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Google’s Holiday Gift: $20 Million To Charity

google-holiday-logoEvery year Google sends out holiday gifts to their Adwords & Adsense users. However this year, I received an email from Google instead. It reads like below:

As we near the end of the year, we wanted to take a moment to thank you for the time, energy, commitment, and trust you’ve shared with us in 2009. With sharing in mind, this year we’ve decided to do something a little different. We hope you’ll find it fits the spirit of the holiday season. We’re looking forward to working with you to build lasting success in 2010.
Happy Holidays,
Your Google Team

When I clicked on the link, I was taken to a landing page which stated that Google is giving away $20 million to charity this year. The page also acknowledges the charity organizations that are going to receive this massive fund.

Well too bad, I was expecting something nice from Google this year. Previously they have sent out Google goody bag (t-shirt, mug & stickers), Digital photo frame and even a Google Fridge to some of their AdSense publishers & premium Adwords client.

But then again I am happy that they have used the money for charity instead. Good Job Google & Happy Holidays to you too!


Google Browser Size – Web Usability Tool

google-browser-size If you are a web designer or developer, you are definitely going to appreciate this tool that google has came up with – Google Browser Size.

What is Google Browser Size?

Google Browser Size is a web usability tool that will help you understand how your visitors view your website. According to the official Google blog, It is completely based on a sample of data from visitors of google.com. A special code automatically collects data on the height and width of all the browser that is used to view Google for a sample of users.

For any given website, the tool will be able to tell you what percentage of users can see it like how you have designed it and so on. For instance, if a very important message or button is in the 80% region it means that 20% of users who have a different setting/screen size will need to scroll in order to see the message. If you’re a web designer or a developer, you can use this cool new tool to redesign your page so that you can minimize scrolling and make sure that the important parts of the page are always prominent to your site visitors.

How to use Google Browser Size ?

Using Google Browser size is pretty straightforward. Simply visit: http://browsersize.googlelabs.com and type in a URL in at the top of the screen, and within few seconds Google browser size will load your specified webpage in the background. It will then overlay a semi-transparent graphic depicting how much of the web’s population can view each section of your page without scrolling.

Here is a example of my site in Google Browser Size:

saad-kamal-browser-size

Very Interesting tool indeed! I’d like this to be a part of Google Analytics so that I can actually see what my visitor’s are seeing rather than relying on Google’s own sample of google.com.

More discussions on Techcrunch & Techmeme.


URL Shortener by Google – Goo.gl

After facebook just launched their url shortener, Google has also joined the party with their own version of URL shortener – Goo.gl.

The Google URL shortener currently doesn’t work as stand-alone service as you can’t use it to shorten links directly (like you do with bit.ly). However Google URL Shortener is available from the Google Toolbar and FeedBurner. If the service proves useful, Google says that they may eventually make it available for a wider audience in the future.

How To Share Pages using Gog.gl?

Sharing pages using Google toolbar is very easy. If your browser already has Google toolbar installed you should see a new green share button (very similar to the shareaholic icon.

google-toolbar-share

The Google share option gives you a long list of social websites where you would usually share content (e.g. twitter, facebook, digg and so on). So basically if you use the Google’s toolbar share function to share something, it will automatically use Google’s URL shortener to share the link. However, I have to say that this isn’t working for me for some reason but it looks like others are using it successfully. So give it a try!

Now why should you use Google’s URL Shortener rather than other similar services like tinyurl or bit.ly? Google in their official blog explains 3 major benefits of using their URL shortener:

Stability:Google’s scalable, multi-datacenter infrastructure provides great uptime and a reliable service to our users.

Security: As Google does it with their web search, shortened URLs are automatically checked to detect sites that may be malicious and warn users when the short URL resolves to such sites.

Speed: Google loves fast products and they have worked hard to ensure this service is quick. We’ll continue to iterate and improve the speed of Google Url Shortener.

Read what others are saying about Goo.gl:

Bit.ly Just Got Fu.kd: Facebook And Google Get Into The Short URL Game – Techcrunch

Introducing Google’s Own URL Shortener – Search Engine Journal

Just What the World Needs: Google Introduces Goo.gl URL Shortener – PC World

Goo.gl: Google Launches a URL Shortener, Too- Mashable


Facebook URL Shortener – FB.me

facebook-url-shortenerFacebook has launched their own URL Shortener – FB.me. If you go there it will basically redirect you to Facebook.com. So if your Profile URL is say – http://www.facebook.com/Starbucks, now you can even write it as http://fb.me/starbucks and it will still go to the exact same page.

