Improved App Insights My *SS, This Is About in App Data

Have you seen the latest land grab in user specific data by Google? Yes, that same company which is now obscuring all referral keywords for organic traffic from their search engine because of privacy concerns for the user? Today Google announced: Improved App Insight by Linking Google Analytics with Google Play. Sounds great right, finally you can see the number of downloads on the Google App store, and you can track those users in your app what they are doing and how valuable they are. But guess what, who else can see this with the integration of Google analytics in your App? Right Google!gp-referral-ga

From the Techcrunch post on the topic (emphasize mine):

The Play Developer Console itself, however, is also getting a bit of an update. It’ll now show information about how often users use an app, for how long and what they are doing inside of it (assuming they have Google Analytics set up in their app).

This two-way data flow, Google argues, “gives you instant access to the in-store and in-app metrics of record in whichever Google product you use.” For most developers, the Analytics integration is probably the most interesting of these two new features, however, as it provides the most comprehensive view of how their apps are performing.

How is it possible the Techcrunch editor, and any other technology writer, totally misses the seismic shift which is happening here. Google getting access to in-App metrics like usage, navigation, in App purchases is a major data point for Google to become the monopoly player on the Android App marketplace. Let me explain:

New Popular Apps

A new App is submitted on the app store. It has the Google analytics integration embedded, which allows Google to track not only the popularity of the App in numbers of downloads, but also would give Google insights into (as mentioned above):

  • Number of active users
  • Time spend on the App
  • Activity within the App

Now do you really think Google would have a popular App like Waze grow as big as it did, before spending over a $1 Billion to buy the popular App? I reckon the business development and the Mergers & Acquisitions teams at Google will keep a close eye on which Apps are doing great after launch, pulling the in-App metrics and negotiate the sh*t out of a deal.

If the App makers don't want to sell, there is always the opportunity to build your own. With all the internal data available for the dev teams, and a hard coded position in the Google Play store, I bet a native Google - Android App would win it 99/100.

Rankings & Popular Apps

In a private conversation with an SEO I really respect, he brought up a good point on the way Google could use the in-App data in a different way to gain a competitive advantage: Cross referencing the internal data across users, you can figure out which App downloaders are the innovators in the space. A little unclear explanation, so let me give a little bid more details.

Across all the App downloads in Google Play, Google can quickly spot those people who downloads apps early in their lifetime., which become popular. Using statistical modelling and a large data set, they could predict the probability a certain App becomes popular purely based on the fact it's being downloaded by certain people. This is not only good for early acquisition discussions, but could also become a competitive advantage over other App stores, because Google would be able to recommend better App's, have better rankings in the App store etc.

Privacy of the User

I more and more get the feeling Google is one creepy company. The argument of privacy within organic search has been made very clear; Google doesn't want anybody snooping on what people are searching for, see this quote:

We added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome omnibox earlier this year. We’re now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in.

So what about the privacy of Android users, downloading an App on their phone, not knowing the big G is tracking every movement, every action and every purchase they make in these Apps? More data for Google, not for us...!

 

More Advertising in Gmail

gmail-adsHere is a little peek into the future of advertising in your Gmail account. Prepare to see more popping up, colors changing, and new Ad formats being tested the closer we come to the end of the year. Hey, Google is a for-profit company, and the pressure to out-perform the quarterly results year after year is just really big. With a stock price dependent on good news, the temptation to all that virgin real estate in the free-Google products must be simply too large for some of the groups within Google. Gmail will probably carry many more ads in the next couple of months, apart from the smarter targeting on the content of YOUR emails!

Just think about it, now that you are opt-in into Google+ with that same Gmail account, Google can easily start to target ads much better based on your G+ activity, friends networks and stage in life. I'm sure Google will milk this investment really good, as a large number of people, including me, have been using Gmail for a quite some time. So Google could mine all those emails for better targeting, where in the time I've been using the Gmail account went through various life stages. With some smart people in the room, they must be able to figure out what is next in my life, and include that in the personal ad targeting algorithm to serve "better" ads for me. Hey, if it's good for users, why not!

