Making Search Social – Google adds more social elements to its results

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

By MATT SCHULER, Digital Architect, Marx Layne

Google is mixing in more social elements to its search results, it announced this morning.

In a post by Mike Cassidy, Product Management Director, and Matthew Kulick, Product Manager, Google announced it’s “doing a little bit more to bring you all the goodness of Google, plus the opinions of the people you care about.”

This is an important step for Google, because the world is becoming more social as people look for information from their friends. It’s easier than ever to turn to a social network to get the best information.  Google is now integrating that in its search results.

As you can see Google’s picture, there are notations where someone you know shared something.  Google says it’s “enabling you to get even more information from the people that matter to you, whether they’re publishing on YouTube, Flickr or their own blog or website.”  It’s important to note, as Search Engine Land has, while there’s a lot of social integration as of now, your Facebook friends’ likes will be excluded.

As Google continues to refine its search results, it’s making it a more personal experience.  While optimizing results is still possible, people will be getting different results based on their personal input and preferences.

Google posted a video explaining the social search update. You can watch it embedded below.

One number to rule them all: Google Voice unveils number porting

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

By MATT SCHULER, Digital Architect, Marx Layne

Have you used Google Voice?  Do you even know what it is?

In short, Google Voice allows you to bind all of your phone numbers in to one super number.  Your Google Voice number will ring your home phone, cell phone, work phone or any other number you have simultaneously.   You can watch this quick video about the benefits before we get to the number porting.

What is Google Voice?

I’ve used Google Voice while I was writing tech reviews, because it allowed me to have one number for all of the review phones.  I didn’t use it exclusively though, because I didn’t want to go through the pain of getting everyone my new telephone number.

Now, Google is letting you switch your number over for a $20 fee. Google does offer this warning though: “After porting your number to Google Voice your mobile service plan will be cancelled, and there are a couple of steps that you’ll have to take to continue making and receiving calls on your mobile device.” That means you may have to pay an early termination fee, if you don’t clear the switch with your service provider beforehand.

They have a detailed list of instructions on how number porting works, and some tips on how to make it go smoothly in the Google Voice Help Center.
You can watch the Google video on number porting below:

Looking For Users, Google Is Giving Away Chrome OS Notebooks

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

By MATT SCHULER, Digital Architect, Marx Layne

Google wants to open up the debate between Mac and PC, and it’s planning on doing so with Chrome OS. Announced in 2009, Google targeted Chrome OS as “an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks.”

Today, they started the process of delivering on that promise and are even giving some lucky people a chance to get a Chrome OS Notebook for free.

So what is Chrome OS? Google explains it pretty well in the introduction video.

They want users to be able to connect to the web instantly, which is good for most businesses’ web strategies. “Chrome notebooks boot in about 10 seconds and resume from sleep instantly,” Google claims. They want users to be able to have the same experience everywhere, so apps, documents, and settings are stored in the cloud. Google says you could even lose your computer, and log into another Chrome OS notebook and get right back to work.

From a business perspective, I love the cloud concept because it’s great for strategy. If it doesn’t matter where I’m logging in from when I access my documents, then I can log in from anywhere. That’s beneficial to collaboration and to getting things done.

Google’s also getting into a little bit of one-upmanship by teaming with Verizon Wireless to offer 100MB of free 3G data every month for the first two years. I have to say I was stunned at that kind of deal. There are also contract-free plans for users who will need more bandwidth. Integrating 3G into a device isn’t new, but giving away data on a laptop is a pretty big step.

Another benefit for business that I see in Chrome OS is in the security settings and automatic updates. A lot of the in-depth security features are listed on their page, or you can check out their informational video.

Google says its Chrome OS is “a work in progress” and they’re looking for people to test it out and offer suggestions on how to make it better. They’re taking applications from people to be part of a pilot program. From the selection list, it looks like they’re taking applicants from all walks of life, including business, education, non-profits, developers and the even individuals.

I applied to test drive a Chrome notebook, and it might be worth it for you to check out their site for more information.

Google Works to Manage Copyrighted Materials

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

By MATT SCHULER, Digital Architect, Marx Layne

Google has reaffirmed its commitment to its online community by announcing that it will step up its efforts to minimize copyright infringements.

The announcement was summarized on Google’s Public Policy Blog:


A Bully Beats The SEO System, So Google Changes Its Algorithm

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

By MATT SCHULER, Digital Architect, Marx Layne

Over the weekend, I was stunned when I read the NY Times article “A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web.” The premise of the article was that a website owner intentionally upset its customers so that they would complain about him online, thus boosting his ranking in search results.

After the NYT story, Google responded bluntly with a post of its own, “Being bad to your customers is bad for business.” Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow wrote “By treating your customers badly, one merchant told the paper, you can generate complaints and negative reviews that translate to more links to your site; which, in turn, make it more prominent in search engines.”

Obviously, Google can’t let that happen. Search Engine Land even went so far as to say the story “illustrates the fallacy of Google’s ‘gold standard’ search results.”

Google’s answer to the problem: change the algorithm. “We developed an algorithmic solution which detects the merchant from the Times article along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience,” writes Singhal in the blog post. “The algorithm we incorporated into our search rankings represents an initial solution to this issue, and Google users are now getting a better experience as a result.”

Even though we don’t have details of how Google has changed its algorithm (because as Singhal writes, “We know that people will keep trying: attempts to game Google’s ranking, like the ones mentioned in the article, go on 24 hours a day, every single day.”) Search Engine Land also followed up, saying he thinks Google is using reviews that it aggregates about merchants from across the web.

Google’s search rankings have for a long time been thought of as a barometer of success. In making the changes to its algorithm, Google is attempting to protect the people that search using Google.com. Google’s policy is even in line with the informal corporate motto “Don’t Be Evil.”

What’s this mean for businesses? How you treat your customers online matters. Creating relevant compelling content is still one of the most rewarding ways to generate client loyalty on the web. If sites aimed at gathering negative reviews are pummeling your brand and business, it could be bad for your bottom line. Facebook and Twitter provide opportunities for customer engagement in good times and in bad. Using social media, businesses can see potential pitfalls in customers’ stories and respond to them directly. It’s better to be good than evil.