Google’s annual developer conference, I/O (that’s geek-speak for Input/Output, to all you non-techies) went ahead last week. Whilst we weren’t able to fly the team out to San Francisco and we’ve been hard at work preparing for the upcoming Penguin 2.0 update, we have been keeping a keen eye on what went on at the event. Over the weekend we finally got time to sit down and watch the keynote from the event in it’s entirety ( all 3 hours, 51 minutes and 25 seconds of it!) so here’s our run down of the new tech that the Big G has unleashed…
Google Play Music goes Streaming
In what looks like an attempt to go head-to-head with services like Spotify, Pandora and Grooveshark, Google Play Music will now offer unlimited streaming music for a monthly subscription fee of $9.99. Dubbed “Google Music All Access”, the new service will offer radio-style streams and smart playlists, but whether this is enough to compete with the existing options in this field remains to be seen.
One of the most useful Google services, Google Maps has been given a massive update, including a serious design refinement. The new Maps isn’t just a pretty face though – sporting tighter integration with Google’s social services, more emphasis one Street View and 3D, and the ability for users to submit Android “Photo Spheres” enabling people to actually look around the interior of businesses and public places, this is one of the most significant announcements at this year’s I/O. For those planning on going a bit further afield for their next holiday, Google Maps now includes the astounding ability to explore outer space! Don’t throw out your old A-Z atlas just yet though – the new and improved Maps service is currently invite only. Head over to the this page to request an invite.
Google Wallet and Gmail Integration
Google Wallet has now been tightly integrated with Gmail to allow you to send money as an email attachment, making sending cash from your Wallet easier than ever. On top of this, Google have released an API that allows developers to streamline the process of paying with your Google Wallet from within apps or online. Whilst Google is keen to stress that they are not abandoning the NFC element of Google Wallet, these new additions could really give the service the boost it needs to take off properly!
Google Play Gets Games Services
Google Play will provide games developers with the ability to introduce social features such as effortless multiplayer modes, high scores and achievements into their games – a feature that iOS users have been enjoying for a while now. These social features will all be tightly integrated with Google+, so in order to compete with your friends you must be in each other’s Circles. Google says they will also introduce the ability to play a game on one device, then pick up exactly where you left off on another – perfect for swapping between phone and tablet!
Huge updates to Google+
Google’s very own social network – or “social layer” as they prefer to call it – has been treated to no less than 41 updates, not least of all including a swanky new image-led, Pinterest-inspired interface. Tighter integration with other Google services through Google+ Hangouts mean that now all of the Google messaging services can be accessed from one location, offering a seamless transition between your favourite Google communication tools.
Samsung Galaxy S4 with Stock Android Coming in June
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all from this year’s conference, Google will be shipping a version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 without Samsung’s TouchWiz UI and included apps. Sporting a simpler Android install, this should put the handset in line for early OS updates direct from Google, whilst trimming away the “bloat” in the form of Samsung’s pre-installed software. Unfortunately this variant of the S4 is only scheduled for release in the US at present – hopefully we will see a release on this side of the pond soon!
So that concludes our roundup of the key announcements of this year’s I/O. There’s been a whole host of announcements across the full spectrum of Google’s apps and services, and it looks like it’s going to be another strong year for the Big G. For more information, check out the post on Google’s own blog.
For this week’s Fun for Friday (including even more alliteration in the title than usual!), we are going to take a look at how Facebook (with the assistance of a Pixar artist and a certain Mr Charles Darwin) are planning to change the face of Facebook… quite literally!
For those of you new to the concept of emoticons (which by now is surely not many), they are small pictures used in text based messaging services intended to convey non-verbal communication (e.g. emotions or actions) through text based forms of communication.
Facebook have been experimenting with emoticons for quite a while now, allowing them to be tagged onto status updates and recently also introducing larger-than-life emoticons in the form of “stickers” in the new much talked about “Facebook Home” interface for Android/iOS.
But this time around, Facebook are really trying something new – and enlisting the help of some of the best professionals in the area.
Pixar artist Matt Jones has been lending a hand to Facebook in the development of these new icons.
About the project, Jones (a story illustrator at Pixar and former storyboard artist at the Wallace and Gromit Studios) said:
“Facebook was canny enough to realize that traditional emoticons are quite bland. At Pixar, we consider emotional states every day with every drawing we make. Our work is informed by the years of study we do, constantly studying people’s gestures and expressions in real life.”
Jones also mentioned that they had been experimenting with variation in colour, which seems interesting as the default yellow which seems to be the “norm” for these emoticons has always stuck me as a little odd. However, he mentioned that the typical Facebook blue colour looked a bit strange, so we will have to wait to find out what the final colour scheme Jones comes up with looks like.
The commission of an artist from a company such as Pixar seems a very logical decision – after all, Pixar are renowned for introducing emotion and personality to usually inanimate objects, so who better to inject a sense of real feeling into these sub-100 pixel images – but Facebook’s other ally in their path to emoticon perfection is a little more distant.
Jones’s inspiration stemmed from Darwin’s 1872 book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, which documented the emotional expressions displayed by humans and the similarities they share with those of other animals. Whilst this may seem like a fairly simple task by modern standards, it is important to consider that this work had a significant impact on our understanding of human emotion, and paved the way for psychologists in understanding and communicating with sufferers of autism in the 1970’s.
