Google Gets Bigger!

…..or at least its search box does. as announced on the Official Google Blog yesterday Google is increases the size of its search box, and also the text font of your search query and its own search suggestions. A slightly strange thing to do given there ws little wrong with it in the first place, so what could be the reasons for doing this?

  • Aesthetics – It could be a purely aesthetic change.  Anybody involved in web design (or any other form of design for that matter) knows how picky designers can be.  So it could just be that Google’s design team got together and decided that it looked a lot better a font size up.
  • The Bing effect – Lets face it the Google homepage (unless you are using iGoogle) is pretty bland.  This has been made even more apparent by the Bing design and the user love for the daily background image.  Is this the start of a Google move to combat this?
  • Search Suggestion Focus – Although Google have increase the size of the whole box, and search font and the search suggestions font, it could be the latter which is the driving force behind the move.  Google could be looking to place more emphasis, and promote the use of, its suggested search queries.  In theory the more these are used, the more accurate they should become (if Google is doing the smart thing and tracking their usage).  The more accurate they become the more useful for Google users, so perhaps this move is aimed at emphasising them more.

Before and after image below (click for larger image), any other reasons they could be doing this?

google changes search box size

Google Image Search Enhanced Through Colour Selection

Google have enhanced their image search functionality this week with the inclusion of a colour selection option which filters the image search results based on the colour you select.  It should be a useful little enhancement for filtering the results displayed in Google image search as it will enable you to source images which fit the colour scheme of a particular document.  These are the sort of enhancements which I believe we will see more of in the fight for search engine supremacy (if anyone decides to put up a real fight anytime soon!).  Every major player should have the basis of a solid search algortihm nailed down by now, but an algorithm is only ever going to be so accurate, it can only work on the data inputted.  By allowing the user to refine the results which are displayed you are removing the need for that element of complexity in the algorithm and putting the control in the hands of the user, allowing them to build their own, bespoke results to their particular needs.

image search colour filter

Comparison Sites Killing Google?

Ill be honest, the thought had never crossed my mind, after all, the financial comparison sites are some of the biggest spenders with Google and so contribute a large chunk to Google’s Adwords revenues each year.  But it was mentioned in a conversation the other day with Richard Gregory, Latitude’s Chief Operations Officer, and it actually adds up.

Car Insurance is one of Google’s biggest markets with the number 1 PPC position commanding CPC’s in excess of £10 and thousands of searches each month.  So you would think that these comparison sites, who at the time of writing hold 2 of the top 3 PPC positions, would be adding to, not taking away from, Google’s revenue growth targets.  But when you look at the trend for car insurance searches on Google over the past few years you will see a steady decline since mid 2006.

car-insurance-comparison-killing-google

And if you plot that against searches for the brand names of the major insurance comparison sites you can see that the growth in their search volume could be the cause of this.

car-insurance-comparison-sites-adwords

Prior to the emergence of comparison sites, if you wanted a quick an easy list of insurers online, what did you do?  You searched for car insurance on Google.  But with the amount of branding activity these sites do offline and the awareness it has generated, people are fully aware of the places they need ot go to compare car insurance offers and providers.  So they are now going direct to their site of choice, or performing a brand search for that site instead.  Therefore whilst the comparison sites are spending a large amount on Google Adwords, they are taking away a large chunk of its revenues from this market through their very presence.  And you have to say, as people look to save every penny in difficult times, this trend is only going to continue, and car insurance will become a less and less lucrative market for Google and they will have to find a replacement cash cow for the future.

Maybe this trend was a contributing factor to the decision to allow gambling advertiser on Adwords?  And this is their replacement revenue source, that is of course until someone finds an effective way of comparing odds on the leading gambling sites and we are back where we started!

Privacy Issues Surrounding Google Latitude

It was predictable when Google’s latest gadget was announced.  I have to admit, it was my first thought, “what? You mean if I sign up to this people can find out where I am 24/7? No thanks!”  But then I performed a quick test and worked out it was all completely user controlled and if you wanted, you could just set your location away from where you actually were.  But now, the privacy police are on the case, criticising Google Latitude (no, nothing to do with my employer!) and suggesting it is a breach of personal privacy.

Of course Google just aren’t that stupid.  They will have made sure every possible permutation was considered before launching Google Latitude to the public and I am sure it is all covered in their terms and conditions.

The fact of the matter is that for somebody to be able to follow your location on Google Latitude they have to:
1.    Know your log in email address
2.    Ask to know your location and be accepted by you!
So if you are stupid enough to share your location with someone who you shouldn’t, is this Googles fault?

I do have one question for Mr.Google though on their latest product.  Where would they stand if the police (or some higher authority) suspected me of doing naughty things and wanted access to my Google Latitude account?  Would they hand it over? I suspect they would.  So whilst I find the new toy from Google interesting and will continue to use it for the time being, I would be shying away from doing so if I had anything to hide.

Google’s Genius Solution to the YouTube Conundrum

Google has announced its genius solution to conundrum of how to get a return on its $1.6bn purchase of YouTube in 2006.  They have decided that the current rate of £25,000 a day for homepage advertising on the video sharing site is too cheap! And so they are putting the daily advertising rate up by 28% to £35,000. Genius!  OK, so they are making the homepage advertising options a little more interesting with expandable videos and potential full homepage takeovers but really, is this the best Google come up with?

Homepage takeovers and sponsorships are going to be the last thing on brand advertisers minds in times when return on advertising spend is more critical than ever.  Surely a more innovative and flexible advertising solution would have been a better option and attracted a broader range of advertisers rather than the few who are willing to fork out £35,000 for a days advertising.

The success of the latest Facebook and MySpace solutions is built on the fact they are flexible and accessible to all.  There are thousands of businesses out there who are dying to tap into the social media masses and they now can, through the latest Facebook and MySpace platforms.  This will keep the two networks going in a time when large budget advertisers are tightening the purse strings.  Who is going to be buying a £35,000 homepage takeover on YouTube when times are tight?

Unfortunately Google have dropped the ball with this one for me, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were heading back to the drawing board in 6 months time due to a lack of uptake on their latest proposition.