Was FTC Probe Warranted in Google’s Business Practices?

Over objections of a consumer advocacy, a federal judge approved that $22.5 million fine of Google. This resulted from Google’s settlement with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in August 2012.

Google was charged with bypassing privacy settings on Apple software. This allowed Google to show personalized advertisements by tracking surfers’ online movements. It was a violation of Google’s deal with the FTC involving its former Buzz service.

So, instead of solving important budgetary and other policy issues, Congress launched an investigation in Google’s privacy policies.

In other ways, Uncle Sam has set itself up as the digital-age czar. You’ll recall the Microsoft antitrust case in which it averted a breakup. Only this time it’s the FTC instead of the U.S. Department of Justice persecuting Google.

Google was targeted because it has acquired enemies en route to its huge Internet success with free services. Adversaries include cable and telecom companies, competing advertising firms, content and media publishers. Oh, let’s not forget Microsoft.

The software giant is chagrined, in part, because Google has overwhelmed it despite entering search in 1998 – after Microsoft’s MSN. MSN failed as most of us initially used AOL or Yahoo. Now, two thirds of Internet users prefer Google.

Ironically, the purpose of antitrust suits is to protect millions of consumers – not competitors. History shows two large companies faced with antitrust suits – AT&T and Microsoft – became sidetracked, which hurt businesses and consumers. More on that later.

European Union competitors have also targeted Google. The French firm, 1plusV, has complained about Google’s AdSense. That’s because AdSense prevented 1plusV from advertising its legal search engine from 2006 to 2010. Others include an Italian case, and Microsoft going abroad to complain.

AT&T breakup

Antitrust actions have long intrigued me. A Hollywood script-like drama was building for months in 1974. Finally, the intrigue was over. On Nov.21, 1974, the Justice Department filed the biggest antitrust case in history as it sought the breakup of AT&T. The legal war lasted nearly eight years.

The government argued that the vertically integrated company, which provided both long distance and local services, was a monopoly and caused unfair competition. AT&T’s long-distance rates had been subsidizing the local residential service rates. AT&T was forced to break up its Bell system of local-exchange telephone companies so that it could go into the computer business.

This was heady stuff for me as a young journalist, as it followed the end of the Vietnam War and Watergate. The economy was in bad shape, even a few years after President Richard Nixon imposed wage and price controls. Middle East oil shortages exacerbated inflation. The lines at the gas stations were sometimes very long.

All the case did was to accelerate the company’s demise. Such legal action drains company resources. They become distracted, which hurts consumers who no longer benefit. Indeed, AT&T could no longer innovate.

AT&T’s looming divestiture coincided with changes in how the TV and radio networks distributed their news and other programs to affiliate stations. Before the AT&T breakup, TV broadcasters used the company’s microwave relay and coaxial cable systems. Radio networks used the company’s “leased lines.” New satellites, Satcom 1 and Westar 1, provided competition with higher audio and video quality with lower costs.

Many stations, however, still had contracts with AT&T or they didn’t have big enough budgets to buy expensive earth stations in order to get the network feeds. I worked at two such stations, including one owned by the legendary Dick Clark.

Microsoft’s antitrust precedent – and a disclosure

Many analysts have noted that this FTC-Google issue is, of course, reminiscent of Microsoft’s war with the Justice Department. The federal antitrust lawsuit lasted from the 1990s to the early part of the 21st century. Microsoft finally emerged from government oversight in May of 2011.

Although I empathized with Microsoft, I understood firsthand why the company was sued. Microsoft’s legal department was very busy.

Disclosure:

In 1992, I purchased a firm, MSN – Marketing Services Northwest. The financial and human resources needs of my new clients prompted me to expand my consulting services.  Three years later, to reflect my services, I updated the firm’s name to MSN – Management Services Northwest. I spent a small fortune on branding and collateral materials. Then, considering its software/digital age dominance, Microsoft entered the search-engine competition rather late with its MSN. As my business exploded, I neglected to fully protect my company’s name.

Unexpectedly, I encountered two issues with Microsoft:

    1. The company apparently used the MSN moniker without any regard to precedent (mine).
    2. MSN had accounting problems and its customers mistakenly telephoned my firm nonstop, 24/7 to complain.

When I contacted Microsoft about my two concerns, I was marginalized. A company employee told me: “Join the crowd…this would be lawsuit du jour.” Frustrated, I contacted two noted attorneys who empathized but declined to take my case. They knew we’d be outgunned by Microsoft’s vast resources. In the late 1990s, I was stuck with a big tab for new collateral and marketing.

However, I freely admit Microsoft’s behavior was a factor in my strategic planning. Thankfully, it included becoming a news media columnist – a full-circle return to my career roots. Ten years later this portal was born.

