Google prunes some of its branches

It is that time again at Google when it has to prune some of its various branches. Since Google co-founder Larry Page took over the reins as CEO in April last year, Google has been reducing and trimming its projects to renew and regain focus.

Google has come under investor scrutiny as it is facing increasing competition from both Apple and Facebook.

This spring cleaning is part of the various cost cutting and refocusing efforts. In the latest cleaning exercise announced a few weeks ago, Google will be pulling the plug on seven of its projects.

1. Google Knol

Google launched Knol in 2007 to help improve web content and as a challenge to Wikipedia that enabled experts to collaborate on in-depth articles. Knol will be available till April 30, 2012, to enable users to download their Knols to a file and/or migrate them to the WordPress platform. After that till October 1, 2012, Knols cannot be viewed but users will be able to download and export content. After October 2012, the Knol content will no longer be available.

2. Google Gears

Google has closed the Gears browser extension for creating offline web applications and stopped supporting new browsers in March this year. From December 1, 2011, Gears-based Gmail and Calendar offline will not work across all browsers, and Gears will not be available for download from late December this year. Google announced that this is part of their effort to help incorporate offline capabilities into HTML5. Users can access Gmail, Calendar and Docs offline in Chrome.

3. Renewable Energy

Google has abandoned its ambitious plans to make renewable energy cheaper than coal. Google had started this project in 2007 as a means on driving down the price of renewable energy with a strong focus on solar power. Google announced that the head of the project, Bill Weihl (William E. Weihl) has left the company and it believes that other organizations were in a better position to take its efforts to the next level.

4. Google Wave

Google has earlier stopped further development on Google Wave. Now it has announced that as of January 31, 2012, Wave will be available as only a read-only version and users won’t be able to create new ones. This will be completed closed on April 30, 2012. Users can transfer individual waves using the existing PDF export feature.

5. Google Search Timeline

Google will be removing this feature that displays a historical graph of results for a search query. Users will now be able to restrict any search to particular time periods using the refinement tools on the left-hand side of the search page. Uses who wish to view graphs with historical trends for a web search can use Google Trends or Google Insights for data since 2004. If you need more historical data, the “Ngram Viewer” in Google Books offers the same information.

The Google Trends Product Logo

6. Google Friend Connect

Google Friend Connect, which is a social feature, will be discontinued from March, this is because Google wants people to start using the Google Plus social network instead.

7. Google Bookmarks

The feature will become unavailable from December 19, 2011. This enabled users to share bookmarks and collaborate with friends. The existing bookmark Lists will be retained and labelled to make it easier to identify. The other features of the Google Bookmarks will keep on functioning. The change won’t affect the non-English users as it was an English only feature.

This spring cleaning is only a sign that Google knows that it currently faces big competition, so it needs to make sure that it discontinues disused/inefficient services it provides.

Google Christmas crackers!

Google always strike me as a fun and playful global giant, which always tries to be a little bit eccentric and different. This year in the run up to Christmas, I have so far found three of Google’s ‘Easter egg’ – which is basically another way of saying hidden, but findable jokes.

The first of the Easter eggs I have found is some Christmas lights. These come up underneath the search box when you search for the word ‘Christmas’ or many different phrases with the world ‘Christmas’ in them, like ‘Merry Christmas’. It’s not much, but it is festive 🙂

Google's Easter Egg Christmas LightsThe second Easter egg is much more exciting! When you search for the words ‘Let It Snow’ Google will take you to the search result, and everything will seem normal – for a second or two. Then all of a sudden, snowflakes will start to fall from the top of your browser, and the screen will start to mist up! You can then demist your browser either by clicking ‘Defrost’ or by using your mouse – although you still need to click the button to start using Google again. Its a really good touch by Google, really gets you in the holiday spirit!

Snow falling on a Google search page

When you type 'Let It Snow' into Google, it starts snowing in your browser!

Google Frosted/Misted Up

After a few seconds of snow, Google becomes very frosty!

The final Easter egg I have found is with the Google owned site YouTube. On some videos – I still haven’t found a link – a snowflake icon comes up on the bottom bar of the video, which if you click, gives you falling snow over the video, which you can control with your mouse.

After a bit of research I have found one more Easter egg! If you type in ‘Hanukkah’ you get some special decorations, which appear like the Christmas lights, underneath the search box.

Finally, something that isn’t actually hidden, but worth mentioning is Google’s message from Santa. SendACallFromSanta.com is courtesy of Gmail, and lets you design a personalised message which Santa can either phone home with, (if you live in the USA or Canada) or create an animated video which can be sent via email. It is totally free and can be used for Children and Adults alike, due to the various serious and humorous options.

Google seem to want to get us in the festive spirit, so now give you my festive wishes 🙂

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Blog Commenting – Making the Most Out of It

Since sites that are rich with relevant inbound links are rated favourably by search engines, link building is of vital importance in SEO.

By virtue of its ease, commenting on blogs has become a convenient and popular tactic for link building. Regularly scanning blogs by experts, reading news posts and adding comments that link back to the commenter’s website, seems be the quickest way out.

However blog commenting offers many more benefits; and you should aim to get much more returns from your comments. Here are some simple tips help you achieve this.

Technology Bloggers comment form

Showcase your awareness

Promoting yourself needn’t be equated with dramatic sales talk. In fact using blog commenting space for sales promotion is taboo.

On the other hand, simply adding a line of appreciation just to earn a link is not the right way either. Rather, invest some time in reading and comprehending the entire post and only then adding an insightful comment – comprising a minimum of three sentences – to enrich the conversation.

In this manner, blog commenting offers a good platform to showcase your awareness and experience and thus grow your brand.

Engage with the blogger

Some blogs make for extremely insightful and enjoyable reading. Why not try and develop a connect with those bloggers?

Following them on Twitter and other social media increases the exposure of their writings. Once they see you enriching the quality of their blog with well-thought of comments, they will be attracted to read and endorse your blog too.

Foster relations with the community

It’s quite likely that visitors of a particular blog, where you regularly submit comments on aren’t reading your blog as yet. The good news is that commenting on blogs is a great way to share your experiences and opinions, and establish yourself amongst a completely new set of readers.

Further, if you are a regular contributor of interesting and relevant comments, it could mean more opportunities for your blog. Replying directly to the comments of blog readers and initiating a conversation or debate on a specific subject, is great way to be recognized too. Replying to the first 4-5 comments enhances visibility within the community.

Finally, remember to be proactive on your blog too. While there aren’t many SEO advantages, blog commenting is a great tool for networking and building brand awareness.

Monitor your blog on a daily basis; always allow comments on your blog; and be sure to reply to those who have queries after reading your posts.

Do note that a lot of individuals commenting on blogs are bloggers too and there are benefits to be gained from having a good reputation among your peers.