A Google Sandwich with Google on the Side
As I went through the blog rounds this week collecting interesting links, I noticed a pattern: everything was turning up Google. Not exactly shocking in the search industry, I know. But for some reason this week seemed especially Googley. Here are some of the many Google stories I read this week.
First up, Google has made a significant change to its local search results pages called "Place Search." According to Google, "We've clustered search results around specific locations so you can more easily make comparisons and decide where to go." As Patrick Altoft puts it, Google is phasing out organic search results for local queries, giving local results all the prime real estate: "The impact of this change is that in the long term any site that doesn’t have a physical address in the location that people are searching for will probably no longer be able to rank for local based queries." (If local search is your bag, read lots more reactions here.)
Google also launched a new ad product called Google Boost for advertisers with a Google Places account. These ads give you a "boost" because they "will appear in the sponsored links area of Google.com and in the maps.google.com results page."
Via Boing Boing and the weiji blog, a case study on using AdWords to test a book title—that's what Timothy Ferriss did with The 4-Hour Workweek after Wal-Mart vetoed his working title, Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit (??):
Ferriss decided to look for some data. He took 6 prospective titles that everyone could live with: including ‘Broadband and White Sand’, ‘Millionaire Chameleon’ and ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ and developed an Google Adwords campaign for each. He bid on keywords related to the book’s content including ‘401k’ and ‘language learning’: when those keywords formed part of someone’s search on Google the prospective title popped up as a headline and the advertisement text would be the subtitle. Ferriss was interested to see which of the sponsored links would be clicked on most, knowing that he needed his title to compete with over 200,000 books published in the US each year. At the end of the week, for less than $200 he knew that “The 4-Hour Workweek” had the best click-through rate by far and he went with that title.
Pretty brillz, right? I love the "always be testing" mindset.
A class-action lawsuit is targeting Google for sharing referrer information (search queries) with third parties. Search Engine Land quotes the complaint: "Google has consistently and intentionally designed its services to ensure that user search queries, which often contain highly-sensitive and personally-identifiable information ('PII'), are routinely transferred to marketers, data brokers, and sold and resold to countless other third parties." Greg Sterling writes that Google will likely argue that no identifying information is passed about where the query originated. Of course, Google isn't the only site that includes referrer information in URLs—it's standard practice among search engines. If this information was blocked, it would make our jobs a lot harder, wouldn't it?
All Things Digital is jumping on the Eric Schmidt bashing bandwagon. Last week, asked about privacy concerns in relation to Google Street View, Schmidt said, "Street View, we drive exactly once. So, you can just move, right?" Clearly this was another of his poorly executed jokes, but as John Paczkowski writes, "Schmidt says the company’s 'policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.' And while that may be true of Google, it's clearly not true of Schmidt, who lately has been happily high stepping across the creepy line like the grand marshal of the Tone-Deaf Technocrat Parade." Yep, that sounds about right.
Speaking of creepy/funny, Search Engine People shows us 10 inappropriate Google ads, like this dynamic keyword insertion fail from eBay: "Great deals on Racism. Browse a huge selection now!"
Scott Fowles of Bruce Clay Inc. pens an essay called "If You're Reading This, Google Hates You": "Because Google's profits grow the most when their users spend on PPC, Google has marketed conversion rate optimization (CRO) heavily over the past few years by rolling out resources like two different CRO testing platforms." However, neglecting SEO, Fowles says, is dangerous because "search engine users experience a much different cognitive reaction to PPC ads than organic search results. With a PPC ad, visitors expect that they are being sold something. But organic results do not necessarily imply that." This is true of fairly sophisticated users, yes—but a lot people can't tell the difference between organic results and sponsored ads. Will this effect increase, I wonder, as the sponsored areas of the page get larger?
Alan Bleiweiss created a handy reference guide for using Google microformats (now more important than ever with Place Search), including implementation resources and ways to use microformats beyond reviews, such as for recipes and event listings.
Dave Harry is back with a long post about Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) and "how temporal data plays into search."
And finally, Marketing Pilgrim reports that Google is planning to buy an enormous office building in Manhattan, reportedly worth nearly $2 billion.
The Best of the Rest
I did read a few posts this week that weren't related to Google:
What are the top 10 brands on Facebook? These surprised me—Oreo and Skittles are just trailing heavyweights Facebook itself, Starbucks, YouTube and Coca-Cola.
Good stuff on the Get Elastic blog lately: "Do Photos of People Improve Ecommerce Conversions?" and an analysis of 107 Add to Cart buttons.
Stephan Spencer lists 25 common SEO mistakes, like disallowing when you meant to noindex and not using your customers' vocabulary.
Have a good weekend!