Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Google Reader shows videos

Ever read a blog post with a embedded video but doesn't display properly in Google reader or personalized homepage? This era has gone. Now Google Reader supports embedded videos from Google Video and YouTube*. You see the latest Google Tech Talks by Kai-Fu Lee, Greater China President, when visiting the Seattle area Google office on January. [Warning: 53mins long]

* - This also includes other popular video sharing sites including MySpace, Jumpcut, Grouper, IFILM, Metacafe, Vimeo, vSocial.

Related: Official Google Reader Blog - Getting embedded in Google Reader

Customize coloums in AdWords

Google focus highly on user experience and they offer users the right to choose. This is why you can customize your Google personalized homepage, what softwares to download for Google Pack and now you can choose what data to appear in your AdWords columns. A same change, yet saves time.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Orkut gets SMS

Today is orkut's three-year-old birthday and Google as normal celebrates it by adding features to it. You can now scrap* your friends, look up their contact information and receive scrap notifications via SMS right in your mobile phone. This feature is only available for Brazilians using Claro as their service provider.

* A scrap is similar to a comment or a short story

Related: Official Google Blog - SMS on Orkut

Google ready to take on Microsoft

Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager of Google has hinted that the company is working very hard on an enterprise product which will be sold to businesses, will include e-mail, calendar, word processing, spreadsheet, instant messaging, and voice-over-Internet programs and is expected soon. Google currently offers a free version of its integrated, ad-free word processor (formerly called as Writely) and spreadsheet program called as Google Docs.
Google's narrow income source often worries investors. Now it is trying to broaden its revenue beyond advertising and takes on Microsoft. The move comes as Microsoft prepares to roll out Office 2007, the new version of its best-selling productivity software suite, as well as Windows Vista, the latest upgrade of its ubiquitous operating system. Will Google be able to attract enterprises to switch from something that they are used to and so far relatively reliable? Let's see.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Another AdSense video ad test

Google AdWords allow publishers to display video ads on Google's content network. Google likes testing and now they testing the starting button of video ads. Here is a sample:

AdSense Video Ads AdSense Video Ads
As far as I am concern, I don't really like the look and feel of the video ads. I would suggest Google:
  1. Change the video control bar to transparent and to hide it when the video starts playing. This gives more space for the video itself and becomes less distractive.
  2. Change the Google text in the 'Ads by Google' to a colorful Google logo. This blends with the colorful videos.
  3. I don't know how, but make the whole thing less dull. I sometimes think that not much users will bother to even click and play the videos (even worse than image ads where they at least get seen).
Still lots of testing and improvements needed before more advertisers start trying video ads.

Open Gmail Document Attachemnts in Google Docs

A few months ago, Gmail allows users to open spreadsheet attachments in Google Docs. Now, they allowed users to open document attachments in Google Docs as well. In the Gmail Help Center, there is no mention that users can open document attachments in Google Docs yet. This feature is extremely useful for those who would not only like to view the attachment but to also to edit it.

Now that you can view documents and spreadsheets in Gmail in a separate window, would it be possible if we could edit them within the message. The idea is simple, when attaching a document, you first upload it to Google Docs. When the recipient receives the email, they can edit it within the email message and can collaborate. This saves a lot of time to enter and exit the Google Docs interface.

Didn't find what you were looking for? Help us improve!

PageRank Advancement

I was actually pretty surprised and shocked when I checked the PageRank of gSpy today and noticed a leap from nothing to 3 shortly within two months. While many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies guarantees a 24 hour inclusion in Google and other popular search engines, I managed to get listed in Google within 12 hours (at that time I got only a few blog posts). How is this possible? Let me share my experience:

  1. Google loves content and to Google, content is king. Google believes that clear and accurate pages that is helpful, information-rich will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site. This to me means to blog about Google and that's all. I never mention anything off-topic, e.g. Apple released the innovative iPhone or when Yahoo updated its ad algorithm (this is the first time). For other webmasters, this means might mean to narrow up your main focus and to reduce off topic content. For instance, a blog about NBA shouldn't have posts about Window Vista ... you know what I mean.
  2. Content is king but it makes no difference if your site is never seen. Ever since I started to blog in gSpy, I was desperate to let Google know its existence. The most effective and efficient way is to make use of the webmaster tools.
    • Add your page to the to-be-crawled list and in most cases, Google bots will visit your site within hours to get a basic idea of the page content. Any content that catches Google's attention will be included in its index shortly (normally within hours as well). Keep in mind, however, submitting your URL to Google does not guarantee inclusion, but only to notify Google and let it examine it.
    • Verify your site in Google Webmaster Tools by adding in a specific META tag into your blog's . Though I don't know the mechanism behind this (and Blogger don't support Sitemaps) , I get the feeling that this helps speeds up the inclusion process. Moreover, this tool helps you understand more about your pages - in Google's perspective. For example, Google will tell you the common words found in the content of your site and external links to your site. These factors determines the ranking of your site for a particular keyword search (Though Google has never reveal its PageRank algorithm, people commonly agree that Google uses the quantity, quality and keywords of incoming links to a site, the URL of the page, the title and keywords in the page and the layout to determine the importance of a page. Read more about Google's PageRank technology here.)
    • If you own a blog, remember to ping Google every time you create a new post. Unlike normal websites, blogs tend to be updated more frequently and Google wants to keep its index up-to-date. Google Blog Search tends to be less strict in terms of index inclusion. So more likely your blog will be searchable within the next couple hours.
  3. I have been talking about Google indexing your blog so far, how about the PageRank? As a recent post in the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog mentions, blogmasters no longer have to optimize their content so that 'thematically-related or trusted websites link to you by choice'. The more recent method is, takes advantage of Web 2.0 social content websites such as Digg,, or !Yahoo Answers. In my case, every single post in gSpy are being Dugg to ensure to increase exposure and most likely, good stories get more diggs.
  4. Focus on users rather than search engines and keep working. It sounds a bit naive (or from the Official Google Blog) but that's reality. The more you focus on search engine rankings, the more you forget about readers or visitors. And without users, you it will have to pay more for even unnatural SEO. I waited for two months not days (of course it is also because I was lucky enough to have a PageRank update in January.)
I have once been like you, struggling to get visitors and readers. But once you get used to the rules, you notice the importance of user experience and content.

If you would like more reading, here are some really useful reference:
Webmaster Guidelines
How can I create a Google-friendly site?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Report bugs in Gmail

Google provides Gmail and other services to webmasters who owns a domain through Google Apps for your domain. Google knows very well that the administrator who can manage a domain has a greater chance of having better knowledge over programing and is more sensitive to small bugs. Therefore, Google places a 'Report bug' link in selected Gmail accounts of Google Apps for your domain adminstrator hoping that they will help refine ther system. On click, you will be redirected to a form dedicated for bug report. This is a description of the form:

This form is to make sure that Gmail knows about technical issues, and we regret that we cannot respond to every message we receive.
User feedback is always essential in product developments as combining the power of billions of users, you, can make a difference.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Google Video and YouTube integration

This morning, YouTube was under maintenance and many functions were disabled. Now we know why. Since Google acquired YouTube in November 2007, there has been no sign of integration between the two companies. However, Google finally release its plans to how it is going to make full use of the Internet's most popular video sharing site. Here is how:

  • All YouTube videos will be included in the Google Video index (in other words it is searchable in Google Video). This migration of index includes all description and ratings (maybe tags). Yet Google hasn't mention anything about ranking the videos. Will YouTube videos come first or only the impression and rating counts?
  • Google has made a hint in its Press Release by mentioning the testing of video ads with AdSense publishers that YouTube will soon display video ads by Google (most likely similar to Google Video where ads are inserted either at the very back of the video or in the middle like TV commercials (which is of course very annoying).
This made clear that Google will still concentrate on its search technology while the YouTube focuses on innovations with online video sharing (there are a few experimental products in TestTube, the YouTube labs)

Related: Official Google Blog - A look ahead at Google Video and YouTube

Added thought: Google Video has a dedicate video player allowing users to save videos and view them later (yet requires Internet connection). Now that YouTube and Google Video shares index, would it be possible to view YouTube videos in Google Video Player in the future?