In the mean time, I still receive other people's email in my Gmail inbox, where I never got an answer on the post about the Gmail security breach. This is still an open issue!

Converse Chuck Stars & Stripes

While walking on Market Street in San Francisco, I walked by the Converse store. Check out the Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers Stars & Stripes wall for 9/11!

Converse Chuck Taylor Stars & Stripes

Never forget!

Own the SERP’s

Sometimes you learn more about SEO, other times you learn a little. Today, with the launch of Android KitKat, the Search results (SERP's) for the search term KitKat changed significantly in a short time. Based on some comments online from a former search quality engineer, after I posted the screenshot of the Android/KitKat page ranking #2, we can determine QDF (QDF = Quality Deserves Freshness) can trump page authority for high volume searches with news trending. So how can you dominate search? Own the SERP's!
dominate-search
Here is the old SERP for the search term KitKat. Where the timeframe for the pages ranked was changed using the Search Tools. Data range: 8/1/2000 - 8/31/2013, to make sure we include all the published content on KitKat for the last 13 years prior to today!

KitKat Search Results before the Android announcement

Now, based on today's news; the announcement of the partnership between Nestle's KitKat and Google's Android, the search results for KitKat look much different. What is interesting is that the knowledge graph box is showing on the right side of the results in the latest results, while it is not showing in the results set when you change the timeframe.

The search results for KitKat today after the Android news brokeSo what is here to learn, QDF is strong... Maybe even stronger when it's about a Google product..?

QDF chat

What have you learned in SEO world today? What have you seen in the SERP's?  How can you dominate search? Own the SERP's! Literally 

The Curious Case of Webmaster Central Search Query Data

For some time, we SEO's have known Google Webmaster Central query data is not always accurate. Ian Lurie even called it worthless. Still I look at the data once in a while to find good opportunities or small wins. For the last couple of weeks, I've been following a rather curious case in our Webmaster Tools data (Google Webmaster tools from now on abbreviated with GWT). I suspect the phenomenon I'm describing in this post has started to occur with the change in image search on Google, which resulted in a massive decrease in image search referrals for websites explained here by Define Media, (trust me, I know; I lost a lot of image search traffic on this website). The data in GWT has become even more inaccurate. Here goes...The Curious Case of Webmaster Central Search Query Data.

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Washington DC Images

When you do a search for the keyword Washington DC, you will spot an image from Airbnb's Washington DC Neighborhood page in the image search universal box:

Washington DC Airbnb image ranking

You would think you could expect a whole lot of traffic from an image like this high up in the Google search results. This might have been the case, where the old image search lay out could be a great source of traffic for any website, however, let me disappoint you right there, that since the new image search lay out, hardly any traffic is clicking through to the website where the image originated. Google, the scraper site, is keeping all those visits on their own properties...

Here is that same search query on Google image search:

image search Washington dc Airbnb

As you can see, the Washington DC image from Airbnb ranks really well, even without proper SEO best practices like file name of the image nor the domain it's being served from (yeah, don't get me started on that one..)

Google Webmaster Tools Query Data

At first glance, looking up the Washington DC Neighborhood page in the Top Pages report in Google Webmaster Central it looks all fine. The Washington Neighborhood is the second page when it comes to impressions in the Google search results, when filtered on the US and Web alone! However, if you're in the travel vertical, you'll know this order of destinations is not right! New York is a much more popular destination, where especially Airbnb is well represented with a large number of great listings in Manhattan or in Brooklyn. Even the San Francisco on Airbnb should show larger number of impressions, just from a gut feeling alone.

webmaster central Washington DC traffic

It becomes even stranger if you click the page open to see the search terms for that page. Suddenly, the query Washington DC shows a higher number of impressions than the overall page does. The clicks are way off,  and not by a little, but by a landslide...

