We’re looking for a few good startups based in sub-Saharan Africa to participate in our inaugural Startup Battlefield Africa, and all you startup folks out there in the region aren’t going to want to miss this. TechCrunch is excited to be partnering with Facebook to bring our illustrious startup competition, the Startup Battlefield, to Nairobi, Kenya, later this year. The… Read More
Startups – TechCrunch
“Can anyone tell me what this is?” the teacher asked. Outside the rust rains had come again and the building reacted by assembling a nano sphere shield. They would be inside until it stopped. None of the children were old enough for the skin adaptation. She might as well keep them busy.
She held up half of a glass object, the top edge crude and sharp.
“A cup?” asked… Read More
In this new webinar, Hanapin’s Jacob Fairclough and Supermetrics’ Zhao Hanbo will discuss the aspects that YOU need to keep at top of mind, and how to utilize spreadsheets to get the most out of your reporting.
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The search engine results page recently saw the return of Google Posts, the part-social, part-publishing feature that was launched by Google a little over a year ago during the US Presidential Election.
Billed as “an experimental new podium on Google”, Google Posts has attracted a lot of attention from marketers, search specialists and Google enthusiasts thanks to its prominent place on the SERP – appearing in the form of an eye-catching carousel of cards – and its mysterious deployment.
Over the year since it was first released, it has appeared in and disappeared from search results a number of times with no apparent pattern or explanation. Brands who wanted a shot at being part of Google’s new podium were forced to “Join the waitlist” and cross their fingers.
But last month Google suddenly announced that it would be opening up Posts to “museums, sports teams, sports leagues, and movies” in the United States, and all of the above groups along with musicians in Brazil – prompting a renewed flurry of interest from marketers. At the same time, the relaunched Posts became more visually eye-catching with the addition of embedded GIFs and videos.
One person, however, doesn’t believe that Google Posts is worth the hype. Michael Bertini, Online Marketing Consultant and Search Strategist at iQuanti, told Search Engine Watch why he thinks that Google has gone off half-cocked with Posts, and why marketers would be better off expending their energies elsewhere.
Google Posts: where is the value?
“I don’t think Google will admit that they made a mistake with this whole Posts thing,” says Bertini.
“Google already has a lot of great products and search results features on the page; to add Google Posts to that clutters up the results page unnecessarily. And I don’t think it offers much value to the end user.”
It’s true that while there has been a lot of excitement from brands and marketers around the prospect of publishing directly to the SERP, few of us have considered its usefulness to users. Google is still first and foremost a search engine; when users enter a search query, they are presumably looking for information.
While people Googling candidates in the run-up to the US Presidential Election would undoubtedly have been interested in what those candidates had to say about certain issues, subsequent versions of Google Posts have moved further and further away from a feature that is useful to the end user.
Few people searching for “Boston Red Sox” are looking for pseudo-social updates from their favorite sports team; they’re more likely to be looking for match scores, game tickets, or perhaps a link to the team’s website.
A lot of the interest around Google Posts thus far has been driven by sheer novelty, with people Googling ‘Andrews Jewelers’ or ‘Escape Pod Comics’ simply to see how the businesses had been using Posts – rather than because they featured useful information. In and of itself, how much value does Posts provide to the searcher?
“I don’t think anybody should put a strict focus on getting into Posts – or any one Google feature,” says Bertini. “What I’ve noticed throughout my career is that people who make it a specific focus to get into an area of Google – let’s use Google’s Answer Box as an example – ultimately, they’re left with content that doesn’t fit the end user’s needs. And then it dies.”
“If someone did want to get involved with Google Posts, they should write content that really answers the search query, and then of course request access on posts.withgoogle.com. But that’s all.”
Everything is a test
Based on the fact that Posts has already come and gone from the SERP several times before this most recent, wider launch, does Bertini think that Posts is finally here to stay?
“Everything Google is about testing,” Bertini replies. “Even after they launch it to market, what they would consider ‘permanent’ is not really what we would consider permanent. Personally, I think it’ll last up until the third quarter of 2017, and then they’ll mix it up with something else.
“If Posts get a really high CTR, then Google might invest more in it and add more features. But at the moment, it’s still very much in testing. It still lacks features – there’s no real social interaction, for example.”
Google Posts currently allows for limited social sharing, but doesn’t provide a way for users to truly interact with or respond to Posts.
If Posts, ultimately, is still in testing, it explains why it has disappeared and reappeared with so little fanfare – Google doesn’t want to attract a lot of attention to a feature that may not even be launched on a wider scale.
Bertini agrees that the lack of promotion speaks volumes about Google’s intentions – or lack thereof – for the feature. “If Google had complete confidence in this feature, they would be promoting it more.”
He goes on: “If I ran my own business, and I wanted to get more searchers to my site, there are better ways to do that than to focus on GIFs and videos to get into Google Posts.
“For example, if I were making videos already, I would create pages for my videos, transcribe that content, and optimize it for search – that would be a better use of resources than focusing on getting into Posts.
“Ultimately, people are going to invest time and effort into Posts, when Google itself has not yet perfected this feature.”
Google Plus revisited?
Given the pseudo-social nature of Google Posts, a lot of comparisons have understandably been drawn between Google Posts and Google Plus, Google’s last ill-fated venture into social networking. And it could be that Google Plus provides a blueprint for what to expect from the future of Google Posts.
“If we look back at Google Plus – when it first launched, Google’s idea of what Plus would be is not what it is today. And like everything Google, Google will never admit that they made a mistake, or that the product didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to be.
“But I think the search marketers who used Google Plus as a social platform are very disappointed today – if they invested a lot of time and money into building up their profiles and optimizing their Google Plus. It’s not used the way it used to be used, any more. I think it’s going to be the same with Google Posts.”
