New Year – New Google Realities

3 minutes

When William Gibson said “The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet“, he could have been talking about how Google is reinventing its search results right now and incidentally altering the likelihood your software company will be found in 2010 Q1 by prospective customers worldwide.

There are three big changes confirmed and now being rolled out:

  1. Adding real time search results to your Google results,
  2. personalizing those results like never before and
  3. giving every Google user a sidebar of options controlling the freshness of their results.

And there’s two other changes – Page Preview in results and the Wonder Wheel (no, I didn’t make this up) – that are not confirmed, but are also getting rolled out piecemeal at least in the United States and are strong bets for next quarter worldwide.

In the screenshot above with “Latest” turned on, you’re seeing realtime results for a search appearing from Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Jaiku, and as they’re posted.

Humans physiologically are programmed to pay more attention to things that move – and your prospective customers can’t help having their attention dragged from your carefully SEO crafted result up to whatever someone just said on Twitter about your software.

Does anyone not search for the latest when it comes to software, or at least software that’s not resting on its laurels from years ago? Nope.

If your product is in this situation, you’d better hope prospective customers don’t use “Latest”; of course, as soon as they go “Any Time” or the other options, they can turn on Page Preview. Again, Google is helping its users get to the good stuff faster: A page preview is worth a thousand marketing words when it comes to your customers making that key click/no click decision.

If you’ve gotten the new Google Options enabled, try looking up your own product. Google Page Preview rewrites home page design rules. When I first Googled my startup last week, only a confusing fragment of my Hook showed. One quick redesign, and now my whole “Be Successful Faster” headline shows – a good thing.

Here’s more upsetting news: search results are customized by default now, which means the days of “standardized” search results are ending soon: prospective customers – by default – see results made more relevant to them based on their recent search history, location, and web history.

Here’s how Google puts it:

“When possible, Google will customize your search results based on location and/or recent search activity. Additionally, when you’re signed in to your Google Account, you may see even more relevant, useful results based on your web history. If you’re curious, you can see what a search for [X] looks like without these improvements.”

More relevant for them may mean more difficult for you as Google’s search results differentiate and in effect, splinter your market. So it’s a good thing Google will probably be making available to you as on option the Wonder Wheel. The Wonder Wheel is simply the best way to locate related keywords for Google searches I’ve seen.

For example, I just got an email about a brand new photo editor, Citrify. Four clicks later in the Google Wonder Wheel and I can see a whole range of competitive keywords for this brand new microISV. Nice!

Google’s new search options touch on everything from your social media strategy to product update road map to your next web site redesign. The bottom line of all these changes in how Google serves its customers is you need to have a good long think about how you are going to  serve your customers in 2010. Or you might not have as many.

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