A few years later, when I was the Biz Coach columnist on Belo Web sites, cybercrime regularly raised its ugly head. I wrote in 2003 that Microsoft was not performing adequately in security. Like AT&T, it seemed as though Microsoft failed to innovate – it was not using best practices in security.

However, long after the legal war, it’s worth noting that Microsoft is now serious about security and is better serving business and consumers. The company provides a free service, Microsoft Security Essentials. It does a credible job of providing real-time protection against viruses, spyware, and other malicious invaders.

FTC’s antitrust allegations against Google

The FTC is investigating whether Google is an abusive monopoly – a predator that unfairly exploits competition and is harmful to the public interest in its search-advertising business.

Not only do Internet users count on Google in 66 percent of all search results, the search giant helps in comparison shopping, e-mails, mapping and travel. It’s also in mobile phones, television and videos.

Competitors – such as Expedia, TripAdvisor and Microsoft – allege Google is disingenuous. Microsoft, in particular, has been rather vocal. The competitors claim Google directs Internet users to its own interests and basically hides competitors’ links – at the expense of its rivals.

This is Google’s second hassle with the FTC. You might recall Google agreed to settle FTC complaints of deceptive practices and violations of consumers’ privacy after it launched Google Buzz, a social network, in 2010. Google was also accused of lying about its treatment of European Union (EU) users’ personal information – in violation of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor privacy framework. For the next two decades, Google will have to submit to privacy audits.

“When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honor them,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz on the agency’s Web site. “This is a tough settlement that ensures that Google will honor its commitments to consumers and build strong privacy protections into all of its operations.”

Meantime, of course, Google took another shot at success in social networking with Google+, which connects its users – a direct challenge to Facebook.

Google’s initial response to FTC probe

A Google blog post stated “it’s still unclear exactly what the FTC’s concerns are.” Google also said “our success has led to greater scrutiny.”

The search giant asserted that the majority of complaints stem from disgruntled competitors who feel angst over inferior search rankings.

“Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that, if we focus on the user, all else will follow,” the company said in its blog post.

“We make hundreds of changes to our algorithms every year to improve your search experience,” it added. “Not every website can come out at the top of the page, or even appear on the first page of our search results.”

Conclusion

Yes, Google is aggressive and innovative. It adapts to consumer preferences. It hasn’t behaved perfectly, but all businesses are aggressive if they want to survive.

During all those months when Microsoft was in its advertising-search merger talks with Yahoo – their quest to overtake Google – no one complained about the two companies’ prospects in ganging up on Google to achieve search dominance. In fact, I recall many times when using Yahoo, I wanted to search on Bing, but Yahoo refused to let me. A popup question appeared – asking me if I really wanted to leave Yahoo for Bing. It was annoying and Yahoo’s defensiveness was a sign that it was desperate. But I wasn’t going to complain to the FTC.

Has Google been a monopolistic predator operating against the public interest? No. I have found Google to be innovative, responsive, and transparent about its goal to be known for relevant content. It provides a bevy of blogs and videos to help publishers.

Furthermore, its success forced Bing to become more innovative. My sense is that Bing now competes well with Google in delivering relevant results. That means Yahoo does, too. The three account for 96 percent of Internet-search market share. As a result, all Internet users have benefited.

The Internet has become so big and so fast, what makes the federal government qualified to be the final arbiter of what services should be made available to consumers? Why not let the markets be the final say?

Google’s success is largely from developing a unique algorithm system that’s enabled it to become the most popular among Internet users. Without giving too much information to spammers and cybercriminals, Google has been transparent by frequently providing tips to publishers on how to succeed for better rankings. (Read further for six links to articles on how to succeed on Google.)

The Internet competition has benefited consumers and businesses, alike. We’re all benefiting from Google’s leadership. The complainers need to stop whining. It would be more productive for them to better satisfy their customers – by analyzing their companies’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Then, innovate for the benefit of Internet users. That’s how I dealt with the adversity from MSN, and it’s why Google triumphs over its competitors.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are resource links for Internet success:

“Your brand is created out of customer contact and the experience your customers have of you.”

-Stelios Haji-Ioannou

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

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Are You Up-to-date to Capitalize on Major Web Events?

Major players Internet players — such as Bing, Yahoo, Facebook and Google — continue to innovate to disrupt the progress of each other.

As a marketer or businessperson, are you positioned to capitalize? Consider:

Google

Because it’s the longtime mega search-engine leader, let’s consider Google first. Depending on which research firm you prefer, Google has about a 66 percent search market share. So whatever innovations it makes, it’s important.

desk,diagrams,flowchart,fotolia,laptop computers,pens,presentations,programmers,smiling,web design,writingsGoogle has made major changes in how it ranks search results probably because it’s been under siege — manipulated by certain Web sites it lists. Google detailed its reasoning for best Web site rankings.

The vaunted Google algorithms – its tools that determine how it ranks Web sites – have been fine-tuned to reward publishers of original content, especially in-depth thought leadership. Here’s a strategic primer for a No.1 rated blog.

