Google Doodle: A Victim of Their Own Success?

Google-Doodle-Petri

I found today’s Google Doodle quite creative. If you didn’t catch it, the image above shows what I mean. It was a tribute to Julius Richard Petri, invetor of the Petri dish. But the thing I found even more interesting was the results when you click on the doodle. See what I mean below:

(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)

Almost every single result, except for the bio on the right and the Wikipedia article was about the fact that Google did a doodle about Julius Richard Petri. Google Doodles were meant to pay tribute, and educate the public about the men and women that made tribute to the advancement of humankind. It seems in this case the success of the doodle pushed all that great information down the results and instead offered results about how great the doodle itself was. Whoops.

Make Your Presentations Memorable By Using One Of These Five Types Of Story Telling

powerful_stories_featured

Let’s face it, most presentations suck. While there can be a number of reasons for that, one suggestion that consistently comes up as a way to improve presentation style is to incorporate the concept of story telling. It seems human beings have grown quite attached to listening to a good story and great presenters have found ways to bring story telling into their presentations to keep their audience entertained while also being educated.

There are five basic stories in Western culture:

  1. Quest
  2. Stranger in a Strange Land
  3. Rags to Riches
  4. Revenge
  5. Love Story

As it turns out, there are five basic story types that people can use when they share information and depending upon the type of information you are sharing, one type can be more valuable than the other. As the article below defines, each type has its own place in business presentations and they even offer some sample videos to give examples.

Read More: How do you take an ordinary presentation and turn it into a powerful story? | Public WordsPublic Words.

The Minimally Viable Feature Approach – MindTheProduct

via Mind the Product

I love this. It’s something to keep in mind, especially when resources are constrained. Building the minimum necessary allows one to “prove out” the concepts and fail fast if the interest just isn’t there.

Minimally Viable Feature approach (MVF) is creating enough of the feature to test the adoption and usefulness before expending lots of resources on fully building out the feature.

read more: The Minimally Viable Feature Approach – MindTheProduct.

Filter Bubbles

 

Recommended Video: Filter Bubbles

Ted Talks: Eli Pariser – Beware of Online Filter Bubbles

Software strives for more and more personalization. Yet this video describes the concerns with allowing software to determine what information we are presented and more importantly, determine what information we are not presented.  Eli Parser defines this scenario as a filter bubble and has concerns that this will be a growing trend and more technologies strive for automatically determining the most relevant piece of information for us.

Product Roadmaps without dates?

example-roadmap-exported

 

ProdPad released an article about creating roadmaps without dates as a new approach for Product Managers. The thought is that usually these dates are not well known and regardless of how you preface the communication, ultimately you are judged by your ability to meet or beat these dates. Instead the suggestion is to look at things in groups of 1) What’s current, 2) whats’s near term 3) what’s planned in the future.

Is it fair to remove dates from a roadmap and just use these three groups instead? I think it’s fair to assume that, in many cases especially highly dynamic industries, anything beyond a quarter can be meaningless when it comes to timing. However, I would expect that with more mature markets and products, especially those following longer release cycles, there needs to be a further outlook of planned dates to help with managing the dependencies that come from a roadmap. While overall I like this approach (I actually have a very similar strategy when it comes to managing my own tasks) without some level of timing, there is a missing sense of urgency and a lack of coordination around the elements that, at the very least, are current. We’ve all heard the phrase, “A project will consume the time allotted” meaning if you give someone a week to complete a task, it is human nature to consume that full week. Without target dates, this begins to offer a level of flexibility that makes momentum difficult to maintain and scope creep to offset the goal of a minimally viable product.

I do agree that setting dates further out may be less meaningful and necessary but I would argue that not having them on shorter term events makes planning and setting expectations difficult with clients and other departments. I’m not saying this can’t be supported in a shorter-term document or release plan but in my experience, whenever you present a roadmap the question that inevitably comes up is, “When is that feature coming?”

It’s Not What You Read, It’s What You Ignore

Recommended Video: It’s Not What You Read, It’s What You Ignore

Webstock ’12: Scott Hanselman It’s not what you read, it’s what you ignore

This is an interesting take on productivity. In the video, Scott Hanselman describes the importance of focusing on one thing and using tools to measure and track your productivity. I’ve applied a few of these suggestions into my daily activities and found them very helpful.

