Google

From IE to Chrome in just 6 years.

Way back, long ago, in a time long forgotten by most, Internet Explorer ruled the world.

The year was 2008. The song ‘Low‘, by Flo Rida and T. Pain was the number 1 single the Billboard Top 100 list, it was the year Barack Obama defeated John McCain and became President of the United States of America, and it was the year that Internet Explorer was, according to The Economist and StatCounter, the world’s most dominant web browser worldwide. A few plucky countries were dabbling with Firefox as their dominant browser, but by in large things were good for Internet Explorer. Surely Microsoft wasn’t too worried about Mongolia, Finland and a few other countries shifting their allegiance.

Global internet browser usage, 2008

World Wide dominant browser usage – 2008

But by 2011, just a two years later, all hell had broken loose in the desktop browser wars. Chaos reigned. No longer could Microsoft look out across the globe, like so many mighty Empire’s that had come before it safe in the knowledge that it was managing the world’s browser needs. A plucky young Fox with a firey tale, coldly gripping the world in it’s mighty claws that had shifted the balance…. forever.

World Wide dominant browser usage 2011

World Wide dominant browser usage 2011

Most notably, the formerly conquered British colonies and Commonwealth clung on to their beloved Microsoft Internet Explorer, but Russia and much of Europe had now fallen under the spell of Firefox.

But, the story doesn’t end there…oh no… Google, that tiny company whom no one had really heard of unless they were shopping for a gifts for grandma, or were desperately searching ‘hangover’ after googling for vodka just 48 hours earlier, deployed the big guns, and in a global pincer movement released the internet version of The Kraken, with Google Chrome. It’s taken less than 18 months since 2011, but Google Chrome, as you can see below has now gone from being the dominant browser in just eight countries is undeniably the world’s foremost browser… even the furthest reaches of the globe weren’t immune: Australia’s favourite internet browser is Google Chrome.

World Wide dominant broswer usage 2013

World Wide dominant broswer usage 2013

Below is a chart demonstrating the steady rise and fall between 2008, when Google Chrome was launched, and June 2013.

Global browsers rise and fall over time

Global browsers rise and fall over time

And yes, this was written in deliberately sensationalist language. Check out Digital Optimisation Reports on Google+ for the latest analysis and studies of best practise Digital marketing and optimisation from around the world.

The new opportunities in the new Gmail

It’s been just a few weeks since the new Gmail inbox has been rolled out globally. And some have already declared it to be “the best thing to happen to email since the oldGmail“, and appropriately that ‘best thing’ has been spearheaded by the team at Gmail. Already in the short time it’s been live, MailChimp’s analysts have said they’ve seen a drop in open rates, however others, such as the team at Hubspot and ExactTarget have said they’ve either seen minimal or no impact at all to open rates.

what is the new New Gmail ?

Why the change and how does the new Gmail inbox work?
The Gmail team have taken Google’s 300 year plan ‘to sort the world’s information’ and applied it to what the Gmail team clearly recognised as a problem. And, what is that problem? It’s two fold.

First is that with additional storage comes additional lethargy to deleting old emails, this creates bulk and completely un-required weight to your email account.

The second problem is that relatively low value communications such as Facebook notifications of a friend tagging you in a picture of sushi and Sale reminders from that store you’ve never quite managed to get around to unsubscribing from, sit directly alongside and even get in the way of your really valuable information such as flight reminders, hotel confirmations, meeting requests and other tangibly valuable communications.

The primary change you immediately notice is that Gmail is now pre-sorted. Pre-sorting is based on a users history, frequency of contact and engagement, as well as who the sender is. Users no longer need to use the filters and folders on the left hand side which they  may have been carefully crafting over the last couple of years and most importantly for the changes are likely to mean a reduction in searching through potentially thousands of old emails for that one that was saved because it was important.

Check out this explanatory video from the Gmail team for a short overview.

How many tabs can I have?
At this stage it appears users can have up to 5 tabs, and three come turned on as standard. The five tabs are:
Primary (default) – What users will see by default when logging in. Featuring comms from people you know, and starred messages.
Social (default) – All social sites are sorted in here – twitter, Facebook, G+, Instagram etc
Promotions (default) – Where most marketers emails will now go. Sales, promotions, and information from companies.
Updates – notifications and service updates (changes to twitter terms of service or Google’s Play store etc)
Forums – updates from forums and online communities.

“We do much more than promotions…I want to be in the primary tab!”


Getting into the Primary tab
Reading the list above some email marketers may have just experienced a cold sweat, exclaiming ‘Promotions! We do much more than promotions, my email is important, I want to be in the primary tab!’

The good news is this, if you’re making genuinely content rich valuable emails then chances are you’re already on your way to getting into the primary tab. There are two known ways of getting into the primary tab:

– Your email subscribers can drag your email from the Promotions tab and into the Primary tab.