Facebook currently doesn’t allow you to make any short URLs using this new url shortener. But if you use facebook mobile, you may start noticing long urls such as – m.facebook.com being replaced by fb.me.

Eventually I think Facebook will launch this site-wide and automatically shorten all URLs posted in Facebook with FB.me. Now the real question is how is this going to be any different from other URL shortner like bit.ly or su.pr?

Well I hope Facebook will be able to innovate and take this whole URL shortening to the next level. For instance, some social bookmarking sites like Digg & stumble upon has their own URL shortening service that adds a toolbar on top of the page that you are browsing. With that on page toolbar, users can make a comment or even take an action (i.e. Stumble/Digg on this case). So if Facebook sort of goes along the same line, I believe users will be able to interact with the links even more with their “Likes” & “comment” feature.

What do you think?


Google Bites on 72% of US Search Market

Hitwise has recently released the search market share report for United States. It looks like Google had a pretty steady month with 1% increase in market share, making them number 1 again with almost 72% overall US search market share in November 2009.

Yahoo and bing’s share fell by 7% overall where as ASK’s market share increased by 1 percent.

The Big Question

So now the question is, if that 7% of Yahoo & Bing didn’t go to Google (since their market share was steady from Oct to November) where else could they possibly go?

Is it possible that the whole traditional search economy is sort of breaking and people are moving towards ‘social search’? For instance, previously when someone had a question they would search in Google but now they just send a tweet and within minutes they get 20 real people answering that question rather than a robot (‘crawler’) trying to return relevant pages that may or may not have your answer!

What do you say?

Here is the complete Hitwise Chart of growth/decline of search share for all major four search engines:

Search-Market-Share


Facebook Adds Privacy To Each Post

facebook-privacy-settingsSometime later today Facebook will be launching a new set of privacy feature to its 350 million users.

The good thing is, with this new privacy feature implementation – Facebook users will be able to choose exactly who they want to share their status update, photo, video, or any other piece of content posted on Facebook.

The set options will be: Share with “Friends, Friends of Friends, Everyone and Customized.” Facebook is killing regional networks such as “Malaysia” or “Silicon Valley,” which are too big and meaningless anyway.

“Facebook is transforming the world’s ability to control its information online by empowering more than 350 million people to personalize the audience for each piece of content they share,” said Elliot Schrage, Vice President of Communications, Public Policy and Marketing. “We’ve always designed Facebook to enable people to control what information they share with whom—it’s the reason our service continues to attract such a broad and diverse group of users from around the world. We’re proud of the latest evolution we’re announcing today and we will continue to innovate to serve users’ changing needs.”

How will The New Facebook Privacy Benefit You?

With the help of many customized options, facebook users will now be able to create Friends Lists so that you can share your personal photos only with your family, and say some inappropriate YouTube videos with just your college buddies! If you have some promotional news or business article to share, you can probably share it only with the people on your “business list” rather than sharing them with everyone who may or may not be interested into such content. Facebook is also simplifying its privacy settings to make them less confusing in general.

What Is the Next Step?

By making the privacy settings clear, I believe facebook is just encouraging people to trust the system ‘more’ and make more & more public facebook updates that they can include in the facebook internal search index. Right now, if you search for something on facebook it only brings results from your own network and not from everyone’s public post. (Unlike twitter, where http://search.twitter.com basically indexes all twitter updates and hence more useful!)

If you don’t see the privacy settings on your Facebook profile, don’t panic! They are slowly rolling it out and it will get to your profile shortly. Don’t forget Facebook has over 350 million users to take care of.

Read More on Facebook Privacy:

It’s Privacy Day at Facebook – Mashable

Privacy-Per-Post: Facebook Rolls Out Its New Privacy Settings – Techcrunch

Farewell Facebook networks; hello genuine privacy – Miami Herald

Facebook privacy update draws cheers, mostly jeers – The Christian Science Monitor

Live From Today’s Facebook Privacy Call – All Facebook

Facebook redraws site’s privacy boundaries – Reuters

Hide That Weekend From Mom – Facebook Is Rolling Out Granular Privacy Controls Now – The Next Web


Google Goggles

google-gogglesGoogle has just launched a new application for Google’s Android based mobile phones that will allow people to search for more information by simply pointing their mobile camera to the object and taking a photo using the Google Goggles App.

Google Goggles has been developed to recognize popular tourist attractions, famous paintings and even company logos. Once a User focus their phone’s camera on an object, Google automatically compares certain elements of that picture against its vast database of images. When Google finds a match, it straightaway shows the name and also provides a list of results linking through to the relevant web pages and news stories.

How Does Google Goggles Work?