Google Updates Organic Search Algorithm To Emphasize Breaking News!

Below is a contribution to Adotas.com that I co-authored. 

Extra, Extra: Google Launches New Organic Search Algorithm To Emphasize Breaking News!

Google is very busy these days. In addition to the recent changes announced for how paid search advertisements will be listed, Google also rolled out a major change to the way organic search listings are ranked—the new Freshness Algorithm.

The goal of this change is simple. For queries conducted by searchers where information changes constantly—which Google estimates is about 35% of the queries—there is a new rendering of the organic results page starting with “news for QUERY.” Two examples are used below: “greek debt crisis” which is obviously going to have recent news and “the history of money,” which is not.

googleoldgooglenew

Why Is Google Doing This?

Speculation is that this is a strategic response to Facebook and Twitter—i.e., provision of real time information through directed queries on relevant topics (as opposed to open stream of incoming information, albeit timely, from competing social media platforms). Also, at a technical level, Google is rolling out some new technology to Googlebot that helps the system better index AJAX/Java Script commenting systems like Facebook, along with Google+.

What Is the Impact?

Google indicated that it would impact 35% of search queries. To be more specific, queries that will be impacted fall into three categories:

• Recent Events and Hot Topics. This includes examples of breaking news, socially trending topics or sports scores and related information.

• Regularly Recurring Events. Political elections, annual or periodic conferences (Davos, WEC, G10, or even… INFLECTIONPoint) where there is repetitive and predictable query volumes that require monitoring.

• Frequent Updates. This includes queries for products and services where there is an on-going flow of changes to the underlying landing page, such as price updates, SKU changes, reviews, etc. Queries like “best camera,” “cheap airfare to San Diego,” etc. where there is volatility in the underlying content.

How Will This New SERP Be Rolled Out?

The change began Nov. 3, 2011, and will be rolling out as Google tests the impact of the change—as they always do. However, advertisers should expect this to become a new optimization variable in their SEO analytics for any effected query.

So What Should Advertisers or SEO Specialists Do?

We have a couple of recommendations for our customers to help them understand what impact this will have on SEO results, and what they need to do to address this change.

First, social media will be more intertwined into SEO. Remember 18 months ago, Google rolled out the “Latest” function; a secondary page that users could activate on the left hand navigation to see social media data. We wrote about that update and said at the time “that if more than 10% of queries ultimately go to this secondary page, then optimizing for “recency” as well as “relevancy” will become the key to SEO. And how will that be done—integration of social media programs with SEO.”

This is an upgrade to this function that a) moves the “latest” to the main SERP and b) does so only for a subset of queries where recency is relevant. So social media programs—i.e., updates to Facebook and Twitter comments by advertisers, updated reviews, and any time of blog based content generation will require infusion with high-value SEO keywords and link backs to other content pages in order to align with the high value queries and command the newly available premium shelf space.

Second, the high value generic keywords will make up the majority of the frequent updates (“Best camera,” “cheap laptop,” “best tablet”) category of affected queries. If advertisers are going to build their processes—we recommend this. Identify the top 25 queries driving traffic to their site. Conduct queries and see if the “News for” box is appearing.

If so, monitor competitor and advertiser presence on a series of queries over a week or two and see what happens. If there is degradation in corresponding web traffic during this time period, then these become the priority for the social media programs content generation.

Last, reputation management will also be impacted. Industry announcements, including company wins and losses will find their way to the top of the rankings and may begin to overtake historically high ranking pages for branded search terms. This is both positive and negative depending on how good the news is on a given topic. Reacting quickly to negative publicity, while promoting positive news, through the systems by which “News for” reacts will become a key aspect of public relations.

This change clearly is salient for advertisers. It impacts a large number of queries. It provides prime search engine real estate to content that is “recent” and “relevant”—which requires continued integration of advertisers social media programs (to provide the “recency”) and SEO (to provide the “relevancy.”).

Selling Links? Google’s not buying it.

