seems to many people that the company is a Nirvana for the most “out there” scientific projects that are out of touch with the normal world. Naturally, Google doesn’t see things that way and the head of the driverless car project, Chris Urmson was keen to refute those ideas.

We aren’t here to be a Willy Wonka chocolate factory. We’re here to explore hard problems that aren’t being pushed in other places and move them towards products and out into the world.

Unfortunately, Google’s ambitions have hit a setback with their Glass project. Glass is one of Google X’s experiments: smart glasses. For this project, they had to go back to the drawing board. The test version went on sale last week, but this had to be suspended and the project received a new manager.670px-googlelogo-300x102

This comes at the same time as Wall Street funking out about the relationship between Google’s increasingly high spending and their profit margins. Their Moonshot projects, for instance, also came under scrutiny. Indeed, although Google’s profits did rise by 20% last year, their development costs went up by 35% and their operating costs by 30%. Naturally, Google believes the Glass changes are par for the course and required before it can really be made available. However, the reality is that there was also a sense of reversal. Critics who believe Google is placing personal gain over privacy are having a field day over this.

Eric Schmidt, who was a Glass chairman, had stated that Glass 2.0 would soon be on sale. Yet, Google quickly replaced Schmidt with Tony Fadell, who, incidentally, used to work for Apple. Fadell also manages the Nest (smart home) element of Google. The first order of business for Fadell was to take Glass back off the market, without any mention of when, and if, it would be released again.

Clearly, the release of Glass wasn’t handled properly. It may have been backed by Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google with much enthusiasm, but it came to very little. Nevertheless, Google remains ambitious at the same time. Indeed, it seems that everybody agrees that the market of wearables is anything but dead and that it makes good business sense for Google to continue to invest in these products. At the same time, however, customers are very disappointed.

Glass suddenly feels like a very expensive Kickstarter project. It always sounds awesome at first, and some charismatic people do a fabulous job of selling the concept to you. You slap down some money, and eventually get a half-baked product that’s quickly abandoned by its makers.

Indeed, questions are now being raised about how Google decides to invest and how they manage their products. The belief behind Google X was always that the company had the opportunity to change the world by developing ambitious ideas that seem impossible to realize, through the work of engineers who love a good challenge. This is in stark contrast to Apple’s methods of working, under which Fadell was a key figure as well. It was his team that developed the iPod, but this was under the understanding that user experience is more important than technological development. It is for this reason that Apple works for years on their prototypes, in complete secrecy, before ever talking about a new product.

Perhaps a new model does indeed need to be created for Google’s most ambitious projects, above and beyond what is currently offered by Google X. Chief executive and co-founder Larry Page certainly seems to agree. He felt that Google’s investment approaches should be seen like those of Warren Buffett, the legendary investor: management teams should be able to run near independent businesses within the company itself. Wall Street also continues to be involved and is demanding greater disclosure. However, Page says this would not be possible, as it would release information to competitors that should still remain secret. For investors, however, it looks as if Google lacks a degree of discipline.

Interestingly, it does seem as if no internal agreement exists on the larger projects within Google. Some believe that the company will back anything that involves objects, like cars and glasses, to connect to the internet. After all, according to Mr Mahaney, this is how Google will get more data.

They’re the ultimate tax on the internet.

As always, Google disagrees. They feel they have come under fire needlessly, being accused of pushing advertisements to online users, when what they really want to do is solve world problems and make life a little easier. This could really have an impact on society and, therefore, businesses.

Of course, many people are now starting to compare Google to Microsoft, which also famously tried to go above and beyond its core monopoly. Indeed, both pro- and anti-Google advocates are making this same comparison. Microsoft famously spent billions of dollars on Bing and failed to achieve any results. Similarly, Google invested heavily in Google+ social networking, but found that they spent a lot of money trying to rival Facebook and essentially wasted it.

However, there is a big difference as well. Microsoft failed when it looked for markets that were outside of the realms of the PC. Google, on the other hand, continues to bid strongly on future developments. Companies who have traditionally not invested in growth, like Yahoo!, AOL and eBay, are the ones which have really lost money, after all.

No opinions have been received from investors at Google and, in reality, they can only go along with what happens anyway. Since a third stock class was created last year by Mr Brin and Mr Page, it is guaranteed that there will never be a dilution of majority control in the company either. It is felt that those who do not want to take big investment risks simply should not invest in Google.

Google has recently confirmed that they will soon remove its engineers from their Russian offices. Nevertheless, the commitment to Russian Google users will remain in place. The company stated that this is not the first time they have relocated engineers in different countries. There is no clarity on the number of staff members who will be affected by this action and Google has declined to comment on this.

