2011 is going to be the most interesting year for both search engine optimisation and social media in a long time. I’m sure we’ll see this year being incredibly significant for both Google and Facebook, certainly in terms of popularity and usability. Though both offer massively different services, their rivalry is intense – this could be the year where one brand fully eclipses the other.
Both companies laid down significant markers toward the end of 2010. Google Instant apparently heralded the end of traditional SEO, whilst Facebook’s Social Inbox system was going to crush traditional email and change the way people interact with each other on a daily basis.
Both predictions were wildly inaccurate of course. But then again, both features are still relatively new. Google Instant is essentially Google Infant, and the data isn’t really there to evaluate its impact on SEO yet. 2011 is the year that Google must outline a clear forward-thinking strategy and implement all the necessary changes it feels it needs to make to keep its incredible market share, whilst also updating and improving its core services without alienating its users.
That same challenge is one that Facebook has extensive experience with. Last year saw barrages of criticism because of newsfeed changes, the amount of irrelevant advertisements disrupting the overall user experience, or something far more sinister in the mould of privacy issues.
Still, Facebook stuck to its guns, listened to the criticism and predictably entered 2011 as one of the top three most-visited websites on the planet alongside Google and YouTube [which Google of course owns]. This trend altered very little over the course of 2010 according to Alexa – it was more a case of which website was visited most often and when.
Whatever the issues, Facebook and Google have consistently displayed a tendency to keep tinkering with their templates. Especially Google, it seems. Where Facebook seemed to roll out their changes over time, Google has a habit of making all their changes at once, often to the confusion of the average user. Google doesn’t just action a change. They work as they go whilst checking whether their ideas are well-received by their core searchers to see if it accentuates the service in any way shape or form.
The introduction of both services was a great talking point at the time but it did create something of a ruckus in the search marketing industry – especially the changes posed by Google Instant. Would we in SEO have to radically change our way of thinking? Would searchers be directed straight to their closest local option when hunting for a shop or service, and was Google only making changes to distance themselves from the competition, just for the sake of being different?
It’s clear from the changes Facebook has made with their new Social Inbox system that they’re setting their stall out to compete with the world’s leading mail providers. They certainly have the traffic and resources to compete, so there’s no reason at all that they shouldn’t set the highest possible targets and smooth their edges to become THE complete, all-in-one social service.
But let’s not forget the long-awaited Google Me! In November 2010 Google’s director of mobile product management, Hugo Barra, implicitly denied that it was in development and that Google doesn’t regard social networking as a vertical platform. But the rumours and the hype simply won’t go away. If Google Me is indeed in development then Google has an incredible business template to follow in the guise of Facebook itself, and would surely make additions to that model in an attempt to alter the current course of social media. Google’s services stand out because they are different from the norm. Their take on social media would be incredibly exciting to see.
As mentioned before though, Google’s past form underlines that they would probably work on it as they go, as they did in the early days of Google Instant, with the system only working for those signed into their Google account. But honestly, how many of the millions – possibly even billions – who use Google on a daily basis are going to have a Google account? A small minority of its vast worldwide market share will probably be consistently signed in, especially if they have a Gmail account, and those who don’t will be quite surprised when they visit Google and notice the changes.
We take Google for granted as a public service, and use it at face value every time we want to find something in an instant. Again, take Gmail as an example. I was surprised to see that it lags far, far behind other email providers – as of November 2010, Gmail’s registered user base, according to comScore, stood at 193 million people worldwide compared to Yahoo!’s 273 million and Hotmail’s 362 million.
Gmail is newer than both Yahoo! and Hotmail, though. What didn’t surprise me is that, again, Facebook has cleverly identified this as a gap in the market, and will no doubt heavily promote its new mail features in an effort to overhaul Gmail. And what will the implications be if that happens? Google will have to go back to the drawing board to stop users abandoning its ship.
All speculation currently, of course. But stranger things have happened in search marketing. Who would have thought this time six months ago that Facebook Social Inbox would appear and look so appetising, for instance? What is certain though is that this 2011 will undoubtedly be a key year for both companies and their wider ambitions. The question is though, which one of them will blink first? credit-n.ru
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