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Monday, January 1, 2007

Google Starts 2007 on the Back Foot

Posted by @ 6:42 pm

2006 will go down as Google’s most successful year to date. It was marked with further increases in Google market share, several major partnerships and a prolific schedule of product releases both beta and official. So with such a major year behind them, where to next for the search giant? Well if early indications are right, it could be downwards.

Google observers have been quick to note some significant shortcomings by the search giant to mar the end of 2006. Fuelling the fire are concerns with Google’s blatant self promotion in its organic results, questionable accuracy in their Zeitgeist report, and some technical issues across its services.

Self Promotion Defies “Don’t Be Evil” Mantra
Have you tried doing a search for a service such as “calendar” or “blogging” recently? It appears Google has started promoting its service in the organic results. When you do either of the two searches mentioned above, you’ll see a “tip” that promotes Google Calendar and Google’s Blogger platform respectively.

When you’re a search engine that lives by the motto – “don’t be evil”, such self promotion would have to be considered questionable. People have relied on Google’s search results, as they have trusted the results to be relatively unbiased. So when Google starts manipulating their results page for their own gain, it places doubts as to the genuine objectivity of their search engine.

Zeitgeist Report No Reflection on Actual Search Volumes
Google has released its annual Zeitgeist, which is supposed to outline the most popular search terms over the last 12 months. After the terms “Bebo”, “MySpace” and “WorldCup” took out the top three positions, many questioned the accuracy of the results.

Google execs and engineers were quick to change the wording around the Zeitgeist to reflect that it just reports on search terms that had significant increases on their previous year popularity. This approach is designed to identify the “big movers” so to speak and avoid just listing the boring terms such as “dictionary” and “eBay” which would actually carry the highest search volumes.

Again, such manipulation of results is having a negative impact on Google’s trust factor. While the explanation of the Zeitgeist has been updated, its yet another move by Google that has observers asking questions.

Google Services – Reliability under Question
To top off the poor end to 2006, Google has had technical issues with two of its 2006 success stories Gmail and Orkut. 60 Gmail users had their inboxes accidentally deleted with no back up in place to recover their lost emails. And Orkut, Google’s social network, experienced over 22 hours of downtime. While this might not sound all that concerning, its poor track record of server issues will have many of its users wondering whether the bad times are back.

Google execs will be hoping that the poor end to 2006 is not carried through to 2007. Google are at the top of the industry, and there are many out there that will be hoping that 2007 sees the emergence of some genuine competition for the search giant. Perhaps these issues are the first sign of cracks in Google’s armor and represent hope for “would be” competitors. Time will tell…

Rene LeMerle Rene is the marketing manager of - a global search engine marketing company. He also leads the marketing for - a web 2.0 style community for online and digital marketers. Rene has been in the industry since 1997 with much of that time spent helping businesses embrace the best of the internet and digital world.

View Rene LeMerle's profile

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