Oh Yes, I like Hot Pot. Tastes Good…

HotPot, yes, it sounds like a tasty dish I had for lunch one cold December day. Alas it is actually a new social platform introduced by Google making your opinions, and those of your friends the basis for local search results.

Imagine my surprise when while watching hulu, not at work of course, The ubiquitous  ad that interrupts my television enjoyment is for Google HotPot. Now, it’s been years since I can remember actually seeing a Google ad not on Adowrds, so this must be good. So how does it work? Well, first you’ll need a Google Places account. Then the fun can begin.

Google puts it like this: “Every time you rate a place on Google, we get a better understanding of your likes and dislikes…  Once we can discern your tastes, you’ll start to see recommendations in your search results of places chosen specially for you, with explanations of why you might like them.” That’s not all. Go ahead and add your friends to your Google places account.” When you add them as friends in Google Places, you’ll see their recommendations when you search for places on Google.”

What will this mean for your Local search effort? It means that now more than ever reviews, good reviews, are tantamount to having a successful local search model.  It also means ORM (online reputation management) is even more important and even one bad review can completely derail your relevancy for local search.

More information on Hot Pot can be found HERE.

Is Google Limiting the Amount of Money They Stand to Make?

I read an interesting Ad Age article, “Google Offers Ad Opt-out Feature for Chrome Web Browser,” where Edmund Lee explains how Google’s Chrome web browser is now offering a special software for Internet users. This software enables Internet users to protect their privacy from online advertisers and data companies being able to track the user’s online activity.

This is no new news when it comes to the Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browsers, which have already implemented similar software to help “protect” Internet users from being tracked by companies. Edmund continues by discussing that Google’s “opt-out extension will retain the user’s preferences on which advertisers can and cannot track their behavior.” Most notably, this software is compatible with AboutAds.info, which is the advertising and marketing industry’s self-regulatory program. This program was created to enable online consumers to gain more control over internet-based advertising (i.e. customized ads that are based on the user’s behavior online).

On Google’s site, the following is posted regarding this new development – “We recognize that some users are uncomfortable with the personalization of ads that they see on the web.” The site continues with a disclaimer that once this software of “Keep My Opt-Outs” is installed, user’s “experience of online ads will change: You may see the same ads repeatedly, or see ads that are less relevant to you. … It also may result in less profitable ads for your favorite websites.”

I found it ironic that Google’s web browser is moving forward with software that will restrict Google’s ability to gain insight into consumer’s online activity. Do you think that this “opt-out” software is something that will actually protect online consumers’ privacy?

In an Instant World

Make breakfast easier with instant pancakes! Clean your bathtub quicker with instant sanitizer! Get over that headache with instant relief! And now, decrease your time searching with instant Google!

In a society that increasingly glorifies and capitalizes on the public’s laziness and torpor, ‘instant’ has become a necessary descriptor for the success of countless goods and services. When computers became prolific, all were happy to forego the burdens of the pen in favor of the seamless keyboard. But it is not enough; it MUST be faster! Unfortunately the insipid human tentacles can only move so fast, but mother Google always knew it would come to this. So for the sake of our penchant for inertia, Google now provides instant results so that searchers can complete the hunt much more rapidly. In essence, type less to get more. Never before have people been so brazenly rewarded for lack of thoroughness. I wonder if this could have larger implications for the future of nonverbal communication and the ‘written’ word, as language might start to evolve in concomitance with our dire need for efficiency. That is probably an issue outside of my realm of expertise, but I suppose I can comment on the implications for SEM.

Google instant caused a lot of chatter when first announced, and since its implementation, it has looked like much ado about nothing. So it appears that search marketers can breathe easy, at least until the next Google Blog update pops up in their inbox. But as this insightful article points out, there are less conspicuous opportunities that Google Instant has created, such as the potential for purchasing incomplete keywords. Since this technology more or less encourages curtailed search terms, there might be promise in buying your desired keyword’s leading syllables. These unfinished terms cost next to nothing and have little competition, for now at least. For example, when the incomplete term ‘elec’ is Google Instantfied, ads are generated for ‘election results.’ But Google, I was trying to find an electrician! You know nothing about me! Alas, Gary the electrician can get the upper hand on his competitors by buying this incomplete term and revealing himself sooner; and Google and I can continue our dysfunctional relationship for the time being.

