Innovation

Google needs next generation smartphones like the Google Motorola "Moto-X" to help improve paid smartphone conversions and increase CPC not to mention Google ad revenue. Google has always made less money on smartphone ads than ads on PCs / laptops because smartphone conversion rates are much lower. This is a problem because more and more users are searching on smartphones and mobile devices instead of PCs and laptops. In order to increase smartphone ad revenue and meet future Wall Street expectations, Google must increase cost per click (CPC) for smartphone ads. To increase CPC for paid search ads on smartphones, Google must improve the quality of smartphone search results and improve paid conversion rates.

Delivering relevant paid ads to users at the right time on smartphones is difficult. The problem is, smartphone queries currently lack context. In order to accurately discern user intent for smartphone queries and return useful search results, search engines need contextual clues. According to Google, "context is one important key that drives search behavior. User context drives what people search for, and the actions they take." For example, is the user currently at home, walking down the street, driving in a car, out of town, on vacation, at work, in the country or in a major city? In the future, answers to questions like these will help Google return better results and better target ads.

The Google / Motorola "Moto-X" smartphone is the first smartphone to provide the contextual clues necessary for smartphone search. Moto-X includes a vast array of sensors that actually detect its surroundings. These sensors are able to capture all kinds of contextual data. As a result, Moto-X knows when it is in your pocket. It knows when you are driving and operates differently based on the context of your surroundings. According to Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside, "Moto-X is "more contextually aware of what's going on around it and allows you to interact with it in very different ways than you can today with other devices."

Google is not spending $500,000,000.00 to market the Motorola Moto-X because they plan to quit search and sell smartphones. Google needs additional data to improve emerging core products like smartphone search in order to increase smartphone conversions and revenue.

"We live in a world of abundant computing, with multiple operating systems and increasing number of the devices. And it's a very different environment from when Google started. There was essentially one OS, and one device category, the PC. These kind of changes don't happen that often. Once a decade, maybe even less. The shift from laptop to mobiles, from on screen to multiple screens, create a tremendous opportunity for Google. With more devices, more information and more activity online than ever, the potential to improve people's lives is immense. Getting you the right information, just when you need it, creating the tools to make everyone more effective at home and at work, and helping you share and remember the moments that matter in life."
- Larry Page, Google CEO and Co-Founder

Organic search marketers need to be aware of upcoming changes related to smartphone search. Google is expected to start taking actions against problematic smartphone related search issues in the near future. Google does not recommend or "want" websites to offer a different "mobile" version. Instead Google recommends offering one site which is accessible on multiple devices. Finally, keep context in mind when creating content and ensure Schema.org markup is properly integrated into webpages and emails.

For those like me who are interested in the latest smartphone statistics, here is my list. If you have additional interesting stats for 2013 please feel free to share.

Smartphone penetration statistics 2013: Growth 2011 - 2013:
- Smartphone penetration Q1 2011 31%
- Smartphone penetration Q1 2012 44%
- Smartphone penetration Q1 2013 56%

Smartphone Usage Statistics:
75% of Americans bring their smartphone into the bathroom.
33% of smartphone owners would rather give up TV than their smartphone.
61% of users only look at first page search results on their smartphone.
85% of smartphone users expect webpages to load as fast if not faster than on their desktop.
90% of smartphone owners use their smartphone while at home.
87% of smartphone owners use their smartphone while on the go.
77% of smartphone owners use their smartphone while shopping.
72% of smartphone owners use their smartphone while at work.
68% of affluent Americans use a smartphone.