So How does it work? Well, if you have Google Goggles installed on your android phone just open the app, snap a photo and voilà! Google will process the image and return your search results. This whole new photo search functionality totally eliminates the need to type or say anything on your mobile device, and it adds context to your real-world surroundings. Makes perfect sense!

For First timers, simple ho to Android market from your phone and search for “Google Goggles” and you will find the app!

Check out this video to see what else you can do with Google Goggles!

Thats not all. Google is also able pinpoint your location using your phone’s GPS functionality and digital compass built in to many of the phones that run Google’s Android operating system. Google says it can already has tens of millions of objects and places in the google image database for comparison.

“Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words,” said Shailesh Nalawadi, product manager for Google Goggles. “For many search queries, using an image to search is easier and more useful than text alone, especially on a mobile phone. Computer vision technology is still in its infancy, but Goggles demonstrates its potential.”We are hard at work extending our recognition capabilities. You can imagine a future where visual searching is as natural as pointing your finger.”

To Learn More about Google Goggles, please head over to – http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/


What’s HOT on the WEB?

google-trends-logoDo you want to know what is hot on the web? Well Google’s recent real-time web search initiative has also made them to add a brand new section in Google Trends called Hot Topics.

Basically Google’s HOT Topics will show the most common topics people are publishing to the web in real-time. According to Google’s recent blog post Google Trends will be graduating from Google Labs very soon with this new addition and some other series of enhancement over the years. I think it was well deserved!

google-hot-web-trends


Google Brings Real Time Search

Google has just introduced real-time web search, a way for Google to use it’s relevance technology to meet the real-time web search need of today.

In the past, Google has been criticized for not keeping up with the real-time conversations that has been happening all over the web. But it seems like, Google’s this new addition will definitely cater for most of the real-time web needs.

Amit Singhal, A Google Fellow writes:

We’re introducing new features that bring your search results to life with a dynamic stream of real-time content from across the web. Now, immediately after conducting a search, you can see live updates from people on popular sites like Twitter and FriendFeed, as well as headlines from news and blog posts published just seconds before. When they are relevant, we’ll rank these latest results to show the freshest information right on the search results page. Try searching for your favorite TV show, sporting event or the latest development on a recent government bill. Whether it’s an eyewitness tweet, a breaking news story or a fresh blog post, you can find it on Google right after it’s published on the web.

Google Real-Time Web Search

Check out this video that shows a quick demo of this new real-time web search from Google.

It looks like google’s new search results page will include a scrolling box of links that update constantly even as you are scanning and reading through other results. Clicking through takes one to a page of real-time scrolling updates. This feature is now available on iPhones and Android, Singhal said. The update will be rolled out progressively over the next two days.

Try out Google’s New Real Time Search

If you don’t see the new features in your search results page yet, you can try this link out.

Read what others are saying about Google’s Real Time Search:

Google Launches Real-Time Search – Mashable

Google Introduces Real-Time Search – Wired

Google Counters Microsoft With New Features, Including Real-Time Search – PaidContent

Google Real-Time Search Live Now (Video, Links) – ReadWriteWeb

Google: Real-time search won’t kill journalism – DigitalBeat

Google Real Time Search Launches, And How To Access It Now – The Inquisitr

Google Real-Time Search Provides Fresh Results – PC World

Google Real-Time Search – Google Operating system

Google’s Real-Time Search Adds Streaming, Twitter to Results – Gizmodo

Google Launches Real Time Search: See It HERE (VIDEO) – The Huffington Post

Google Launches Real Time Search – Search Engine Land

Google Launches Latest Results Real-Time Search – Search Engine Journal

Relevance meets the real-time web – Techmeme


Google Launches Free Online Dictionary

google-online-dictionary

I’m not sure whether this is something new, but apparently Google has an online dictionary that lets you find definitions and synonyms in almost thirty different languages, pulled from a scope of different sources and impressively fast.

Previously, Google used to offer up an automatic definition from various third-party sources like Dictionary.com or Answers.com. However, now as you can imagine there’s a little blue "definition" link on the right side of any word or phrase search, which links directly to Google’s own homebrew definition answers.

Google does have a special keyword called “Define:keyword” that lets you search for the definition of any word almost instantaneously. The “define” operator is still pulling data from various 3rd party sources instead of Google’s own dictionary. But I’m sure this is going to change in the near future.

Check out the Google Dictionary: http://google.com/dictionary

If you have any feedback about this new tool, do send them via comments!


HOW TO: Setup Google DNS

google-dns

Google has just launched Google Public DNS, a free public DNS resolver hosted & maintained by Google! I am sure previously you may have heard of OpenDNS – which is another popular public domain name resolver trusted by many individuals, corporations & even big ISPs. But it looks like Google will eventually end up taking the DNS market as well!