Webmaster Tools strange numbers

Hypothesis on the Difference in Click Numbers

My hypothesis on the differences between the numbers as reported in GWT is simple. Back to the Image universal search box on the Washington DC query:

Universal Search image box Washington DC

What if the number of impressions represent the number of times this image was presented to searchers in the SERP's, both web or images. Where the the lower click number, 700 clicks, represents the actual to the page on all keywords, and the clicks on the keyword Washington DC, 3200 clicks, represents the clicks on the image where those folks stay at Google, but only see the larger image as it was scraped crawled.

What do you think..? Please let me know down here in the comments...

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Localized Sitelinks for Brand Query Airbnb

After last weeks post about the local tree houses in the Google SERP's, I came across the local sitelinks for our brand term (thanks to my neighbor colleague who was asking about the difference between the paid and organic sitelinks). When I do a search for the brand term Airbnb here in San Francisco, I get a number of local pages on Airbnb as sitelinks. You see a link to the SF city page and a link to listings in downtown San Francisco Airbnb San Francisco sitelinks

If you change the location to New York, the sitelinks change to pages on Airbnb with rentals in New York, and specifically in Manhattan. Airbnb sitelinks in New York

Taking this same location based search to a smaller city in the US, but a very hospitable one, Tampa (which came out of our study; Airbnb’s Hospitality Index: America’s Most Hospitable Cities), you see again local sitelinks, but the anchor text is focussed on the room type like; house & Apartment. Airbnb sitelinks in Tampa

 

Going to try one more; a popular summer destination for Vacation rentals in Myrtle Beach; the sitelinks for keyword Airbnb change again into more local site links with specific anchor text; North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach MYR. Just one of these does not have a localized anchor text; Apartment. Airbnb Myrtle Beach sitelinks

I tried to see if the local sitelinks are a travel vertical phenomenon. None of the travel sites I tried, I was able to replicate city level sitelinks based on the searcher location. The only website I was able to replicate this for, was for YELP: Yelp localized site links

Localized Sitelinks, Is this Good for Users?

A standard answer for any change made by Google is: It's good for users. It's questionable how useful these localized sitelinks really are for users. As I live in San Francisco, it's actually not really good for my experience to showcase San Francisco Airbnb pages, unless you would like to become a host on Airbnb.

My hypothesis is: Google is trying to become a mobile first company, where location of the user is becoming pre-dominantly important. Only if this is true, the localized San Francisco sitelinks make sense, as I might be looking for a place to stay in the city where I do a search on my smartphone!

Google as your Personal Assistant and New Revenue Optimization

For a long time, I've been thinking in what a company like Google could morph into. Just think about what you could do with the assets they have, large data centers for data storage/processing. The most visited websites in the world, the most popular smart phone operating system, Google analytics being used by a large number of webmasters and self driving cars; all of these products can collect data of our daily habits, which websites we visit and where we travel. What triggered me to write this blog post was a thread on Threadwatch by Joe Hall;

If you haven't heard of Google Now yet, you really should take a look at it....a serious look at it....This mobile app/platform tracks your movements and activities to act as a personal assistant of sorts through out the day. So for example if every day you take the same route to work, Google Now can give you a weather report for that route automatically. Sounds neat right? Yes, if you are willing to hand over your location data, personal habits, and daily routine to the worlds largest advertising platform.....yes that's real neat! And now as Barry Schwartz points out, Google Now can now show your boss your exact location.

The most interesting to me is that it integrates with Google+ Locations and let's you see when your employees or co-workers get to work, leave work, get home and so forth. It can also notify you when your kids leave school or get to school.

If you ask me, this is all just way to much. I mean seriously when are we going to draw the line on our personal privacy just so we can have a fun gadget????

Now let me paint a scenario what I've been thinking about.

  1. You're driving in your self driving car for your commute to work every day, while you work or read on your Chrome book.
  2. Suddenly, your car gives you a warning the car needs gas
  3. You give the car the approval to find the nearest/best gas station

Sounds about right, the car would plan the best route to a gas station you can fill up your car, and continue the drive home. But here comes the conflict of interest in play, while Google self driving car would like to take you from A to B, in either the fastest route or the most economical route, based on the premise of shareholder maximization, the car could decide on a different plan without even informing you.