Despite garnering so much attention and worry, Google Instant was probably just a geeky gimmick to create a little buzz and keep the monolith at the top of the search world. As search engine marketers, we must be malleable and adapt to Google’s caprices. Furthermore, we must use our internet savvy to find the subtleties that affect our practice. Google Instant definitely feeds on laziness, but I believe that laziness is just a wrongfully derogatory word for efficiency.

– Kenneth Hurta

Coca-Cola: 275,000 miles, 186 countries and 365 days

I read an interesting Adage.com article, “Coca-Cola Wraps Largest Social Media Project Ever,” where Natalie Zmuda describes the massive efforts of the Expedition 206 with Coca-Cola’s “happiness ambassadors” major worldwide expedition. To be exact, these three “ambassadors” traveled more than 275,000 miles, 186 countries over 365 days to complete Coca-Cola’s social media project.

The ambassadors were provided with video cameras, smartphones, and other gadgets to complete their quest in countries where Coca-Cola is marketed and sold. This expedition was essentially in “search for happiness.” The journey was covered by the Expedition206.com Website, along with many social media platforms including Twitter, YouTube and Facebook and made a whopping 650 million media impressions, not to mention interacting with billions of people worldwide.

The global efforts were managed primarily by an Atlanta team, but required much efforts from other teams. Many of these markets were introduced into the social media and digital realms for the first time. Furthermore, the program had to stress the significance of being “locally relevant” to different markets around the globe.

This was quite a feat in my opinion, even for a major corporation like Coca-Cola! To read more about this social media journey, visit https://adage.com/.

Furthermore, I think this shows that now more than ever it is important to engage and interact with people, instead of sending them a message. But, the tricky part is figuring out what consumers feel is worthy of their time and attention.

What do y’all think?

Facebook worth $50B today, $36.2B Three Months Ago

News surfaced today that Goldman Sachs and a previously unnamed investor (Digital Sky Technologies – also an investor in Groupon) invested $500 million in Facebook.  This puts the worth of Facebook at $50 billion!  Three months ago the value was only $36.2B.

To put this all in perspective Google’s Market Cap was $193.26B today and Yahoo’s Market cap for the day was $21.83B. Microsoft’s Market Cap is $239B today, but keep in mind MSFT owns the world.

For now, what this means for Facebook is really a legal battle and possible sanctions by the Securities and Exchange Commission for some creative investment vehicles possibly being offered by Goldman Sachs for investment in Facebook.  For Google what this means is a formidable opponent in the land of search – with enough money and enough friends to possibly deal Google a sizable blow to its advertising bottom line.

Watch and learn more here – https://www.youtube.com/user/PBSNewsHour#p/u/3/KHLSf3qMCSk

Even Bigger Brother (He was away at college but couldn’t get a job)

Working in this industry one can forget the pitfalls of online marketing and the ‘always-on’ nature of social media. Very recently with the Wiki-Leaks scandal we are beginning to understand that all information is not created equal. Some might even argue that there are just some things we do not need to know. (Those people were ‘unavailable’ for comment).

We have all heard terrible stories of young graduates being denied jobs because of well…less than appropriate Facebook profiles. Can you imagine though if you were denied a job based solely on information sharing? Students at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs received such a warning from the State Department. The email stated:

From: “Office of Career Services”

Date: November 30, 2010 15:26:53 EST:

Hi students,

We received a call today from a SIPA alumnus who is working at the State Department. He asked us to pass along the following information to anyone who will be applying for jobs in the federal government, since all would require a background investigation and in some instances a security clearance.

The documents released during the past few months through Wikileaks are still considered classified documents. He recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.


Seriously? This has very large implications for the rapidly expanding social media market. The next generation is no longer being told to post carefully. No, they are being told not to post at all. That is if they wish to be gainfully employed. This could mean the giant pool of consumers who access their social media tools everyday is lost to advertisers.

We have known for years that the government has struggled with how to ‘police’ the net and make it as family (and govt.) friendly as Main Street America. But not hiring a student because they commented on their best friend’s wedding photos is a little ludicrous.

