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Have Twitter, Google, Yahoo Lost Touch With Users?

The recent statements by Twitter about dropping @ replies and hashtags, Yahoo’s inclusion of Yelp in to their local search and Google’s pre-action taunt of MyBlogGuest, each show a certain disconnect from their users. Have these online behemoths gotten so big that they have lost touch why they became popular in the first place?

Twitter has become the major communication platform of the internet. It is the preferred platform for many even over direct text messaging. It has moved away from announcements of what we are eating to sharing of information that can be intimate or an announcement of global events.

To change the accepted ways its users share their information could see a major drop in people using it. The use of hashtags has become the central method of large groups sharing comments about specific topics. Would the millions who engaged with the Super Bowl or Oscars have been in such a rush to tweet if finding the conversations took more work or add more noise in to the mix?

No doubt Twitter will put some replacement in place but to decide to make these changes for new users at the risk of current ones really shows disconnect. As Mashable quoted their CEO:

“We have massive global awareness of Twitter, and we need to bridge that gap between awareness of Twitter and deep engagement on the platform,” Costolo said in February.

“So it is absolutely the case that it is very much about making it easier for people who first come to the platform to get it more quickly […] It’s not just get it in the first weeks and months on Twitter, it’s get it in the first moments, the first day on Twitter. So that is absolutely, absolutely a focus area for us,” he added.

Hashtags are Established

Focus on sending short instruction tweets to new users. Focus on the current users and realize major changes create roadblocks that lose users. Businesses share their information using hashtags – they have programs set up to help automate these processes. Change it and while most will grumble and change, some will shift their attention to another platform and possibly stay there.

Yahoo Stop Trying to Be Google

Yahoo has met many roadblocks in its efforts to grow its search platform. Their latest misstep has been the integration of Yelp in to their Local Search.

As I noted previously:

Seems Yahoo is running a location-based result for the sidebar Yelp content, but some bizarre method for their actual search results. They are not using geo-targeting as Google does (see their result below), and they seem to break the term ‘Longbow’ in their results too. Okay, Yahoo no use of my IP to influence your SERPs, but WHY would you break up the search term right at the start of the results? If you want to be taken seriously in the search space you have to give back better results than the ones you are giving now. If you expect Yahoo Local to be competitive with Google you need to change some things.

Yahoo, search is not your strength and until you realize that and stop trying to do things in house you are not going to increase your share of the market. Buy a small search engine and leave them alone. 7Search would be a smart play but only if you let them take control of your search.

Concentrate more on your strengths and compete with others in that space. Content creation and Fantasy Sports are two majorly popular parts of your business that could be grown. Watch what the competitors in those spaces are doing and adopt some of them, improve on them.

Google You Are Not Too Big To Fail

GoogleTooBigToFail
While marketers know the rules of the game – ‘those in charge make the rules,’ it would seem Google has grown too big to remember how they got there. The online marketers they wined and dined 10 years ago – and not just the big spenders on Adwords – are now seen as annoyances.

While the reason for the de-indexing of blog networks is understandable, to a degree, the recent dropping of MyBlogGuest came off as a little cynical. Matt Cutts, the Google Spam Czar, has done a great job at trying to keep the search results relevant, but the announcement that a major guest blog site was coming down came off as a bit elitist or cynical.

Google does not try and reach out to sites and let them know they have to change something if they don’t want to lose their ability to be included in Google’s results. Yes they send those mesages of doom through Webmaster Tools – but they are usually an announcement of pages being dropped from their index. Google has the ability to remove the impact of sites without directly dropping others.

They have made manual changes, as the debacle with Bing scraping their results showed a few years ago. The company has a certain amount of freedom to do what they want, but as it grows in to such a major platform for search they are coming closer and closer to meeting an anti-trust action here in the United States. Smartly they have bought some companies that could have raised the call, but there are still smaller companies that have been impacted by Google buying up businesses in their industry and giving the services away.

One would hope Google is making donations to Wikipedia given the huge amounts of their information they scrape. If this type of thing was being done by other websites they would get drop kicked out in a hurry.

The experiment of dropping keywords associated with search was done as a claim of privacy – privacy that even the European Union that settled their anti-trust action against was looking at. Skeptics saw it more as a push to businesses using Adwords – get companies to pay for the information. But rumors suggest they may be bringing it back, why is an interesting question and one people will be waiting for when and if they do it.

While many CMS platforms have plugins to insert no follow instructions – most sites these days seem to no follow all external links – this will have the effect of invalidating the very premise Google built their search results on. Perhaps instead of no follow there should be an authority tag – one that can be more easily tracked and filtered through some algorithm to stop inaccurate use of it.

Marketers helped grow Google. True it was motivated by profit, but at the start it was a shared profit. Google grew as more marketers came to use their advertising, before that they were a company that could have been bought for a million dollars by Excite. But now marketers are seen as parasites to Google, one that should be buying their traffic and leaving the organic results to others. And while that is simplified and inaccurate, it does reflect the attitude Google has, especially by the people working in spam and engineering.

There has always been a claim of separation between the advertising business and the organic search department, but this ‘church and state’ concept is hard to believe. While Google claims coincidence when something is changed on the organic side that see businesses scurrying to Adwords to replace the loss of traffic from an algorithm change.

The search results pages no longer look like the minimalist layouts of old. It is getting harder to see those non-income providing organic results. There are carousels, product images, and information boxes (scraped from other sites) that offer information previously found at a site they had listed in the organic results.

We know Google has the right – at least for now – to do what they want with their business and how it is presented, but like Twitter they need to understand that those businesses that helped them grow will put up with their actions until another method less arbitrary comes along. The mobile space could be the tipping point. If someone could create the ultimate find it app – one that you can choose the type of information you want before starting the search – that ties in offers when a purchase is intended, times for those types of searches, etc. Google could have some competition that threatens their advertising revenues. And if it gets the support of the marketers and influencers there could be a change.

Google has that type of ‘hope they fail’ reactions these days.

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Have Twitter, Google, Yahoo Lost Touch With Users? by

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