While the FCC has been applying new rules to hardwired Internet service providers, the next age of Internet technology is already in the works.
Companies worldwide are exploring the means of delivering Internet service via whitespace radio waves, sometimes called Super WiFi. We in the United States know those gaps in radio frequencies best as those that once delivered analog local television channels to our rabbit-ear TV antennas, until 2009, when TV networks migrated to DTV digital signals. Nowadays, these radio frequencies are largely unused except for emergency services communication. Whitespace frequencies are better at penetrating walls than traditional Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and have been approved for Internet service by the FCC. In fact, the frequencies have already been used to deliver Internet connectivity at a handful of sites around the US, Europe, and India.
In developed countries, whitespace radio frequencies are an untapped resource waiting for an enterprising company to acquire the rights, develop a device that can accept Super WiFi signals for home and office use, and then sell subscriptions or even offer free over-the-air service (as broadcast TV networks do). The first commercial uses of Super WiFi technology are expected in Great Britain by the end of 2015, and then the possibilities are endless in providing Internet access to underserved rural areas, remote islands, and Third World countries. In fact, Microsoft is already experimenting with whitespace Internet networks across Africa and Asia.
So as the FCC quibbles about what speed constitutes “broadband,” companies are already starting to blanket the world with over-the-air Internet connectivity.
For years, traditional media has been considered the most trusted source for information. Before there was radio or television, people sought out newspapers to get the news. In later years, in addition to newspapers, people turned to the radio and eventually television as their go-to authorities for official word of the day’s events. But, with each passing year, our affinities have evolved, and in 2015—for the first time ever—traditional media is no longer considered to be the most trusted news source.
According to survey data from the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, Online Search Engines have become our primary platforms of choice when seeking out news and information. In recent years, search engines had been a close second, but this year was the first time they surpassed Traditional Media by two percentage points.
Following Traditional Media is Hybrid Media, then Social Media and Owned Media—platforms over which a brand has complete control, such as a website or a blog. The latter two have seen a steady increase over the last two years, whereas Hybrid Media, which is the combined use of traditional and new media, has steadied. In a world where information is instantaneous, these findings aren’t too surprising.
Millennials’ trust in overall digital media is much stronger than the average population, and the gap between the percentages of trust is much more drastic with 72 percent of Millennials trusting Search Engines, as compared to the 64 percent of the larger, informed public population. For Traditional Media, Millennial’s trust is at 64 percent and the average population’s trust is at 62 percent. Trust in Hybrid Media is at 63 percent for Millennials and 53 percent for the public. Trust in Social Media is at 59 percent for Millennials and 48 percent for the public and Owned Media trust is at 57 percent for Millennials and 47 percent for the public.
Another interesting point iterated in the survey is when it comes to creating content for social networking sites and other online-only sources, journalists aren’t considered to be the most trusted source. Instead, one’s family and friends are considered more trusted. In fact, a company creating content is a more trusted author than a journalist.
What is fascinating about these findings is that it’s Search Engines that are most trusted, not the sites whose content is aggregated to the search engine. The websites that aggregate to search engines would be considered Owned Media, which according to this survey is the least trusted media. If people don’t trust the websites, then why do they trust the search engines that aggregate them? Is it because that is the easiest and fastest way to gather the exact information you need? We suppose kudos can be attributed to recent Google algorithms that have ensured that good, trustworthy information lands on its front page, in turn making itself a reliable source.
Online ads, such as Google search ads or display ads across the Google Display network, have proven successful over the years at increasing website traffic, online sales and other conversion goals. Google now has a new group of tools—Estimated Total Conversions—that help business owners track whether online ads actually aid in driving foot traffic to their brick-and-mortar establishments.
Estimated Total Conversions is made up of three separate tools—Estimated Cross-Device Conversions, Store Visits and Calls—which give marketers more insight into how AdWords drives conversions. Not only does it show you the traditional online conversions you see today, but it also shows estimated conversions that take place via multiple devices, through in-store visits and from phone call conversions.
Estimated Cross-Device Conversions is the first of the three tools launched under the Estimated Total Conversions umbrella. A cross-device conversion starts as a click on a search ad on one device and ends with a conversion on another device.
The Store Visits tool gives marketers insight on which types of search ads—to include local inventory and product listing ads—motivate people to go into the store. The new tool uses an algorithm to estimate how many people went into a store as a result of seeing an online ad within the past 30 days. Storeowners are given anonymous data collected from smartphone users who have turned on location history on their phones. For advertisers to qualify for Store Visits, they need to verify their location with Google and set up location extensions in their AdWords account.
