How to Benefit from Google’s Search Plus

The integration of social search data is nothing new for Google, but with the release of Google’s new Search Plus Your World (SPYW and also known as Search+) search engine experts and journalists have been raising alarms over privacy and search relevance. Are there new factors for businesses to take into account now that Search+ has become the default search setting for Google?

What We Already Know about Google and Google Plus

Google+ has been an important part of helping content rank higher in a Google search long before the controversy over Search+. According to Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land, “Social Search results have, since October 2009, allowed content from people you know to rank higher, if you’re logged in.”

With the rising popularity of Google+, a presence on Google+ can help you rank higher in search results. If customers A and B are friends, but only customer B is following you on Google+, you could appear higher in customer A’s search results because of your common connection with customer B.

Sullivan adds in his article, “Google has previously said that gaining +1s can help improve your ranking for those who have directly +1ed your content, as well as for those they are connected to. In addition, it can show even those who aren’t connected or using +1 an overall count for your page, should it appear for them naturally.” This integration of social search elements hasn’t caused too much of a stir until Search+ added a new wrinkle.

Putting Google+ on Top of Search Results

The key development with Search+ is noted by Erin Everhart of 352 Media Group: “The catch is that it [Search+] only factors in your Google+ social graph, leaving Facebook and Twitter, arguably the more active social networks, out in the cold.” Though more users are ranking content socially through Facebook, Google+ activity, at least for now, seems to have a greater impact on rising in search rankings.

According to Tim Carmody of Wired, part of the struggle is between Google+ and Twitter since Social Search prioritizes Google+ pages over Twitter pages. He writes, “Meanwhile, a ‘+username’ search is immediately recognized by Google as a search for a Google+ account — even though ‘+’ has a similarly well-established history as an operator in keyword searches. (In Google+ itself, typing ‘@username’ immediately converts to ‘+username.’)”

Carmody adds, “The company that conquered web search with a fast, objective algorithm that provided users with more relevant search results than anyone else is increasingly upending that approach to push its own products.” The key implication here is that a company’s presence on Twitter and Facebook won’t produce the same return as a presence on Google+.

The Challenge of Google Search+

Through the introduction of Search+, Google has created an environment where greater influence can be wielded through Google+. According to Nancy Messieh at Next Web, “Google+ power users will have a direct effect on search results, a consequence which could prove to be a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, if you trust your Google+ network, your Google Search results will become even more relevant. On the other hand, could some of those search results be skewed based on an influential user you follow? It’s quite likely.”

The question boils down to what is most relevant. If the most relevant search content can be found on someone’s Facebook page, you’re out of luck with Google’s Search+ as a search engine according to Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land. Provided that Google stays on this course, there are serious implications for marketing teams and business owners.

The Implications of Search+ for Marketers

Your Google+ page could be at the top of the search rankings of your connections’ friends, and therefore Google+ becomes a kind of SEO short cut in some instances. In addition, if you provide a share button for Google+ on your website, you can gain more attention for your blog or web pages.

Google+ pages for yourself and your brand need to become an integral part of any SEO strategy now. In addition, Erin Everhart writes, “Search+ essentially forces brands to use their Google+ pages much like their own website. That means brands should integrate their main keywords into Google+ posts to increase their relevance in important searches. But again, this must be done in a natural, non-spammy manner.”

Local SEO may take the biggest hit with Google’s Search+, as personal results take up the top search spots, crowding out local results in some tests. This means that businesses that rely on local search results need to build local connections on Google+ in order to remain on the radar of Search+ results.

Whether Search+ provides more authoritative search results or merely waters down the relevance of Google’s search results, companies will need to seriously consider how to integrate Google+ into their search engine strategies. There’s a new way to rise to the top of Google’s search results, and it’s yet another social network.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a company that convert psd to html formats, and who also consults for an inspection company that specializes in Pre shipment inspections.


Google decides to discontinue Picnik among other Google services

Continuing with the trend of streamlining its operations and focusing on a few profitable ventures, Google has announced that it will be closing down half a dozen Google services including the popular photo editing software Picnik which it acquired almost two years ago. This process of focusing operations on a few select businesses has seen the company dropping several under-performing businesses from its portfolio over the last six months. Some of the noted withdrawals have been Google Buzz, Google Labs and Google Health.

In a recent blog post, Google’s Vice President Dave Girouard announced that the latest cuts are a result of the company’s decision to build better services and enhance user experience. Girouard went on to say that this process involves phasing out products which replicate certain features and deciding whether they fit into the Google experience or not. Picnik is probably the most famous of these services. Google bought the online photo editing software back in March 2010 and have finalised plans to end it by April 19th this year. However, Picnik isn’t going to disappear completely, with Google integrating its photo editing features in other Google products like Google Plus. Existing Picnik users have the option of downloading their data in the form of a zip file or migrating it to Google Plus. Until the service shuts down, Google has decided to offer the premium service for free and those who have already subscribed to the same have been promised a refund.

Another service that Google will be dropping is Social Graph. Designed as an application programming interface (API), this service provides developers with tools to utilize information between public connections. The reason Google gave for dropping the API is that the service didn’t garner as much adoption as the company had hoped. Social Graph is expected to shut down at the same time as Picnik.