Google says it involves about 12 percent of search queries. That might not sound like a lot, but 12 percent of more than 190 million bloggers in search queries is meaningful.

Google also considers search engine optimization practices.

You might recall numerous recent news stories: JC Penney, for example. The 2010 $17.8 billion retailer was chastised for dubious Internet practices. The retailer denied it approved spam-like behavior by its search-engine optimization company, SearchDex. But right after the story broke, SearchDex was fired.

Indeed, it must have been an eye-opener to Google to be labeled as the “tropical paradise for spammers and marketers” by a U.C. Berkeley scholar, Vivek Wadhwa. Hence, its algorithms upgrade.

Another search development: The Google Chrome Web browser now permits sites to prevent other sites from appearing in their results. (Its competitor, Blekko, does the same.) Google continues to prevent Web sites that have little or no unique value to dominate in search results.

Google is to be commended for dealing with a crisis confronting its quality of relevant search and its image, and placing a premium on frequent, strong informative content.)

Bing – social search

Bing grew to a 16-percent market share in February 2011, but has stayed in that position. It’s created new buzz by adding Facebook “likes” that allows Internet users to see the results that their friends like.

Here’s how it works: Pictures of your friends appear when you search after you connect with Bing with your Facebook account. You can disable it easily if you choose.

The Bing-Facebook partnership is unique and it affects word-mouth-marketing – as their users — businesspeople and consumers make buying decisions. This helps to make marketing fun.

It’s also a reminder that content, search-engine optimization and social media should be synergized and orchestrated in your overall marketing:

  1. Monitoring Internet-user preferences
  2. Interacting with them to maximize your opportunities
  3. Continually measuring results
  4. Fine-tuning your approach

What else is important about creating buzz with social media? Marketers, senior managers, business owners, and consultants crave it for revenue. Career-minded individuals engaged in self-promotion also want it. Another term for buzz is the “salesperson effect.”

Now we know how ideas are spread, what messages go viral on social media, and how to predict it from UCLA psychologists who explained what triggers people to share on social media.

With Bing and Yahoo’s advertising partnership in which the latter uses Bing’s search technology, the Bing-Yahoo online search partnership amounts to a 30 percent market of Internet search. If you haven’t already, here’s how to optimize for Bing.

Yahoo

Yahoo has been trying, but hasn’t been able to move the needle. Once the big dog among search engines, it’s suffered from bad senior management. You say could not seriously discuss leadership and former CEO Carol Bartz in the same sentence.

But Yahoo has since experienced success in its business and management. Despite the hysteria over Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s telecommuting ban, her decision is a positive example for other companies needing a turnaround. Yahoo’s telecommuting ban is a model for struggling companies.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Yahoo showed good management judgment in firing its biased news manager.

So don’t be surprised if Yahoo can figure out how to move the needle. Meantime, you can still capitalize on Yahoo and the fierce competition among the search giants, which means good things for businesses and consumers. So stay current.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are editor’s picks for recommended reading:

Tech Drama: How Microsoft-Yahoo Can Beat Google — Here are the critical factors that will determine whether the proposed Microsoft-Yahoo merger will succeed vs. Google.

Enterprise Software: Google-Microsoft Battle Turns White Hot — Google has blatantly thrown down the gauntlet. The enterprise-software war is raging as Google has declared war on Microsoft. Both tech giants want your business.

Marketing – Why Visual Content Works on Facebook, but Hashtags Don’t — Ninety-eight percent of top brands have a Facebook fan page, but Facebook’s hashtags don’t enhance engagement with consumers.

“Competition is the keen cutting edge of business, always shaving away at costs.”

-Henry Ford 

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

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Winners and Losers in Facebook’s Invasion of Google’s Turf

It was a big deal when comScore data indicated back in 2010 that cyber citizens spent more time on Facebook than the Google sites.

Cyber citizens spent an aggregate 41.1 million minutes on Facebook — 9.9 percent of their search-time. That beat the 39.8 million minutes, or 9.6 percent, on all of Google’s sites.

It was a major catalyst for Google to create Google+. It’s noteworthy because Google, of course, is the leading search engine and has Google News, Gmail and most-importantly, YouTube.

In my experience, Google+ is now a proven asset in marketing.

However, regarding Facebook, it would appear there are questions to consider:

  1. What should businesses do in marketing on Facebook?
  2. What precautions should businesses take to make certain their Web sites are not obliterated by Facebook?

To maximize the marketing investment, businesses should consider establishing a Facebook page.

But don’t count too heavily on Facebook or other social media for sales. Facebook and other social media only drive 1 percent of e-commerce sales. A study shows a strong presence on Google’s search engine will better increase your odds for income.