-Name removed to protect the innocent

Banner Ads may not Get Clicked, but they Convert

I found an interesting article regarding the perrinial online advertising favorite – Banner ads. This standard ad has been a go-to solution for online advertisers and what many people new to online advertising associate with paid search advertising. But the banner ad is suffering as of late – with click through rates at 0.09% in 2010 – a fall from an already low 0.15% in 2008. Consumers are also scorning the ads with 43% of individuals polled answering they disregard or entirely ignore internet banner ads more than any other form of advertising:

But with advertising spend on standard banner ads set to increase (bumping 11.4% in 2011 to $6.56 billion) how can advertisers improve banner ads and make the most of their online efforts?

Give Consumers What They Want

While only 21% of those polled said they would interact with a banner ad that was marketed “to them”, 77% were motivated by banner ads that included coupons, discounts and other incentives. Almost half (46%) of those polled were drawn to banner ads that provided more information on a product or could solve their problem(s). This study also noted that entertaining ads (banners with flash, animation, games, etc) were much less important to users that the special offers or problem solving ads mentioned above:

Although CTR for banner ads continues to drop, 79.6% of online conversions through banner ads were not results of clicks, but of users viewing a banner without clicking.

Do You Ignore Banner Ads?

In a recent AdWeek article, “Ignoring Internet Banner Ads: The oft-maligned promo unit takes yet another hit,” Mark Dolliver analyzes the results of a recent Adweek Media/Harris Poll  where 43 percent of Internet banner ads were sited to be the most ignored by Internet users. Dolliver continues to discuss that even the 18 to 34 year old demographics were “about as likely as their elders to pick banner ads” as the online media vehicle to be ignored.  Furthermore, 21 percent of this same demographic reported that “search-engine ads are the genre they’re likeliest to ignore.”

Dolliver switches to investigating consumer’s tendencies towards traditional advertising when looking to television ads. Unsurprisingly, 20 percent of the 55 years and older demographic selecting this genre as the most ignored, while only nine percent of the 18 to 34 years old demographic chose this genre as the most ignored. This was followed by 14 percent of 45 to 54 years old demographic and 13 percent of the 35 to 44 years old demographic.

Despite the fact that specific banner ads can be targeted towards the most qualified and relevant audience, I personally worry that consumers do not find banner ads to be worthwhile of their time and thus prefer to ignore these ads.

The Digital Divide

I came across an interesting New York Times article, “Digital Divide Is a Matter of Income,” where Teddy Wayne explains that the greatest indicator of Internet access and use is based on household income of Americans. This information is based from findings of a recent study by the Pew Research Center.

Furthermore, Wayne states that households with an income of $75,000 and more greatly exceed households that earn less than $75,000. This distinction is increased when comparing households earning more than $75,000 per year to households earning less than $30,000 per year.

The individuals from upper income households are more likely to own computers, mobile phones, e-readers and other entertainment devices that use the Internet. And, at least 95 percent of higher income households utilize the Internet in some way, while only 57 percent of poorer households have access to the Internet at home. According to Jim Jansen, a senior fellow with Pew Research Center, “the correlation between income and participation in many Internet activities might be expected.” However, Jansen continues by noting how “the scale” of which “shows the impact that income has on leveraging the advantages of the Internet.”

Wayne investigates the reasons for why people use the Internet while comparing household income. He discovers that wealthier households use the Internet for health information and online commerce activities more often then less fortunate households. And, although there is a small difference between engagement in print and television news sources, the highest income households are more than “twice as likely as the poorest to read online news.”

Now The Beast Scans and READS Everything

This Monday I came across the launch of Google’s eBooks platform!  The Google Beast is now another step closer to ruling the world muah haha!

As I was reading this article I learned that Google is looking to scan and searchable an estimated 130 million books!  For this launch there are over three million of scanned editions of books that are available as eBooks.


The most interesting thing I think is that unlike the Kindle, or Sony Reader;  Google eBooks are available to everybody as long as you have access to the internet.  You will be able to read a book on your iPad your Android phone or even on your computer at work without losing your place or any hassle.


I think this is going to be a great alternative to the expensive eReader.  Google will have a lot of free downloads as well as many books for sale.


Read more about the new Google Books here.