Smartphone Shopping Statistics 2013:
79% of smartphone owners are smartphone shoppers.
90% of smartphone shoppers use their smartphone to pre-shop
43% of smartphone shoppers use their smartphone to browse
77% of smartphone owners have researched a product or service online using their smartphone.
32% of smartphone shoppers use their smartphone to find specific product merchants.
31% of smartphone shoppers use their smartphone to get product information.
44% of smartphone shoppers use their smartphone to compare prices.
61% of men have made a mobile purchase
31% of smartphone shoppers use their smartphone to check product availability.
19% of smartphone shoppers use their smartphone to read product reviews.
44% of smartphone shoppers use their smartphone to get promotional offers.
35% of smartphone users have purchased a product of service on their smartphone
80% of smartphone owners want more information in stores.
89% of smartphone users notice mobile ads
61% of smartphone owners search with their smartphone on a daily basis.
33% of consumers have searched for online coupons via their smartphone.

Smartphone Local In-Store Shopping Statistics for 2013:
58% of smartphone shoppers use their smartphone to get directions to the store.
57% of smartphone shoppers use their smartphone to get store hours.
84% of smartphone shoppers use their device for research while shopping in a store.
82% of smartphone users use search to research products in-store.
74% of smartphone owners use their device to make offline purchases.
42% of smartphone shoppers use their device for research for more than 15 minutes while shopping in a store.
39% of shoppers that walk out of a store without making a purchase are influenced by smartphone usage.
48% of men use smartphones to research products in-store.
38% of women use smartphones to research products in-store.
26% of consumers have made in-store purchases using a mobile coupon.

Be sure to check out Steve Souders's latest blog post. In it, he stresses the importance of deferring JavaScript until after a pages have rendered and all the work that still needs to be done when it comes to high performance JavaScript.

Google made "asynchronous" the new marketing industry BUZZ word for 2010 when they rolled out an asynchronous version of Google Analytics. Asynchronous scripts are still just scripts after all and not bulletproof. Asynchronous Google Analytics isn't an open license to do as you please. Over the past year, I've noticed a major increase in the number of "mavericky" asynchronous Google Analytics implementations. When implemented properly Google Analytics is a great tool but implementation is critical.

Simply adding ASYNC attributes doesn't "make" scripts asynchronous. "_gaq" is actually what makes Google Analytics ASYNC syntax possible. Unfortunately, few browsers support the ASYNC attribute. Either way, ASYNC scripts are executed upon response arrival and not deferred which can result in blocking. DEFER attributes on the other hand, can block the onload event and also decrease PageSpeed. Another point to consider when trying to get content in front of users more quickly is, "If asynchronous scripts arrive while the page is loading, the browser has to stop rendering in order to parse and execute those scripts."

Bottom line, "mavericky" implementations can actually have a negative impact on user experience. Even worse, this data can be missing from both analytics and the Google Webmaster Tools site performance tab depending on how onload event firing is impacted. Oh yeah, and don't forget rankings! Matt Cutts said, Google Analytics doesn't impact rankings because when properly implemented it waits to load scripts until after the onload event but, that may not be the case if improperly implemented. Maile Ohye has confirmed that one of the ways Google calculates performance is via the onload event. According to Google, "To ensure the most streamlined operation of the asynchronous snippet with respect to other scripts," the asynchronous snippet should either be placed just before the close of the HEAD tag or just before the close of the BODY tag in your (X)HTML document. I'd suggest not taking any chances this Holiday season because this year speed is more important than ever before and testing.

Search while you type isn't a new concept, it has been around for years but, it doesn't really work for users. Predictive text on the other hand does work for users, it's really simple and extremely fast. Google's new Instant search results combine predictive analysis with instant results and a new scroll to search feature that automatically suggests predicted queries to users all in real time. These predictions are based on years of data and billions of previous searches but, Google's results are the same. What makes Instant search radically different, is speed and most of all the feedback it gives users.

For example, Instant search provides users with feedback about misspellings and provides suggested spellings for queries before users even search. This is no accident, Google knows users intend to spell queries correctly and has been working behind the scenes on spelling improvements for some time. Improvements like these have been integrated in and rolled out with Google Instant. Instant feedback about misspellings is great for users but, may come as a shock to webmasters focused on tricking users with misspellings as their SEO strategy. Google Instant is no threat to ethical, white hat SEO efforts or unique quality content that users value. Bottom line, users "aren’t going to fundamentally change what they’re looking for."