But for a Facebook presence, Website Magazine’s Linc Wonham published some basic tips:

    • Set goals for your Facebook page and monitor your progress
    • Make your page interesting and informative, and update it as often as you can
    • Promote your Facebook page on your business website and elsewhere; add a Find us on Facebook button wherever you can
    • Reward your Facebook Fans with discounts and special promotions
    • Create a Facebook user group that will be of interest/useful to your audience
    • Join other Facebook user groups that pertain to your industry or niche
    • Take advantage of Facebook’s tools; track your success with Facebook analytics

“Businesses can add a Facebook Place to their Facebook Page, or the two can be combined,” according to the writer. “The result of either option is getting your company’s address, map, phone number and other data in front of Facebook’s massive user network and giving them a way to share the information with friends.”

Mr. Wonham specifies the benefit:

“The result of either option is getting your company’s address, map, phone number and other data in front of Facebook’s massive user network and giving them a way to share the information with friends.”

His tips for Facebook ads:

    • Be as specific as possible with your keywords and demographic selections
    • Use compelling images, titles and copy in your ads
    • Make your ads as interactive and engaging as you can
    • Frequently update and refresh the images and copy for better results
    • Be vigilant about testing your ads and monitoring the results
    • Bid high to get your ads approved faster by Facebook
    • Start with CPC ads if you have a very small budget, otherwise CPM is the better bet
    • Use Facebook Ads Manager, which can be downloaded and installed on Firefox

Warning: You might as well know that advertising professionals are increasingly criticizing Facebook for being obnoxious (see: Facebook Draws Fire for 6 ‘Stubbornly Childish’ Behaviors).

That’s not all. There are two additional dangers to Facebook marketing:

  1. Facebook tends to supersede the importance of your Web site in the minds of cyber citizens.
  2. The most successful companies achieving success on Facebook have done it by slashing prices and offering coupons.

For more on this angle, see this article: Aside from Privacy, Security Issues — Facebook is a Threat 2 Ways.

But always remember the best mediums to drive cyber citizens to your Facebook page and Web site — broadcast advertising and strong PR — the ultimate keys to your marketing mix.

To target credit-worthy or high net-worth customers, broadcast news and authoritative business Web sites are especially your best bets.

So, harness the power of Facebook, but don’t let it make your Web site irrelevant. You want to dialogue with consumers on your own turf. Use these measures and you’ll be a winner in Facebook’s invasion of Google’s turf.

From the Coach’s Corner, consider reading: 11 Tips to Make Money on Facebook 

“The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.”

-Eric Schmidt

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

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Optimize for Bing to Achieve 30% More Reach on Internet

The time has come to optimize your Web site for Bing. Bing is generally recognized for leapfrogging over Yahoo in search market share — it has a 16 percent share compared to Yahoo’s 14 share.

So with Bing powering Yahoo’s search as a result of their marketing partnership, it’s important to optimize for Bing so you don’t miss out on a 30 percent potential reach on the Internet.

Yes, Google, has a 65 percent share, or so. That’s been its share for many years.

elderly married couples,fotolia,happy,retired,senior citizens,tech savvy,cellphones,communications,text messagingThe remaining 5 percent is held by several smaller less-known search engines. Most of which are powered by Google.

Bing and Yahoo continue to maintain separate identities. You might recall that Yahoo and Bing signed the advertising deal for a 10-year duration.

Website Magazine originally reported the change. The magazine also reported an alert by Yaho0 to optimize for Bing “…if organic search results are an important source of referrals to your website.”

You know what? Success in organic search listings is indeed noticed by most Internet users.

In my experience, Bing has kept its promise to improve its method of organizing searches compared to MSN.

The navigation has proved to be easy. While it’s similar to Google in many ways, personally, I’ve found it to be a great search experience.

Moreover, it’s fairly easy to optimize your site for good placement on Bing.

Here’s a checklist:

– Make sure you add your site to Bing. It has a dashboard for analysis of your summary, profile, links, keywords, site map and crawl issues. Don’t forget to add your site to Bing’s Local Listing Center.

– Like Google, Bing more easily recognizes domain age. Both recognize title tags and keywords for your content.

– Unlike Google, Bing is not as concerned about the quality of back links as it is anchor text. But my sense is great content attracts great links. (In my SEO work for clients, I simply don’t allow back links from sites with a Google Page Rank of less than 3. Even then, I do check to see the site’s focus before allowing it to link to my client.)

– Be extra careful with your content, especially the headlines and blog summaries. Bing has a great feature, a document preview, which is a text box that shows up next to your mentions on Bing – the verbiage is copied from your site.

– As both Bing and Google pay homage to flash with stronger prominence, be sure to consider inserting such videos.

– Bing is far more amenable to publishing quality press releases than Google, which accelerate your success.

