Google Launches “What do you love?”

30 06 2011

What do you love?

While the introduction of Google+ took center stage this week, Google was quietly rolling out a new product, What Do You Love? (WDYL) behind the scenes.  Its clean and aesthetically pleasing design delivers a useful conglomeration of a number of their products.  Appealing to people’s sense of fun and personal interests, WDYL lets people search for things they “love”, while showcasing a wide array of Google’s lesser known (and well known) products in one centralized dashboard.  A brilliant stab at marketing, really.  It delivers as a dashboard  mash-up of Google’s products (potentially disguised as a marketing vehicle).  However, the results are nonetheless intriguing and an interesting tool for some off the cuff competitive research.

What is WDYL? – Initial Thoughts

With no formal announcement regarding the new WDYL service by Google, the intended purpose and functionality has yet to go public.  WDYL allows users to search for something you love (bonus points for the cute heart “search button”) and serves a dashboard of results containing the thing you love, conveniently placed in a “call to action” for one of Google’s many products.

  • The merging of people’s “loves” (similar to “likes” as Facebook provides) with each product is a clever way of utilizing things people are passionate about and associating those things with a Google product.
  • Each Google product module headline on the dashboard contains a “call to action” to use that Google product to find out more about what it is the user loves.  A few of these include (using an example search for “mac and cheese”):
    • Google Maps: “Find mac and cheese nearby”
    • Google Image Search: “See pictures of mac and cheese”
    • Google Earth: “Scour the earth for mac and cheese”
    • Google Alerts: “Alert me about mac and cheese”
    • Google SketchUp: “Explore mac and cheese in 3D”
    • YouTube: “Watch videos of mac and cheese”
  • To do any of the above actions requires that the user actually use the Google product.
  • Google has done a good job of integrating familiar products (Maps, YouTube) with the unfamiliar (SketchUp, Moderator) which may be a good long-term strategy for keeping users interested long enough to gain visibility for their other more obscure products.
  • Additionally, with each search a new order and placement of each of Google’s product modules is displayed.  So users are not always seeing Images or News at the top of their dashboard.  Patent Search or Moderator may secure the top of the dashboard, high visibility location.

What do you love?

So, if WDYL is successful at promoting some of these lesser known products and gaining users, would Google failures like Wave (among others) have had a chance to shine?  Or, is this just a fun exploration tool to use on rainy days?  Bigfoot followers might be interested to see the Google Earth result that implores them to “Scour the earth for bigfoot”.

There are definitely kinks to work out, as many searches miss the mark.  The templatized style of WDYL doesn’t meld together well with every single search, or fit into the same warm and fuzzy “what do you love?” category.  With relevancy being at the core of Google’s mission, I’m surprised that they haven’t found a clever way to combat more negative searches such as “suicide”, which returns a Google calendar result with a “Plan your suicide events” headline.  These types of unintelligent results could be a turnoff for searchers.

It will be interesting to see how these standalone products can work together and how successful or unsuccessful WDYL is in the coming months.  It’s too soon to tell if WDYL has staying power, or if it fade eventually fade into obscurity.   In the meantime, how do you plan to use Google’s “What Do You Love” service?





Google May Finally Have Social Legs with Google+

30 06 2011

google plus

Tuesday was a big day for Google.  The long anticipated social network from Google, speculated and leaked for the past year on all the major tech blogs, finally made its debut.  Google+ is the latest effort by the search giant to gain a foothold in the space currently dominated by Facebook.  Google’s previous attempts with Wave (lots of potential but too buggy and slow) and Buzz (failed from the start with privacy concerns) were utter failures.  This time, there is an entire set of products within the service, each designed to bring social connections to Google in different ways:

  • Google+ Circles: At the heart of Google+ is Circles.  To counter the Facebook and Twitter philosophy of openness, Google+ users have to group their contacts into specific circles right from start.  Twitter does have Lists, but they’re optional, and Facebook makes grouping friends too complicated. Plus, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg thinks Facebook users just don’t want to do that.  From initial accounts, Circles are easy to set up with drag-and-drop and attractive animations.
  • Google+ Stream: Your home base will be the Stream.  But it’s not much different from the Twitter feed or Facebook Newsfeed.
  • Google+ Sparks: Sparks is a topical search engine, where users can find content (blogs, videos, etc) on theirinterests in one central location.  Users can bookmark their favorite items, share with friends, and comment as well.
  • Google+ Hangouts: The first truly unique feature to Google+ that could really give it a leg up on competition is Hangouts.  It’s essentially an open-ended group video chat that friends in your Circle can join at anytime they see a Hangout happening.  Whoever is talking, Hangouts will automatically make their window the biggest.  Friends can also share content with each other during the chat.
  • Google+ Huddle: The other big feature that could help grow Google+ is Huddle, a group-messaging feature that spans Android, iOS, and SMS.  Blackberry’s BBM users are very familiar with group messaging and the latest version of iOS (5) will also have a similar messaging feature.
  • Instant Upload: Using the Google+ Android app, users can upload photos or videos quickly to their Google+ Stream.  But oddly enough, photos uploaded here are not uploaded to Picasa, the major Google photo service.
  • Location: Users can check-in to Places and geo-tag their updates.

Pretty much all the tech blogs got an early invite.  These first looks have included positive reactions, talk about ease of use, and eye-catching aesthetics.  People like this latest social effort and want to keep coming back.  However, Google is being very cautious right now, insisting on calling it a “project” and not a finished “product”.  It’s in a very limited test run, and invites are slowly rolling out.  Whether Google+ outlives Wave or Buzz is yet to be determined, but it looks like for now Google finally has a social product to build and nurture.  We’re certainly excited to test it out, but if you’ve have been lucky enough to get one, give us your take.  What do you think of Google+ ?





Yahoo Launches Google Instant Competitor – Search Direct

24 03 2011

Yesterday, Yahoo launched a new product called Search Direct – their answer to Google’s Instant Search.  Start typing at search.yahoo.com and a small widget-like box slides down, providing you with “search results as fast as a person types, character by character, and presents those results dynamically, generating a fast, simple search experience that goes beyond a list of blue links.”  And that’s the distinction Yahoo is trying to make with Search Direct, that they can provide “answers” and not an overwhelming blue links.

Just for the sake of argument, I tested Search Direct versus Google Instant Search.  Not surprising, Google came out ahead.  Using the same browser and not logged in to any accounts, it took me the full search for “weather 97212” to pull up today’s weather near our office here in Portland, Oregon.  Over at Google, all it took was a simple “w”.  Yahoo may try to spin it as a confusing mess of blue links, but Google has continually evolved rich results to include weather, local sports scores, and more.

yahoo search direct

Yahoo Search Direct

Versus

 

google instant search

Google Instant Search

Now that’s not to say Yahoo Search Direct won’t be a useful product.  First, the Search Direct box is the only thing that updates versus an entire page on Google.  So in theory results can be shown faster.  And currently, Yahoo is displaying results for about 15 different categories including sports, music, celebrities, shopping and local.  Yahoo also revealed that they are considering monetizing the Search Direct box by allowing advertisers to display images or videos on the right-hand side of the search box.

If you are a small business owner that falls within one of those categories (the Local category would be an obvious choice!), it’s another reason to make sure your site is optimized and even enhanced for elements like Rich Snippets. One example would be to format your brick-and-motor’s address in hCard so search engines can easily find your location.  Yahoo Search Direct also gives you another tool for keyword research.  You’ll be able to see some of the most popular results and identify new keywords to target in SEO or PPC.

How do you think Yahoo Search Direct will stack up against Google Instant Search?  Has your site appeared in the results?  Drop a comment and let us know!








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