In addition to improved spelling, Google has also recently improved how they handle proper nouns. Better handling of proper nouns helps Google extract more information, especially about named entities. Proper nouns and named entities often share a common trait, they're capitalized. Google already has entity related patents and recently acquired MetaWeb a company that specializes in this field. Mapping multiple named entities to one "thing", increases data captured about each entity as well as the whole. Improved understanding of named entities, improves data about potentially vital pages and increase the quality of results even in the absence of relevant keywords. All of these help Google Instant entice users to explore more of the space around their query. Combining better spelling with better quality and better targeted results, decreases the percentage of "unique queries". These unique queries are difficult to monetize and often result in a poor experience.

The day before Google launched Instant search, CEO Eric Schmidt said, "Never underestimate the importance of fast!" When it comes to speed, Google Instant makes other sites, including Yahoo and Bing seem much slower by comparison. Google Instant is so fast in fact, it increases the perceived latency of other sites. This factor could help increase Google's market share especially, if dedicated users start leaving other engines for Google. Increased focused on site performance is no doubt more critical than ever before.

A few other notes, Instant has Google's improved triggering for realtime queries and that could tie directly into their "Social Layer" scheduled for release in Q4 2010. You'll find Google Squared technology in Instant results for queries like [inventor of airplane]. You may notice, the scroll to search feature actually pushes results down the page and the footer search box is no more. It's possible that Google Instant's GUI emphasizes images, video and highly positioned AdWords ads (colored background) more, because they flash in and out of view in certain cases.

What does the near future hold for SEO, PPC and analytics? In coming months expect to see, more data missing from analytics and fragmented with Google Webmaster Tools and/or other sources. It's quite possible Google Instant thwarts automated queries on some levels and for that reason, ranking reporting software may be even more inaccurate. AdWords impression data will be less accurate for testing and virtually worthless in terms of historical comparison.

Google Instant Event Live blog, please excuse typos and spelling errors.

According to Marissa Mayer 11 hours can be saved for every second spent searching thanks to Google Instant. Google Instant revolutionizes how users interact with Google. This new search feature has 3 main components:

  • Instant results - Results appear instantly to the user.
  • Predictions - Google is able to predict what users search for as they search.
  • Scroll to search - This feature offers users options for their query. Google Instant is a better, faster, cleaner experience but like riding a bike... you never forget how to ride.

google instant efficiency

Google Serps

Google Incremental Search

All of these new features render the "search" button almost useless. Google is still seamless users just have additional options. Google Instant provides feedback that users can use find what they are looking for online. Feedback from Google Instant is also used via mobile but this feature won't be available until Fall 2010. Google "Trusted Tester" video illustrates testers interaction with Google Instant which will roll out later today.

Up next is Ben Gomes to talk about technical challenges with Google Instant. According to Ben, Google Instant had to be efficient. To do this Google focused on user interface design, search as an application and efficiency to scale. In order to test all of this Google tested more than 100 testers in their usability lab. These "Trusted Testers" were monitored using eye tracking technology.

Google Autocomplete

In the past Google has relied on (X)HTML but Google Instant is AJAX based. To do this Google first sends autocomplete search requests, autocomplete predicitions and then receives results page. In addition, Google detects when the system breaks.

If Google returns search results with every letter and there are 20 characters per query on average, how can Google do this and not melt down their servers.

When it comes to scale and efficiency Google can maintain low cost per query by anticipating the query. Google does this because efficiency matters to users and users matter to Google. For that reason Google has already rolled out 500 updates this year. Today is the biggest change to hit Google in terms of user interaction in years. Google Instant makes search available to users.

According to Marissa Mayer, Interaction, Comprehensiveness and Understanding (users, web, squared) are the future of search. Google Instant is first step into the future of search. According to Marissa, users will save 350 million hours a year.

The event is closing with a video by Google's creative lab inspired by Bob Dylan.... Results as you type, no clicks, search on!