– Bing is very cognizant of social media. For B2B sites, concentrate on LinkedIn, Digg, Twitter and Facebook. Bing powers the search for Facebook. Unlike Google, Bing shows updates of tweets from Twitter. The more relevant social media you have, the better. Despite what you’ve read about sharing blogs on Digg.com, Digg is still a player.

For more information, get started here. To summarize, it’s important not to dismiss the potential of Bing. Bing is attractive and is doing a good job. You’ll find it to be a fairly simple process to optimize for Bing.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more Internet tips:

Internet Shoppers Demand 3 Cs – Customer Experience Study — Success in e-commerce is increasingly challenging for retailers that want to dominate in brand preference, customer loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising. That’s because consumers want more and more in the three Cs — channels, choices and convenience. In a 2013 global study of commissioned by United Parcel Service, research firm comScore discovered seven key developments in online shopping preferences of consumers.

For Strong Local SEO Performance, Avoid 6 Errors A key strategy to make your cash register ring is to have a strong Internet presence. That means strategizing for strong local search-engine optimization (SEO). With strong local SEO performance, your business will have online top-of-the-mind awareness in your community. You want to be easily discovered by potential customers.

Great News for Web Publishers: Video Ad Spending Explodes — The global real-time bidding (RTB) expenditures on online video advertising is forecast to hit $1.14 billion in 2014, according to an independent consulting firm. Additionally, the Forrester study commissioned by SpotXchange reveals real-time bidding will account for 24.7 percent of U.S. online video advertising spending. Growing use of online videos was first reported in 2010 as videos continued to surge in popularity.

Startup Toolkit – How to Make a Hit on the Internet — First impressions are critical for entrepreneurs. People will buy depending on what they feel about you emotionally. Just like your bricks and mortar location, your Internet presence will be strong if you always remember why people will buy from you. It’s important to tap into the psyche of your prospective customers – there are five value perceptions that motivate customers to buy. 

The Key to Internet Dominance: Think Integration — Whether you’re a new or established business, it wasn’t that long ago that a strong Internet presence meant having a great Web site with a top ranking. Partially, that’s still true but the competitive marketplace continues to rapidly change daily, which means the No. 1 objective should be a vibrant, integrated presence.

“The Internet is the most important single development in the history of human communication since the invention of call waiting.”

-Dave Barry

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

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Google Speaks Out About Frequency vs. Value

In blogging and Web site publishing, what do you think is most important, freshness or quality? It’s a discussion that never seems to end.

Actually, Chris Crum first raised the intriguing question in his post at WebProNews in June of 2010. His post was entitled: “What’s More Important in Search? Freshness or Quality?”

Mr. Crum thoughtfully spotted a Google Q&A webmaster video featuring Google’s Matt Cutts.

In the video, Mr. Cutts explains the difference between what is important to users of your site vis-à-vis what’s important in SEO for search engine prominence.

Repeat visitors to your site probably appreciate being able to return to your site and enjoying new content.

That gives them a reason to keep checking out your site and is, of course, the advantage that mega sites have over small blogs because they have more resources. They can insert new content every few hours.

However, the situation is different for search engines. If a blogger has to make a choice between frequency and quality, Google’s Mr. Cutts advocates quality over frequency.

He states your site will fare better with quality on Google. He also asserts your site will attract more links in the long run.

That’s not to say you should necessarily forego focusing on frequency. When asked about real-time indexing of sites, Mr. Cutts comments in another video.

Mr. Crum also presents some interesting thoughts about freshness and the new Google SERP redesign (search engine results page).

“…the smaller brand sites have a better shot at showing up the more frequently they are updated, wrote Mr. Crum in another post. The bigger brands tend to rank higher, the wider the range of time selected.”

He also wrote about how smaller sites succeed: “Brian Klais, General Manager and VP of Product Mangagement at Covario had a very interesting post at Search Engine Land looking at how the time filter may even help smaller brands get some visibility.”

So, it’s a thought-provoking blog by Mr. Crum. My sense is value is important. But do what you can to accomplish both – delivering value as frequently as you can.

From the Coach’s Corner, some publishers have experienced a sudden decline in their search engine rankings.

Here are the solutions:

Good Blogs Have Nothing to Fear from Google’s Updates   Alarms bells are sounding all over the Internet after Google’s seemingly incessant algorithm updates. The search engine’s changes can be unnerving for bloggers, but there’s no reason to panic. Use patience and tenacity to succeed.

5 Factors to Get Peak Google Results for Your Web Site – Study – What do top Web sites have in common? Successful sites produce a high number of Facebook and Twitter messages, but the sites minimize the volume of ads on its pages according to an authoritative study. Those are the salient lessons from a 2012 study by Searchmetrics, a search and social analytics firm.

Checklist: 14 Strategies to Rock on Google – Periodic changes in Google’s search criteria and algorithms have indeed hurt many Web sites. But it’s possible to bullet-proof your site’s prominence on Google by taking 14 precautions, which is worth your time and energy. Google has perennially owned about a 66 percent search-market share in the U.S. and a 90 percent share worldwide.