What will this do? Well, Google Public DNS primarily aims to make your web browsing experience even faster. Every time you type in a web address in your browser (e.g. google.com), a request is sent to your ISP’s DNS server that resolves that “domain” to an IP address. (e.g. 72.11.33.23). So if your ISP takes 3 sec to resolve a domain to its IP address and Google’s New Public DNS server takes 1 sec, you will be saving 2 sec on every request you make on the web. Thus a much faster Internet Speed!

How To Setup Google DNS

Setting up Google DNS is relatively simple. Just open up the properties of your network card and change the DNS to:

Primary DNS: 8.8.8.8
Secondary DNS: 8.8.4.4

I tried pinging both these IPs from my computer and the response time is considerably faster compared to my current DNS servers. Pretty amazing!

In case you don’t know how to change the DNS Settings, you can refer to this page for an example.

Google believes that a faster DNS infrastructure could significantly improve the browsing experience for all web users. To enhance DNS speed but to also improve security and validity of results, Google Public DNS is trying a few different approaches that they are sharing with the broader web community through their documentation:

Speed: Resolver-side cache misses are one of the primary contributors to sluggish DNS responses. Clever caching techniques can help increase the speed of these responses. Google Public DNS implements prefetching: before the TTL on a record expires, we refresh the record continuously, asychronously and independently of user requests for a large number of popular domains. This allows Google Public DNS to serve many DNS requests in the round trip time it takes a packet to travel to our servers and back.

Security: DNS is vulnerable to spoofing attacks that can poison the cache of a nameserver and can route all its users to a malicious website. Until new protocols like DNSSEC get widely adopted, resolvers need to take additional measures to keep their caches secure. Google Public DNS makes it more difficult for attackers to spoof valid responses by randomizing the case of query names and including additional data in its DNS messages.

Validity: Google Public DNS complies with the DNS standards and gives the user the exact response his or her computer expects without performing any blocking, filtering, or redirection that may hamper a user’s browsing experience.

So what are you waiting for? Try the new Google DNS today! Let me know if you see any considerable improvement in your browsing speed.


7 New Features in Google Analytics 2009

google-analytics-logo

Google has recently sent out a newsletter highlighting some of their new features they have included inside Google Analytics.  Google Analytics is a great tool that every webmaster should use in order to monitor a site’s traffic and keep tabs on things that happens behind the scene. Other than just giving raw figures, analytics goes far beyond that and gives you details on conversion, visitor’s loyalty, traffic referrers and more.

Check out these cool new feature of Google Analytics listed below. You can consider this as a Christmas gift from the Analytics team :)

Analytics Intelligence with Custom Alerts

Using an algorithmic driven Intelligence engine, Analytics Intelligence monitors data patterns over daily, weekly and monthly periods. Significant changes in data trends and insights you may not have noticed are surfaced directly in your account. You can also create your own Custom Alerts that monitor your selection of dimensions and metrics that can be sent by email or displayed in the Intelligence reports.

Expanded Goals and New Engagement Goals
You can now track even more conversions by creating up to 20 goals per profile. Measure user engagement and branding success on your site with Time on Site and Pages per Visit goals. Set up your first Engagement goal in minutes.

Expanded Mobile Reporting
Google Analytics has expanded support for mobile websites and tracking for iPhone and Android mobile applications tracking. Adding server side code to your PHP, JSP, PERL, or ASPX mobile websites enables you to track non-Java-Script enabled phones. For mobile application developers, access the SDK and technical implementation details here. You’ll also be able to see breakout data on mobile devices and carriers in the new Mobile reports in the Visitors section.

Unique Visitors Metric
Include the Unique Visitors metric in your Custom Report or Advanced Segments to see how many actual visitors (unique cookies) visit your website. You can select Unique Visitors as a metric against any dimensions in Google Analytics.

Advanced Analysis Features
Dive deeper into your data with Pivoting, Secondary Dimensions, and Advanced Table Filtering. These combined features enable you to perform in-depth, on the fly data analysis within your account.

Share Advanced Segments and Custom Report Templates
Share the URL link for an Advanced Segment or Custom Report with anyone who has an Analytics account. Sharing the link will automatically import the pre-formatted template into the person’s account. Also available now is the ability to share or hide your Advanced Segments and Custom Reports by profile.

Multiple Custom Variables
Custom variables provide the power and flexibility to customize Google Analytics to collect the unique site usage data most important to your business. Define and track visitors according to visitor attributes (member vs. non-member), session attributes (signed in or signed out), and by page-level attributes (viewed Sports section). Use custom variables to classify any number of interactions and behaviors on your site. Start learning more about them now.