It’s interesting to see the work of a great scientist of the past come together with the talent of a brilliant modern day animation artist to produce something that will become fairly integral in all of our daily social media lives. So far, Facebook has confirmed 16 icons from the collection by Jones, but with over 50 left in the set, we are likely to be seeing even more of him very soon! 🙂
Little more than a year ago, Google introduced what was then one of the biggest updates to its search algorithm. Originally dubbed the “Webspam Update”, it rocked the SERPs, knocking a considerable amount of websites reeling, causing their rankings to drop faster than you can say “p-p-pick up a Penguin”. This was obviously serious news for us here at eSterling, as we pride ourselves in our ability to consistently achieve and maintain good results in Google for our clients using strictly white-hat techniques. However, despite our dedication to good practice in our optimisation work, we still saw the websites of a few clients suffer.
Fast forward 12 months to where we are now, and the Big G is at it again. Matt Cutts (Google’s guru on all things search) announced last Friday that “Penguin 2.0” is on the way. We know a few things about this update – the most important being that it’s coming soon, and it’s going to be big. Big enough to disrupt the SERPs again, probably on a much larger scale than last time. Whilst the guys over at Google like to portray the penguin updates as cute, wide-eyed little penguin characters, here at eSterling we like to think of them as being more similar to Danny Devito as “the Penguin” from Batman Returns:
But never fear! As always, our SEO team of caped crusaders are here to bring justice to the search engine results pages with our words of wisdom and cutting edge strategies. Here’s our rundown of the information we have gathered so far concerning the new update:
1. It’s Just Around The Corner
In typical Google fashion, we don’t have a date for the implementation of the new update, but head of all things search at Google HQ, Matt Cutts, has helpfully informed us that it will be “sometime in the next few weeks.” Thanks Matt!
“Advertorial” creation (or native advertising) is an advertising method which disguises paid adverts and links as part of a site’s content, and passes link juice (and PageRank) on to the site being advertised. Google is clamping down on this, as it is a violation of their “quality guidelines” – attempting to hide the adverts and also passing on link juice to the advertised site. As we already know, Google doesn’t take kindly to paid links of any kind, but Matt Cutts is keen to mention that there is no harm in advertorials or native advertising, provided that the advertorial carries a clear disclaimer and there is no link juice being passed on (i.e. the link has a “nofollow” attribute).
3. Spammy Search Queries
For as long as people have been using SEO techniques to maximise their rankings, there have been certain niches which have been plagued by webspam from SEO practitioners using unscrupulous tactics such as keyword stuffing, doorway sites and hidden links. Some of these niches include “payday loans” and various adult-orientated areas, such as pornography and adult dating sites. Whilst this doesn’t apply to any of our clients, it’s nice to see that the Big G is starting to clamp down on these webspammers, as the advancements that are made in this area are sure to trickle down into the more above-board SERPs, helping to combat webspam across the whole internet.
4. Link Spam
Furthering their efforts to clamp down on webspammers, the new update will see Google once again penalising sites who have built unnatural links portfolios that comprise of paid links, links from sites with the sole intent of manipulating rankings (such as doorway sites) and any other dodgy link building or traffic boosting tactics. Think of this as the real “2.0” part of Penguin – this is basically what the last Penguin update did, but on a larger scale.
5. Rolling Out A System For More Advanced Link Analysis
Penguin 2.0 will introduce a more comprehensive link analysis procedure. Matt mentions this is still in early days, but this could potentially turn the SEO industry on its head if Google makes large changes to their link analysis algorithm.
6. Looking To Improve Communication With Webmasters
This is an almost out of character (albeit very welcome) move from Google: we are told that they will be increasing their efforts to provide useful support and information to webmasters, especially concerning hacked sites. If all goes according to plan, Google will be providing us with a “one-stop shop” to diagnosing hacked sites, providing useful information to webmasters straight from Webmaster Tools.
7. Looking To Reward Authority Sites In Niche Directories
Authority sites (sites which are deemed to be the best source of information in their specific niche) have become an important part of Google’s search algorithm. The new update will introduce new systems to identify these authority sites in a more appropriate way, and make it slightly easier to become an authoritative site if your site is exhibiting the requisite characteristics by “blurring the edges” of what makes a site authoritative.
8. Looking To Minimise “Domain Clusters” In SERPs
“Domain clusters” are a phenomenon of search in which a group of results from the same domain will be “clumped” together on the search results pages. This obviously occupies a considerable chunk of SERP real estate, pushing other domains further down the page. As the domains that tend to create this kind of “cluster” tend to be the big boys of the internet (Amazon, eBay etc), Google’s action to minimize these groups of results is good news for small to medium businesses, as it gives them more of a chance of squeezing into the first few results pages.
Obviously, as we exclusively employ white hat tactics here at eSterling, the majority of our client’s sites should see no negative repercussions from these updates – in fact, you may notice a positive outcome as competitors who have used less legitimate SEO agencies get stung by the update and their rankings drop. However, the inevitable truth is that some sites will be undeservedly penalised, as has happened with previous algorithm updates, but rest assured we will be keeping a close watch on all client’s rankings over the coming months and striving to continue to provide all of our clients with our usual first-rate SEO services.
Well, that was a pretty gloomy blog post! In the interest of brightening things up a bit, here’s a little something you can try in Google image search:
1. Go to Google image search
2. Type in “Atari Breakout”
3. Hit search
4. Play the Atari classic “Breakout” with your image search results!
See if you can beat our office high score!