Google+ – It’s Only Mostly Dead

Google+ – It’s Only Mostly Dead

Google, at the time of writing of this post is the biggest company in the world by market capitalisation. What that means is that for the number of shares available for the company multiplied by the cost of each of these shares make it worth more than any other company in the the world.

This doesn’t mean however that everything they do turns to gold. In this world today, technology companies are falling over themselves to hit the next home run. They have to. The companies that present new innovations and products to the market that are well received flourish. Companies that don’t innovate, get lazy and rest on their laurels shrink and maybe even perish.

We are seeing technologies perish at a remarkable rate thanks to the internet. Even new technologies. The lastest suggestion is that the USB drive is under threat. With Cloud storage and mobile phone storage, who wants something to store important stuff on that is so easily misplaced? The thing is – it was only invented in 1999!!

When it comes to Google, their search engine is completely dominant. As a result of that dominance, their advertising platform is equally dominant. If you aren’t on Google, you’re nowhere. As online services become the norm, Google are becoming a big player in cloud computing as well.

They are also in social media. Yeah, well that isn’t going so well for them. Their offering is struggling. I put it like this. How many times a day do you go onto Facebook? Now, how many times a day do you go onto Google+?

I know those answers will vary from person to person, but for many of us, the answer for Facebook is several times a day. For Google+ it can vary. It can be either, “what’s Google+”, or “I don’t have a Google+ account”, or I do and I never check.

Now to be honest, why would you check it? You go onto Facebook because every day one of your friends is posting something crazy/interesting/infuriating. There are games you can play. You can message your friends and they’re likely to respond.

If I go onto Google+, I don’t get responses, mainly because not many of my friends even have accounts, and those who do aren’t checking it.

Is Google+ good for anything? Well perversely, it apparently has some impact on SEO. I say perversely, because one thing Google says is that you are not to do anything solely for its SEO benefit. Except it appears in the case of Google+. They are prepared to give a leave pass for that, since it appears to be the only reason businesses are using it.

Mashable has this article about the failure of Google+. If you put the search term “is Google+ dead” you are going to get a whole heap of articles, with some saying yes, some saying no. That’s the internet for you. Every single thing you can think of, there is a compelling argument both for and against.

So in this case, your own experience becomes paramount. No matter what the pundits say, what really matters is what people are actually doing. And as I have already said, all you have to do is ask yourself two questions.. firstly, “how often do I use Facebook?”. What’s telling is the question for Google+ is not equivalent. It is instead, for many people who aren’t total IT geeks, “What is Google+?”.

Why Google Webmaster Tools Are Essential For Your Website

Google-Webmaster-Tools-Logo

1As with everyone with a website that represents my business, I am constantly searching for the edge when it comes to search engine optimisation.

One of the things that Google considers very important is page speed. To check this they even have a tool – page speed insights. This tool allows you to check your page load speed and will give you instructions on how to fix the things that are causing your site to be not as fast as it needs to be.

If you are running your site on WordPress, it’s relatively easy to improve your speed. You install plugins that allow you to make the changes you need to improve your speed.

Only problem with WordPress plugins is that they are a bit like a house of cards. The more you add the more likely you are to have a problem with them. It’s a delicate balancing act you find yourself in.

I have just recently had a problem with a plugin that caused a catastrophic Google ranking problem for me. One day I was rising right up the rankings and the next day I was off the map. What had happened?

This is where Google Webmaster Tools comes into the story. With Webmaster Tools I was able to see that I had a sudden rise in 403 errors. This is what Webmaster Tools are designed for. They are a suite of tools that Google has provided to allow you to check your site health from their point of view.

For those of you who are non technical, web page errors have various numbers, and the client errors, such as a page not found, are in the 400 range.

A 403 error basically means that for whatever reason, Google is unable to crawl your site. But why? What had happened to cause this? It was ok a couple of days ago.

A quick Google search and dusting off some old computer troubleshooting skills and the culprit was found. The cache plugin I was using to improve my page speed was causing the errors. A quick uninstall, reinstall and reconfiguration solved the problem. I still don’t know why something that was working fine one day was not the next, but sometimes these things just happen.

Back on Google Webmaster Tools I started to check the ability to fetch the pages. Yes it could. Yay! back on track.