Store Visits data is now only available in the U.S. and will slowly roll out over the next few months. Though this is excellent data to have, the data collected from Google is only a rough estimate on how many people actually acted after seeing ads.
These new conversion tools have already gained interest from Office Depot, as well as Famous Footwear’s CMO, Will Smith: “The insight that we’re getting from our partners at Google are really showing that the influence of online advertising is, in fact, not only getting people to shop on Famous.com, but to shop our stores across the country, as well.” After a year of testing, Famous Footwear found that roughly 15-17% of clicks on their ads led to in-store visits.
Keep an eye out for the third installment of Google’s Estimated Total Conversion tools—Calls—in 2015, as well as other Google products to help assist in your online advertising. Robertson & Markowitz Advertising and Public Relation’s web department, Robmark Web—a Savannah, GA website company—specializes in AdWords and other online strategies, including SEO and website development. Start your 2015 off right with a revitalized online marketing strategy with the help of Robmark Web.
Following up on our recent post on the new Firefox-Yahoo alliance, we have already seen industry-shaking effects of the new partnership.
Immediately following the release of Firefox 34, Yahoo’s search market share jumped from 9.6% to 29.4%. The roughly 20% that Yahoo gained came at Google’s expense.
The breakdown among the three top search engines now sits at Google-63%, Yahoo-29%, Bing-6%. This is a major shake-up compared to the approximate Google-80%, Bing-10%, Yahoo-10% status quo we had been accustomed to.
This recent turn of events shows that while Google search has been king for several years, its crown was one that was bought and paid for. Google’s dominance has largely been propped up by its default search status on Firefox and on Apple’s Safari browser, which Google paid hundreds of millions of dollars per year to retain.
That business relationship between Google and web browsers worked well for all parties involved for a limited period of time. Firefox and Apple, with no search engines of their own, once had no conflict of interest in selling its default searches to Google. But as Google expanded its family of products by releasing its own Chrome browser and acquiring the Android smartphone operating system, it started to sour the quid-pro-quo relationships it had built with other tech partners as they turned into competitors who had conflicts of interest in selling out to Google. Today, it is Firefox ending its partnership with Google, and in 2015 when the Apple-Google contract is set to expire, Apple could very well make the switch next. We could then see Google’s search market share fall even further (especially since the loss of Apple’s Safari could decimate Google’s currently overwhelming dominance on mobile devices).
Interestingly, Netflix once found itself in a very similar position to Google and made an entirely opposite business decision. The #1 streaming set-top box, Roku, was originally a Netflix creation called Project Griffin. As Netflix was beginning to venture beyond its DVD-by-mail business and into streaming around 2007, there was not yet a good way for users to stream Netflix shows/movies on their TVs. So Netflix developed a new type of streaming box and planned to release it as a Netflix-branded device. But at the eleventh hour, Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings decided to spin off the project under the independent brand Roku in order to avoid the implication that Netflix was directly competing in the hardware market against Sony, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, and all other electronics manufacturers who would later produce their own streaming devices.
Today, Netflix can be found pre-installed on every streaming device and the Netflix logo is usually featured prominently on device packages and advertising. Because Netflix avoided directly competing with those hardware companies, mutually beneficial relationships have flourished across the industry: the popularity of Netflix helps electronics companies sell streaming devices, and the ease of use of streaming devices make it easier for Netflix to acquire new customers.
Had Netflix burned those bridges with electronics manufacturers by releasing a Netflix streaming box of their own, competitors’ devices may have touted other streaming services like Amazon Prime Instant Video, Blockbuster On Demand, Google Play, or the late Redbox Instant. And Netflix may not have become the entertainment giant that it is today.
But Google did make the decision to compete with companies that had once been partners, and today it is reaping the effects. While Google will likely remain the widely preferred search engine, the era of Google’s 80% search dominance may be coming to a close.
In a recent blog post about Apple’s new privacy features, I made the case that it would be wise for Apple to go ahead and switch DuckDuckGo to the default search engine in its Safari browser so as to take a swing at the bottom line of its primary competitor in the smartphone market, Google.
I guess the folks at Mozilla — creators of the Firefox browser — must have read my blog post and thought it was a good idea, because last week, Mozilla announced that it had struck a deal to make Yahoo the browser’s default search engine. Closing out a multi-year deal with Google that accounted for about 90% ($274 million) of Mozilla’s annual revenue, Firefox will now, by default, refer its US searchers to Yahoo.
