Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Caffeine: Do You Really Need It?

Have you heard of caffeine? I know that I have.

Many of us think we need caffeine; some of us indeed do. That's why it's in coffee, that thing the jet-setting among us purchase for $2 or more every morning. For the same reasons, caffeine is in those carbonated beverages that some of us drink in the afternoon because we again need a caffeine fix and realize those funny ads about those kinds of drinks aren't too far off the mark.

But have you heard that Google thinks it needs Caffeine, too? (That, by the way, is Caffeine as a proper noun, baby.) In its continual effort to better itself by improving the accuracy of its search engine technology, Google is rolling out the biggest update to its indexing criteria since Jagger in 2007. Go here for a good rundown of the changes Caffeine apparently will bring. The Google Blog talks about Caffeine, too, and Google is even letting you test out Caffeine and provide feedback.

And I encourage SEO and SEM people everywhere to refrain from providing Google with any feedback. No, really. OK, that was meant to be humorous, but not at the expense of being at least partially serious. Don't help them figure out how to thwart organic SEO efforts.

Is that paranoid? Maybe. But how good is the organic search engine optimization industry for Google's Pay-Per-Click revenue stream? We don't really know. Even so, it's probably safe to say Google itself would be just as happy without this industry revolving around it. Sure, all the attention has played its role in making Google a household brand name, but the organic SEO industry hasn't exactly added to Google's bottom line. As more and more companies figure out that they can produce more and more content to please Google's spiders and thus appear in the first search engine results page (SERP), a major pillar of Google's revenue stream, premium placement on the first page of search for a premium price (i.e., PPC), begins to appear irrelevant. Not that PPC is entirely irrelevant -- but it's not like its essential, either.

Google has plenty of other reasons, of course, to evolve its search engine technology. I won't go into all those in this post except to say social media is a big one. But nobody should be surprised that one of the changes Caffeine brings, apparently, is a continuation of Google's efforts to individualize search engine result pages (SERPs) for every user. Taken to its logical conclusion, this march toward individualization fundamentally alters the dynamics and meaning of page rank, and the attendant conjecture within the search engine marketing community has been, well, spirited. Some suspect that Google may be gaming its own system to favor PPC. And why wouldn't Google do this? The potential attrition in PPC revenue because of SEM dollars instead going to organic SEO firms is a clear and present danger to Google.

Fortunately, spirited competition may be at hand among the major search engines, and it might yield viable alternatives that would be welcome any time now. This is the last thing Google probably wants, but the company may finally have brought this upon itself. I speak of Bing, which is already gaining traction among SEM types. In my next post, I'll share my thoughts on how Bing might take advantage of the growing discontent.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nichey Nichey, Bing Bing

Savvy readers will recall that Google itself explored ways to work with Yahoo! some 10 years back. With the recent partnering of Bing and Yahoo!, is Microsoft taking a cue from Google's own playbook in a bid to leapfrog Larry Page and Sergey Brin's brainchild to become king of the search engine marketplace? Or are the designs humbler, saner?

The answers are unclear. But let's look at where search is today, now that the two search engines whose names aren't Google have joined forces.

News this week indicates that even search engine users Bing and Yahoo! may call their own use Google more, according to research from comScore. This amounts to as much as three-fifths of the time. Clearly, then, any upstart that wishes to become a long-term force in search has an uphill battle ahead. This, we know. It's cliche, and everyone says so. But what will that battle entail? What are they fighting for? A niche is what I say. The real mission for Bing-Yahoo! is that they must identify and target a niche of search engine users to wine and dine over time. And it might not even take that much time.

At first blush, this isn't exactly flattering for their alliance, but a huge opportunity may be at hand. Does niche mean small, for instance? Not necessarily -- stay tuned for more blog entries about this.

Monday, August 10, 2009

PodCamp Boston -- Kind of Like Woodstock, but for Social Media

Woodstock may have been three days of peace and love 40 years ago, but it had nothing on what I experienced less than 40 hours ago. Subtract the mud sliding and the loud music*, keep almost everything else, add some uber-smart businesspeople and academics with cutting-edge ideas on social media and the Web, and you'd have a pretty accurate rendition of PodCamp Boston**, the event I attended this past weekend.

PodCamp was everything I expected it to be when it comes to social media -- and many other things I didn't anticipate at all. At Woodstock, kids from all walks of life descended upon a small town to share a passion for music and cultural change; at PodCamp, businesspeople, academics and others descended upon the UMASS Boston Campus to share their passion for social media and the change it fosters in business and in daily lives. Hard-core entrepreneurs, "solopreneurs" and well-sorted corporatists shared space and ideas with intensely dedicated "social-preneurs," idealists, realists and eternal optimists alike. The unofficial goal seemed to be to understand each other and to reach a common understanding regarding this newfangled social media we find ourselves using every day. (Common understanding -- wasn't this, as well, an idea from the Age of Aquarius?)

Because of PodCamp, I've reached a few conclusions regarding social media, how it affects your business, and how you might best use it. Actually, let's just call them conclusions in progress. Nevertheless, I can't wait to share these ideas with you all. Stay tuned.

*Even so, I did see an impromptu game of frisbee form outside, and at one point, someone vocalized some rapper beats over the PA system.
**Oh, and by the way, unlike Woodstock, parking at PodCamp Boston was orderly and easy -- and even free on the second day of the event.