Google

15 billion dollar Facebook valuation
30 April 2008 in Blogging & General & Google & Mindscape & Windows | Comments (5)

facebook logo

Boy am I sick and friggin’ tired of hearing about how Facebook is worth $15 billion dollars! A lot of the business blogs I keep up with keep throwing this figure around and it is becoming quite an annoyance.

I’ll say this just once: Microsoft’s “investment” in Facebook does not extrapolate to a $15b valuation because it included the international advertising rights.

To put this in perspective, Google paid $900m for the advertising rights to MySpace (the #1 social network that still absolutely spanks Facebook in terms of unique visitors despite being the ugliest site in the world).

Granted, the details of the deals between MySpace+Google and Facebook+Microsoft are rather different, but it helps establish my point that advertising is big business. Facebook certainly did not give away the advertising rights for free so you can be sure that part of the $240m was in consideration for gaining the international advertising rights – not just to buy a 1.6% stake.

To give an indication of how big of a business advertising is – Google paid more for the advertising rights to MySpace than News Corp paid to buy MySpace months earlier (details here).

Sure – it might be in Facebook’s interest to say the advertising deal was provided for free and that it really does stack up to just buying a cut of the pie however if that really was the case why not get the Microsoft investment and then make more money by selling the international advertising rights?

</rant>

So what do you think? All comments appreciated.

I’m sure some cheeky bugger will find this post in 5 years when Facebook actually is worth 15b and tell me I’m wrong :)

John-Daniel Trask

Google Alerts for better customer support
16 June 2007 in Business & Google & Tools | Comments (2)

As your business develops it’s always interesting to see what people have to say about you and your products. Sometimes this is easy because people post it directly to you or link to your blog and you get a track back however that only gives you a partial view of the world. I wanted to be able to see what people were saying about Mindscape, LightSpeed, BackgroundMotion and more anywhere on the internet.

Enter Google Alerts

I was reading through Simple and Loveable (great blog btw, I’ve been a long time lurker) a couple of months ago and noticed that Nat mentioned that she found a comment by somebody through an alert so I decided I’d have a look into it some more myself (and only just got around to “passing it forward” by writing this post…).

Overall I’m impressed, you can simply sign in, enter a term that you want to be notified about and have Google email you. You can select if you want updates “as they happen”, daily, weekly etc so you’re not overrun with email notifications and you can also configure what you want monitored – do you care if the name crops up in google news? blog search? web index? Of course you want to probably monitor all of the channels to get the best picture.

You can quickly see the benefits here. As an investor in a company (say, Xero) I can monitor the entire internet for the term “xero” and pick up what the online vibe is. This is probably quite an effective measure of the companies marketing being that they’re trying to be a Web 2.0 style organisation.

The upside to this is I can see if somebody blogs about our products or about our company and quickly go and follow up if they were having a technical issue or problem. It’s about taking that service to the next level – you should always make it as easy as possible for people to seek help but by going to the customer when they have an issue is priceless.

Of course it’s also useful in reducing the amount of time you spend ego-surfing by just having Google let you know when you or somebody else says something about you ;)

Sign up for Google Alerts here

– JD

Online and Offline convergence
31 May 2007 in Apple & Code & Google & Microsoft | Comments (2)

Rather than echoing the “oooh -Google gears” and “oooh – Microsoft surface” stories I thought I’d put a bit more thought into these recent announcements and why I see them as important. Earlier this week Andrew and I were discussing the web and how we both agreed that the humble browser is not the ideal application platform. There are many advantages of web applications (instant updates, great metrics on use, much more) but we’re yet to see the richness and flexibility of what can be done in the offline world. Of course the positives of one platform are effectively the negatives of the other and vice versa. People still make a conscious decision about the type of application they’re building and this got me thinking.

Offline Applications

As I commented on Rod’s blog, I agree with DHH on his views about offline applications. Retrofitting existing applications doesn’t strike me as being a huge win, I’m virtually always connected with a pretty fat pipe. I don’t believe the advantages of offline applications are really obvious yet because we are all still thinking how it affects the current web model. We need to pull our view back another 20,000 feet and start thinking outside the box. I’m not claiming I have the answers on this one but I’m sure we can do better than an RSS reader that has an offline mode!