Earlier this year, the Russian government changed laws so that all online companies have to store the personal data of Russian citizens inside the country itself. According to the Kremlin, this law will actually help data protection. However, critics have stated that it is a method of censoring the internet, since the government would be able to block any website that refuses to comply with the law. Additionally, there is a concern about how the Russians would want to use the data.

Critics say it is designed to make it harder for US internet companies to operate in the country and will give Russia’s secret services – which are reportedly able to monitor virtually all data transmitted by domestic internet service providers – greater access to information held by foreign firms.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a known fact that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is strongly against the internet. He believes it is a CIA project and that this information will be more credible if it comes from other sources. Officials in Russia have been advised to stay away from any GMail services. Additionally, further laws may be passed to stop people who work for the Russian government from sharing any information through an internet service that is not state-controlled.

Various other laws have recently been passed in Russia as well. One such law has stated that if a blogger has more than 3,000 followers, he or she must register with the government, providing them with personal information. It is believed that these tactics have been designed to intimidate others. In Russia, most of the televised media is controlled by the Kremlin, and they engage in substantial amounts of pro-Russia propaganda. However, the state does not have such control over social media, which is one of the reasons why the new laws have been put in place. Between 2011 and 2013, strong protests took place in Moscow against this, but the laws have been passed regardless.

Google has always openly opposed Russian laws in terms of the internet. They have also accused the government of having Chinese-styled tactics when it comes to censorship. In 2010, Google stopped its operations in China, again due to a refusal to cooperate with government restrictions.

The majority of technological companies have huge data storage facilities where they store data on their users. These facilities are all over the world, and there is no link between the user’s location and the data they access. This means that it is highly likely that the data on different users is kept in a country in which they do not reside themselves.

Some Google staff will be retained, including those involved in marketing, sales and support. Hence, not all of Russia’s Google offices will be closed. Google has issued an official statement to explain that they continue to be committed to Russian customers and users and a dedicated team for support will remain in the country.

It seems as if Google is just the next in a long line. Adobe closed down offices in September, because they were unable to meet the new laws’ demands. Additionally, Vkontakte, the most popular social media website in Russia, saw its founder, Pavel Durvo, leave the company. This was due to his opposition to the draconian laws. Indeed, Anoton Nossik, owner of Fuzzy Cheese and hailed as the father of the internet in Russia, has expressed significant concerns. He believes that the new laws in Russia and the wide-spread anti-Russian sentiments that exist due to the situation in the Ukraine, will only force more large internet companies out of the country, making the situation much worse than what it is now.

Although the laws have, on paper, been passed to increase data security, the reality is that there is much potential for abuse in them.

The rules – which also apply to Facebook, Twitter, and other “organizers of information distribution” – mean President Putin’s government will have the right to remove “offensive” material from servers in Russia, as well as anything that the state decides is in breach of election rules.

Google is presently the second largest internet company in Russia, with Yandex holding first position. However, Google has been growing recently. One of the reasons for this is the rise in popularity of Android devices, which all run on Google-powered technology. As a result, it seems as if Google is in a pretty strong position to be able to negotiate with Putin should they wish to remain the country. It might also be for this reason that Google has been very vague about its motivation and exact actions.

Google would not comment on Thursday on the reason for the move, which was first reported by the tech news service The Information, and it was not clear whether the retreat was a response to an erosion of the country’s internet freedoms or any direct pressure on the company.

Although history has shown us that Google will move out of a country entirely if it is required to do so, we also know that Google frequently moves entire teams out of countries because it makes more business sense. The presence of Google in Russia is, quite obviously, highly desirable for Russians, which is something both Putin and Google will have to take into consideration. It is possible, therefore, that a secret arrangement has already been made between the two, that allows Google to continue to operate without having to stick to Russian rules.

English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying...

 

The Christmas countdown has officially started, so it can only be hoped that Santa is hard at work at filling all the Christmas lists and getting the presents ready. This year, Google and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense) have created interactive Santa Claus websites. Here, boys and girls alike can see how many days till Christmas, as well as being able to enjoy various other great features, including games.

 

Google has launched Santa Tracker on December 1. It looks just like a traditional Advent calendar and it also has a fun game and some features like coding courses. Every day, something else is unlocked for all who visit the site. Google has been keen to advertise their new tracker.

 

Starting today, the elves are back on the clock in the North Pole-and throughout the month of December, you can join the elves as they unlock a new project or game each day in preparation for Santa’s annual journey around the world.

