11 Google 11 Google

118 118 guys

Again, with suprisingly little fanfare, Google recently launches a free, automated (i.e. computer voice recognition) 118-style service – currently only in the US. Phone the free-phone number, tell it you want a pizza (or something else in rare circumstances) and you’ll get regular-quality google information straight down your phone.

If this really works; really is free to the searcher; really doesn’t feel like talking to Stephen Hawkins; and could be made to work in the UK, it would doubtless have a very disruptive on the fierce but relatively expensive directory model we have now.

That not good enough? They’ve recently announced the service now bundles links to Gmaps to show you how to find what you’re after. Pay 15c more and it’ll actually eat the pizza for you.

Star performance

Google maps - write a review 

With suprisingly little fanfare, Google has added another feature to their maps platform. A few months back the listings were enlarged to include more structured information like pictures and published reviews. Now customers can directly review any item which gets listed, straight on the page.

Given the effect that sites like Trip Advisor have had on businesses, this could be seen as a fairly dramatic act for the search giant – especially when so many of the companies who may be getting fairly direct feedback could be Google’s own adWords customers.

Not a lot to Ask

After all the nonsense of Information Revolution, it’s great to see Ask.com doing some actually worthwhile stuff to try and improve their search engine.

A lot of the front-end changes may owe a fair amount to the big G and emerging trends in the marketplace (including “suggests” style prompting) but there’s some nice new stuff in their too. They’ve managed to do some really nice skins, as well as some quite useful little Ajax interfaces:

Ask - skins

And in terms of the results page, some very neat innovations for structured results which are a pretty major improvement over Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. See the search below for “Neil Finn” which has brought up relevant music, image and wikipedia structured listings, as well as having found good relevant related searches:

Ask.com - structured search results for Neil Finn

This is the sort of thing they should have been talking about before – customer-value driven product benefit, not marketing nonsense. This might actually make one more person use their site.

Size matters

Crowd 

The site that promised to measure the size of the internet has failed dismally. It failed for the same reason that “viral” campaigns fail on the internet and in the real world – because the message or motivation wasn’t strong enough. But this shouldn’t be suprising, messages that captivate everyone are incredibly rare. Advertising people should beware – great ideas are great but they have a limited audience. Event the greatest ideas are limited by this.

Incidentally, if the plan were working, maymapname would have 600,000,000,000,000 registrants (that’s actually more than the population of the world) but it actually has 18,000. That’s six thousand more than they had on day five. Well done to them for at least trying (if not that hair cut).

So who will carry  out this internet survey? Well facebook is looking like a likely candidate right now (some stats), or MySpace (with 10,000 times the membership of mmn (above)). Or why don’t we just take the Unique Users from Google.

Better than you know yourself

A small but significant UI change in Google shows how they plan to go about world domination. Lovely simple cross selling of their services and building a suite almost as if they could hear this excellent interview with Jakob Neilsen when he compares them to Yahoo!  At the same time, they’re pushing out the personalised search.

For any one who’s not tried it. Click “web history” (top right when you’re logged in) and then ask yourself who knows me better than I know myself?

Google interface May 2007

Can I count the ways

 I see from the fact that it is still everywhere that Ask.com is not taking a great deal of notice of the massive amount of negative feedback to its truly awful information revolution campaign. Well, aside from the fact it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I’d think it’s important we dig down into the detail of this whole sworded episode which must have left google quaking in their boots:

  1. It’s not accessible (iframe on home page)
  2. It’s not even accessible to engines (Ask hasn’t indexed the first sentence on the main page)
    Ask indexing  “welcome people of courage”

    Although funnily enough, Google can see it – if not ranking it very highly!

    Google ranking “welcome, person of courage”

  3. It’s got that whole “fixed height” thing that people from traditional media make digital agencies do becuase they think “people won’t scroll”. Ironic if the client’s a search engine.
  4. Loads of nonsense text on the home page
  5. Dropped navigation on “Why ask” page
  6. The sign-up page is white text on a yellow background – completely unusable (am I the only person who’s signed up? – I had to use my decoder ring)Information revolution sign up
  7. No t-shirt (due to high demand, I’ll bet)No t-shirts due to high demand
  8. Flogs and fake video blogs – full on, invented human beings with obnoxious invented marketing nonsense in them (Sell a couple more t-shirts and buy a copy of Cluetrain chaps).Flog posting
  9. Some fairly obvious fake comments.
  10. Same title on every page (tut tut) and system generated page names !!! ?
  11. Really annoying interface errors (scroll bars in the middle of pages, non-standard search buttons, incorrect ident top left)
  12. The word “revolutionistas”
  13. Spelling Google with a lower case “g”
  14. Ask doesn’t even qualify as the “other search engine”. That’s Yahoo or Windows Live. Ask.com is the “unused search engine”.
  15. This is supposed to sound like the way “real people speak”

“What could possibly make a sociology graduate, a computer engineering dropout, a silent expert of monkey peer groups and a genius handyman come together? Sheer determination & a shared passion to evolve the way people search, and a common love of jammy dodgers.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and take my medicine. 

More Google larks

Go to maps.google.co.uk and click on the direction tab. Do the search from Southwark Bridge, London to New York, New York. Point 31: Swim across the Atlantic Ocean, 3462 miles. Ho ho. But that’s not the end of the merriment. Look, they make you go to France first.

London to New York

Spot the obvious mistake

Google Ad Words MPU 

This is what ‘old fashioned’ banner advertising people call an MPU or L-rec advertising format. This particular bit of creative is running on high-traffic generic sites (like the front page of national newspaper websites). These formats will soon be made redundant by relevance-targeted keyword advertising because they’re not effective. Or so we thought!

Interesting search engine things

Turn your back on the big G for two seconds and look what they go and do.

First of all they added cool skins to Personalised home page which reflect what time of day it is where you are:

Google sunset - on personalised homepage

And then in gmaps, the integration of pictures and extended related search pannels. You start to understand what Larry Page might have been talking about when he said that we’ve only seen the tip of the search iceberg:

Here’s the initial listing
Gmaps - images for location

and the expanded panel
Gmaps - info pannel