The truth about Google Earth

Note: According to Google Earth, most of the imageries are approximately one to three years old. So the situation mention in the video will not happen in reality. ;)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Google Groups out of beta

Last year around in October, Google introduced a new version of Google Groups which increased the degree of customization and allow members to create pages (using Google Page Creator) and uploading files. Since then, you will have to use to see the new Groups interface. Today, Google moved every single group (including all its Discussion Forums for its products) to the new version. Here are a few suggestions to Google for Groups:

  1. Like customized search engine, if Google could think about revenue sharing between the group owners and Google. This would be essential if Google would like forum owners to consider using Groups over traditional online forums.
  2. Allowing sub-groups in a group. Just like most of the Google product discussion groups, group owners should be allowed to add in multiple sections to their own group.
  3. Provide easier ways for webmasters to embed their groups into their own website, e.g. using iFrames.
  4. Google is still not efficient in identifying spam. It is often that spam gets parts its filter and becomes posts though they improved the situation by notifying group managers suspicious posts.
  5. Polls and surveys as listed in the suggestion form in its Help Center.
Related: Official Google Blog - Let's get together

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Custom Search Engines get statistics

Google like statistics and they like to share them with users. Currently, you can view search trends for specific keywords with Google Trends, see your own search patterns at Personalized Search, your reading trends at Google Reader and of course your blogs traffic statistics with Google Analytics. But Google thinks that is not enough, so they decided to add statistics for your own custom search engine. With Google Coop, you can create custom search engines (CSE) which searches specific sites or pages and refine results with labels (the search box in this blog is an example). You can monetize your search engine like AdSense for Search by associating your AdSense account with your search engine. You get basic statistics like search volume trends and popular queries. To see your statistics, go to 'My Search Engines' and click on the 'statistics' link next to the search engine name.

P.S. In case you don't know, there is an official blog for Google CSE, subscribe to get latest updates.

Get into Google Maps

To celebrate the Australian National Day in 26 Janurary, Google has decided to capture high-resolution images for Google Maps / Google Earth in Sydney.

Google Australia is celebrating Australia Day 2007 by photographing Sydney Harbour from the air, and we want to make sure as many of us as possible squeeze into the picture.

So when you see the Google branded plane flying overhead this January 26th, hoist a sign, arrange your family into a fun formation or just get a bunch of friends together to wave.
There are a few countries at present which has localized products excluding US including Australia, Japan, China and UK. For other countries, most likely promotions and products are created from the US headquarters. Like any other industry, adapting to the new environment is always a great challenge (which Google is now facing in China with a strong competitor Baidu which is still leading the online search industry in China).

AdSense expanding its video ads experiment

Last year, AdSense has partnered with MTV Networks, where Google distributed ad-supported MTV video content to publishers who displayed the content on their sites. Google plans to expand its testing to a larger range of publishers from small to large, and cut across many different types of content.

This time, we'll be working with a larger set of content providers, grouping together video content from providers such as Warner Music Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment together with quality ads and offering them as playlists which publishers can select from and display on their AdSense sites.
I have no idea what type of site Google is aiming at and the definition of small publishers (but of course, to get the best results from testing, they need a large sampling size which in this case means a site with high traffic volume). If you are being invited by AdSense, please share your experience with us!

Related: Inside AdSense - This is a test: Video content on AdSense

Monday, January 22, 2007

Search History saves ad clicks

Ever found some useful resources in Sponsored Links in Google but later forgot about it? Now Google adds Sponsored Links to search history to let users search for the ads they clicks on and for which search term they used. AdWords advertisers would be even happier to know this as they won't get charged for clicks generated in the search history page.

Black Google, Save Energy

ecoIron made an interesting post about blacking Google's homepage to save 3000 MegaWatts per year.

An all white web page uses about 74 watts to display, while an all black page uses only 59 watts.