Remember when Google Plus was a big deal?
Bertini believes the aim of introducing Google Posts to the SERP is to encourage more user interaction with the search engine results page. This would tie in with the recent addition of rich results for podcasts to the SERP, allowing searchers on smartphones and Google Home to play podcasts directly from the search page.
“Google is trying to make a different version of social [with Posts], which is social interaction with the search engine results page, where a user can interact with the search page itself. It’s just very early on at the moment.”
If Google can succeed in expanding the function of the search results page in this way, it would definitely be a means of keeping users inside its own walled garden for longer.
But without value to the end user, Google Posts could be a Plus-style flop, and Bertini thinks that Google would be better off focusing its attention on perfecting existing features of the SERP that have more value to searchers.
“Google is constantly trying to mix things up, when – once again, personal belief – I think that they should focus on good products that they’ve launched like Answer Box, which is already effective. Or ‘People Also Ask’ – they launched this section, and it’s still not perfect, but it’s good.
“I think this is what Google should devote its energy to, rather than – I don’t want to say get rid of Facebook or Twitter, because I don’t think that will happen – but rather than trying to make the search results page a social platform.”
The future of Google Posts
Google Posts, as it stands, still lacks a lot of functionality. So an ideal world, what would a fully-featured Google Posts look like?
“One, people search for something; two, a Post feature comes up; three, there would be a rating system for whether or not the Post matches the search query.
“Then there would be a sharing function where the user can share the Post via social media. You could also have a Hangouts-style feature integrating chat into Posts, allowing people to chat about what they’ve just read.”
It remains to be seen whether Google will try to keep integrating more functionality into Posts or whether it will once again disappear quietly from the SERP.
But one way or the other, marketers should keep sight of the importance of catering to the end user – not just to the newest Google feature.
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Can the amount of travel time someone might take to get to a place be a good indication of the quality of that place? That is the assumption behind a recently granted patent from Google.
Travel time in the patent is referred to as a “time investment a person may be willing to make to visit a specific location.” The patent provides more details with the words:
Quality measures for locations are often based on one or more reviews related to the locations. For example, user reviews and/or professional reviews may be utilized to determine a quality measure for a given location. The quality measures may be associated with the given location in a database and may be utilized by one or more applications and/or provided to a user. For example, a user search for restaurants in a particular area may return search results for restaurants that are ranked based on the quality measure and/or that are displayed in combination with an indication of the quality measure. Indications of the quality measure may include a numerical rating, a number of stars, etc.
This patent reminded me of one granted last week, which I wrote about in the post Google May Check to See if People Go to Geographic Locations Google May Recommend. In both, Google is looking at whether someone might have actually visited a place found in Google Maps, based either upon a recommendation of a place or seeing a place in search results. The “time investment” referred to in this patent does mean the actual time it may have taken to visit a place seen in search results:
The present disclosure is directed to methods and apparatus for determining the quality measure of a given location. In some implementations, the quality measure of a given location may be determined based on the time investment a user is willing to make to visit the given location. For example, the time investment for a given location may be based on comparison of one or more actual distance values to reach the given location to one or more anticipated distance values to reach the given location. The actual distance values are indicative of actual time of one or more users to reach the given location and the anticipated distance values are indicative of anticipated time to reach the given location. In some implementations, the anticipated distance value may be one or more distributions. Likewise, in some implementations, the actual distance value may be one or more distributions. Such distributions may be continuous and/or discrete. In some implementations, the quality measure may be based on additional factors such as one or more location characteristics of the given location and/or one or more user characteristics of the visitors to the given location.
How far away would you travel for a slice of pizza or for a fish taco? Google seems to be using such a measure as a potential way to rank businesses against each other.
We are told that a ranking of this travel time to reach a particular location might include a ranking that indicates how many competing locations may have been bypassed to reach that particular location.
The patent is:
Determining the quality of locations based on travel time investment
Inventors: Andrew Tomkins, Sergei Vassilvitskii, Shanmugasundaram Ravikumar, Mohammad Mahdian, Bo Pang, and Prabhakar Raghavan
United States Patent 9,558,210
Granted: January 31, 2017
Filed: March 15, 2013
Methods and apparatus related to associating a quality measure with a given location. For example, an anticipated distance value for a given location may be identified that is indicative of anticipated time and/or distance to reach the given location. At least one actual distance may be identified that is indicative of actual time for the one or more members to reach the given location. In some implementations, the anticipated/actual distance values may include one or more distributions. A quality measure is then determined based on a comparison of the anticipated distance value and the identified actual distance value. The quality measure is associated with the given location. The quality measure may be further based on additional factors.
New Features at Google Maps
Google Maps is issuing some interesting new approaches, and new features as well. The patent that this post is about notes how travel time to a place, and whether or not people are willing to take a journey to that place may boost the rankings of places in search results. Just as whether or not someone may visit a place recommended in Maps results could boost or reduce the appearance of recommendations for places, as in the patent I wrote about yesterday. Today, an article has come out that tells us about the ability to make shareable lists of places with Google Maps – Google Maps makes your favorite places social with launch of shareable lists.
It’s fun seeing these new features and processes added to Google Maps, and may leave us guessing what may come next.
The patent looks at other aspects of a “time investment” that people may make which could be used as a measure of quality of a place found in search results, such as whether people were willing to walk to a place rather than driving.
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As we move into a new month, the joy of end-of-month reporting is still fresh in my mind. Each report is its own animal with varying platforms, date ranges, charts, metrics, you name it. However, the common denominator that I think we can all agree on is that each report takes time. Whether it is […]
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