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Tim Peter

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January 7, 2013

What Google's Flight Explorer Tells Us About the State of Travel Search

January 7, 2013 | By | No Comments

No sooner did I mention that Google will be able to explore lots of innovation and opportunity now that they’re free of regulatory investigation, than the company introduces its new Flight Explorer feature.

Google Flight Explorer screenshot

Just put in where you’re looking to go (the feature “auto-magically” determines your starting airport) and how long you’re willing to travel and the feature will show you the best flight options (best defined as cheapest) available to you.

At present, it looks like all the inventory is coming from the individual airlines, which they must love. Of course, the OTA’s probably won’t be happy. But it’s a fascinating move from Big G and one worth watching as we move forward.

Clearly, Google thinks this is an underserved way consumers want to search. I think they’re right—I’d have killed for this a couple of weeks ago while trying to plan an inexpensive getaway for my family. Google’s now free of the (immediate) threat of government involvement in their day-to-day product direction, which means this likely isn’t the last enhancement of this kind we can expect to see. While this one looks good for suppliers and competition for intermediaries, that won’t necessarily remain true for any future enhancements. I’d stay tuned on this front if I were you.

I’ll be exploring and explaining what features such as these mean for your business in the Biznology webinar I’m conducting January 15th: “It’s All E-commerce: How the Local, Social, Mobile Web Affects Sales Online and Offline”. We’ve still got some space, so register today and learn more about how all channels tie together in the social, local, mobile web.

Tim Peter

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March 2, 2012

Google now offers airlines a CRS platform. Is this a Good Thing?

March 2, 2012 | By | No Comments

OK, this I didn’t see coming. Google just built its first airline CRS. Big G has worked with Cape Air to provide a reservation system,

‘That may not look all that different from other airlines’ systems on the surface, but Google says that there’s plenty different going on under the hood, noting that it was built “from scratch using modern, modular, scalable technologies.” That last bit is perhaps the key one, with Google further adding that the system is “built to scale to support airlines of all sizes.”‘ [Emphasis mine]

On many levels, this makes loads of sense both for airlines and for Google. The search giant offers server power and engineering talent on a scale unlike, well, just about anyone. And what better way “…to organize the world’s information and make it universally available” (Google’s stated mission), than get airline information (and, eventually, I would assume, hotel information and car rental information and…) directly from the source.

Further, I can imagine many airline executives (and hotel executives and car rental executives and…) drooling over the notion of letting Google do all the heavy lifting on the tech front. And the idea of the large players in the space (Sabre, Amadeus, IBS, etc.) facing further competition is a good thing. Isn’t it?

Probably.

The one possible downside here is that for airlines (and hotel companies and car rental companies and…), Google represents one of their largest advertising partners, too, with huge market share for search, display and mobile advertising dollars.

Giving Google access to all inventory, rate and passenger data could potentially lower distribution and reservations systems costs for its future customers. But it could also potentially cost a lot more for advertising, too, as Google learns more and more and more about these businesses.

Which is definitely something to watch in the coming months and years.

Tim Peter

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January 11, 2012

Google is not Evil. They just appear to be.

January 11, 2012 | By | No Comments

Is Google EvilGoogle is making lots of news this week and not all of it is for the right reasons. First, they introduced their Search, plus Your World enhancement (hereafter referred to as Search Plus because Danny Sullivan is a genius), incorporating social results more fully into the company’s search results pages. Twitter hates it, while Matt Cutts thinks it’s magical.

Me? I’m ambivalent. This has been a long time coming and, while I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon, I also think it’s incomplete, if for no other reason that so much of the social content that makes Search Plus attractive comes only from Google+. Maybe as Google+ use grows, Search Plus will become more valuable to consumers. But it’s way too soon to suggest how it’s going to affect business (though I plan to take a couple of guesses next week).

Speaking of the business impacts of Google+ growth, Matt McGee takes a long look at the growth of [Not Provided] as a referring keyword from Google. As I noted in the comments, the more folks log into G+, the bigger potential business impact.

What these two stories have in common is both present Google in a less-than-glowing light. In the first, Google appears to promote its social service ahead of alternatives such as Twitter and Facebook. In the second, Google offers its paid search customers benefits unavailable to those who don’t pay.

But are either of these “evil”?

You could easily argue that they’re not.

Now, before you get out the torches and pitchforks to storm my castle, hear me out for a second. If you made moves that benefited your bottom line and stuck it to your competitors, do those moves make you evil? Of course not.

So why isn’t that true for Google? Shouldn’t they get the same opportunity as you? (Ignoring for a moment any antitrust issues, of which I expect Google to face plenty pending the outcome of this year’s elections).

Actually, here’s the problem. Google’s stated mission is to “…organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” All the world’s information, universally accessible. Not just the information available on Google’s services and not just to people who pay them.

From that perspective it sure looks like they’re compromising their core mission some. That may not be evil. But if you sacrifice your values to boost profits, eventually you’ll end up with neither.


