Every year Google launches over 500 improvements to its search algorithm. There’s a lot to learn from this video for modern day marketers.
Focus on your end user
It all starts with a focus on the user. “Google has made a huge investment in understanding what works for users (3:25)” because “when you align Google’s interests with user interests, good things happen (3:17)“.
Aligning business objectives with user objectives should sit at the core of any online marketer principles. Without it, you’re sure to fail.
Keep improving what you have
Google is obsessed with improving their search product; “we get excited when we hit on an idea what helps a lot of users (3:37)“. Continuous improvements sits at the heart of their culture.
Traditional marketers spend almost all their efforts before they launch because it’s hard to change things after. Online marketers need to spend the majority of their effort post launch. You receive instant results and it’s easy to change things.
This includes websites, social media, search, email marketing, etc.
Base decisions on data, not opinion
In too many organization, decisions are made based on opinions. Usually a senior person doesn’t like something or receives pressure from a stakeholder with an agenda and want something changed. Or a real problem is being dismissed because it’s invisible (a technology upgrade for example). Rarely does anybody actually look at the data in detail.
At Google, “a problem identified and hypothesis created (0:35)” and subjected to “rigorous scientific testing (0:53)“, using a trained panel called raters (0:59), live experiments (1:14) and analyzed by a search analyst (1:14). The decission to make the change is then held in a “launch decision meeting (1:47) by the leadership, based on data with an unbiased view”.
Implementing this at your organization
These are some key elements of Google’s success. But even when you’re not Google with a large team, here’s what even the smallest organization can do:
Today Google announced instant previews in search results. You can hover over Google’s search results and you’ll see a small preview of the page.
For users this is a great feature because it eliminates some ‘pogo-sticking’ where people move back and forth between websites and the search results before they find the right page for them. Google claims people are 5% more satisfied when they’re using instant previews.
For website owners, the implication are that SEO all of a sudden also means making sure the preview of your web pages look relevant and appealing enough for somebody to want to click on it.
Keep an eye on your web analytics over the next few weeks. If your percentage of organic search engine traffic goes up and/or your bounce rate decreases, the feature could very well work in your favour. If not, you might have some work to do.
Google already put out webmaster guidelines for instant previews and SEO forums are buzzing.
You can test drive the new feature here.
A blog posting on the Travolution blog about Google and Travel made me think. Is there going to be some big product launch, or will they simply keep connecting the dots?
This BusinessWeek article called “Google’s Travel Plans” is referenced in the posting. Google’s managing director for travel Rob Torres was interviewed. Torres says “the goal of Google’s travel division is to give users a destination where they can research travel plans, read user reviews, and see user uploaded videos and photos.”
The article also states “It’s worth noting one thing that any future Google offering won’t have—airline fares or hotel bookings.” But vertical search is the new disrupter in travel. Kayak.com will perform 45M queries this month according to its CEO, with 5M uniques in April and climbing (compete.com). Microsoft bought Farecast.com to enter into this space.
There’s no way Google will sit back and watch from the sideline. This is search, their core business. They have to make a move into vertical travel search. They won’t need to book anything. They can stay true to their advertising based revenue model, maybe complimented with a Pay-Per-Action model and they won’t alienate their customers or cannibalize their ad based revenue on their main search product.
Torres says in Businessweek “We are already so highly searched for travel. Why not give them a one-stop shop for travel information?”. Vertical Search offers a perfect possibilities to compliment travel information opportunities. The New Zealand campaign on YouTube has been widely covered, but Google Maps is probably even more relevant. Tim Armstrong, Google’s VP of advertising told us at Phocuswright in Orlando last November that “depending on the day, there could be 40% of the traffic to that goes to that service that’s travel related”. That’s huge.
Google is already starting to connect the dots. Google Maps recently integrated photos through Paronamio (a small company it acquired last year), Wikipedia content and YouTube videos. Businesses can also provide Google with their info for display on Google Maps. And the user generated maps cover a lot of tourism content.
A few months ago, Google announced Knol, a Wikipedia for experts. “A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read.” Here’s Google’s opportunity to create credible travel content, written by an expert.
Now think about Google’s massive user base of Google accounts, YouTube, Gmail and Orkut. Think about OpenID, Open Social. Think about Friend Connect. Here’s the User Generated Content piece, combined with a social network.
All Google needs to do is keep connecting dots and a strong travel product will evolve and emerge. It might not happen through a big bang approach, but simply as an organic evolution of their existing products. I’m sure there are plenty of Google engineers using their 20% pet-project time to connect dots and creating innovative travel related products.