 

Google has also made sure that people on the go are able to track Santa. Hence, they have developed an app for Android, as well as for the extension of Google Chrome. Various surprises have been promised all month long.

 

However, Google isn’t the only contender for the official Santa tracker. NORAD have also created a Santa Tracking website. They have worked together with Microsoft and have developed movies, games and a full history section on how NORAD started to track Santa. They will explain how the Big Man goes all around the globe on Christmas itself.

 

NORAD actually stated doing this back in 1955. At this point, Sears Roebuck & Co created an advertisement with a telephone number that children could ring if they wished to speak to Santa. However, they made a mistake in that telephone number. Hence, children did not get to speak to Santa at all, but they ended up speaking to CONAD, which is now NORAD. Specifically, they got the telephone number of the hotline for the Commander in Chief. Rather than becoming angry, the director of CONAD instructed staff to man the phone and to give children updates on where Santa was, so as not to ruin Christmas for them. This is a tradition that has stuck ever since. NORAD has also created an app for mobile Santa trackers, that is available on both Android and iOS devices.

 

NORAD men, women, family and friends have selflessly volunteered their time to personally respond to phone calls and emails from children all around the world. In addition, we now track Santa using the internet.

 

NORAD and Google used to work together. However, the former decided to move on to Microsoft Bing rather than stick with Google Maps. As they are the aerospace tracking agency, they have stated that their role is to protect Santa, so that governments across the world don’t mistake him for a missile and accidentally shoot him down.

 

The big question, of course, is going to be who will have the most popular tracker this year. The Santa Wars are well and truly on. Both Google and NORAD have decided to make their trackers independent websites, so Google is not the automatic winner just by having their tracker straight on their search home page. Additionally, since they have always worked together with NORAD, those who are used to the system may be inclined to go straight there this year. On the other hand, it seems Google has invested more in marketing their tracker, which could mean more people will go them. Perhaps only Santa Claus himself will be able to deliver the final verdict this year.

 

On November 9, 1989, which was 25 years ago, the Berlin Wall finally fell. Google is commemorating this incredible occasion by creating an emotive video Doodle. When the wall toppled, a country that had been divided for 30 years was finally unified again. In 1990, this was made official when Germany was reunified once again.

What few people know is that the construction of the wall took place overnight. On August 12, 1961, it was put up by East Berlin, which was then controlled by a communist regime, to separate it from West Berlin. Originally, it was a line of barbed wire that followed all the roads. It then became a fence, before finally turning into two fortified walls, that had a no man’s land in between them. On August 13, 1961 people woke up to see that they could no longer see their families, friends and coworkers who were based in the western part of the city. Once completed, the wall stretched across 66 miles. The concrete wall reached 3.6 meters in height. Additionally, there were another 41 miles covered with barbed wires and 300 look-out towers, which were all manned around the clock, were erected. The wall went through the center of the city of Berlin. Additionally, it actually encircled West Berlin itself, as whole of Berlin was completely surrounded by the GDR, which was communist.

Germany became two divided countries in 1949. West Germany was the Federal Republic of Germany, which was under control of the Allied Forces until a government was established. The other half was the GDR, the German Democratic Republic, which was in the East. Berlin is located in the geographical area of the GDR. However, it was shared between the allies, namely, France, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States of America. The wall was erected to stop people from East Germany from leaving and fleeing to the West.

 

English: Short section of the Berlin Wall at P...

 

The wall divided more than a piece of land. It separated entire families and social circles. Additionally, those who were trapped on the “wrong” side, which could be either side, often lost their jobs and livelihoods if the businesses they worked for were on the other side of the wall.

The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years. During this time, at least 200 people died in various attempts to cross it. Estimates vary, with some saying it was actually far more. One area, known as the “death strip” was particularly deadly. It was heavily fortified with barbed wire, anti-vehicle trenches, blinding floodlights and beds of nails. Many people lost their lives there.

During the time when the wall existed, the people of East Berlin became more and more frustrated with their lack of freedom and prosperity that would have been available to them had they lived in West Berlin. The communist government of the GDR denied them their freedom of movement and this led to various demands being placed. The people were motivated by revolutions against the Soviet Union that were experienced all over the East Block and, as a result, they demanded that they be given free passage.

On 9 November 1989, protesters became increasingly present and active. The guards became confused and, around 10:45pm, they opened the gates. This happened after Gunter Schabowski, the spokesperson for the Communist Party of East Berlin, announced that “immediate” passage would be allowed. It is believed that he did not mean that exact moment, but this was how guards and protestors alike interpreted his statement. Instantly, parts of the wall were destroyed and torn down, culminating in the official demolition of the wall in the summer of 1990.

