It’s (Finally) the End of the Road for Google Plus

Google announced earlier this week that it will be shutting down its social network, Google Plus (Google+). According to Google, Google+ for consumers will be sunsetting over the next 10 months, and will officially close in August 2019, meeting the same fate as other abandoned Google platforms such as Google Reader, Wave, and Buzz. The demise of Google+ is no shock, but what finally made it official was none other than a privacy breach.

What started as a way for Google to compete with Facebook, Google+ is now facing a similar situation to Facebook’s biggest issue to date, the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on Google+’s data breach, saying that a bug exposed the personal information of up to 500,000 users to 438 third-party apps. This bug was active from 2015 up until March 2018 when Google discovered the problem and solved it.

Google’s decision to stay quiet about this privacy issue for over six months was likely due to the fact that Facebook was experiencing catastrophic backlash during the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, and Google did not want to join Facebook in the spotlight. Their silence is now raising eyebrows from its consumers who use other Google products such as Gmail, Google Chrome, and YouTube.

Although the privacy breach made for its official demise, Google+ had been facing a long, slow death for years after never really taking off when it launched in June 2011. The idea of Google+ was to create a new way of sharing information by organizing friends into groups and choosing who gets to see what, instead of blasting people with every piece of information someone shares. When it was first launched, Google+ had over 10 million users in just two weeks, but now, according to Google, 90% of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds long.

Some people believe Google+ failed because it was too late to the social platform market, while others believe its way of sharing information was just not up to par with consumers wanted, but no matter what the case, it is still shocking to see yet another platform born from such a powerful company fail in such a huge way. Although Google+ did not get as much engagement from consumers as expected, Google will be reinventing the platform for businesses to use for internal communication between coworkers.

Tips for Optimizing Your Business’s Website for “Near Me” Searches

The “near me” search phenomenon has significantly increased over the past few years due to the rise of mobile and voice search. This explosive change in search behavior stems from users expecting instant and accurate results on the fly, whether they are looking for restaurants, doctors, shopping, or more in their area. In order to catch these users in a short window of time, here are some tips for optimizing your website for “near me” searches.

  1. Mobile Optimization

Mobile optimization has been a necessity for years now, but with the majority of “near me” searches coming from mobile devices, it is even more crucial to have a responsive website. Users who are making “near me” searches are often looking for quick results, so if your website is hard to navigate on a mobile device, users are more likely to leave the site and find a different business in the area with more readily available information. Optimizing your website for mobile users will give your business more opportunity to be recognized by consumers.

  1. Content

As for content, there are a couple of steps you can take to increase the chance of your business showing up in “near me” searches. The simplest step is to make sure your business’s address is located throughout your website, preferably at the bottom of each page. Some business website owners have also added the keyword “near me” in title tags and throughout their pages, while others focus mainly on creating localized content or blogs (“Best Restaurants in (City Name)”, “Top Doctors near (Street Name)”, etc.) or incorporating geo-targeted keywords (boutiques in (Neighborhood Name), law school (City Name)”, etc.) which gives Google a better idea of your business’s exact location.

  1. Business Listings & Reviews

Updating your business listings on Google My Business, Yelp, Yellow Pages, and more provides users with your most accurate information. Having your business’s current information on listing sites will not only allow for more opportunities to be found by users but will also give Google more opportunity to verify your information and location. Reviews also help enhance the credibility of your business to Google, so having more positive reviews on your listing sites, as well as responses to reviews, will help increase your visibility for “near me” searches.

AMP is coming to Google Search and Display Ads

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On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, the search engine giant announced a beta test for AMP pages for Search and Display ads during their Marketing Next event. Google stated the beta test would plug Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, into search and display ads. Google’s mobile web already has fast loading pages due to its AMP program, but now Search and Display ads will get AMP-enabled landing pages as well.

So, how does it work? Advertisers who have created landing pages in AMP HTML will be able to designate these pages as their mobile landing pages in AdWords. Once the mobile user clicks on a search ad, the ad will direct them to an AMP landing page. This page will load up to 5 seconds faster than standard display ad builds, resulting in improvements in user performance and conversion results. These AMP-enabled pages will also address advertisers’ view-ability concerns for display ads. Google is already working on building this technology into the Google Display Network, so be on the lookout for AMP ads!

Facebook Launches Another Clone to Snapchat

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The competition for top app continues! Facebook Messenger is the latest Facebook app to mimic the popular photo-disappearing app Snapchat. Snapchat is known for pioneering popular photo-sharing features enjoyed by billions, but that hasn’t stopped Facebook from trying to outshine them. Messenger Day is Facebook Messenger’s latest clone of Snapchat’s popular Stories feature. Messenger Day allows users to add photos and videos where friends can view and reply to them for up to 24 hours before disappearing. The target is to create a more casual means of communication between friends and family with the goal of increasing engagement on Facebook’s main app.