Q&A
Does this change PPC? No change in how ads are served or ranked.

Are 20% of queries still unique? Not sure but if you make search easier and faster more folks search

@Wired asks how Google Instant ties into search history? Marissa Mayer, fields and says the inputs remain unchanged.

How much personal data is required for speed improvements? How much does this tax data centers?
Marissa Mayer says personal data requirements are the same. Google is using prediction not personal data. Johanna answers the data center question and confirms the cost has increased but engineering has been able to maintain.

Sergey Brin fields "human computer interaction" question in terms of speed of advancement in this area. According to Sergey techno advancements and openmindenesss are resulting in major advances that will change the way you interact with these kinds of devices.

What impact will Google Instant have on SEO? According to Ben, there will be little impact in terms of SEO.

When will this be available in China? Marissa says Google's goal is to roll out on Google.com.hk

Do you believe users want faster search? YES By speeding up search Google expects more traffic and more queries. Marissa says as users adapt to Google Instant the won't go back.

Question from author of "Inside Larry and Sergy's Brain" asks about privacy and what impact Instant has. According to Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin Google spends lots of time focused on privacy and Google Instant is no different.

BBC asks how Google Instant will change behavior? According to Ben neighboring queries become more important.

During testing how many users didn't want to use Google Instant? How does Google Instant relate to caffeine. According to Mayer, few didn't like. Ben follows up by saying the two have an indirect conncetion.

How does this impact SEM (SEO &PPC)? Little...

Next question, "Sergey did you ever think you would reach this point". Based on Moore's Law of Computation is has been amazing and a tribute to people who work on computing everywhere.

How is Google getting folks to contribute content? Sergy, great question. That has been one focus for a long time, for example AdSense. For more user gen content Google has worked on projects like Blogger, Google Docs. In addition, there are lots of places where users gen content.

Are there plans to make faster? Ben says we are going to enjoy the speed but you "ain't seen nothing yet".

Ad Age asks about brand impact and rankings in terms of page 2? Ben says user intent doesn't change no matter what predictions are going on behind the scenes. Johanna points out the Google Instant gets users to results faster. Google totaly focuses on users and that is good for ads.

Will Google server less ads? No

Will this change result in more searches and more adds clicked? Ben says focus on user and all else will follow.

When will Google release Google Instant in Japan and China because characters can cause problems? Marissa Mayer, says expect all these in addition to mobile in a few months.

Is this part of a bigger plan? Mayer, yes... In fact we look at queries from years ago. Ben says we are always working to make things better.

ONE FINAL QUESTION, oh who could it be? Danny Sullivan asks about what happens when results are not correct? According to Google, users learn how to pull things up from the top except for Danny's Dogpile question. Google asks Danny, why he is using Google to search for [search engines] :)

Google Instant Meetup later today at 111 Minna in SFO

Malcolm Coles pointed out a new feature in Google SERPs and posed some interesting questions last week. I don't think Google is treating "brand names" as site operator queries. Site operator queries only return results for a single site. Either way, both Malcolm's and Matt's examples appear to be navigational and/or what are referred to as "named entity queries."

Queries provide numerous signals that engines can use for insight about user intent. They are for the most part either informational, navigational or transactional (action) in intent but, some queries fall into more than one category. These queries are often classed as named entities. Problem is, it's difficult to surmise intent from a single query that may have multiple interpretations. Google already has related patents and recently purchased Metaweb, a company specializing in this field. One aspect that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere in plain English, is that company names, product names, organization names, brand names and/or combinations thereof are named entities. Named entities are easy to extract online because they are often capitalized. If leveraged properly, they could provide a number of associative signals that are well worth considering.

All that said, I'm not sure that is what is happening today. When statistic probability significantly favors one site over all others in terms of user intent, it makes sense that engines would return multiple results for that site instead of just two. Google may have introduced named entity elements or may simply be handling navigational queries in a way that seems... well more logical.