Posts Tagged search plus social

Facebook Vs Google: The Battle For Internet Dominance, Update from 97th Social Media Breakfast

Internet Dominance was at the center of discussion at the 97th Social Media Breakfast. We are just two meetups away from the glorious 100th meetup, a long journey in setting up a discussion forum on Social Media in Delhi. From our bad experience at Cafe Coffee Day last week and their ‘policies’ about breakfast timings, we had to change the venue to Sagar Ratna on the last minute, they open early, always helpful and can accommodate large groups. The agenda was to discuss Facebook and Google from the perspective of developers, marketers and end users. Both internet giants are locked in a tussle to outgrow each other. Where do users spend more time on: Google or Facebook? The focus was to look at the view from 10,000 feet and see who’s winning this battle. From Social Network, Mobile, Display Ads to Search.

Internet Dominance

We agreed that internet dominance for any service or product would translate into the time users spend.. The more time a user spends on a given service, the more it helps the bottom line. Time is Money, haven’t we heard that before. First get them hooked, then find a way to monitize that potential. Facebook has done it, Twitter is beginning to do it and Pinterest is thinking about doing it. Over the last decade, the internet has evolved into many verticals, and different services compete for different spaces. We did a quick  survey within the group to have the following results for who dominates which space:

  • Search: Google
  • Social Network: Facebook
  • Mobile OS: iOS
  • Productivity Suite: MS Office
  • Video Sharing: YouTube
  • Maps: Google Maps
  • Online Communication: Skype
  • Chatting: Tie (GTalk, Facebook, Skype)
  • Games: Facebook

Mani Singh pointed out an interesting fact that the largest demographic of users these days on Facebook are aged 16-25 years, when a service figures out a way to tap into that segment, the numbers begin to grow.

Facebook Vs Google

It is reported that Facebook logs 700 billion minutes of usage per month, it surely has a high level of engagement which keeps the users coming back for more. This emerging trend has got Google concerned, since the one who rules the usage time, rules the game. Comparing it to Google’s own tools/products like Search, Gmail, Google Apps, YouTube and the new Google Plus, the usage time directs the revenue in the long term. We discussed and compared Facebook and Google’s products and here’s the result:

  • Social Networks: Facebook rules here, Google Plus is turning to be a ghost town. (What do you think? Let us know in comments)
  • Display Ads: Google’s Adwords is the leader in this segment, but Facebook Ads is fast catching up. Kaushik felt that Facebook’s display Ads are showing tremendous growth and offer better customization and targeting options.
  • Mobile: Google’s got Android. There have been rumors of a Facebook phone but nothing concrete to mention. Facebook’s App on iOS and Android is a big hit though, drawing high engagement from users.
  • Search: Google recently merged search plus social. The challenge for them is that their ‘Social’ isn’t catching on as fast as they hoped. Facebook on the other hand is strong in Social, What stops Facebook from launching search capabilities and drawing from its social expertise?

Differentiator

Towards the end, we concluded that the differentiator in this battle for Internet Dominance would be the revenue. Marketers prefer Google Ads when they want to sell, Facebook is viewed as a Brand enhancement option. Google drives way more revenue from its Search & Ads business. How Facebook would catch up and dominate in coming years would be interesting to see.

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The SEO Game – Back To The Future

SEO has been around since the day a marketer spotted value in search results. Over the last decade search engines have evolved and so has SEO. The businesses which relied on search rankings had to run with it, run faster and evolve with the next big change. It has been the classic case of Darwin’s ‘Survival of the Fittest‘ This is what we set out to discuss at the 95th Social Media Breakfast. Looking back how the game kept changing, the rules kept changing but the goal remained the same. And looking ahead for clues on the next golden age.

The Early Years

It was wonderful to have Simar in the discussion, he brings a vast experience and insights into the developments and growth of web as we experience it today.  The SEO era began with the domain name, keyword rich domain names were like magnets to search engines. Then came the directory structure pioneered by Yahoo. The Yahoo directory structure laid the foundation for the Search as we are familiar with today. With the rising numbers of searches and websites being added, the focus shifted to descriptions and HTML and Meta tags were born.  In the initial years optimization was simple and straightforward. Have basic website hygiene (term coined by Kaushik Pal) in place, build your links and give titles, descriptions and keywords to your pages.

From The Peak Years to The Present

When Google landed up at the party, it brought with it new additions to the menu – filters and caching. Caching was by far the main reason which made Google spit out faster results and led to the birth of the Black Hat industry. It wasn’t WYSIWYG with the searches any more. What was stored in Google’s cache could be different from the actual version of web content on the site. Filters could be fooled, Algorithms could be tricked and created a mess with what was beginning to look like something in control. With time the algorithms kept getting better, killing all those dubious results from SERPs , also killing  with it some good guys in the crossfire. That started the age of “Giving a sh*t about your content”, article submissions, stronger link building and focussing on the content became the flavour of the month.

Somewhere along the way Search started becoming more than just about text. Images,videos and just about everything else landed at the SERPs. As a search marketer your radar had to cover all those content types and optimize them for your brand or business. The focus of search marketers shifted from catering to the Search engines to catering to end users. If the end-user was getting true value out of the web page’s content, it would become relevant for search results. Google’s famous (infamous?) Panda update echoed that. Websites now had to be user-friendly to be search engine friendly.  When all this was making sense and we were sure to have figured it out.. Bam! Social Hits Search! Whatever little control we had over how your site would rank gives way to personalized results. Recommendations from user’s social network. Search marketers overnight added ‘social’ to their business cards.

Think of Engine Overhaul at 100 miles/hour

To make sense of this evolving game, think of a car speeding at 100 miles an hour, and as it races forward it is acquiring new features, new tires and new parts, even the engine. (think bumblebee in transformers) Everything is happening with the vehicle accelerating. As the internet starting penetrating lives of people all around the world, so did search queries –  sifting and presenting results gathered from billions of web pages. It’s quite a science fiction story I’ve painted here, but its fascinating how fast things moved in the last decade compared to the last 50 years.

Future – Is SEO Dying?

This is something being discussed about on the inter webs, if search becomes social and results are recommendations from a user’s friends and network, what do you optimize for? We would love to hear your comments on it, what do you think about the future of SEO? Here’s a thought – If social defines my search results, the bigger my network, more accurate would my search results be. So does Google want all of its users to work and expand their networks for accurate results? Something to think about. What are you thinking? Share in the comments below.

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