– Google continues to learn and those email subscribers who have higher frequency engagement will increase the likelihood of your email being assigned to the primary tab naturally by Google.

Avoid being spammy. I haven’t been able to find anything concrete about this, but if the updates to SEO (as evidenced by Penguin) is any guide, being spammy is a big no-no and could result in being penalised at some point down the track. Requesting  your users  physically move your email to the primary tab is one such example. It feels cheap and it’s a fairly obvious ‘gaming the system’ mentality that I’m sure Google have already considered how to tackle. Additionally, if you’re only going to get your subscriber base to do something, it should be spent on asking them to do something much more useful like engaging with the content and products you’ve lovingly laid out in the email.

The consistent theme for Email, Social, SEO
Email marketers have been content focused for much longer than old-School SEO’s and to some degree Social media managers. Email databases live and die on the quality of content delivered. Even for those who know this fundamental truth it’s still important to step back and think more broadly about what this change means for email and Social and SEO.

These changes represent a fundamental shift in not just the role content plays, but ups the level and importance in the quality of it. Once again Google is pushing a better experience, and as marketers we can’t sit on our laurels and churn out ‘Top 10’ lists, Infographics and ‘How to’s’. This is consistent with the Penguin changes to SEO, and the basis of Social Media.

Summary
The new Gmail is better for users, sorting what Google knows is important without hiding what you’ve signed up for. The opportunity for your business to stand out is more than ever reliant on your content strategy and strong engagement. Getting content right, and integrating it into Social and SEO objectives gives you the best chance of your email thriving.

 

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Check out Digital Optimisation Reports on Google+ for the latest analysis and studies of best practice Digital marketing and optimisation from around the world.

Is Microsoft about to dump Bing?

A piece out of Business Insider today, by Matt Rosoff argues that maybe Microsoft is giving up on Bing. It’s a quirky question, businesses of this size don’t usually give up on products that are growing like Bing is. But nontheless Matt has some decent points, as below.

microsoft bing

Earlier today, Google and Mozilla renewed their deal to make Google the default search engine in the Firefoxbrowser for another three years.

This seems like Microsoft passed up a great opportunity to get more traffic to Bing. Right now, Firefox has about 25% market share and is used by more than 400 million people. According to Comscore, about 75% of the searches conducted from Firefox go to Google. (Users can manually select Bing or another search engine, but most don’t.)

Last year, Google paid Mozilla about $103 million for the right to be the default search engine. (That’s 84% of the Mozilla Foundation’s total $123 million, as per its 2010 financial statement, which were released in October — PDF here.)

That’s chump change for Microsoft. Even if the deal was much more expensive this time around as both companies bid up the price, Microsoft blinked first. Why?

Microsoft had no comment, but here’s one possibility: Microsoft has already reached its market share goal with Bing and is tightening the wallet to bring expenses under control.

The evidence:

  • Microsoft decreased Bing’s marketing spend last quarter. The Online group’s operating loss decreased for the first time in ages last quarter. That’s partly because sales and marketing expenses for the Online group dropped 25% last quarter (compared with the year-ago quarter). That’s a big shift from the previous four quarters, where sales and marketing expenses for Online rose 5% from the previous year.
  • It’s letting Bing talent migrate. Back in April, a former Bing engineer wrote that Microsoft was no longer spending big bucks to retain the best talent — instead, it was paying “far below market rates.” This year, two top Bing leaders — Satya Nadella and Yusuf Mehdi — took jobs elsewhere at Microsoft, suggesting that they saw more opportunity elsewhere (or that Steve Ballmer wanted to shift top talent away from Bing).

While Matt’s points are well argued he fails to address the fundamentals about why destop oriented browser based search may not be as appealing now, for Bing’s future. Businesses don’t make decisions like the size and scale of this one based on today’s conditions, they make them based on at least a 5 to 10 year window.

I’m not entirely convinced Microsoft is giving up on Bing at all. It could be that they’re recognising that desktop based browsers aren’t going as important in the future as it’s going to be – with the rise of mobile and tablet devices and growing search volumes, and it is because of Firefox that more people are willing to check out other browsers like Chrome, Opera etc.

It’s also worth considering that Google gave up it’s Twitter access a few years ago now, but no one seriously suggested that Google wasn’t taking search seriously. I wonder if they’re regetting that decision now?

Finally, it’s worth considering which search engine picked up exclusive access to Twitter, and also has exclusive access to Facebook – yep, that’d be Bing. Social Search – the seamless integration of arguably the world’s two largest Social media platforms and search data will be invaluable for both customer experience and algorithmic learning.

Perhaps it’s not that Microsoft didn’t want Firefox, perhaps it’s that they just think they don’t need it as much – because in the next few years social media sites are going to become even more important desinations than they are today and less people will use Search to get there.

Why doesn’t Facebook optimise their signed out pages?

