Google has a new layer of information to add to their maps feature that shows areas with public alerts. The notifications are for floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, wind advisories, winter weather advisories, heat advisories, and pretty much anything else you can think of. It’s a pretty neat feature available at http://www.google.org/publicalerts
Google announced yesterday that they are going to change their privacy policies and consolidate more than 60 of them into one document. Cool, right? Well, the change comes with a new “benefit” for Google users – that they will track you across multiple services. Google will follow you across search, Google+, YouTube, gmail, and any other property they own including Android phones. That’s right, if you have an Android phone you’re required to sign in with a Google account. Oh, the best part, you cannot opt out. If you use any of their services, you have to be spied on. Don’t get me wrong, Google was always collecting data about you and your online behavior, but now they have more ability to stitch that information into a comprehensive profile. For example, they plan on sending you a notification that you might be late for a scheduled meeting based on your current location, your calendar appointment, and the current traffic conditions on the route from your location to your meeting. Neat, but very creepy if unsolicited. Don’t even get me started on what this means for their ability to advertise to you. Scary.
Not only will Google become more intrusive into their users lives, it also means big things to SEOs because of an an even bigger loss of referrer data in analytics. Google Analytics used to report on all the keywords that people used to find your site in Google’s search engine. This is very important to measure the importance and ROI of your organic campaign. They recently changed analytics to “protect” Google users data by removing referrer information for any logged in user. (Protect, or hoard the data?) That means that anytime a Google user is logged in they do not send keyword data to analytics and people like me have no idea what they searched to find our sites. When Google requires more people to be logged in, more organic keyword information will be lost and being an SEO will become even more difficult.
Guess what data isn’t impacted… Adwords. That’s right. If you pay for advertisements on Google, you get your referrer data. Free = no data. Paid = data. I think I see a trend here and I don’t like it. They are trying to choke us out in favor of making a few more bucks. I wonder how long until there are no “free” organic results on the first page at all. I can see it now – a list of paid advertisements on the first page which are disguised so well that people don’t notice and all organic results pushed to page two. Google has already pushed the number four organic listing “below the fold” for many users (depending on screen size) by expanding the blank space at the top of the page. Basically they added 40px worth of blank space that pushed off an organic result so paid ads were more prominent. This is even worse for queries that have local relevance and Google Maps results push organic all the way off the page.
I also wonder what this change means to websites that currently embed things from Google products like YouTube, Google Custom Search, Analytics, Adsense, etc. If a user has to be logged in to access any Google service, won’t that mean that these embedded services won’t work for people who aren’t logged in?
I don’t like Larry Page’s Google. It’s getting evil.
You now have no excuse for not knowing the names of the punctuation marks on your keyboard because Google will now deliver results for them! Until now Google just ignored the queries, but not anymore! I played around with queries for all the punctuation on my keyboard, and it seems that the only thing Google wouldn’t respond to was the asterisk (because it’s a wildcard). In my tests most of the number one results are Wikipedia definitions for the symbol. I found the first result for the : symbol to be particularly amusing which you can see below. Go to Google and work through the symbols on your keyboard and see what happens.
I’ve long been aware that Google looks at the layout of web pages to identify sections that might be advertising, ROS links, static content, dynamic content, etc. They’ve used the information they found in those sections to either give “extra” credit to the content in the sections, or ignore the content all together. Google announced, via Matt Cutts, on the 19th that they are going to start “demoting” pages that don’t “have a lot of content above the fold.” According to Google, this change won’t affect sites that have a normal amount of ads above the fold, just sites that stuff the top part of their site with advertisements. I always cringe a little when an algorithm is used to interpret website designs.
Google say that if you decide to update your page layout, the layout algorithm will automatically reflect your changes the next time they index your website. Unfortunately, it can take weeks for Google in index large websites.
Google used this opportunity to promote their Browser Size Tool which allows you to check your site in several different resolutions. When you enter your URL your site is brought up with an overlay that shows what percentage of people can see the content. For example, in the screenshot below, 90% of the people that visit my site can see about 50% of the page. Not bad. It will be interesting to see where Google decides the cutoff is for websites that have “too many” ads.
A very interesting little nugget at the bottom of Matt’s blog post said that Google plans on rolling out over 500 improvements for search this year. 500 is a lot. It’s going to be an interesting year