Facebook has a long history of attempts at trying to outdo Snapchat’s Stories feature. In February, the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp revealed a new feature called Status. WhatsApp’s Status feature allows its users to share images, GIFs and videos for up to 24 hours. Last August, Facebook-owned Instagram released a Snapchat-inspired Stories feature as well. Instagram Stories has become a huge success for Facebook with more than 150 million users daily.

It’s safe to say Facebook seems to be on the right track at competing with Snapchat for user growth. Snapchat’s share price even dropped slightly the morning Facebook announced the release of Messenger Day. Facebook’s Messenger Day has already starting rolling out on iOS and Android devices, so be on the lookout for the newest update!

Apple Introduces the iPhone 7

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It’s here! The highly anticipated iPhone 7 is now available, for Apple lovers and everyone in between. According to Apple, there have been many changes added to the iPhone 7, from newer advanced camera systems to louder speakers. The question still remains has Apple listened to its users when asking for a longer battery life? Yes! As of now the iPhone 7 battery life is described as having the best battery life ever in any iPhone. Along with all the current technology updates to the iPhone there has also been a new color added to the bunch, jet black, which has a glossy finish. The rose gold, silver, and black are still available for users who like a more matte look.

The first water resistant iPhone has already sold out in jet black, according to CNN Money, and it has been predicted that the jet-black iPhone will not be the only one to sell out. Unfortunately, there will be a shortage in the iPhone Plus before you can even select a color, but Apple has released a statement apologizing to those who do not get the phone they want in a timely manner. For those of you who love a big screen, the iPhone Plus is the perfect phone for you. The iPhone Plus now comes installed with two cameras to be able to fully capture a scene.

The 7th iPhone does not come with a headphone port, but only a charger slot. What does that mean if you want to listen to music and charge your phone? You can’t. So now iPhones will come with a set of headphones with a lightning connector at the end instead of a headphone jack, charger adapter, a lightning connector for those of you who have headphones without a lightning end, and lightning cord. Many are wondering why the headphone port was removed, but it will no longer be needed because in mid-October Apple will release “Air Pods”, their first Bluetooth headphones. The starting price is at $159 so many may pass on the idea on paying for another set of headphones, but for the tech-savvy population they will not be available until next month so hang in there.

Voice Search Technology Exploding

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What started with Siri in 2010 has quickly transformed into a growing industry that involves all the big tech players, including Apple, Google, and Amazon. Voice search has not only grown over the last three years, but it has exploded. In one year, voice search went from zero percent of searches to 10 percent, and as of June 2016, it now accounts for 20 percent of searches. That is huge growth in a short amount of time, and that percentage can be expected to continue to grow.

Consumers are using voice search in a few ways, which Hound, a voice query app, has divided into the following four categories:

  • Personal Assistant — creating events, shopping lists, reminders, making calls, or sending texts
  • Fun and Entertainment — listening to music, social media, searching video, or playing games
  • General Information — web searches, news, recipes, or banking and finance.
  • Local Information — finding restaurants, shopping, directions, home services weather, or traffic

Voice-controlled Personal Assistant and the General Information searches are the majority of voice queries.

With this change in how consumers are searching, businesses are going to have to employ new strategies in order to keep up. Since certain voice searches are bypassing the opportunities for competitors to try and attract your attention with high organic listings and paid advertisements, new strategies need to be developed to ensure that small businesses don’t get left behind in the new voice search era. Some things to consider include online reputation, search result rankings on search engines other than Google, and long-tail keywords.

Online Reputation:

Amazon Echo relies on “Skills,” which is Echo’s version of apps, to provide data for its searches. This can leave small businesses at a competitive disadvantage due to lack of capital to create a comprehensive application like big brands and franchises are able to do. This means the best way to compete is to optimize your presence on vertical sites that have applications, like Yelp, for example. Yelp is especially important since it is also the skill that Echo accesses when looking up local businesses such as restaurants or retail shops.

Search Rankings:

Being on the first page of Google is great, but what if a user is searching via Bing, Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo? Where does your site rank on the non-majority search engines?

Amazon Echo is the leading personal assistant at the moment and its default search engine is Bing. It’s important to make sure you have good standing across all of the top search engines, not just the majority leader — Google.

Search Queries:

Queries, when using voice search, tend to be more conversational, longer, more nuanced, and actually reveal a greater intent than basic searches. For example, a user who is typing may search for “ac repair near me,” whereas a user using a voice assistant may say, “There is a burning smell coming from my Trane ac unit.” Or instead of searching for a pizza restaurant near you, you will ask your personal assistant to order you a specific pizza from that app on your device. This is also the case with local service providers. Instead of searching for an electrician in your area, you will request your personal assistant to book an appointment with the highest-rated local electrician who is available during a certain time. This last instance can circle back around to our first objective: online reputation.

Since this is relatively new technology, competition, issues, and updates will undoubtedly arise, making it difficult to anticipate what strategies will work. However, if small businesses stay on top of the technology and actively participate as it grows, it lessens the chance of being left behind as this industry changes.

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