And that is why Webmaster Tools is something I consider essential to the monitoring and maintenance of your site and something you should check daily. It will tell you so much about your ranking in searches and things that may affecting your rankings. For example, if Google can’t search your page, that will kind of affect your rankings (just a little bit).  So if your Google ranking is important to you then you need to use Webmaster Tools.

Of course if you aren’t computer literate enough to check these things, there’s always the option of hiring a web professional (nudge, nudge, wink wink).

How Google Forces You Onto The Social Marketing Merry Go Round

how Google forces businesses onto the social media marketing merry go round

One of the most frustrating things I find about the state of online marketing at the moment is the hoops you have to jump through to get traction on search engines. The hoops are always hoops that are held up by big online media companies, strangely enough.

I recently wrote about how when Google says jump, we all have to say, “How high?”

Well the thing is, what Google is saying is that you have to jump through hoops that are social media hoops. You need Google+, you need Facebook, you need Linkedin, you need a Twitter account, you need Yelp. When it comes to all of these, how active you are on each of these channels can affect your visibility on the web. In addition to this you need to blog as well, and possibly find places to guest blog. But then just when you get busy guest blogging Google decides that guest blogging is no longer cool.

Then there’s link building. But don’t whatever you do pay for links.. you will get penalised! Directory submission? Better be the right ones.. or you will get penalised. You see, what Google wants is proof that you are popular, but if you try to fake popularity you are in trouble.

How many likes you get on Facebook for your business page and on your web page is something that Google checks for “social proof”.

Social proof works something like this:

If you have two adverts for a product that saves energy:

  • The first one lets the customer know that they could be saving $54/month on their electricity bill.
  • The second one lets customers know that 77 percent of their neighbours were already using the product.

Guess which one is more successful. In case you didn’t work it out, option two. People love social proof. They love to know that they are not alone in choosing something.

Now, I’m not opposed to social proof as a concept. It’s unavoidable. It’s simply the way people are wired.

However, what I am finding increasingly ridiculous is that businesses that are not web businesses having to jump through the hoops that are set up by a giant multi national American corporation.

If you’re a builder or an electrician, your job is to build houses or put in lights. It’s not to blog or put up social media posts.

Unfortunately, if you have a web page, that is what you are expected to do in order to get visibility on Google. Either that or advertise with Google at their astronomical pay per click rates.

The internet is supposed to be a place where the little guy can compete on an even footing with the big guy. As time goes by this appears to be be less and less true. Well unless they pay the tolls set by the big guys. It wasn’t meant to be this way.

For more about social proof check out this article from kissmetrics, social proof.

I shouldn’t complain, because what all this does is keep SEO professionals in work. However, I do feel for people whose business has nothing to do with the internet, but have to pay astronomical fees to an SEO to get there. Clients saying.. can you get me to page one? Well yes.. but..

 

Google Cloud Platform

google-datacenter

I have written before about cloud computing. I like the definition I heard the other day to describe what cloud computing really is. “It’s not in ‘the cloud’, it’s on someone else’s computer’.

And that is pretty much it. The thing is, to you the end user, that computer could be anywhere in the world. You don’t know where it is hosted. And as it would happen, as people get used to this, it doesn’t really matter.

Google’s offering is cloud platform. It’s the broadly the same as other competing services from the other big providers, such as Amazon and Microsoft. I’m sure each of these providers has their own promotional material as to why their offering is better, but with the state of computing as it stands these days, they are all adhering to certain standards, so it’s pretty much a muchness.

Allow me to explain now why it’s a good idea for businesses that run their own infrastructure to consider changing.

In the past, and for many businesses still, having physical computer resources that the company “owned” was/is important.

Now though, businesses still managing their own computer networks should take a look at how they are doing things and ask themselves if they need their own infrastructure. Infrastructure is expensive and there is so much of it to have to do it right. Your servers need to be engineered so that they are highly available (meaning if something fails, you have extra hardware there that means you won’t lose time or data), you need to back the servers up, make sure they are secure, have your own firewalls and intrusion detection devices, et c et c.

All of this needs to be maintained, so not only do you have the cost of the infrastructure, you have the cost of supporting it.

Then of course, the hardware needs to be refreshed every few years. IT can become expensive for a company that isn’t actually in IT.