Google Tips – 23 Key Questions about Your Web Site — Google has unveiled vital information about what it considers important for Web site ranking. Without divulging proprietary information, Google emphasized it’s all about value – quality for Internet users. In other words, there are no shortcuts for success. There’s been a lot of buzz about Google’s algorithm updates, and how they affect Internet sites.

Do You Want to Prevail on Google? Watch the Cheesy Stuff – If you want to win on Google, heed its warning.   Sure, every online publisher wants to earn money from advertising these days. Note the emphasis on the word, “earn.” But there are ways to do right and ways to do it wrong.

“With Google I’m starting to burn out on knowing the answer to everything. People in the year 2020 are going to be nostalgic for the sensation of feeling clueless.”

-Doug Coupland 

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

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Microsoft and Bing: The Hits Just Keep on Comin’

 

June 7, 2010

At the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote speech introducing the iPhone’s facelift was big news. The buzz leading up to the rollout was deafening. Any time Mr. Jobs makes a presentation, it’s exciting for Apple aficionados.

The big news was supposed to be all about Apple when Mr. Jobs unveiled the new-look iPhone 4. With 16GB and 32GB capacities, it’s priced at $199 and $299, respectively. It’s 25 percent slimmer than its predecessor. It has twice the picture resolution, and has a computing brain with video-chat function. It will be sold in 88 nations.

As expected, Google is the iPhone’s default search engine. But wait, here’s some surprising news – a big secondary angle is that Bing is a search option on the iPhone. Now we know why we’ve heard rumblings in recent weeks about meetings between Apple and Microsoft.

“…Bing will be included as one of the search engine choices within Safari on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and within the Safari browser on the Mac and PC,” announced Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president at Microsoft, in a blog according to CNET.

“Needless to say, we are excited that Bing will be included as an option in Safari because it will make it easier for you to search and get the benefits of Bing,” he added.

“In addition, we are continuing to improve our existing Bing mobile application for iPhone which makes it easy to search, map, and find commerce and movie times,” Mr. Mehdi said. “We will have a new release with even more great features very soon. For those of you that have not already tried it, you can find it in the App Store today.”

Microsoft’s track record in partnerships is really terrific. Indeed, in its first year, Bing also scored by being the search engine for Facebook and Verizon phones.

And I’m not certain it’s getting full credit for its successes. Depending on the research firm, Bing is credited with a 10 to 11 percent market share. (But based on this Web site’s visitor’s data, Bing’s share appears to be at least 50 percent higher.)

It’s also worth noting Google has been tinkering with it home page appearance, including offering an option to change the background. To use football-announcing vernacular, “Is Google hearing Bing’s footsteps?”

From the start, Bing has been offering colorful, informative schemes. For my SEO taste, Bing has a more objective search process compared to Google’s quirky approach. And I love the Bing mouse-over option on the news videos.

Frankly, I don’t get it when I’ve read bloggers’ posts about Microsoft having a so-so year. The company has had a stellar year in forming partnerships. That’s an excellent lesson for any company.

So regarding Bing’s progress, as I used to say as a young rock ‘n’ roll DJ working my way through college, “The hits just keep on comin’.”

From the Coach’s Corner, here’s more on the new iPhone.

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Trend: Google Down Slightly While Yahoo, Microsoft Up

 

May 11, 2010

In U.S. Internet searches, Google sites dropped a bit while the Yahoo and Microsoft Web sites experienced an increase in visitors in April 2010, according to the latest comScore Core Search Report. The research company also reports there were 15.5 billion searches last month.

Google’s market share was 64.4 percent – down .7 percent from 65.1 percent.

Yahoo’s sites jumped in visitors by .8 percent – from 16.9 to 17.7 percent.

Microsoft increased by .1 percent from 11.7 to 11.8 percent.

“Both Yahoo! Sites and Microsoft Sites have experienced gains due in part to the introduction of new site navigation experiences that tie content and related search results together within several channels,” according to the comscore press release.

“These features provide search results to users as they navigate through topical content and meet comScore’s established criteria for counting search queries,” added comScore. “Ask Network captured 3.7 percent of the search market, followed by AOL LLC with 2.4 percent.”

The ranking in terms of searches:

  • Google – 10 billion
  • Yahoo – 2.8 billion
  • Microsoft – 1.8 billion
  • Ask Network – 574 million
  • AOL LLC – 371 million

The comScore disclaimer: “Based on the five major search engines including partner searches and cross-channel searches. Searches for mapping, local directory, and user-generated video sites that are not on the core domain of the five search engines are not included in the core search numbers.”

Here’s the link for the comScore press release.

From the Coach’s Corner, here’s a helpful article on Six Ways to Test Your E-commerce Site.