Cheaper gas prices

Google is a profit maximization company, where the revenue is driven by advertising budgets. What if a gas station which is not on a convenient route for commuters to get to is willing to pay x$ for every lead Google brings to their pump. The car could make a decision that it's in Google's shareholders best interest to skip the cheaper gas from the station right next to the road, in favor of the gas station willing to pay a kick back on the gas it sells through the Google advertising program.

More expensive gas prices

Now suddenly Google will have a giant new revenue stream from all kind of offline stores, services and gas stations just based on the automatic optimization for revenue maximization. How's that for a business model. And with your Android or Chrome book, and Google wallet, you did not even notice you were ripped off, as you never saw the money leaving your wallet!

Suddenly, the self driving cars, the Android push and the acquisition of Waze all make sense, right?

Pinterest Lego Board

As our Airbnb office is in the same block as the Pinterest office, and a former colleague of mine started working there just recently, it's fairly easy to pop-in and check out their office. Happy to report the Pinterest office is like their product, fun and full with interesting design or DIY projects. Like this giant Lego Pinterest board with a Pinterest logo in Lego.

Pinterest Lego Board - Real Lego

Pinterest Logo in Lego

How I Use @Pocket @Buffer & @IFTTT to Make My Social Sharing Efficient

IFTTT SocksHow are you sharing great content online with people on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter? Automatic sharing through social media can be annoying for your followers IF you don't curate what goes on your feed. First off, I hate the rapid fire sharing some people do, why share 12 posts in just 20 seconds? I hate if you share every post of a certain blog, without even reading it, even the ones that don't make any sense whatsoever! Over the last couple of months, the I've been trying out new ways to streamline my work, my life and the workflow that comes at me on a daily basis. After turning myself into a San Francisco Hipster, starting a new job at Airbnb with the new ways of being productive and GSD, I was looking for ways to continue to share great content. Sharing the content in a way which would not turn off those following me, while being able to curate the stuff that is being shared.

Automated Sharing of Curated Content

The system below here was thought out and created over the course of the last couple of months, where I've been using the content discovery, reading and automated tweeting through Flipboard/Zeit, Pocket and Buffer since last year September. IFTTT is the heart of the system. If This Than That recipes can help you manage the different connection you need to set up between the different tools outlined below here. A number of the IFTTT Recipes I use in this setup are embedded in throughout this post for you convenience.

Automatic sharing blueprint

The different steps to build this automated sharing system for curated content are:

  1. Use Flipboard to push content into your Pocket app with the easy sharing functionality. More on this below.
  2. Similarly use Zeit to discover new content on specific topics you are interested in, and push these to your Pocket app for easy reading when you have the time
  3. Set up simple or advanced RSS feeds, and have the content automatically delivered into your Pocket with an IFTTT recipe
  4. Set up an IFTTT recipe to grab all your archived articles in Pocket
  5. All archived articles are pushed into your BufferApp to be automatically shared
  6. Buffer schedules the tweets according to the schedule you have set up
  7. Another IFTTT recipe grabs all the buffered tweets, and pushes these into a running log in a Google-doc on GDrive
  8. If you really would like to push all the content also on your GooglePlus page, you could hook up the IFTTT recipe in 4 to your Hootsuite, which is able to update your GooglePlus page

3 Internet Tools to Stitch the Web Together

IFTTT - If This Than That 1) IFTTT; IFTTT is a service that lets you create powerful connections with one simple statement: If This Than That. The IFTTT App could be the future how the Internet of Things will get stitched together, which might be why the the VC firm Andreessen-Horowitz invested in the company. Other than that I love their service, I really like their socks. I've started to connect the different apps I use online, and now I've even started to use IFTTT for the connections between my iPhone and the apps or devices offline. This way I can switch the lights next to my bed on-or-off through the IFTTT App using the WeMo light switch.

