Car crash on SEO Boulevard? Assessing the impact of Google Instant

Much wailing and wringing of hands amongst the SEO community accompanied the launch of Google Instant this month. Instant, according to Google, will take between 2-5 seconds off a typical web search by incrementally presenting users with updated search results as they type. SEO-types are worried that this will devalue their investment in search terms and reduce the effectiveness of this form of online advertising. So is this a ‘fast lane’ for searchers or a car crash on SEO Boulevard? Hmm. It would be hard to see Google shooting itself so comprehensively in the foot were this to be so. (Although the search giant has been known for a degree of foot mutilation in the past – Wave, Lively, Buzz privacy, etc etc) In reality, searchers are likely to see more, not fewer, ads as they surf the evolving search surface (try saying that fast after a drink). Google estimates that between 5-7 times as many results pages will be served for the typical search. So impressions will rise, click throughs may fall. How will this affect ad visibility to users – already, if we are to believe the eye tracking studies, pretty marginal? There’ll also be some instability in the search term environment, but this should settle down in the medium term.

What is interesting is how this will change online search behaviour in the longer term, as Google sets its sights on more and more effective anticipation of searchers’ goals and as Instant is made available on mobiles from the autumn. But don’t forget, this still has to be a sustainable revenue model.

See BBC Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones’ report (viewable in UK only).

Thanks for the nice review, Suzanne

A nice review of “E-business. A Management Perspective”  by a student at the coalface, commissioned by the Times Higher Education Supplement. Read it here. Thanks, Suzanne!

“… the real highlights, and what makes it stand out, are the case studies, which help emphasise the relevance of each topic. Dispersing the cases throughout the text rather than bundling them at the end of each chapter was a good decision. The author has recognised that an increasing amount of our time is spent online: facebooking or tweeting, shopping and checking our bank balances, reading the latest news and blog entries. Even when we are not online, we are often still immersed in technology. Where this textbook succeeds is in utilising the above examples in case studies to cover topics such as the economics of e-business, social and behavioural issues, digital marketing and e-business strategy.”

“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity” – UK Govt websites for the chop

Chapter 1 discussed the potential for e-government and reviewed the case of Canada. But it’s clear that governments need to have an understanding of the costs and benefits of such activity. The new UK Coalition Government has set its sights on so-called ‘vanity’ websites set up by government agencies to promote their services, without any clear idea of costs or benefits. As part of its austerity-focused cost-cutting, the UK Cabinet Office has published some fascinating information on the costs and benefits of particular sites, and proposes closing up to 75% of the current 820 UK Government websites by the autumn. The UKInvest website, for example, was costed at over £11 per visit (presumably less now that everyone has piled in to see what the fuss is about). It even names and shames government websites which have been established without approval.

40mn Flickr users can monetise their snaps, thanks to Getty

In short case 2.2 we asked what the biggest threats to niche stock photography sites like Alamy might be? And in short case 4.2 we discussed the success of Flickr. However, we also pointed to the beginnings of an alliance between Flickr and Getty Images. Read here of the way in which the original 2009 deal – affecting just 100,000 pro and semi-pro users of Flickr – is being extended to Flickr’s 40mn users worldwide.

A word from our sponsor

Speaking at the recent Nielsen Consumer 360 conference, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg had lots to say about social media, brands and communities. The link contains a video clip of Sandberg’s speech and provides some useful insight into the further commercialisation prospects of Facebook.

Evidence on behavioural targeting

In thinking about the shift towards online promotional activity, one of the perceived benefits to marketers is the potential for using information about a user’s web browsing behaviour to target adverts based on likely interests. However, such benefits can raise potential privacy concerns amongst users. So-called behavioural targeting can be shallow (using cookies) or based on what is called ‘deep packet inspection’. In Chapter 7, you will find a short case on Phorm – a BT firm that has attracted a lot of criticism. The Office of Fair Trading has just published a very useful market study of behavioural targeting in the UK. It includes estimates of market size, an assessment of consumer attitudes, perceived benefits and disbenefits, and potential regulatory remedies.

Passing the “mom test”: data.gov

In our discussion of the way in which governments engage more effectively with citizens online, we gave the example of Canada in Chapter 1. Another aspect of this relationship is about using e-government to achieve transparency and open government. Following the election of President Obama, the US site data.gov was seen as a way in which this could be achieved. Now, at its first anniversary, data.gov hosts over a quarter of a million datasets. A new look launches on 21st May, aiming to pass the “mom test”. Read this nice summary of the issues Obama’s Chief Information Officer faced in achieving the administrations goals (as well as finding out what the “mom test” comprises).