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Google vs. Microsoft-Yahoo Heats Up – Indirectly

 

April 25, 2010

There seems to be a misconception that recent upgrades on Facebook imply an intensified competition with Google. Well, yes and no.

On three occasions since Christmas Eve, 2009, Facebook has outdrawn Google in U.S. visitors. And Google now counts social media in ranking Web sites, but ostensibly tends to disregard the importance of Facebook.

Facebook made some big news when it unveiled details about its new “Like” button.  What you should know about Facebook’s changes – CNN.com was a very popular topic on the Web.

So, in defensive football parlance, Google is probably hearing Facebook’s footsteps. At the same time, however, Google is also hearing Bing’s footsteps. Bing provides search for Facebook, which means its capitalizing on Facebook’s success. And, of course, the effect of the Bing-Yahoo advertising-search partnership will soon be obvious. My sense is that Yahoo is already doing better in search.

So what is Google doing? It continues to evolve, too.

Google is already tweaking its Google Places, which it launched in the Q4 2009. Google Places inserts listings for companies that Google lists also in local searches.

The features include:

  • Companies can display the territories they serve in their service areas.
  • With advertising tags for which Google charges $25 per month, companies can be spotlighted on Google Maps and Google.com. Their applications include pictures and coupons.
  • Depending where you are based, Google provides free photo shoots of business interiors. If you wish, you can also add your own pictures.
  • From Google Places Dashboard, you can get customized QR codes, which direct customers to your place page. Prospects can use their smartphones to scan the codes, which can be inserted on your marketing collateral.
  • The search engine’s Favorite Places program is forwarding window decals that have codes to about 50,000 U.S. companies.
  • With Google Places, you will be able to learn from where customers are coming and who they are.

There are restrictions, for example, companies must indicate a mailing address and only one listing for each address.

Huh? Yes, all of these developments are true. Check them out for yourself.

Whatever your online marketing and search-engine preferences, such competition is exciting and provides more options for businesspeople and consumers.

From the Coach’s Corner, there are Google restrictions. Here are the Google provisos.

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How China-Google Controversy Still Affects Business, Government Security

Updated June 4, 2014

More fireworks between China and Google on the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. This time it’s from Chinese state media aimed at Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, Cisco Systems and Facebook. The Chinese journalists want the government to “to punish severely the pawns” of the U.S. government. The tech firms are accused of spying on China.

It’s not entirely clear why the attacks were launched by a People’s Daily microblog and the English-language, China Daily. But my sense it’s a smokescreen by China to dilute the renewed negative PR damage from the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Ostensibly, it’s related to the revelations by former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. You might recall his publicizing NSA’s widespread spying program.

The security issue between China and Google had quieted down after it appeared to be taking on new ramifications – threatening proprietary information for business and government agencies, if they do business with the giant search engine.

When Google was hacked in 2009 by cybercriminals in China, they stole a computer program that managed access to Google’s programs, according to a New York Times article.

In the past, Google has denied hackers were able to access personal information from Gmail accounts, but the search engine did not respond to The New York Times report.

Cloud services

“As the story makes clear, businesses considering cloud services like those offered by Google, Amazon and others must ‘look before they leap’,” warns Internet security expert Stan Stahl, Ph.D., Citadel Information Group, Inc. (www.citadel-information.com).

“While it’s probably obvious to look at the security provided by the cloud provider, less obvious is that the business needs to also look at that part of security that will still be its responsibility, the part of security that the cloud service provider isn’t providing,” says Dr. Stahl, as the go-to security authority.

“Security can never be a matter of looking at ‘this’ or ‘that.’ Security must always be about looking at ‘this’ and ‘that’,” he adds.

Two key questions

As a management consultant, I wonder about two other questions:

  1. What about the privacy of Google’s services, and business and government agencies?
  2. Is the threat to Google’s business model more severe than first thought?

Google’s services for the private and public sectors are not limited to the following but they include:

  •  AdSense is a platform for publishers to generate income by displaying a bevy of click-through advertisements, but Google requires sensitive information in order for publishers to receive payment. Google’s AdSense automatically inserts display and text ads, which are frequently changed.
  • Google Analytics is a service that helps Web site owners to understand how they’re faring with visitors , such as how they reach your Web site and what they visit.
  • AdWords is a sponsored links section. It’s the largest service of its kind and Google has the No. 1 market share.
  • Merchant Center uploads product listings in for use in a variety of ways. They include AdWords ads, Google Search, Google Product Search, and Google Commerce Search.
  • Checkout helps businesses increase sales by selling online.
  • Website Optimizer, with access to sites, tests content in order for publishers to optimize the conversion rates of their visitors.

(Disclosure: This business portal uses Google’s AdSense.)

Google’s “Gaia”

There are other Google services, but you get the idea.