Reporting Spam in Google

Many webmasters are aware that Google provides an easy-to-use sitemap tool which allows them to upload supported formats of sitemap and notify Google of changes of their site, but not many of them have notice that you can actually help improve Google's search results by reporting spam sites. On the front page of the sitemap tool, you will see the Tools link, on click, the Report spam in our index and you will be brought to a submission form. These days, there have been increasing complains about the amount of spam sites Google includes in its search service especially for Blog Search. And as the founder of Wikipedia has expressed interest in competing with Google by setting up a search engine (Wikiseek) which restricts its searches to pages from Wikipedia and those sites that are referenced within Wikipedia aiming to reduce spam.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Blogger seeks your feedback

Last month, I have reported that Google Docs & Spreadsheet is seeking for user feedback by providing a link to a product survey. Now, this survey extended to Blogger. After you publish a blog post, you the original link to Google D&S will change to a link to the product survey. Mainly they would like users to compare different blog hosting services and rate the experience as well as suggestion for improvements. I interpret these surveys as a sign that Google is focusing more on user experience than product innovations. This might be due to the criticisms that all the fancy Google products other than search never gain large market share. Google might also be considering further combining Google products like Blogger with Google D&S.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Devil Emotion in Gmail Chat

Don't be Evil. Yet, you get this devil emotion in Gmail Chat by typing in “}:-)“. Try it out.

Image Credit: Googlified

Google Mobile Blog

Mobile Search and other related services such as Gmail and Google Talk will be a very important part of Google's future development. That's why we see them promoting Gmail App for mobiles, Google Mobile Search, Google Page Creator supporting mobile versions, etc. Google even set up a blog for mobile related issues but is not yet publicized. Thanks for Samsung and iPhone integrating Google products into its latest models that Google gains more and more market share in the mobile industry.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Remember to Ping Google

Many know that Google crawls Blogger blogs more often (as Blogger is hosted in Google's server, same for pages created by Google Page Creator) but not many know that Google provides a Pinging Service which allows bloggers to inform Google Blog Search of blog updates. These updates are then published and shared with other search engines to allow them to discover the changes to your blogs. In addition, Google Blog Search will add submitted blogs to the list of blogs it needs to crawl and index. Here are a few commonly asked questions:

How often should I ping Google Blog Search?
You should ping as often as your blog changes.

I use Google Sitemaps to notify Google of changes to my site. Should I still use the Google Blog Search pinging service?
If you're currently using Google Sitemaps within Google, you should continue to do so. Google Sitemaps, a tool within Google webmaster tools, can provide you with valuable information about your site's visibility in our web search results. However, if you're a blogging provider, Google Blog Search Pinging Service can help you ensure your blog's most up-to-date information is included in Google's Blog Search results.

I pinged the Google Blog Search, but why don't I see the results in Google Blog Search?
While the Google Blog Search Pinging Service helps Google stay informed about updates to your blog, it doesn't guarantee that your blog will be included in Blog Search results. Since their inclusion process is automated, many factors, such as delays between when they receive the ping and when they then crawl your blog, can affect your blog's inclusion.

For more commonly asked questions, please visit the Google Blog Search Help.

Is Gmail filtering spam properly?

When Gmail first launch, users were surprised to see their almost spam-free account. As time goes by, spammers actively dig for more Gmail accounts to spam but Gmail's advanced filter blocks almost every single spam which saves users' time even screening through the subject of the spam to see if mail are wrongly marked as spam. However, don't know starting from when, spam appears in my Inbox (in a large amount) and mail are wrongly marked as spam. Now, I have to frequently check my Spam box to see if any important mail is wrongly marked as spam which of course takes me a lot of time. Another problem is that there is no 'Undo' for deleting spam permanently. At least like archiving mail, an Undo link should be provided. I don't know if I am the only one experiencing the problem or are spammers able to go through Gmail filters. Hope blogging about this can raise attention and hopefully Gmail engineers will address the problem soon as everyone knows how annoying spam are.

Note: I already mark every spam as spam to teach Gmail what to filter.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Google Stock reaches $500 again!

Since 21 Nov when Google reached its history high at 509.65 and today, it once again goes back up to $505.00 and hopefully it will be staying there for a while. There has been some predictions that Google might be able to go up to $600 before the end of this year. According to previous experience, Google s tock prices will sky-rise everything it makes major product releases (e.g. accruing YouTube, releasing Google Checkout, etc.)