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Tim Peter

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December 16, 2011

Biznology: 2 Huge Search Marketing Risks in 2012—And What To Do About Them

December 16, 2011 | By | No Comments

Most of the businesses I talk to increasingly have shifted their media spend towards paid search. And given its growth, who could blame them?

But, between the growing importance of alternative information channels and the possibility of serious antitrust oversight, next year will challenge Google with the largest threats in its history.

How can you be sure that this doesn’t turn into the worst possible time to start search marketing for your business? My latest post on Mike Moran’s Biznology blog, “2 Huge Search Marketing Risks in 2012—And What To Do About Them” seeks to answer just that question.


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Tim Peter & Associates helps companies from startups to the Fortune 500 use the web to reach more customers, more effectively every day. Take a look and see how we can help you.

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Tim Peter

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October 18, 2011

Google removes marketers' access to valuable data, but, maybe, doesn't protect privacy. Have they lost their mind? (BREAKING)

October 18, 2011 | By | No Comments

Ugh. Google announced today that they’re going to make search data more secure by hiding search query and referrer data. Except for when they don’t.

Huh?

It seems Google is going to hide the query and the referrer on searches for anyone logged into Google. While this will only affect, according to Google’s Matt Cutts, “single-digit” numbers of searchers, anything that makes it harder for marketers and e-commerce types to segment their customers, well, sucks.

Now this wouldn’t be so bad if it applied to all logged-in customers for all types of searches. At least then Google could fully claim they’re protecting privacy. But, Google isn’t doing that. The data from paid clicks (i.e., the type Google makes money from), continues getting passed to your analytics tool. Not sure how that’s protecting privacy. Google’s got enough trouble with potential regulators right now. I’m not sure this approach helps them there.

And, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Google protecting users’ privacy. I have argued repeatedly that protecting privacy is in marketers’ long-term best interest. I’m just not sure this accomplishes much in that regard.

Google’s announcement came earlier today, so many details are still up in the air. But the best analysis so far comes from Danny Sullivan:

“Not only does the policy discriminate against the SEO side of the search marketing family, it also sends a terrible signal to consumers. It says that referrer data is important enough to protect — but not important enough when advertiser interests are at stake.

To be fair, Google is concerned that people are more likely to do sensitive searches that somehow reveal private information in referrer data through clicks on its free listings. But this could still happen in relation to ads, as well.

I appreciate that Google’s trying to get the balance right, something Cutts said to me repeatedly, as well as all this being a a first step that will likely evolve. I also appreciate what he said about even this already improving things: “What you’re getting today is better than what you were getting yesterday.”

But still, it would seem better if all referrers were blocked. As a marketer, I hate saying that. But as a consumer, it does provide more protection. And for Google, blocking them all doesn’t create this mixed message that might backfire on them with privacy advocates.”

Admittedly, his analysis and mine align pretty heavily. But stay tuned for more. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot about this in the coming days.


Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

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Tim Peter & Associates helps companies from startups to the Fortune 500 use the web to reach more customers, more effectively every day. Take a look and see how we can help you.

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Tim Peter

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September 23, 2011

Rounding up the meaning of Google and Facebook's big week (Small Business E-commerce Link Digest – September 23, 2011)

September 23, 2011 | By | No Comments

Google and facebook news and what it means to youWeird week in the web world, with all the news centered around the two big players: Google and Facebook. First Google spent a day getting grilled by members of the US Senate. Then, yesterday, Facebook introduced a whole new look and feel. So, today, we’re rounding up the best posts outlining what these changes mean to you. On with the links:

  • Leading off, Mashable looks at what Facebook’s changes mean to marketers that’s definitely worth reading.
  • GigaOm says that Facebook’s changes will make media companies revisit their AOL days. Since Mashable’s article argues all marketers are publishers, its a good idea to pay attention to how the best publishers leverage Facebook as a content distribution platform.
  • Mark Ballard at Rimm-Kaufman Group (one of our 2011 E-commerce and Online Marketing All-Stars), looks at 5 key takeaways from the Google antitrust hearings. In particular, Ballard’s discussion of Google in a larger context underscores the nature of competition between Facebook and Google. Your business is almost certainly going to rely on one or both of these players (along with folks like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft/Bing, Twitter and review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List and TripAdvisor) for the next handful of years. What happens to one can affect what happens to you, too.
  • And, further underscoring that prior point, Business Insider’s Chart of the Day uses comScore data to illustrate Facebook’s dominance of social network activity. That’s not to say someone couldn’t come along and steal mind-and-market-share (hello, Google+). But, at present, Facebook leads the pack by a mile.
  • Finally, take a look at Rafe Needleman’s CNet editorial “Yes, Google really should worry about Facebook”. Facebook’s inherent knowledge of consumer behaviors, interests and desires–both now and in the future–threaten Google’s business model going forward. And may change the game for how you grow your business down the road.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen Facebook’s Timeline (the replacement for Profile going forward), check out the following video:

Have a great weekend, everyone. And hang on to your hats. We haven’t heard the last of either of these big stories.