Breaking out of the browser

With Microsoft Silverlight we have the opportunity to break applications outside of the browser (To see an example check out our Silverlight Video player on the Mindscape blog, just click the video when it is playing). I firmly believe this is a significant step forward again that didn’t really get noticed all that much. Suddenly the browser isn’t all that important other than to host these applications. I joked with Andrew that I look forward to the day when the web browser is a non-visual host and the applications are the only visual part (no jokes about visibility inheritance please ;)

Microsoft Surface

First off, this is pretty damn cool. Personally I think it knocks the socks off the iPhone in terms of cool – Microsoft are helping to usher in a new paradigm here but that’s not why I’m bringing it up. Taking into account what we are discussing here you can quickly start to see the benefits of dropping the web browser. I really don’t want to see Internet Explorer or FireFox as a Window on a device like Microsoft Surface – it would just break the model of how the device is meant to be used. If web applications are no longer looking like web applications and are becoming super rich with cloud and offline storage we’re actually seeing a a convergence of the desktop and web worlds.

Challenges

Having said all this there is a HEAP of work still left to do. We don’t really want every application to look different, uniqueness isn’t actually a benefit in terms of usability, there needs to be standards. We need to consider accessibility for less able users or how this content can be moved between the various devices (PC, tablet, phone…coffee table). I really look forward to some of these problems getting solved though, the future looks bright.

I suspect that in the next 10 years we’re going to stop being able to define an application as being a web application or a desktop application. Rather than consciously trying to build Smart Clients, it will just be the way applications are built and we’ll all laugh at why we ever struggled to build them well in the past :)

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Want to hire me for tarot card reading?

- JD

I’m feeling lucky…
1 February 2007 in Google & Microsoft & Search Technology | Comments (3)

Just a quick post today.

  1. Visit www.google.com
  2. Type in “search”
  3. Click “I’m feeling lucky”

I wonder how long this will exist for? :)  

 - JD

Google Analytics – No invitation needed!
16 August 2006 in Google | Comments (4)

Google Analytics Logo

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know that I love Google Analytics. I managed to slip in before it went invite only (about six month back) and have been telling people how fantastic it is ever since.

If you haven’t managed to get an invite or haven’t even looked then now is your chance – Google Analytics is open to all.

Click here to go to the Google Analytics site to sign up.

Installation is dead simple, basically just wack a snippet of JavaScript into your page and you’re done. Easy.

 - JD

Search: How to improve your site position, part I
24 July 2006 in Google & Search Technology | Comments (0)

Search Series

The challenge
Now that your site has been indexed and is appearing in search engine results you’re finding you are not rating very well. You might be the 10th result, the 20th or the last. You ideally want to be the #1 result for the search terms you deem as important to your organisation.

A solution?
You know a wee bit about how search engines work and think that perhaps you could manipulate your position with a few clever tricks. You know that search engines examine the words on the page and the meta tags. Two very common manipulation tactics that I’ve witnessed are:

  • Keyword Stuffing: This is where your title contains about 50 keywords, so does your description and keyword meta tags.
  • Invisible Text: This is where you place certain terms in your page but set the font colour to match the colour of the background, effectively making the text invisible. If you notice a large blank space at the bottom of pages and select that region you usually find this type of trick in use and see text gets selected.

What a lot of people who use these tricks don’t realise is that they are widely known about and the big three search engines can identify web pages using these techniques. When you’re identified as somebody who uses these tricks you’ll often find that your search position slowly slips because you’re getting penalised for trying to manipulate your position.

There are many other ways that people try to use to increase their position however these two seem to be the most common.

The real solution
The first thing to do is ensure that you are not utilising the techniques listed above. Following that, some ways to make your content work harder at getting you a good position are:

  • Use HTML elements for headings and important content. For example, rather than using <span class=”heading1″> around a heading use <h1>as search engines can identify these tags as meaning the content within them is a heading. This is important because normally the terms in a heading give a strong indication of what the content is about. So if you’re a hotel, having a heading with “The best hotel in Wellington” would result in those terms being weighted more highly than if they appeared in the general content of your site.
  • Ensure that the content on your website has a good rate of change. It’s not uncommon for search engines to penalise websites that never change their content or websites that change their content constantly. Having a policy to update 20% of your site content every six months is useful for ensuring your site feels fresh with web users as well as letting the search engines know your site is being updated.
  • Use meta tags intelligently. Each meta tag has a specific purpose so if you are setting the Description meta field don’t fill it with 500 keyword terms that are comma delimited. That isn’t a description, a description is a sentence or two about the page. You should ensure that you use the terms that are important to you that are relevant to that page in all fields however. In this example, our Hotel home page may have:
    • Title: hotel_name – The best hotel in Wellington, New Zealand
    • Description: Welcome to the website of hotel_name, the best hotel in Wellington.
    • Keywords: best, hotel, wellington, New Zealand, hotel_name, north island
      These are all just examples but it shows how the meta fields should be used. It is important to remember not to put too much content in your meta tags, they are supposed to be short.
  • Update your meta data. A common occurrence is that a content manager changes the body content of a webpage but forgets to update the meta data. This is especially important for Intranet search engines that place much more emphasis on meta tags.
  • Don’t use broken HTML. This point item isn’t the most important but you should make sure that your website contains valid HTML. While browsers and search indexers usually handle some broken HTML gracefully I have read several times that some search engines will penalise slightly if HTML isn’t valid (mostly because it doesn’t show much “care” in your website and if you do not care about your site why should others?)

There are many more ways to ensure that your content will work well with search engines which I will go into with future posts on the topic.

Always an exception to the rule
Wow, the second post and I’m already regretting using the word “Always” because the really isn’t an exception to this rule. You should never try and be “clever” in trying to change your search position. It never pays to try and fool the search engines. If you apply the tips listed here you should find that over time your search position closes in on that valuable #1 spot.

- JD

Search: How to get your site indexed faster
18 July 2006 in Google & Intergen & Search Technology | Comments (6)

Search Series

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting about common challenges that people face with website search (both with public search engines like Google, and website search such as SharePoint search). If you have any questions about a topic or would like to see an entry about a specific challenge you have then please leave a comment :)

The challenge
It’s the usual story, somebody has spent a lot of money on a website and they want to start seeing a return on that investment as soon as possible. There is nothing wrong with that, I’d be concerned if I was building a website for somebody who doesn’t want to see a return. The challenges arise when a site goes live and it is expected that the site is indexed by the major search engines in a matter of minutes of that go-live. So how do we get a website indexed by search engines as quickly as possible?

A solution?
Back in the 1990′s it was common practice to need to submit your website to search engine for it to index you. Some started following links and automatically found sites however this was usually seen as not a priority compared to manually submitted sites. The view that this practice is still the best is strong with some and they see site submission as the best way of getting their site indexed fast.

These days it’s not uncommon to see sites offering to submit your site to more than 1000 search engines for a small fee of $500 or more. Some people would see that as value for money without realising it’s almost a complete waste of time.

The real solution
Modern search engines don’t prioritise on submitted sites. They don’t see them as valuable and for good reason – would you trust a website that was brand new or one that has been around for a significant period of time with many links to it? I’ve read many accounts (and see this in practice) where a site can be manually submitted to a search engine and not appear in search results for several weeks. Yet, when another website that is mildly popular links to that same site they’re in search results within days.

One way to get links to your site early is to allow a case study of the site development to be posted on the vendors website. I’ll go into more ways to help build your link collection legitimately in future search posts.

When considering the value of paying somebody to submit your website to hundreds of search engines, remember that 95% of your search result referrals will be coming from the big 3: Google, Yahoo, MSN Search. I would never advise on the use of such submission tools because, frankly, they’re a waste of time in terms of return on investment.

Always an exception to the rule
It is important to note that I’m not advocating never submitting yourself to an index manually. There are specific industry sites, directories and community sites that are related to your business and submitting to these sites is important for visibility within your industry sector. Automated tools won’t even know that these sites exist or that they’re more important to you than a mass spamming to various indexes around the world.

– JD

Google Browser Sync
8 June 2006 in Google | Comments (0)

Google

As much as I’m loath to post two Google posts in a row I thought I’d throw this one up. Google have just released their “Google Browser Sync“. Google Browser Sync allows you to sync your history, bookmarks, form values and more between multiple machines (for FireFox only). It’s just a standard FireFox extension. I haven’t installed it but might try it (to be honest, I’m finding IE 7 pretty good and have started to use FireFox less and less these days).

I’d be keen to hear how other people find it.

For people who would like to use IE there is the Windows Live Favorites which is quite nice. I’ll try and do a review on that sometime.

Click here for the official Google Blog post about syncing FireFox.

– JD