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Google Rescues Canadian Child from Abuse

Google now got a new, even more astonishing story to add to its testimonial page. This time, Google helped rescue a child from an allegedly sexually abusive situation. According to BBC News, the child typed in 'kids helpline' (the official name of a children's organization in Canada) into Google Search and an anonymous e-mail plea for help was then sent to Australia and later forwarded to Canada. Canadian police tracked the location of the computer with its IP address and rescued the child. Google's search engine has been praised by many of its high relevance and this once again was proved by real life scenarios. If you also have a story about Google, you can submit it here.

Google Phone

The legendary Google Phone is now here. Google announces its cooperation with Samsung to produce mobile phones which have pre-installed a one-click-to-load Google Search, Google Maps for Local and the fancy Gmail application which preserves more of the traditional interface. This advance in cooperation will surely bring up another war between the search engine giants on mobile industry (though Yahoo! and Microsoft has no plans to cooperate with any manufactures yet). If Google would like to put forward more products, Google Calendar, Google Personalized Homepage, Google Talk and YouTube and many other Google products could be integrated into a mobile device and stays with you all the time. I would say this cooperation is another sign to show the potential influence of Google that one day, all your life is going to be closely related to Google. Mobile phone is only the first step ...

Monday, January 8, 2007

Host your blog in Blogger

Blogger has launched a feature that many bloggers were waiting for: Blogger Custom Domains. With this, you can host your blog in Blogger while get rid of the address (which makes everyone know you are using Blogger) and use a fancy instead. Try it out yourself by click Settings > Publishing in your Blogger account.

Related: Blogger Buzz - Blogger Custom Domains

Google Calendar gaining auidience

Many people worry that Google is expanding too fast and creating loads of products but doesn't really have users. But this might change your thought: According to Hitwise, Google Calendar's market share has increased 333% since its launch.

Graph from Hitwise.

I am quite happy about this growth as a large market share means Google will have to put more efforts into this product and further develop it (but not close it down like Google Answers). I have been loving Google Calendar since it was first launched and until recently, I rely heavily on it as the SMS function just prevents my brain memory cells from active. Overall, Google Calendar (especially the Gmail integration) has provided users with a easy-to-use yet ads free interface to organize their events. Some features like the invitations and the sharing makes it even more user considerate. Yet, there are still more to improve like:
  • Saving locations so that I don't have to type in places I often go every time I have a meeting there
  • Much easier way to pick contacts to invite (which I know they are working on right now)
  • Improving the AI which Gmail uses to flags events hidden in emails
  • Higher degree of customization when publishing my calendar on websites.
  • Further integrating Google Calendar with Gmail so that I can view my events without loading a new window (a Google Personal Organizer is a good name for the combination of Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Notebook and Froogle wish list and maybe Google Docs & Spreadsheet)
Anyway, Google has clear indicator that it will focus more on product integration rather than product invention.

Google Checkout Promotion (again!)

Google is pushing its online purchasing system Google Checkout really hard (with easily understandable reasons). After the free transaction fee for merchants, referral program for merchants, and the buy $30 get $10 off offer, here comes another promotion which mainly aims at new buyers - Free $10 bonus for first purchase of $10 or more before March 31, 2007. So sign up for your Google Checkout account and enjoy the benefits of easy shopping with Google!

Update: Google placed a text link at the bottom of Personalized Homepage to promote this new offer: New to Google Checkout? Sign up and get $10 for your next purchase.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Google Defends Bush?

This is not new: when you type in 'failure' or 'miserable failure' in Google, the first result would be the biography of the George W. Bush (the president of United States) from the official White House web site. Now, Google purchased an AdWords ads (which most of the time is displayed at the top blue box):
Is Google trying to defend Bush, or it is apologizing for its bug in its registered PageRank technology? Only Google knows ...