The new Google Doodle commemorates all of this. Through its video, it shows the scenes of joys experienced by all Berliners, with West and East greeting each other and their long lost loved ones. The video shows that night in 1989.

Additionally, the Doodle shows where the wall remains today. Pieces of it have been donated to Seoul, London, Madrid, Washington D.C., Kiev, Cape Town and Mountain View, California, which can be seen in the Doodle video. It is an emotive commemoration of an event that so significantly shaped the world today. Interestingly, Mountain View, California is also the location of Google’s company headquarters.

 

Google has actually commemorated the fall of the Berlin Wall in the past. In 2009, they used an image of the Wall with the word “Google” on it, with the second “g” shown as having toppled over. This time, they have worked together with people who were there and who had personal experiences of living with and without the wall.

I was 7 years old when thousands of East German signature cars arrived in my hometown Hamburg and filled the air with odd smelling blue smoke. I saw strangers hugging strangers, tears in their eyes, their voices tired from singing.

This is a quote by Nils Frahm, who is also responsible for the musical composition that accompanies the Doodle. He stated that he felt the time had arrived to celebrate unity, which has now lasted for 25 years. Berlin itself has joined in with the celebrations as well, sending out 8,000 LED balloons across what used to be the border. Additionally, Google worked together not just with someone who was there and had experienced it, they also sent employees Liat Ben-Rafael and Ryan Germick to experience it themselves by studying a graffiti-ed piece of the wall itself.

 

This graffitied chunk of concrete, once a literal division, has been transformed into a symbol of unity, a reminder to passersby of the triumph of the collective human spirit. It was moving to see it in person and, appropriately enough, spray-painted on this special slab are the German words ‘Wir lieben dich’ — ‘we love you,’ they said.

The Doodle video ends with a symbol of peace. The CND symbol replaces one of the “O” letters in Google. The Doodle has been incredibly well-received. People still remember the Wall very well, and they still visit the site today. It is a fresh memory, but it is hoped that the Doodle will be a celebration of unity, rather than a commemoration of division.

 

 

 

It was recently reported that the European Parliament is looking at ways to break up Google. Indeed, a draft motion is likely to be passed asking for the European Commission to “unbundle” search engines, splitting them up from other commercial services. This would be a way to stop Google from truly dominating the world. However, it is not entirely clear whether this is actually possible.670px-googlelogo

Andreas Schwab, German MEP, has long been a firm critic of Google. He is sponsoring the motion itself. He said that the motion is now in place and that the practicalities still have to be ironed out. Another MEP is taking part in the consultation and he actually took the time to speak to Google and find out what a possible break up would mean.

Basically, if the service is unbundled, then things like Google Shopping and YouTube would find benefit in the dominance in search of the company. The real focus, therefore, is in the utilities, as was explained by Sigmar Gabriel, economy minister for Germany.

We must give serious thought to the possibility of “unbundling” the Internet market, in a similar way to the electricity and gas networks.

A number of European companies have had to go through similar processes. For instance, British Telecoms (BT), used to hold a service monopoly in the United Kingdom. They owned the entire network of copper wiring. However, new legislation meant that the wires had to be made available to various other telecom companies in the country as well. The result is that BT is still a single company, but it is made up of different, completely separate divisions. Although this has been a benefit to the competitive telecoms market, some say that BT continues to be dominant and to abuse this position. They do this by ensuring their retail division has its profits squeezed to breaking point. On the other hand, it is this EU legislation that has ensured other companies were able to gain new broadband customers, as this does not involve any copper wiring.

Another example is seen in Deutsche Telekom, the German equivalent of BT. They are, interestingly, one of the biggest complainants in the current case against Google. The worry for Google, therefore, is that they will have to comply with this type of approach as well. However, their main defense is that this would lead to customers have separate data and search behavior, no longer linking in to any of their other online activities. According to Google, this would not benefit the ease of use of the internet.

If Google does have to get unbundled, some new and complex legislation would have to be developed, according to Joaquin Almunia, the European Commissions outgoing competition commissioner.

Google cannot be broken up into smaller companies without new EU legislation, the European Commission said, after detailing two potential new antitrust investigations into the internet giant.

However, a number of other sanctions that could be imposed on Google have been developed already. Ramon Tremosa, Spanish MEP, and Mr Schwab, have suggested that there should be some sort of rotation mechanism. This would mean that Google’s competitors and its commercial services will have equal prominence on the search results page. This move has been seen before, after the Microsoft investigation. It is the result of that investigation that allows users to now have a choice of browsers, rather than having to stick with Internet Explorer.

