By John Straw

Part 1 – Technology is moving fast, but Google is moving faster

Technology is moving fast and the changes are having a profound effect on how we work in business. Ten years ago Google had no users; today they claim a 65% share of the UK search market. Social networking sites were unknown less than two years ago, yet if you asked a crowd of 20 year olds if they had a social networking account then you are likely to find that 100% of them have a facebook (www.facebook.co.uk) account. In addition, technology that would have been only science fiction five years ago is now just two to three years away from production and mainstream usage.
A video shown in the introduction to this Internet Marketing Masterclass featured a man controlling a computer screen with his brainwaves by using a cumbersome helmet. It was pointed out that since filming the video a year ago the technology had advanced so that the helmet was now replaced with a small unit that fitted to the back of your neck, and that in two to three years’ time there would be commercial applications for the device.

In the last 30 years we have seen a movement away from the desktop. Thirty years ago we had desktop PCs such as the BBC Micro and the original IBM PC; in the late 80s we had the networked computer, which allowed us to pass around information within a company; in the early 90s we saw the rise of the Internet, which has affected us all. Today, we have the cloud or the “pervasive internet, the internet everywhere”, either via a wireless/wifi connection in a café, a 3G mobile phone connection or a standard wired connection; in short, you can connect to the Internet almost anywhere. This means that companies can get information onto everyone’s screens no matter where they are. Indeed, soon we will all have Internet access all of the time, and companies like Google are working towards this, with the launch of the Google mobile phone operating system in early November, for example.

The pace of technology is frightening. Here are a few examples of how fast it’s progressing.

• Consumers are driving this move to the internet; consumers are now the number one user of computer chips, leaving business and the Government behind.

• Consumers are now using more technology than ever before. Consumer Internet traffic will surpass business and Government Internet traffic by 2008.

• 91% of mobile users keep their phone within a one metre reach 24/7.

• The battle ground for the consumer has moved away from the Internet to the mobile arena; next year we will see Google phones with Google operating systems and Google applications embedded into them, with 24/7 Internet access.

• 15—20% of mobiles have GPS; this is expected to rise to 50% in the next five years.

• According to Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google, a video iPod will have enough storage for 85 years worth of video by 2019 e.g. enough to capture the whole of your life on video.

Disrupted Marketing

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In the third quarter of 2007, Google advertising outstripped that on ITV1 — if you’re in the media business, that is a sobering statistic. In addition, Google accounts for 36% of a website’s new traffic.

Disrupted Personalisation

Personalisation is becoming big on the Internet. Amazon is the main player in this market and has taken personalisation from a simple: “People who bought this also bought” to a whole new level. On the Amazon website you can see:

• What other customers are buying — through the Amazon ranking

• What they are doing — through the: “What do customers ultimately buy” recommendation

• What they’re thinking — through the customer reviews

• What they are saying — through the beta Customer Discussions service.

Disrupted Market Share

If you compare the top ten websites for 2005 with the top ten from 2007 you will see that the type of companies have changed drastically — household names such as Microsoft, eBay, AOL and Amazon have been replaced by social networking and web 2.0 websites such as YouTube, Facebook and Wikipedia, and this is all due to pervasive internet technology.

So, now product lifecycles and brands can appear and disappear incredibly quickly. Names such as Friends Reunited and AOL are now eclipsed by new brands that move quickly and scale fast.

Disrupted — Media Epic

John Straw then showed Epic2015 by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson, a video that aimed to predict where the world will be in the next seven to eight years, introducing it as : “A fascinating movie in which bits of it aren’t quite right and bits of it are profoundly true.”

Part 2 – Does a Smarter Google Mean the End of Advertising as we Know it?

This section covers how Google works now, how we think it will work in the future, the birth of semantic search, how big brands will fair in the future, the fall of advertising and the rise of online PR, and five things you can do from today.

How Google Works Today

Small businesses start with a massive advantage because they are agile and can move quickly. For example, VoIP (voice over IP) — which enables you to direct phone calls over the internet and hence save money — is currently one of the most sought after technologies for business. The network giant Cisco produces equipment for VoIP, but doesn’t refer to its own technology as VoIP, choosing instead to call it IP telephony and unified communications. So, let’s take a look at how Google works if you search for keywords ‘VoIP’, ‘IP telephony’ and ‘unified communications’.