When it comes to the desktop for many years IT support staff wanted to move everything to a server based model, with the workers’ desktop being largely a dumb terminal. For many years workers resisted that. A PC was “their” PC and it had “their” files on it.

This has always been problematic for IT support. Lots of time has been spent by desktop support professionals on efficient methods of upgrading desktop software, anti virus and security products et c. I am not across current best practise of doing these things, but I know the challenges that managing desktops will remain as long as there are desktops.

But now, the times they are a changing. Cloud computing is a game changer.

More and more corporate applications are web based. In addition to this standard desktop applications such as word are moving to the web as well. Finally, the dream of IT staff frustrated by desktop support of largely server based computing is being realised.

When it comes to the servers that offer services to the end user remotely, that too is changing.  When Google (or other large providers round the world) offer their cloud platform, I would recommend that any company still using their own infrastructure start making plans to retire it and migrate their IT to Google.

Once you have done this, you simply don’t have the headaches associated with the support of your own IT environment. Google themselves handle all of the problematic aspects of support, such as security, backup, availability, load management and so on. Not only that, but I’d wager they will do it at a lower cost that the cost of in house IT.

On the downside of course, there end up being fewer and fewer jobs for local IT support staff. The price of progress.

For more information check out Google Cloud platform.

Disclaimer: I make no money from writing an article about Google. I am simply observing the changing face of computing.

Google adding “mobile friendly” label to search listings

It has just become more important than ever to ensure that your website is mobile friendly.

Google are now adding a “mobile friendly” label to all searches that are done on a mobile phone. You can check it yourself. Just do any search on Google on your phone and you will see the label next to any search result that is mobile friendly.

For a while now it has been extremely important to have your website mobile optimised. When people end up on  a site that is not optimised usually they leave pretty quickly.

Now it is essential. Consumers will start noticing this label pretty quickly. They won’t even click on your listing if it is not mobile friendly.

Studies have shown as well that people that are searching for services on a phone are very outcome oriented

in 50% of cases they are seeking to make a purchase and often make it immediately.

If for example you are a restaurant they want to be able to see quickly where you are (a map), a phone number (which has to be able to be clicked on to dial), a menu and opening hours. All in a mobile friendly format. Someone searches for say a Thai restaurant in the Glenelg area, they are probably quite ready to eat. You need to make it easy for that person to connect with your business.

So what is Google checking?

Well the Googlebot is checking the following things:

Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash

Uses text that is readable without zooming

Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom

Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

The other thing about this is that it is a major Google initiative to see that Web sites are mobile friendly.  So websites that aren’t mobile friendly get a lower search ranking than ones that are. Can you afford this?

If you haven’t got your web page mobile friendly yet, it’s time now. Talk to me about this. I can help.

Google Guidelines

Why You Need Webmaster Tools

Webmaster Tools

Ok, this week’s post is about yet another Google product – Webmaster Tools. Sick of Google yet?

Yeah but this one is really important for anyone who wants to check the health of their website from a Google search perspective.

One of the big problems I see with small business websites is that no one ever invests the time in monitoring and managing the site. They are too busy tending to other sides of their business. Fair enough too. A website, while important is not the core of the business.

However, a website is like a garden. You can’t just neglect it and expect it to look after itself; it needs attention.

I have previously written about Google Analytics. Google Webmaster Tools is a companion to Google Analytics. The functionality it has when it comes to websites is invaluable.

There are several features that are essential for any site owner.

The first one that is very handy is URL errors – internal link errors. I would recommend checking this out at least once a week. It’s surprising how easily things like page links are missed when you perform changes to your site. This tool picks up stuff like this.

Of even more importance is the ability to see what websites are linking to your site.  If you read my previous post on search engine optimisation you will know that having other sites linking to your site is important to increase your search rankings.

But.. the most important of all in my view is…

The ability to see where you stand in the search rankings for each of the search queries for you site. It tells you the approximate position in the search rankings and also the change in rankings that you have recently achieved.

Yes, this tool actually allows  you to see the results of the work you put in to search engine optimisation!! How good is that? As with anything you do, to be able to measure results is essential.

So there you have it. A few of the key reasons why it is worth having a look at Webmaster tools for your website. There are a lot more tools that come included but the ones described are, to  me, the most important.

And of course, if you feel that you could do with webmaster tools and Google analytics, get in touch. I can help you.

Google Webmaster Tools Official Blog

 

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