According to some, the biggest issue here is politics. The move, whether supported or not, shows that Europe is exasperated with Google. Indeed, Mr Almunia’s successor is now the competition commissioner. It is his decision to decide where to go from here. However, it is an anti-trust investigation, and this has to be taken very seriously.

Google has been in the process of developing Internet transmitting balloons and they will soon start testing these in Australia. Some 20 balloons will be launched in the west of Queensland next month. Google has partnered up with Telstra in order to make this project possible.

The company announced plans to use balloons to bring the internet to disconnected areas last year, and after semi-successful trials in New Zealand, Brazil and the States, it’s teaming up with a local carrier (Australia’s Telstra) for the first time to launch Loon’s biggest test flight to date.

The project, which is known as “Project Loon,” is part of a plan by Google to ensure that everybody, even in the most remote parts of the globe, would be able to access the Internet. The balloons will be filled with helium and will use stratospheric winds to circle around the globe. Each balloon is equipped with an antenna that is able to send 4G signals to phones and homes up to 20 kilometers below. In order to test the balloons, Telstra is providing base stations that will allow for communication with the balloons. Additionally, they will allow for access to the radio spectrum.

Tests have already taken place in New Zealand’s Christchurch in June of 2013. Google chose this area because it has excellent stratospheric conditions. The goal is to ensure that a ring of balloons always circles the planet. If successful, two thirds of all people who currently do not have any online access will finally be able to go online. Additionally, the balloons have the potential to provide Internet access to those areas that have been struck by natural disasters. Project Loon has been described very well by Google itself:

Many of us think of the Internet as a global community. But two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access. Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.

Project Loon was first started in the middle of 2011. Scientists employed by Google X, which is a top secret lab, started working on it. They also developed the driverless cars and Google Glass. The Loon technology is of interest particularly in developing countries because it means that they could access the Internet without having to lay expensive fiber cables underground.

How Does It Work?

A pile of inflatable balloons. First of all, base stations that are connected to the internet bounce signals to the balloons. The balloons are floating on the stratospheric winds, twice as high as what a passenger jet would go. The signals then hop between the different balloons. Each individual balloon also transmits online signals, with each balloon being able to connect an area twice as large as Canberra. The balloons are filled with various on-board gadgets, including solar panels as large as a card table. This allows each balloon to stay in the air for around 100 days. The stratospheric winds, which flow in a westerly direction, should be able to carry a permanent ring of balloons.

 

It is hoped that the test will be an overwhelming success. It is not know what the next stage will be, or how the 20 balloons will be brought down. Indeed, although there is now significant knowledge about the project itself, a cloud of secrecy still remains over it. The previous tests have been semi-successful, although it is not clear which elements were seen as most successful, or which parts needed rethinking. It seems that Google is still somewhat on the drawing board, and the world is looking anxiously towards new developments.

 

 

 

A little while ago, Google brought in a new algorithm update, known as “Pigeon.” The goal of this algorithm is to make sure that local results are more relevant and useful. This is done by ensuring traditional web searches and local searches are more closely related. Whenever Google releases an update, however, people in the world of SEO and internet marketing panic. What are the implications of this update? How will they need to change their current practices to keep up with new rules? Indeed, the new update, although described as “generous” by many, does have a number of strong implications for brands. The biggest factor that matters is that the local listing has to be attached to a very strong domain. But what does it all mean?

The Goal of Pigeon

A Pigeon

 

Pigeon has been designed to reward good behavior and quality.

 

Feedback from various sectors suggests that Google has chosen to reward authority sites. Established directories, such as Yelp, have benefited. Industries reporting an overall increase in results shown via Google Places include hospitality, food, education, law, transportation and fitness.

However, there are many rumors flying about in the SEO world as well, including the idea that there are multiple Pigeons and that each of these will be looking for different things. This is why, at the present time, the recommendation is to stick to your current strategies, including having a strong social media presence, asking customers for reviews and making local references in any content you produce.

Watch Out for Over-Optimization

At the same time, it is important not to over-optimize your site for local results. With the preliminary data that is available, it is shown that those businesses that are located inside city centers or just outside of it are having the best search results, with the largest and most significant drops happening for those businesses more than 20 miles away from that center. However, this still doesn’t mean that you should over-optimize for location.

Without question, optimizing your content remains a sound practice on local sites as it does for any website. That said, it appears that the over-optimization dial has been turned up significantly with the Pigeon update.