Update: Recently, Google actively deal with Googlebomb. Instead of showing the victim site, Google typically return commentary, discussions, and articles about the Googlebombs. Read more.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

More Ad Variations in Gmail Web Clips

Gmail has been displaying RSS Feeds and sponsored links in a box called 'Web Clips' above the main frame. Users can customize the RSS feeds displayed but are forced to display ads when Google thinks it might be useful to you. Until recently, Gmail has been displaying ads in this format:

Automatic-Mailer XP - - 50,000 hits guaranteed to your website every month!

Today, I saw this format in my account which similar to the link units in AdSense:

On click, you will be brought to a page full of ads and some related pages. Gmail has been implementing link units several months ago next to the email messages labeled 'More about ...'. If these keywords displayed on link units are high relevant to the content in emails, users will more likely click on them then the ads which has a title and content. Now that Gmail is testing link units in our web clips, it might be a sign that Gmail isn't as profitable as you think it is and Google shall be finding more ways to monetize it.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Strange AdSense Self-Promotion Ad

I saw this ad in Digg which advertise AdSense.

This is a quote from AdWords Help Center about choosing title of your ads:

Review your keyword list to choose your ad title. Find keywords with the highest number of clicks or impressions. For example, if the keyword phrase 'online advertising' is clearly generating the most clicks and impressions in your account, use this term in the title of your ad. This is an effective way of increasing clickthrough rate because users can see immediately that your ad is relevant to their query. Also, any keywords you include in any part of your ad text are automatically highlighted in bold type on Google, when a user enters the keywords as part of their query. This helps draw the user's attention to the ad.
Does the term 'This site' relate to AdSense? Or is the keyword 'This site' driving loads of traffic to AdSense? I don't think so. Google is obviously wasting its money on low performing ads and more importantly pushing up the minimum bid for advertisers who would like to show in top positions. This is not a nice practice if you consider advertisers who naturally wants to pay least for the best performance.

Report AdSense Violation more Easily

When you click on 'Ads by Google' link in any AdSense ads, you will be brought to a page where Google explains why you see the ads and allows you to submit feedback concerning the ads you see. Google has recently updated that page to allow more efficient and easy-to-use submission of feedback. When you click on the 'Send Google your thoughts on the site or the ads you just saw' link, you will be prompt to rate the the relevance of the ads, usefulness of the site you are visiting, report a violation with the site or ads (before you can only report violation for site, not ads). See the screenshots:

The new design of the feedback form clearly shows that Google is working hard to improve its feedback channels and would like to have more and effective feedback from users. As you can see, the new format focused on fixed options rather than open ended questions which makes the analysis process more efficient. I hope this update implies that Google takes feedback on violation more seriously(as forums have been complaining about Google's indifferent towards violation reports) and helps combat spam or MFA (Made for AdSense) sites.

AdWords Promotional Code

If you have never tried AdWords to drive traffic to your site yet, you might want to give it a try without any risk. AdWords has been offering promotional credit for new advertisers way back, credit ranges from USD25 to USD50. The idea of promotional credits is to allow new advertisers experiment with their AdWords account and see if it suits their business without really paying. There are a few points to note as well:

  1. You have to submit your credit card information if your payment option is post-pay.
  2. You will have to deposit the set up fee (USD5) if you are choosing pre-pay as your payment option before the credit goes into your account.
  3. Manual opt-out of AdWords after the credit exhausts is required if you don't want to be charged.
  4. You shall receive an email containing a your promotional code within 72 hours of sign up.
  5. Promotional credit expires after 14 days of sign up.
Once you decided to give AdWords a try, sign up for an account using the link below (you shall see a small paragraph of text below the AdWords logo explaining the Terms and Condition of the promotion and stating that you are being directed from Yahoo!'s search marketing):

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Happy New Year

2006 has been a great year for Google, will 2007 be even flourishing?
P.S. Google seems to be not so prepare for the new year, see the copyright statement at the bottom of every search result page. It's still 2006.

Is 2800 MB the limit?

Gmail has stopped increase its storage starting from 2007. Log out of Gmail and see the counter has stopped counting. Some guess it is only because the Gmail engineers forgot to put up the code and some suspect it might be the end of the storage increase.

Screenshot from Google Operating System

Update: Gmail storage increase is back! Rate of increase is about the same (~0.3 MB per day)

Screenshot from Googlified