 

Pocket, Formerly readitlater, literally Read it Later 2) GetPocket; Pocket is the way I read stuff which I find online. It's my vault to anything that I come across. Which means pretty much I don't read anything in a browser anymore, as Pocket has dedicated apps for the iPad, the iPhone and the laptop OS. I can easily put content in my Pocket, and read pull up the app when I'm standing in line somewhere. The apps are syncing the content across the different devices, which makes it easy to always keep the list current. With the simple browser bookmarklet, you can even easier put webpages in your pocket to read later. Furthermore the browser bookmarklet adds a easy to add to your pocket link on sites like HackerNews. So when you scan an articles headline, it just takes one click to add to your reading list. Pocket on HackerNews

Buffer, an App which will let your schedule your Tweets3) BufferApp; Getting tired of the rapid fire tweeting from your friends. Why do people think it's a good idea to send 10 tweets within 1 minute with the content they find interesting to read? Why not spread it over the course of the day? If you agree, then Buffer is your friend. It allows you to spread the scheduled tweets according to a pre-determined schedule. You can hook up your Bit.ly URL shortner, so that the clicks on the tweets are all recorded in one place. Buffer also has its own analytics for Mentions, Retweets and favorites. Here you can see who of your followers has interacted with your tweets. One thing I would like to see from Buffer, is to make these analytics downloadable. Buffer Analytics These three allow me to optimize the stuff that I read, organize the way I share the most interesting articles with the people I connect with online through Twitter and archive the content I've read over time for future input in posts or analysis.

Where I Find Good Content

Zite1) Zite; the interactive magazine for your iPad and iPhone has slowly become the number one choice for me to discover new content on a topic. Just recently I picked up an interest for 3D printing, where I can easily set up a new interest within Zite to provide me with content. The App becomes smarter based on the way you interact with it's content. And with an easy click of one of the sharing links, you can put a new article you like into your Pocket App. Back in 2011 CNN bought the Zite app, and made it its way to capture data how people interact with the news. Smart move IMHO.

Zeit Content discoveryZeit easy sharing with Pocket

Flipboard2) Flipboard; for a long time, I was using Flipboard to keep up to date with the news. Now that I have Zite, I primarily use Flipboard to keep current of what my Twitter gang is sharing. Just like with Zite, the articles being shared by the people I follow are presented in a beautiful magazine format, with easy sharing functionality to my Pocket app, to keep my reading list topped off. Check out how easy it is for me to add this post originally shared by Eventup Twitter account, to my Pocket:

Flipboard easy sharing to Pocket Flipboard content discovery through Twitter

RSS Feeds3) RSS Feeds; With RSS feeds you can track some great stuff, if you know how to create the right RSS. Obviously, I just can get the latest new blog posts from some of my favorite blogs delivered into any reader, but what better to actually use the system here to get content delivered from any RSS feed into my Pocket reader. Right, you can do that with an IFTTT recipe. Like I have every new blogpost from Copyblogger send directly to my Pocket for later consumption. With some advanced search operators, you can get the latest of your favorite NYTimes newsgraphics delivered straight into your Pocket for sharing. I posted the recipe below here for your convenience. This way, your pocket is turning into a true substitute for the late Google Reader.

IFTTT Recipe: New NYTimes Newsgraphic reported by GoogleNews

Where do I Publish these Content Gems

Twitter1) Twitter; My number one social tool is still Twitter. I can't keep myself from not using it, and interact in 140 characters max with the people I follow and who follow me. A quick jump in and out of the stream can give you some great insights, share some good content or keep up with a relationship of one of your industry peers. The way I share the content on Twitter has changed, where I now let Buffer tweet for me the list of blog posts I really liked.

 

 

  Google +2) Google Plus; There is a big misunderstanding of what Google+ really is, and if people us it. If your friends are not there, and you don't interact yourself with people on Google +, I can understand it seems like a ghost town. Hearing how many active users there are on Google + makes for a lot of eye rolls. However, there are some lively communities on Google Plus, especially the photography vertical is pretty active. No wonder if you know how much marketing Google+ is doing to keep these photographers on the platform. BTW, did you know all the pictures you upload on Google plus have a big chance to be used by Google in their products like Hotel Finder..! Yeah, you should really read the Terms & Conditions before you start uploading your whole portfolio.