Indeed, the current recommendation is to take some of your postcodes or areas away to check whether your traffic and conversion rates will increase. It is far more important to be attached to a strong domain. However, once again, you must realize that Pigeon is still incredibly new and a lot of changes may still be on the horizon. If it is true that there are multiple Pigeons flying about, you will have to work on trial and error. If you do not see an increase in traffic and conversion by removing some postcodes, for instance, then simply put them straight back.

Experts throughout the industry have all stated the same: so far, Pigeon is only being tested on the US market, but this does not mean international sites aren’t affected, as they often try to get in on the local market. Additionally, although many industries have seen an increase in their traffic, some industries (job searches, cinema, real estate and insurance) saw a very significant drop. All of this means that, at the minute, you need to see the world of online marketing in terms of business as usual.

Just continue to use standard white hat SEO practices: write for humans, not robots. Pay attention to your keyword spread and density, and make your URL structure transparent. Now, more than ever, it’s also important to make sure your business is listed on local results databases in order to take advantage of a potential new business relationship.

So Far So Good?

Whenever there is a Google algorithm update, people panic. Google may give them cute little names like “Panda” and “Hummingbird,” but what they actually mean is tons of work for website owners, who suddenly have to rethink all of their SEO and content marketing strategies. However, at the moment, it looks as if the new Pigeon algorithm is actually working and that this effect is positive for people who are involved. This is particularly true for local website traffic.

While the SERPs were definitely shaken up, the reduction of local packs actually resulted in more traffic to local websites when we were expecting it to be less.

Additionally, local search strategies are improving, which can only be a good thing. The problem is, however, that people seem to think Pigeon is temporary. Naturally, Google tweaks its algorithms some 500 times per year (yes, that is more than once a day), but the big ones tend to be few and far between. Pigeon is classed as a big one, not in the least because it has a fancy, cute name. However, the effects on SEO activities seem to be too limited as of yet, so most experts are now sitting on tenterhooks, in the expectation of something bigger showing up all of a sudden. We can only wait and see.

In the meantime, there is a concern about how the algorithm will affect small- to medium-sized businesses and there is a significant worry about whether or not Google cares at all about the fate of these smaller businesses. It is certainly true that the mega-directories, like Yelp, are being favored massively through this new update, when it is these very huge directories that actually need the least amount of help. However, this is where the story goes back to a potential other Pigeon flying around the internet without people even knowing it. Indeed, it does not sound like Google will trample all over the smaller people by focusing on the bigger players. Luckily, however, help is being provided to smaller businesses who feel that they have been negatively affected by Pigeon.

If you are no longer included in the search radius you have several choices (besides opening another office). The one that makes the most sense is learn what geographic areas you are showing in and emphasize those AND find the less competitive categorical searches where you can compete to get some visibility.

 

Since websites and applications like WebMD have arrived on the scene, the world has been trying to understand their symptoms and diagnose themselves without having to leave the house to visit a doctor. While in some countries, like the United States, this might seem to save on doctor’s bills at first, the concept that an untrained person could diagnose a medical condition is simply improbable. This may lead to wasted time, misdiagnosis, and in some cases, missing the treatments that could save lives because the symptoms were misread. For this reason and many more, Google has announced their launch of a test version for an online instant chat with a physician.

 

Avoiding Potential Misdiagnoses

A physician performs a routine checkup on a pa...

It appears that Google has always had the right idea about searching the Internet and how best to do so, and their latest addition to the search engine seems to agree with this. A quick search for headaches or knee pain can now give you the ability to chat with a doctor about the symptoms that you feel. This is currently in a test phase, which means that the future setup of the application, including costs and methods will change, but at the moment it’s a free service being paid for by the company as they are the trial period. Techtimes explains:

 

An element that gives Google’s health care venture legs, besides the convenience of video chats, is the service’s HIPAA compliance, which the company is said to have established back when it worked with the One Medical Network to deliver medical consultations over Helpouts.

Google is trying to decide if this could be useful now and in the future. A video chat capability will also be included in part of the Helpouts platform which will connect users online with medical professionals through a live video feed. In the future, these experts may charge a fee in some cases, while some question answering could remain free of charge depending on the expert being consulted.

Taking A Chance On Telemedicine

While this latest medical platform may be exciting to Google users, it certainly isn’t the first time that telemedicine has become available for the at home patient. In fact, telemedicine companies have been around for quite some time now, working through video chats and the telephone. Naturally, these services have a price. One such company called Spruce provides dermatological treatment plans 24 hours a day, with many appointments costing around $40. Other companies like Better may charge less depending on the type of diagnosis and treatment being offered. Mashable.com states that:

 

Whether Google plans to build out the service into something more akin to Better and Spruce remains to be seen. As the Google spokesperson mentioned, the company is looking at usage statistics during the trial.