Below is an article I authored for Covario’s Actionable Insights blog.

Selling Links? Google’s not buying it.

Google recently announced a change to their natural search algorithm in an effort to fight spam sites. This rides on the coat tails of their other spam fighting efforts introduced, such as a blocklist extension application for their Chrome browser and the “public hand-slapping” of companies like Forbes, Overstock.com and JC Penney…all for using paid links. This change is more significant than their ongoing algorithmic adjustments that occur and advertisers should expect some variance in their natural search ranking as a result.

What’s clear is that Google is aggressively fighting growing concerns and comments that their search results are being overrun by spam (see Washington Post article). Google continues to adjust its efforts to target and penalize SEO techniques that don’t offer value to searchers, but instead game the system to increase rank.

“Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information, such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

Read Google’s Blog Post: Finding more high-quality sites in search.

Bing and Yahoo! – Same Algorithm, Different Results

Below is an article I authored for Covario’s Actionable Insights blog.

Bing and Yahoo! – Same Algorithm, Different Results

Yahoo! and Bing are now driven by the same search algorithm for natural results. That means that when you search for a term on Bing, the results you see are the same as if you were to search on the term on Yahoo…right? Wrong.

There’s still a difference and I suspect that there may continue to be a difference moving forward. Right now the variance appears to affect positions on the first page, just below the fold. Ever since Bing introduced the concept of related searches, they have been showing only a subset of results for the term being searched. The rest of the first page is populated with results from related searches.

For example, check out the term “laptop” on Bing. From the image below, you can see that there are only five organic results from the term “laptop.” The rest of the page is populated with results from related searches like “laptop brands” and “laptop buying guide.”

bing-and-yahoo
Note: Some paid results have been removed.

 

 

So who missed out appearing on the first page for a term as valuable as “laptop?” Anyone in position six through ten is not on the first page.

However, if you run the same search on Yahoo!, you get all ten results from the search term. As you can see in the image below, the entire result set is focused on the search term entered by the user. The algorithm driving results for the term “laptop” is the same now, but as you can see, the first page (the most important page) is not showing the same results.

yahoo
Note: Some paid results have been removed.

 

It’s important to point out that these related searches do not always appear on Bing, however if your SEO efforts are targeting popular, non-branded terms, you are most likely experiencing these results.  So at the very least, do not expect the rankings on Yahoo! to suddenly be the same on Bing for all of your terms.

What if we explore this concept a little more? What exactly does it mean to have related searches on Bing? Certainly this is nothing that new, these results have been around for quite a while now but as Microsoft and Yahoo! begin to grab more market share through this integration, SEO Managers are beginning to ask more questions on what they need to consider for optimization efforts. Case in point, using the example above. One could argue that owning position three for the term “Laptop Brand” is much more important than owning position six for the term “laptop” even though “laptop” has a much higher search query volume (last I checked “laptop” had roughly 1100 times more search volume than “laptop brands”). This is simply due to the fact that position six no longer shows up on the front page and is replaced by positions one, two and three for this other term. When you begin to look at the competitiveness for these related searches, you begin to understand the trade-off efforts for making sure you appear on this page. If you can move into a high ranking position for a related search, you can potentially leapfrog over the competition and onto the front page. Even though Yahoo! and Bing are powered by the same algorithm, the results you see, and the conversions you track, can still vary greatly from these types of examples.

5 Things About Getting Started with a DSLR Camera

getting started with a dslr camera

I recently ordered a Canon EOS 50D DSLR camera and while waiting for it to arrive, I’ve had some time to research taking photos. Luckily in today’s digital age, there is plenty of free information out there for getting started with a DSLR camera. Since we also live in a world of A.D.D. I thought I might summarize the basics of what I’ve learned so far. Think of this as a “Cliff Notes” version on DSLR camera photography and getting started.

Now I should premise this that my so called “expertise” in DSLR camera photography has been built through about three days of nothing but Internet research and no actual field work (like I said I’m still waiting for my camera to arrive). In other words, I’m about as dangerous as my grandmother behind the wheel of a car but all of this information below is based upon pretty common concepts that I’ve pulled from various sites and can be a good starting point if you’re looking to get started with a DSLR camera.

