Google Growing - An Update on Google
by Jim Hedger
There is a lot going on at the Googleplex these days. For three different reasons, each of which is important to search marketing, Google has been in the SEO spotlight this week. For the technology wonks, Google engineers are said to be developing a Google web browser to challenge Microsoft's Internet Explorer. For those of us interested in the business end of search, the SEC imposed a 40-day "quiet period" which has expired and speculation on their limited revenue streams has heated up again. Lastly, for SEOs and web masters trying to figure out what Google is up to this month, multiple versions of Googlebot have been observed super-spidering the web. To say there is a lot going on in Mountain View is likely an understatement. Google is retooling its shed and though there may be some bumps in store for organic SEOs, this might actually be the beginning of the end of Google's technical glitches.
Google is being driven by two important forces. The first is the intellectual and competitive quest to develop the best possible product. Google faces obvious challenges from Yahoo, MSN and Ask Jeeves, and less obvious challenges from smaller companies developing search related products. The second driving force is the need to find as many viable revenue sources as possible. For a company like Google, the path to success is found on Advertising Avenue but most recently, the company came into a staggering amount of money through its IPO.
Google Browser - Playing Ruthless with Redmond
Google is most likely developing an web browser of its own to compete with Microsoft's Internet Explorer. This will allow Google to "brand" a user's experience, much like Microsoft does today. (Look at the top of your browser. About 90% of you will see the words "Microsoft Internet Explorer") Google has recently introduced its own Email system known Gmail and offers a host of other features that could be incorporated into a browser. The development of a Google web browser is much like Microsoft developing its own search engine. It is a direct challenge to a major rival and a smart move leading up to the next major phase of the search engine war, expected next spring. Here's the background on the browser story.
Google has a great deal invested in its engineering staff. Their resumé filtering process for engineers is the stuff of legends and is designed to allow only the brightest to solve their way through a series of mathematical puzzles. Joining those who solved the puzzles are a number of notable new staff members personally headhunted and recruited from other tech firms. According to a report in Digital Media Europe, Google has hired Java pioneer Joshua Block away from Sun Microsystems, Adam Bosworth and four others from Microsoft's Internet Explorer development team, and in a major coup, one of Microsoft's lead developers on the Longhorn OS, Joe Beda. This sudden grouping of famous IT engineers, combined with Google's April 2004 registration of the domain name "gbrowser.com" gives a great deal of credibility to the rumour. Google has also dedicated a substantial amount of time, attention and money to the Mozilla community. Mozilla is an open-source browser. Open-source software allows developers to work with the software-code to improve or change the product. By offering resources to Mozilla developers, Google may be micro-funding the creation of what becomes the backbone of a Google-branded browser. Google users would likely accept and use a Google browser, especially if it is based on the current tech favourite, Mozilla. Once they have converted from IE to Google's product, directing their interest will be as easy as tracking their movements, two important components in making the bottom line.
Money as a Necessary Evil - Expanding Revenue Sources
Making money is an important part of running a successful business. One might think that becoming the world's most referenced information source would be enough to make money. Apparently it's not. Moving the most advertising on the web... now that's a ticket to making good money. Google pushes product like nobody's business. With over ˝ of all searches conducted through Google's system in one way or another, and the largest contextual advertising distribution network on the planet, Google's only major competition is Yahoo/Overture. Unlike Yahoo/Overture however, Google is in a somewhat precarious position regarding revenues. Over 90% of Google's quarterly revenues is said to come from contextual advertising. That's a lot of eggs to put in one basket, no matter how large that basket may be. The contextual advertising market is changing and this is a cause for concern for all search tools dependent on advertising revenues. Google is betting the server-farm on advertising so it has to develop as many ways as possible to deliver that advertising to viewers and do it in such a way that advertisers benefit more than they would working with Yahoo. Google has thus far been successful in competing with Yahoo's Overture. They have developed a better distribution system, have more advertisers, and have better semantic contextualization abilities than Yahoo. What they don't have is other major revenue sources.