This could be a whole new way of using the internet for the average user, because while telemedicine isn’t brand new to the online community, many users have yet to hear about it or understand how it works. At the very least, Google’s new take on the system could bring a better understanding to online patients and give those who can’t leave home or who live in rural communities without large hospitals a chance to take better care of themselves and their families.

 

Making It Easier For Doctors

Believe it or not, this new method of diagnosis may actually be approved by most of the medical community as many physicians have become more than a little fed up with their patients misdiagnosing themselves over the Internet. It’s one thing to read up about a certain condition out of curiosity, and another thing entirely to check your symptoms of one of these famed medical sites and then diagnose yourself with diabetes or cancer. It’s always best to check with a trained physician about symptoms and have all of the facts before deciding what the best treatment might be. CNN reports:

Doctors are famously frustrated by patients who search for symptoms online. While there are quality sites out there, such open-ended searches can convince people they’re sicker than they really are, and more dubious sites can offer sketchy advice about how to treat the symptoms.

 

Images that have been leaked to a few resources show how the different diagnosis tactics now work, and how the chat will appear on screen. This is a very interesting and unique application for Google to take part in, and the future is bright in regards to how far this could go if the trial works out.

 

Current Restrictions And How This Application Works

At the moment, this capability is being offered to a few online users, as it would be impossible to have enough medical staff available to treat the world population at a moment’s notice, but as the trial period continues, the success of the project may give this option to more users, making it either a North America-only feature or a worldwide application. Google has said that their goal with this project is to provide users with the most information possible while keeping that data relevant. They want to help patients to better comprehend what is wrong with them by keeping that information realistic and from the mouth of an expert rather than a write-up on a website. CNET quotes Google in saying:

When you’re searching for basic health information — from conditions like insomnia or food poisoning — our goal is provide you with the most helpful information available. We’re trying this new feature to see if it’s useful to people.

 

When the full roll-out occurs, Google has stated that patients may be charged using the Google wallet feature. It is understood that doctors won’t be physically performing these tests and won’t able to touch the patient to check for pain and other possible symptoms that would be performed through a standard hospital test, so the price may be much lower compared to an actual visit to a clinic.

Whether this will be as useful as Google expects it to be is yet to be seen as the probability of getting an accurate diagnosis every time without a visit to a physical doctor is rather low. Nevertheless, it still has many positive benefits for users and could prove to be very helpful in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are making use of Google’s site links you are probably already on your way to dominating the search results for your niche. If you are not, then you should be pleased to know that if you do, you can actually increase online trust for your website and send more targeted traffic to your site. So how do you get them and what do you do with them? Let’s take a look.

What Are Site Links?

Site links are a format for listing in SERPs. They show your website’s main page and some of the other internal links that have been targeted. They are organized into two columns in the SERPs.

Generally speaking, these only show up for navigational or branded search queries. So when a user types such a query in, they are shown the main page as well as some internal pages of the site, to offer quick access for where the user may want to go.

What Makes Site Links So Important?iStock_000016999835_Large

Well if you have not guessed it already these site links are really important because they enable a user to navigate to and around your site quickly and easily. They allow a person to find what they need with minimal effort. From your point of view, they can also get a visitor to the most relevant content in the fastest time possible. According to Google:

We only show site links for results when we think they’ll be useful to the user. If the structure of your site doesn’t allow our algorithms to find good site links, or we don’t think that the site links for your site are relevant for the user’s query, we won’t show them.

So What Is The Bad News?

Well actually, site links cannot be created, they are auto generated by Google. You cannot choose which links appear and when they show up. The only thing you can do is to let Google know when an unnecessary link is included that does not need to be there.

And The Good News?

The good news is that having site links makes pages other than the home page busy and active. And while there is a chance that the bounce rate may go up, there are also other benefits, as explained here by Moz.com:

Arguably, the bounce rate on pages appearing in site links will increase but at the same time site links should drive higher quality traffic, potentially increasing user engagement and conversion as more users will be able to quickly land on the pages they desire.

Better news is that, while you may not be able to demand site links for your website, your chances of being given them increase if you employ best practice guidelines while you are building your website. Okay so Google does not publish a guideline on how to create them, but if you do follow and adhere to the rules, your chances of acquiring them will increase.

One way to improve your chances of getting site links is to get a strong brand or company name, which is easily distinguishable from keywords for your website. You need to rank quite well for navigational search in order to do this.