With all the talk about Google+ and its potential impact on Facebook, there is little disagreement amongst many industry observers that Facebook needs to up its game a bit.

But why wait for Google+ to put on the pressure?  Even basic things, like sign out pages offer huge opportunities for mobile, tablet and other product and service adoption. In-fact Twitter and Linkedin have been doing something similar, but independent from each other, for over a year now.

Namely, they’ve been using their ‘signed out’ pages as ways of driving one final message: mobile and tablets apps and integration. It might sound like a small thing, but when you consider how many tens of millions of users each social network has, and how many times per day, week and month sign out pages would be seen globally, the reason for not using it to push a message is drowned out. The ability to push one last message during the customer experience before they leave is invaluable. Not using it for a purpose, other than to directly sign back in – as Facebook uses it – seems like a lost opportunity.

Even at just 1 percent of Facebook’s approximately 500 million users, seeing the ‘logout’ page everyday that’d equal 35 million page views per week, or 140 million pageviews over a four week period. That’d mean Facebook’s logout page alone would receive more/rival traffic volumes than even the largest media websites.

Three screenshots of Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin’s pages a user goes to once signed out, are below.

Twitter – signed out page

Twitter.com sign out screen

Linkedin – signed out page

Linkedin sign out screen

Facebook – signed out page

Facebook sign out screen

UPDATE, as per a question: So just how many pages could Facebook’s ‘logout’ page be serving each day, week or month?

Back of the envelope guesstimate using fairly conservative numbers:
500 million users, minus 20% of completely non-active accounts = 400 million users.
30% of 400 million users use the site on any given day: 120 million users.
Of 120 million daily users:
@ 30% log out every day: 40 million pages served a day, 240 million ‘logout’ pages every week.
@ 20% log out every day: 24 million pages served a day, 168 million ‘logout’ pages every week.
@ 10% log out every day: 12 million pages served a day, 84 million ‘logout’ pages every week.

It is indeed a pity they’re not using it more effectively.

Wrapped up in our own bubbles – part 1

There are several big picture issues floating around on the internet at the moment all of them revolving around filters, personalisation, social conversations, social media, anonymity and privacy vs conversations specifically tied to your real life and the real you. I’m going to try to tackle these issues/discussions one by one and hopefully finish up with a few summarised thoughts, potential implications and lots of questions worth mulling over in the coming weeks, months and years. The issues are too big for just one post however, so consider this to be part 1.

The first issue to tackle is the discussion around filters and personalisation. Eli Pariser, the former Executive Director of MoveOn.org, argues that more and more individuals and companies are wrapping themselves in ‘filtered bubbles’ of information, and that this is ultimately a bad thing. A ‘filter bubble’, is “A filter bubble is a concept developed by Internet activist Eli Pariser to describe a phenomenon in which search queries on sites such as Google or Facebook or Yahoo selectively guess what information a user would like to see based on the user’s past search history and, as a result, searches tend to play back information which agrees with the user’s past viewpoint. Accordingly, users get less exposure to conflicting viewpoints. And according to Pariser, the filter bubble is “that personal ecosystem of information that’s been catered by these algorithms” which, based on past choices, reflect a person’s existing viewpoint.” Source.

I strongly encourage you to watch the video below as Eli draws out, but stops short of describing, some of the impacts of a filter bubble, and what that means for individuals, groups, collectives, societies and nations.

What Eli touches on, but doesn’t go into a great deal of detail about is what this means in the medium to long-term and about the implications of companies. political and social groups trying to communicate to a broader audience. In an era of ‘over-personalisation’ where your future search and online results are influenced by past decisions it becomes easier to be convinced that you are right, because Search Engines – both algorithmic and social – deliver what you want to hear, read and see, and are influenced signficantly based on what you’ve previously asked for. How does an individual grow sufficiently to take in broad opinion if the search results they receive cater to what they know, not what they don’t know? Over time, the delivery of this personalised information leads to more like-minded searches, which in turn deliver more like-minded results. Breaking out of that cycle could be very difficult – how do you for example tell algorithmic search engines that you want to be challenged, if you don’t know what some of the alternatives are?

The challenge for business should be plainly obvious: How do you talk to the unconverted where they aren’t getting the information they might need because years of search history indicates they don’t know and an algorithm doesn’t isn’t programmed to recognise that they might need it? How do you get to individuals that should be looking at you and considering your services but where you might be prevented from delivering that information to new groups because a search engine, or personalisation algorithms have decided that your message isn’t relevant, even if it is. In an online environment a future challenge (to start working on solving now) is how to get your message to those that aren’t already singing from the same hymn sheet.

This may not be a massive issue right now because the internet is still relatively young, and personalisation more so, but consider the current generation growing up now – next generations students, consumers and leaders – how will their lives be affected, and how will businesses talk to individuals who have never known any different?

Perhaps Donald Rumsfeld said it best when he posited this:
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

On to part 2.