One of the goals of all search engines is to deliver the most relevant results possible to each individual user. Concepts such as personalization and localization of search results are based on this goal. One of the effects of localization and personalization will be the adoption of Google as a replacement for daily-use items such as the phone book and yellow pages. This is an obvious goal for Google and other search tools however it also represents an extraordinary and recurring revenue generator, especially as the Pay-per-Call model layers over the current Pay-per-Click model. As Google engineers find new ways of presenting search to the public, perhaps we'll see new kitchen appliances referencing Google for recipes or even Froogle for the lowest prices on local produce. Eventually, digital radio and television will become the standard. Wouldn't it be cool to look for a specific song or show currently playing somewhere? That may sound far-fetched today but, if they can do it with the news, they'll soon do it with other digitalized signals. The bottom line to this section is the bottom line. Google knows it needs to diversify its revenue streams if only to continue to satisfy investors.
Googlebot, meet GOOGLEBOT.
Lastly, Googlebot has a doppelganger and both have been running rampant across the Net the last few weeks. Posts in several SEO forums have speculated widely and wildly about what Google is doing and why it is doing whatever it is it's doing. Nobody can claim to know what Google is doing from moment to moment with the exception of a few dozen people working at Google. The best the rest of us can do is offer educated guesses and many have been doing just that. There are definitely two unique Googlebots out there. One appears to be performing a deep-scan of a website and its links while another seems to be doing a surface scan of pages in the site's directory. This leads credence to our first theory...
Over at WebmasterWorld, moderator Brett Tabke speculated that Google was in the midst of rebuilding their entire database from the ground up. There have been a few times in the past when Google has served up month-old results due to errors in their main index. This may be one of those times and Google is trying to cover much ground in as short a time as possible. Given the unprecedented levels of R&D at the Googleplex, I am a bit bearish on much of this theory except a basic assumption that Google is somewhat broken and needs patching up.
"Would you like some links with that website sir?"
The Google is sort-of-broken theory appears in other postings, both at Webmaster World and at the IHelpYouServices forums. Google has been sort-of-broken for a while now. Actually, Google is working just fine but as search marketing has become so important, marketers have learned how to absolutely manipulate it. As almost everyone knows, Google is highly effected by the number and relevance of incoming links. Strong keyword enriched titles and text along with a good number of highly relevant links should get your site front page prominence. It's relatively easy. So easy in fact that the search engine result pages are often clogged with irrelevant results and references to direct-marketing products. Google often makes minor moves to fix this problem, more often than not relating to the way Google measures the validity of incoming links. These algo shifts often clean up results for a short time but have not yet prevented the masses of marketers from figuring out new tricks and "magic bullet" strategies to shoot at the SERPs. This type of algorithm tinkering was what was behind last November's Florida Update.
Another theory states that when Google was originally programmed, the number 4Billion was considered really, really big. Today, Google has over 4Billion websites in it's database but, due to its original programming it may be limited in growth past that requiring the compilation of a new database. As I am not a programmer and start to lose focus when words such as "point-integer" are thrown around, here is a link to a very lively discussion on this theory.
Whatever the cause for two versions of Google bot, there is no question that an update is underway as this column is being written. Page ranks and backlink counts have been fluctuating over the past few days and several web masters report seeing their rankings bounce widely from page to page in the SERPs. By next week we'll have a better idea of what Google's been doing by analyzing the outcome of this update.
The world of search is changing very rapidly. Google is one of the most innovative companies working the web and it too is changing. Based on the past week, much of this change may be for the better. Google seems to be focusing on technologies as well as monetization, which is a huge step forward now that the IPO hurdle has been crossed. When compared to rival firms such as Ask Jeeves, Yahoo and Microsoft, much of the recent speculation around Google looks very positive. Investors seem to think so too with Google shares continuing to rise in value though this may be driven by IPO euphoria as well as educated investing. With a new browser appearing to be in the works, the development of new revenue streams, and the refocusing of their core algorithm, Google is getting ready to be cool again.
Jim Hedger is a writer, speaker and search engine marketing expert based in Victoria BC. Jim works with a limited group of clients and provides consultancy services to StepForth Search Engine Placement. He has worked as an SEO for over 5 years and welcomes the opportunity to share his experience through interviews, articles and speaking engagements. Hedger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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