Another way to improve the chances of getting site links is to ensure your website has a clear and solid site map. Your navigation should be intuitive and easy to use. It should follow a navigational sequence and include the basic elements: home, about, contact, blog and news.

You should also have an XML site map for your website. This makes it easier for the search engines to crawl and, you guessed it, easier for them to allocate site links too.

If you are just getting started with your company’s social media presence you have your work cut out for you. Once considered “new” media, social media has evolved tremendously in just a few years. The good news is that it has been around for long enough, that there is research and insight available to help you create a strategy that makes a difference to your bottom line. And, to help you out, we have handpicked our very best tips to ensure you get off to the best possible start.

 

Patience Is A Vital Skill. Practice It

If you jump in the deep end and give yourself too much to do you will probably end up overwhelmed straight away. Pick one network at a time and learn it properly before moving onto the next. Be selective with your channels. Question whether there is real business value in your investing time and resources into the channel before you actually do it.

Have a look at the networks that your customers and potential customers make use of. These are the sites and channels you need to be active in and seen on.

 

Learn Where Your Industry Hangs Out Online

Conduct some research into what your industry competitors are doing. Do they have blogs? Are they active on LinkedIn or Twitter? As Social Media Examiner points out:

 

Do they have social media icons? Look for the f, g+, in, P, bird and camera logos (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram, that is) and click through to their social media pages. Do they have sizable followings on particular social channels? Is there a lot of activity there or do things look a bit static?

The best places to gain momentum are those where the action and activity are already happening. Find these places and consider them “shortcuts.” The more you can find, the faster you can accelerate your progress.

Maybe this is participating in group discussions, commenting on blogs or just writing original content that positions the company an industry leader.

 

Put The Effort Into Your Social Profiles

It’s so surprising how so may people neglect their social profiles when it is so well known how we judge and perceive others based on the impressions we generate from their profiles.

All of the social channels give you the opportunity to create a profile, all with varying degrees of detail. Of course, the more information you put there, and the better it is presented, the greater your chances of developing attention online.

So fill in all the information spaces provided with keyword rich content that sounds good. Hire a copywriter to get the message through professionally if you have to. Then you need to dedicate some time to the visual aspects of the profile. Do you have a professional profile picture or high res logo? If you want to enrich the user experience for the people you engage with be sure to upload backgrounds and header or cover pictures to your profiles.

social media

 

Think Beyond Facebook

Yes. It may not be what you have heard, but the world is a lot bigger than Facebook these days. Make sure you know which channels suit your business. Entrepreneur.com says:

Brands on Twitter will still get 100 percent organic reach, with everything you post. If a large number of users “retweet” your content, it can dramatically increase reach.
Pinterest and Instagram can be great for retail and fashion. YouTube and video sharing sites like Vimeo are still effective for viral brand video promotion. SlideShare and LinkedIn work well for reaching a professional audience.

 

Measure Your Return On Investment

Like anything you invest in, a social media marketing drive needs to show a return. But, like this article from Moz.com points out:

 

Ultimately, we’re working towards measuring any return on your investment (ROI). But remember, in order to measure ROI you need to have an I. Without a serious investment of resources, you may never find the return you’re looking for. Measuring that ROI can look very different for different campaigns, and opening a metrics dashboard the day after you launch a social presence won’t provide any useful insight.

Fortunately, most of the social networks offer advanced reporting features, which can uncover a number of valuable insights about your audience. It also means that all campaigns and their effectiveness can be measured.

 

Create Connections Online

A lot of your success online will hinge on who you know, often as opposed to what you know. And the more people you know and engage with, the greater access you have to wider and bigger audiences. One of the most effective ways to build a following online, in social media platforms and on blogs is actually just to comment and respond to other people’s content. Try this for a set period of time and see what difference, if any, it makes to your connections.

The other big advantage to building and extensive network is just exposure. As many of the networks become fueled and controlled by their advertising platforms, brands’ organic reach is limited in terms of the audience members it gets to. The bigger your audience, the wider your reach.

 

Return The Favor

One of the quickest ways to gain a fan is to earn one. Take the time to comment, share, like, favorite, pin or plus one for someone else and they will more than likely do it for you.

 

Remember To Follow The Rules Of Social Etiquette

Understand the difference between advertising and organic posting on social networks, as most channels offer both options. If you want to sell something, go for the advertising option because the chances are that you will not get very far trying to sell outright with organic posting. You may be able to throw some in once in a while but you need to keep a balance going.

 

Most of the experts recommend an 80/20 split where self-promotional content is in the minority percentage. If you want to keep it going online, this is a good piece of advice to remember.