Google – Lets Look back in Time

In late October, Google UK’s YouTube channel posted an amazing video that brings back Google’s past 11 years to life with some really cool animation. The video mentions some of the most interesting events from Google’s history. “From Stanford to Mountain View and around the world, featuring many different products, starting with BackRub (Search) up to Google Wave, StreetView and Chrome.”

This video is definitely worth checking out!

The Google Story

For RSS Readers: (Watch it Here)

Now they did leave out a number of Google Products for obvious reasons – they wanted to keep the video short and sweet. (current length is 2 minute and 16 seconds).

But I’m really surprised that they have missed out a ‘biggy’ – Can you guess which one I’m talking about?


Google Commerce Search

google-commerce-search Google is slowly trying to tap into the online commerce market by launching yet another product for this specific niche (after Google Checkout) – Google Commerce Search.

So If you’re running your own online shop, this brand new Google Commerce Search may be worth looking at. Google describes this as a “search solution designed specifically with online retail enterprises in mind.”

You can easily upload your product data at the Google Merchant Center, and go on to customize your site’s search engine. Google’s admin console lets you “manage product promotions, upload synonym dictionaries” and control various search options. Unlike many other Google products, this service isn’t free. You will be invoiced based on the amount of items in your data, as well as the number of searches performed every year. But I noticed that they stated somewhere on their website that pricing starts from $50,000/year. So this solution is definitely not ‘cheap’ for small-medium sized eCommerce stores.

Google promises to integrate Google Commerce Search with other Google products like Google Analytics and Google Product Search. Using Commerce, retailers can measure clicks, conversion rates, number of transactions, average order value and other data via Google Analytics. And e-commerce vendors can provide a single feed of products and catalogue items that will power Commerce and indexing of their products on Google Product Search. Product Search (formerly Froogle) will blend shopping results within Google’s existing web search.

google-commerce-search-screen

Google writes:

Google Commerce Search is hosted in the cloud, meaning it lives online, so e-commerce sites can get up and running quickly. Using a cloud search tool will also help site owners meet the rise in demand from the holiday rush without having to devote extra time or resources to worrying about their capacity or infrastructure. Online retailers are free to focus on their business, while Google focuses on search, and shoppers can find what they need faster.

Check out the introduction video of Google’s Commerce Search from Youtube:


Trakkboard – Google Analytics for Desktop

trakkboard-google-analyticsIf you work with multiple Google acocunts to Track many different Google Analytics profiles then you already know that its a very clumbesom process. Signing in and out of various Google accounts multiple times in a day can be a real pain if you are dealing with a lot of websites of your own or of your clients.

Trakken, a company from Germany has recently released a free desktop app called Trakkboard that uses the Google Analytics API to pull data from different analytics accounts. Trakkboard lets you access multiple Google analytics account simultaneously and also compare data from each of your profiles without being logged in to Google Analytics.

trakkboard-desktop

How to Steup Trakkboard?

Installing & using Trakkboard is fairly simple. Just head over to – http://www.trakkboard.com and enter your email address to request a your free ‘license key’. By requesting the license key, you basically accept their general T&C and get authorized to use Trakkboard. Once you receive your key, you can straight away download the Adobe AIR based app – Trakkboard.

After the installation, you will get the chance to enter your Google acocunt details. Once everything is set select Google Analytics Accounts and profiles, then choose from any of the preset report widgets (visitors/page views/source/bounce rate etc.). Your report widget will then appear on the dashboard. Simply repeat the process with other Google Analytics Accounts, Profiles, and Widgets – to build your customized analytics dashboard in a matter of minutes.

What’s very interesting about each of the different report widgets are that they can be configured to automatically pull new data from the API at a fixed interval, for example, every hour. This dramatically reduces the time it takes to see top level metrics across all your accounts.

Trakkboard Features

  • Compare data of different google accounts, websites and profiles without permanently changing sites at Google Analytics.
  • Opportunity to compile individually and from different portals and websites all the key performance indicators which are of a certain importance for you on just one dashboard.
  • Add up to two Google Account Email addresses
  • Open Tabs inside the application that will let you create as many dashboards as you want and you can arrange the data individually
  • Follow current developments on your desktop or you can lock certain data from changes to have them available at all times
  • Switch between the display formats, change time spans or rearrange data with one click of a button

Google welcomes innovative app developers to come up with new ways of using the Google Analytics platform. If any of you have developed a useful tool that uses the Google Analytics API, you can send a email to the analytics team to be featured in the Analytics Blog.