It is assumed that Yahoo made a comparatively attractive offer to Firefox in order to oust Google. While that is likely the case, Firefox has vested interests, similar to those of Apple that I wrote about previously, in cutting off its business ties with its competitor Google.
Until 2009, Firefox had a substantial share of browser usage and was the go-to free browser for those fed up with Internet Explorer. At its height in 2009, Firefox was preferred by 48% of Web users, compared to Internet Explorer’s 40%. But after its release in late 2008, Google Chrome has steadily grown in market share, first taking away most of Internet Explorer’s share, and then cutting into that of Firefox. Today, Google Chrome is preferred by roughly 60% of users, Internet Explorer by only 9%, and Firefox by 24%. Google Chrome has, in five years, cut in half Firefox’s following in order to acquire over half of the browser market share.
Even though Firefox’s still-respectable browser market share has given it the leverage to charge Google $274 million per year for preferred search engine status, I am sure it has pained Mozilla to have sent 100 billion searches a year to Google, search traffic that has helped Google fund and improve its Chrome browser — a losing long-term game for Mozilla. So when Yahoo came along with a suitable offer to make the switch, I am sure Firefox was eager to strike a deal.
Firefox’s new partnership with Yahoo could have several positive effects on the browser and search engine markets for us users/consumers:
- The billions of searches that Yahoo will now garner from Firefox referrals could give it the ad revenue and opportunity it needs to improve its search algorithm and user interface towards the aim of expanding its currently low 10% search engine market share. Indeed, Yahoo announced that it will release a “clean and modern” search engine for Firefox in December.
- Since Yahoo has become famous for its defiance of the NSA’s demands for user data, Firefox could tout its break from Google and its new partnership with Yahoo in order to foster its brand as the privacy alternative to Google’s and Microsoft’s browsers, perhaps to the effect of rebounding its browser market share by upgrading its own privacy features.
- Google may have to improve its own family of services and strike new deals in order to make up for the loss of Firefox’s billions of referrals.
- Google used to be Firefox’s default search engine worldwide. But after the split, Firefox made country-specific deals with regional search engines, including Baidu in China and Yandex in Russia. In many markets, we may see an opportunity for smaller, regional search engines to improve and grow and make deals with Firefox, further diversifying the search engine market.
Time will tell what changes will come of the new Firefox-Yahoo alliance, but it is certain to shake things up in the browser/search engine arena.
The big search engines Google, Bing, and Yahoo continually fine-tune their algorithms in order to provide better lists of websites to their users. In fact, Google has fundamentally reworked its entire search engine system with its Hummingbird update in recent months by introducing semantic search and synonym capabilities. With these semantic search capabilities, Google uses its data collection and tracking of other users who have searched for the same or similar keyword phrases to get a clearer idea of what you are searching for when you enter a particular search query. It’s pretty amazing.
Nevertheless, these search engines will forever be limited by the keyword. Put another way, no matter how much Google improves its algorithm, the effectiveness of Google delivering you to the content you are searching for will forever be limited to the quality and clarity of the words you type into it.
So when you’re only partially sure what you’re looking for, or when you’re just shopping around the Web, how likely is it that Google can get you to the information you need?
Put simply by the old programming adage — garbage in, garbage out.
Pinterest, the picture-oriented social networking website, is looking to move search a bit beyond the limitations of the keyword. What began as a scrapbooking website now encompasses an image network of over 30 billion “pins” that grows 25% every year. And from that wealth of content derives a seemingly endless source of information and idea generation.
Pinterest envisions that it can help users figure out what it is they really want by allowing them to start with a vague notion and use its vast library of images to help them gather information and narrow their focus. In other words, as an alternative to keyword search engines, Pinterest can use pictures to help users flesh out their ideas when the keywords they would try to search wouldn’t help them get what they want through Google.
The benefits of this sort of image-centric search method, for some types of information, are quite apparent. If I saw something and wanted to find it online but only had vague descriptors at my disposal, browsing images on Pinterest would be a great starting point. Pinterest also has strengths in browsing, perusing, and narrowing down a focus when you aren’t entirely sure what you’re looking for.
This particular type of search process is basically a virtual form of “window shopping” and therefore provides great value to online retailers, who should definitely be investing in their Pinterest presence.
Being that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” I would concur with Pinterest that sometimes a picture search is worth several keyword searches. To be sure, only some types of information can be located on the Web through the medium of pictures. But for the information that is image-based, Pinterest will continue to flex its muscles as a valuable search tool.