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Tim Peter

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September 22, 2011

What Google vs. FairSearch.org and the US Senate Means to You

September 22, 2011 | By | No Comments

Google vs. competitionWell, it finally happened. Yesterday, Google and members of “industry watchdog” FairSearch.org testified before the Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights subcommittee of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. (The subcommittee could sure use some lessons in naming from that watchdog group, couldn’t they?) Search Engine Land has an excellent recap and also live-blogged Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s and the rebuttal testimony.

I put “watchdog group” above in quotes because, despite raising some excellent questions about Google’s practices, FairSearch was founded by Google competitors such as Microsoft, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Travelocity and Kayak (the latter three feel threatened by Google’s purchase of ITA Software and subsequent Flight Search product launch. I should also point out that I use Google AdSense for some of the ads displayed on this blog and conduct business on behalf of some clients with TripAdvisor, Expedia and other FairSearch sponsors—standard disclosures apply).

In any case, as Chris Sherman from Search Engine Land writes about a recent FairSearch study:

“Fairsearch.org has released findings from a new study that raises serious and important issues about Google, its influence on searcher behavior and whether the search giant’s actions are deliberately hindering competition. Unfortunately, the study results are tainted by flawed methodology and a blatant anti-Google bias, implicitly favoring the agendas of the companies that sponsored the research.”

The article concludes:

“Like most consumer watchdog groups, Fairsearch.org deserves credit for raising awareness on important issues that cry out for rational discussion. Unfortunately, the organization’s apparent single-minded goal to cripple Google, coupled with its disingenuous argument that this hobbling will be good for consumers (rather than helping the interests of its own patron companies) make it a source most people should eye with considerable skepticism.” [Emphasis mine]

I think the Search Engine Land folks are right. Some of Google’s practices are worth looking into. For instance, their approach to review sites isn’t entirely fair to those sources, no matter the benefit to consumers. I’m just not sure that government is well positioned to regulate such a dynamic market. After listening to some of the questions yesterday—and ridiculous pandering for broadband by several senators—I’m not sure our elected officials remotely understand the market they’re investigating. And the actions of FairSearch are, to quote Search Engine Land, as well as my friends Robert Cole and Henry Harteveldt, disingenuous at best.

Long term, increased access to information—whether provided by Google or others—creates increased price transparency for consumers. As I have noted for some time, Google’s antitrust trouble was inevitable. One company with that much power can harm the industry—and potentially your business. Which is why, I’ve also offered recommendations on what you should do about Google’s antitrust worries, including how to grow your business in a world without Google.

I’m not suggesting that we’re there yet.

But, given the lack of understanding of displayed by members of Congress (including, in a couple of cases, what looked like obvious bias against Big G), and Google’s less-than-stellar transparency in its responses, nothing would surprise me. It’s time you’re ready no matter what happens.


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Tim Peter

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August 8, 2011

What is Wrong with Online Marketing Anymore?

August 8, 2011 | By | No Comments

What the hell is wrong with online marketing these days? I don’t have a particular opinion of companies like KISSmetrics. I’ve never used their product. But, seriously. If a customer deletes his or her cookies, is it really a good idea to undelete them? The company now says that their privacy policy discloses what they do. Now there’s a lawsuit to boot.

Is it any wonder that practices such as these, or Facebook’s privacy missteps or Apple and Google’s geo-tracking issues cause consumers heartburn?

I’ve suggested for some time that businesses need to care for their customers’ privacy as if it were their own. As I’ve said,

“Customer relationships are built on trust. All relationships are. “

I’m a marketer. I make no bones about it. And I’m proud of what I do. I also respect the need of all marketers to use tags and tracking codes to figure out how best to help customers. I frequently help clients figure out how to use all sorts of technology to better understand their customers’ behaviors. But, we all need to continually ask ourselves if what we’re doing is truly in the best interest of our customers. And, if what you’re doing ever feels the slightest bit creepy or over the line, it isn’t worth doing at all. You may risk a minor point of conversion in the short-term, but your customers will appreciate you much more in the long-term.


Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

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Tim Peter & Associates helps companies from startups to the Fortune 500 use the web to reach more customers, more effectively every day. Take a look and see how we can help you.

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Tim Peter

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April 11, 2011

Tim Peter

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April 11, 2011

Google, ITA and the coming antitrust war

April 11, 2011 | By | No Comments

Oh. Yeah. This is kind of a big deal. The New York Times reports on Google gaining clearance from the US Dept. of Justice to buy ITA. An association backed by Google’s competitors notes,

“Google is heralding it as some win, when in fact the scrutiny is just beginning,” said Patrick C. Lynch, the former Rhode Island attorney general, on a call with reporters arranged by FairSearch. “It’s not going to be just the Department of Justice. It’s going to come from all sides.”

If you remember the Microsoft antitrust investigations of the late ’90′s, this feels eerily familiar. I looked at Google’s potential for antitrust violations a couple of years ago and offered some tips on how to prepare for a Google antitrust investigation. Search Engine Land would like to see the parties compete more effectively. But I think that now might be a good time to start planning for any eventual fallout, because this story — government approval of the Google/ITA deal notwithstanding — is far from over.



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