The news article provided more alleged details that include Google’s “Gaia.” That’s Google’s stolen password system. Gaia is the Greek mythological goddess of earth. Gaia managed the entry to its services for the private and public sectors.

For more of the report’s details, see: Cyberattack on Google Said to Hit Password System

If The New York Times article was accurate, and my Biz Coach sense is that it is, businesses and public agencies doing business with Google might want to consider a security-needs assessment by a qualified expert.

The U.S. isn’t the only country to have complained about Chinese hackers.

British defense firm BAE Systems is hit by sophisticated Chinese online attacks more than 300+ times annually, according to a published report: British defence giant blames Chinese hackers for wave of cyber attacks.

Considering China’s size and record of hacking, this is also a bigger threat to Google’s business model than we first believed. Its share of the Chinese search market plummeted to less than three percent after being forced to leave some years ago.

And ramifications remain for other businesses and governments.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are links to Internet security tips:

Security Precautions to Take Following Citibank’s Second Reported Online Breach – Citibank’s admission that private information of 360,083 North American Citigroup credit card accounts was stolen by hackers in 2011, which affected 210,000 customers, serves as a warning for all businesses and consumers to take precautionary steps.

Has Security Bloom Fallen off the Rose for Macs? – For years in terms of security, Windows has been considered inferior to Macs. But no longer thanks to malware security epidemics.

Tips For Internet Security to Prepare you for New Cyber Attacks – Do you need more evidence to be diligent in using best practices for security on the Internet? According to a Web security study in 2013, Internet attacks have been impacting businesses, with the majority of them reporting significant effects in the form of increased help desk time, reduced employee productivity and disruption of business activities.

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.”
-Benjamin Franklin 

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

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SEO — Google’s Tips to Increase Your Site’s Download Speed

How fast does your Web site download?

Google announced that it determines site rankings, in part, by download speed. That was the message in April 2010.

“We mentioned site speed as early as last year, and you can watch this video from February where I pointed out that we still put much more weight on factors like relevance, topicality, reputation, value-add, etc. — all the factors that you probably think about all the time,” wrote Google software engineer  Matt Cutts in a recent blog.

“Compared to those signals, site speed will carry much less weight,” he added.

But another blog, Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, also mentioned site speed: “But faster sites don’t just improve user experience, recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings.”

Personally, I wonder if being fast qualifies as a green initiative.

Google also makes these suggestions:

  • Page Speed, an open source Firefox/Firebug add-on that evaluates the performance of web pages and gives suggestions for improvement.
  • YSlow, a free tool from Yahoo! that suggests ways to improve website speed.
  • WebPagetest shows a waterfall view of your pages’ load performance plus an optimization checklist.
  • In Webmaster Tools, Labs > Site Performance shows the speed of your website as experienced by users around the world as in the chart below. We’ve also blogged about site performance.

Mr. Cutts also wrote that Google’s official blog provides even more tools.

“…Google’s webmaster console provides information very close to the information that we’re actually using in our ranking,” he added. “In addition, various free-to-use tools offer things like in-depth analysis of individual pages. Google also provides an entire speed-related mini-site with tons of resources and videos about speeding up websites.”

He also says “big sites” will not get a competitive advantage in the added factor of site speed.

“Often even a little bit of work can make big differences for site speed,” explained Mr. Cutts. “So I think the average smaller web site can really benefit from this change, because a smaller website can often implement the best practices that speed up a site more easily than a larger organization that might move slower or be hindered by bureaucracy.”

In addition to downplaying load speed, he emphasized Internet users would appreciate the fastest-possible user experience.

this change highlights that there are very constructive things that can directly improve your website’s user experience,” he concluded.” Instead of wasting time on keyword meta tags, you can focus on some very easy, straightforward, small steps that can really improve how users perceive your site.”

My sense is that site speed does indeed play a vital role in search engine optimization. If you haven’t already, you might want to make certain that your site downloads fast as possible.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related tips:

Good Blogs Have Nothing to Fear from Google’s Updates — Alarms bells are sounding all over the Internet after Google’s seemingly incessant algorithm updates. The search engine’s changes can be unnerving for bloggers, but there’s no reason to panic. Use patience and tenacity to succeed. On another page, I’ve written about five factors to get peak Google results.

5 Factors to Get Peak Google Results for Your Web Site – Study — What do top Web sites have in common? Successful sites produce a high number of Facebook and Twitter messages, but the sites minimize the volume of ads on its pages according to an authoritative study. Those are the salient lessons from a 2012 study by Searchmetrics, a search and social analytics firm.

Google Speaks Out About Frequency vs. Value — Are you concerned about your Web site’s popularity on Google? Here’s how the search engine differs from users in Web site content value vs. frequency.

“SEO is not synonymous to JUNK E-MAIL.”

– Matt Cutts

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

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Biz Coach Terry Corbell – the business-performance consultant – provides Proven Solutions for Maximum Profits.