 

GDrive 3) GDrive; to keep track of what I've shared, I've hooked up the Buffer stream to Google Drive with a recipe of IFTTT. This way, I keep a running log of all the tweets Buffer has placed on my stream, with the timestamp when the tweet was scheduled and when it actually was tweeted, the text and the bit.ly url. Having the running log in a Google Doc, will allow you to analyze the tweets over time, and easily create list posts based on keywords. Just export the Google doc in excel, put some filters on it, and search for tweets containing your target keyword. Running log of your buffer tweets using GDrive

The IFTTT recipes you would need:

IFTTT Recipe: When article read on Pocket, send to Buffer

IFTTT Recipe: New article on Copyblogger to Pocket

IFTTT Recipe: Create a Buffer record spreadsheet for all Buffer Tweets

IFTTT Recipe: Buffered Tweets pushed to Hootsuite

Bonus Recipe

As an extra added bonus to the system, you could even start pushing those articles you really liked to your Evernote. Just use this IFTTT recipe which allows the system to pull the article from Pocket when you favorited it, into your Evernote.

IFTTT Recipe: Fav article on Pocket into Evernote

The Hypocrisy of Google. Don’t be Evil? Don’t Believe the Hype

Is it just me, or do we see more and more blog posts being published questioning the good, the bad and the evil of Google? Where the Mountain View search company has been a long time darling for so many, where they couldn't do any evil, I see more critical posts about Google these days than any other company in our space. It's like Google has become the Microsoft of the decade!

Today, Martin MacDonald published a long article around the account management sales teams at Google which make critical mistakes, and even break Google's own terms and conditions. Followed up by Barry Adams at StateofSearch, with even more explanation what is wrong at Google for such a long time already. Read both of these here: #GoogleGate, Can you trust Google? and Google Account Manager Caught Breaking Terms of Service on Voicemail. Although these two describe the paid pat of the house at Google, more posts are describing the way Google is handling the organic results. Here described by Michael Gray; How Google Continues to Kill Organic Results. Or here, where it is described Google Tells Court You Cannot Expect Privacy When Sending Messages to Gmail by Consumer Watchdog. And when it comes to a trial, because Google was spying on UK users in Safari, Google Lawyers just request the trial will be moved to the US... Guess why they would request this..? Argument; Google cannot be held accountable under UK privacy laws.

Google believes that U.K. privacy laws do not apply to the company, and so British consumers that want to take the tech giant to court are facing a losing battle, or should book their tickets to the United States.

The last couple of weeks, the tweets I shared which got the most clicks and retweets were tweets critical about the Google practices described in posts like these mentioned above.

Google Gmail No privacyGoogle killing organic resultsWhy are these tweets getting shared more often? Because people agree with the sentiment of the content!

Let's just look at another example of Google hypocrisy. Link schemes and paid links... The war on links which is changing the true nature of how the Internet works.

  • Guest posts, No PageRank for You
  • Widgets, No PageRank for You
  • PR messages, No PageRank for You
  • Blogger Reviews, No PageRank for You

Google is beginning to resemble a character of one of my favorite shows; Seinfeld's The Soup Nazi.

Where we cannot manipulate search rankings with any link we get for our websites as stated in the Webmaster guidelines;

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

Google is pushing the work downstream to the webmaster to police their backlink profile, which results in a flood of link removal requests. Isn't it Google's job to optimize their algorithm for relevance? Why are the webmasters put to work to put a no-follow on all those links. Majority of mom-n-pop webmasters don't even know what a no-follow link is!

So if all those links are so evil for Google's search algorithm, where we as webmasters are supposed to no-follow all the links, why is Google still taking ads on search queries like these below here? Soon we will be begging for one more Soup, but there is No Soup for You..!
But text links for SEO SERP with crap SEO ads
Is it just me, or do we see more and more blog posts being published questioning the good, the bad and the evil of Google? What do you think?