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Google News

In Tips, Tools on September 9, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Google made a couple of changes to its most popular services this week. If you’re responsible for marketing you company and haven’t heard about them, here’s a summary.

Google Instant

“The Goog’s” most popular feature – its web search engine – just got a lot more frantic. Google Instant pulls up a list of search results as you type your query. You’re already familiar with how the query bar itself displays possible search terms as you type them and displays them below the bar. It looks like this:

Now, Google has extended that feature so that the search results start to appear as you type and adjust as you continue to enter the search term. So if you’re searching for “football”, you’re going to see results related to food when you get to “foo”, and shoes when you get to “foot”.

It’s remarkable that Google’s engine can work fast enough to produce relevant results even before I can finish typing the word, but in my opinion, this doesn’t really add any benefit to the user. It’s just more noise.

What does this mean for marketers?

More than likely, it won’t mean much, but if your company is using sponsored search, it’s worth keeping an eye on. Here’s why: Google AdWords (the Google Pay-Per-Click ad feature) gives every ad a score based on several features. That score is used to determine the order in which the ads display on a page. So you can’t just bid more per click and automatically have the top PPC spot. You have to prove to Google that your ad is relevant and “worthy” of that juice. As usual with Google, no one knows the exact algorithm but one of the factors used to determine an ad score is Click Through Rate (CTR). This is a ratio of the number of times an ad is displayed against the number of times it is clicked. Since AdWords ads appear and disappear as results do in Google Instant, there’s a good chance that your impressions could go way up but not pull the number of clicks up with it. That drives your CTR down which means a lower ad score, which means lower rankings, which means bad news.

The good news is that all AdWords accounts face this same dilemma so, presumably, a dropping tide sinks all boats. Also keep in mind that the folks over at Google usually think of everything so this isn’t something that is sneaking up on them.

Gmail Priority Inbox

In case you weren’t sure if Big Brother Google is always watching, here’s proof. Gmail’s new priority inbox ranks and sorts your email messages based on which conversations and senders you most often read and reply to. When Gmail users log in, now they see four sections of their inbox representing four tiers of importance. They are:

  1. Important and Not Read
  2. Starred
  3. Important and Read
  4. Everything Else

For instance, when I look at my Gmail inbox, emails from my wife are sorted into the “important” pile because I always read them and usually respond. Emails from companies or marketers are sorted into the “everything else” section. And I can mark emails with a star if I want to come back to them later. If you’re not a die-hard Inbox Zero guy, this might really help with productivity.

What does this mean for marketers?

Again, there may not be a huge impact across the board but there are definitely implications for email marketing. If any of your email subscribers use gmail, there’s a good chance your communications will get pushed to the “everything else” section. It might be a good idea to warn your subscribers and ask them to move you out of that pile. It might be a hard sell and may require an incentive, but it’s better than just hoping.

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