Google uses an algorithm to decide what appears at the top of the search page — and the main criteria within that algorithm is usefulness to the reader. It decides the usefulness of the site from the content of the page and the contextualised linking on the site. Contextualised linking is when somebody links to your site who is talking about similar things to you on yours. So, if you have a site that sells French language books, a contextual link would be from another site recommending your site as a good source of French language books. Content is king; the better the content and the more innovative the product, the more people will link to it and the whole thing becomes a virtuous circle.

If you search for ‘VoIP’ on Google, Cisco doesn’t even rate in the top 200. However, Techland do. It’s number one and has been for a year and is getting significant traffic because of that. Running a spider simulator, http://tools.netrank.co.uk/density-engine/ means that you can see what Google sees, and if you run one on Techland it scores highly on the term ‘VoIP’.

TIP Try running a spider stimulator on your site, as there’s often a disconnect between what we see and what Google sees.

Using Yahoo.co.uk and specifying the link: http://www.techland.co.uk you can see that there are plenty of content-rich VoIP sites linking into Techland. So, as far as Google is concerned, Techland is the authority on the keyword ‘VoIP’.

If you run the spider simulator on Cisco’s site, it predominantly talks about Cisco and unified communications. This is branding gone wrong. You have to follow the money, so if people and business are looking for VoIP then you have to talk about VoIP.

Again, using Yahoo.co.uk, specify the link: http://www.cisco.co.uk and you will get about 1.2 million links to Cisco, but many of these are press links. Alternatively, if you go to Google News and search for news written about Cisco, you will see that the news is mostly corporate and not about Cisco’s products. So the links that go into Cisco are about Cisco as a company rather than its products. As a consequence Google simply regards Cisco as being an authority on Cisco, and this has been a shocking experience for the company.

Until recently Yahoo had a command that allowed you to look at how many people were searching on a keyword; (http://inventory.uk.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/) Google has a similar tool but it looks at trends (https://AdWords.Google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal). In January 2007, 45,000 people searched on ‘VoIP’, and if you assume Yahoo has a 20% share that amounts to a huge market. If you look at searches on ‘IP telephony’ there were just 1,013 and even less on ‘unified communications’.

This is a classic example of the brand overtaking the product. Cisco doesn’t advertise on Google or Yahoo for VoIP as a keyword and is completely missing the target audience.

TIP Follow the money: look at what people are searching for and make sure that it’s reflected in the content of your site, and then engage with your customers and suppliers and get them to link to you so that you become an authority.

Artificial Intelligence and Google

Larry Page, founder of Google, is looking to artificial intelligence (AI) to improve Google. At the Zeitgeist conference in 2006 he said: “The ultimate search engine would understand everything in the world. It would understand everything that you asked it and give you back the exact right thing instantly,” adding: “You could ask ‘What should I ask Larry?’ and it would tell you.” Page believes that AI could be a reality in just a few years’ time.

The implications of this are broad. It means that when you ask Google a question such as “Which TV has the best picture?” or “Which airline offers the best legroom on a flight to New York?” it will come back with what it believes to be true answers. Advertisers and big brands, therefore, will not be able to spin and use the techniques they have employed for years. In effect, product advertising will become verifiable.

Online PR

Brands are also having problems building sites that grab Google’s attention. The big brands are being overtaken by smaller companies that have built sites that are good for searches, are innovative and get people’s attention.

Online PR is probably the most important marketing element and it’s based on what is known as ‘attention data’, which includes economic indicators and trends in product usage. PR companies need to be aware of what the online media landscape looks like, so that they can find the sites that are the ‘community of authority’ surrounding your product or service and then get these sites to write about your brand.

TIP To find out which sites are the most popular in your chosen field — your own community of authority — go to Yahoo.co.uk and use the Link: command to see which sites could be carrying your press releases.

Seven things you can do to improve your online profile

1. Find out if you there are any bloggers for your business, then make sure they are talking about you. Encourage your senior staff to have blogs that talk about the business.

2. Ask your suppliers for contextualised links.

3. Identify negative sites and try and engage with them.

4. Make sure your product managers write copy for users and search engines with a product, sector and company keyword density of 3.5—4%. This will help Google work out what your release is about.

5. Innovate — if you build a better mouse trap they will come.

6. Find a PR company that understands the internet.

7. Quadruple your PR budgets.

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