1) The “Exposure Triangle” – This is probably the first thing I came across when graduating from a point-and-shoot to a DSLR camera. Essentially, the Exposure Triangle refers to three variables to consider when taking a DSLR camera photograph. They are Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed. I’d say that of the things I learned, this is probably the most important to review if you ever want to get off of the automatic settings for your DSLR camera and more into priority and manual modes. Check out this link on The Exposure Triangle to learn more with using your DSLR camera.

2) Correct Exposure is only part of the equation – Once you get the concepts of the Exposure Triangle figured out, that doesn’t mean the DSLR camera photos will suddenly become professional quality. The next step is to figure out how to get a creative DSLR camera photo that is properly exposed. You can have a properly exposed DSLR camera photo using a number of different combinations with the variables above. Finding the one that is best suited for the story you are trying to tell is what makes the difference between a good photo and a great photo. Watch this video on creating a creatively correct exposure.

3) Learn your DSLR camera settings – Seems simple enough but have you seen some of the manuals? Holy crap that’s boring! Besides, who wants to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to be sidelined with a thick booklet that contains probably 70% of information that I (as a beginner) am not ready for anyway? Again, this is where the Internet comes in handy. I went to YouTube and just searched for my DSLR camera’s brand and model number and I found instructional videos that told me more than I needed to know about how to get started. Plus in many of the videos I found suggestions on where to set my lesser used settings to get the best general results so I can leave them there until I’m ready to learn more about them.

4) Rules of Thirds – This is less about the technical settings of your DSLR camera and more about the artistic aspect of photography but I bet some would argue this is as foundational as a rule to learn as the Exposure Triangle. The Rules of Thirds basically states that if you divide your viewfinder into three horizontal and three vesicle sections, the intersection of each area is where the interesting points should go. A common mistake when taking a photo is to place the horizon at the center of the photo. This is conflicting and instead the horizon should go 1/3 or 2/3’s of the way down the picture to emphasize either the ground or the sky.

5) Learn the rules, then break them – If we all followed the same rules then we’d stop being creative. One common suggestion I’ve come across is that when it comes to photography, rules are more guidelines than rules. Sometimes breaking a rule makes the photo more interesting. Take a look at photos that others have taken and see what feedback they get on some of the photography discussion forums and you’ll start to understand what rules work and may not work in certain situations.

That’s all for now. Check out some of my older photos (using my point-and-shoot camera) on my new photos section of the website and let me know what you think. More photos from my new DSLR Camera coming soon (once it gets here).

QR-Codes and BlackBerry Cell Phones

Google announced that they will start displaying QR Codes in stickers in front of stores which will allow people to “zap” the code with their cell phone and do some cool things like write a review, receive a coupon, or go to a website.

QR Codes have been around for a while but I figure something like this will start to gain in popularity now that Google has put a stake in the claim. As a BlackBerry user who has BlackBerry Messenger 5.0, this is also pretty cool because we can take advantage of these QR Codes immediately. Don’t worry if you don’t have it, just  check this announcement by Google and they offer plenty of other options for cell phone users.

Take the image below:

dudchenko_website_QR-Code

If you open up BlackBerry Messenger 5.0 and select “Add Contact,” and then “Scan Invitation Barcode from another BlackBerry” you’ll be presented with the same view you get when you want to take a photo. Just point your phone at the image above (make sure you get the whole image to appear in the screen) and the phone will do the rest. No need to click the photo, the system will open a new browser when it reads the code and take you to the super-secret website (hint, it looks a lot like this one).

Want to make your own bar code? Check out Kaywa where you can generate a code that opens a website, offers a textual message, or even provides a phone number.

**Update 07/14/2011**

Funny story, I was recently contacted by someone who received a t-shirt as a gift that had a QR code on the front. He scanned it and apparently the QR code was directed to my site. I can only guess that the image above was pulled when printing the shirt but apparently there are shirts being sold in Bangkok with my website address as a QR code. See below. Thanks Avinash for sharing!

QR Code for Pete Dudchenko's Website as a T-Shirt
QR Code for Pete Dudchenko\’s Website as a T-Shirt