Adding further to the list of Google’s ‘dropouts’ is Google Message Continuity. Designed as an email disaster recovery software (targeted at corporate customers), this service was launched in December 2010. Google has decided to push its App business instead. Other announcements include the integration of Needlebase (a data management platform) with other data-related initiatives under Google. Google has also decided to close its web analytics product, Urchin software, as well as Google Sky Maps for Android.


Google+ Officially Open to Teens

Google+ made a landmark move and opened itself to users who are over the age of 13. Google+ did not initially target the younger crowd and kept itself available only for users above the age of 18.

Besides, opening up to youngsters over the age of 13 the social network also added improved safety features to keep the younger crowd protected. Now it features more rigid default settings for privacy but, they can be overridden none the less.

Vice president Product management at Google+, Bradley Horowitz, in a Google+ post stated that, "With Google+, we want to help teens build meaningful connections online. We also want to provide features that foster safety alongside self-expression. Today we're doing both, for everyone who's old enough for a Google Account."

Further he added that Google+ focuses on helping teens to have better and meaningful online connections. Besides, they intend to provide such features that will help teens to express themselves as well as foster safety.

The latest safety features offers warnings before posting public posts by teens and also rigid default privacy settings. However, the social networking site also offers ways to override these features by changing the settings of the account.

With this Google+ will be at par with Facebook which also allows users to sign-up who are above 13.


Obama Prepares Live Google+ Broadcast

In what will be seen as a huge move for the emerging social networking service known as Google+, the service has revealed that it is scheduled to host a live Q&A session with one of the best-known names in the world

Global public figures do not get much bigger than a US president, and it is Barack Obama that will be the ‘host’ of a live Google+ ‘Hangout’ event 6 days from now. The president will headline a group of at least 25 members of his political administration, as they take turns to respond to selected questions posted in by users in the fall-out from tomorrow’s State of the Union address.

The ‘Hangout’ event, which will be staged on 30 January and the week surrounding it, is thought to correspond with the US government’s aims of extending coverage and public interest in the annual State of the Union address, which provides a summary of the current state of the USA in general, and discusses general plans for the year ahead.

Each politician participating in the Google+ event will be allocated their own slot on the ‘Hangout’, offering users a chance to field questions to a more specialised recipient if needbe.

As a means of vetting the questions asked, potential users have been told to upload their question as a 30-second clip to the White House’s official YouTube page, with the people responsible for the best questions invited to take part in a real-time Google+ ‘Hangout’.

An official White House statement discussed the deal, saying: “The President is committed to creating a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. That’s why President Obama and more than 25 members of his administration will be responding to your questions about the speech all week and talking about the issues that matter most to you.”

A key topic that may be discussed by internet users is the SOPA controversy, with Obama’s administration recently claiming that they are against the bill, adding that they do not want to ‘facilitate online censorship’. As online emotions will be running high with this topic, will a chance to speak to the President (virtually) ’face-to-face’ manage to blow over smoothly? There’s always one…


How Google Search Plus Your World is Changing SEO

In its simplest form, search engine optimization (SEO) used to be about three things - making your content crawlable, linkable, and usable. Gaining greater visibility on search engine results pages was relatively easy. Depending on your business model, it was also much easier said than done.

Nimble smaller businesses routinely outmaneuvered larger enterprises when it came to securing specific query-relevant rankings in the search engines, especially in Google. Ultimately, relevancy had to be redefined by shifting algorithmic weightings toward trust and authority, and away from feigned popularity and repurposed content.

Now, SEO needs to be as conversational as it is contextually relevant, in order to be well represented in Google's most recent algorithmic shifts. True to form, enterprise level SEO initiatives will have to play a game of catch-up this year in order to reap new opportunities from social search results.

Recent Developments

Google’s search results have been influenced by some measure of social signals for years. It’s only now that the social signals can wholly resonate through Google’s Search Plus Your World release earlier this month.

Google Plus Buttons made their debut in June last year. At the time, experts gave it a bit of a “so what” nod as yet another “me too” social experience. Recently Larry Page announced that 90 million users have signed up to Google Plus since launch. Those Plus buttons are growing in importance.

Google Search Plus Your World is the next evolutionary step in determining what is relevant to personalized search queries in that individuals search results are greatly influenced by their circles of friends

In Google Search Plus Your World, your friends’ online experiences are more relevant to your personal search results than links and domain authority. This is a game changer from what we all knew and understood about perceived relevancy of public web search results. When you’re signed in to Google all you need do is toggle between the two very different, yet seemingly relevant, search results.

Presumably if you find that your personalized search results in Google Search Plus Your World lack relevancy, you be well advised to start finding some new friends. Not to worry. Google’s been thinking about that too.

Last week Google rolled out yet another new feature for Google Plus that lets searchers start a conversation directly from search results, and contribute to the relevant conversation by way of the Google Plus stream.

It’s not only easier to find people, personalities and pages in Google Plus personalized search results, you can readily expand your circle of influence by adding these people to your circle of friends – and vice versa. All you need do is find the “share box” in your search results and you'll be presented with an opportunity to "join the discussion" about whatever you've searched for.

In Google Search Plus Your World, there is no search without social. Your search queries resonate social signals through personalized search.

Better be careful for what you search for. Oh, snap! That’s right. No one will know what search phrase you used, except you and Google, because your Search Plus Your World results are hidden behind https:// and no keywords will be linked to your search in any analytics programs.

Points to Ponder

While Google Search Plus Your World evolves into a centralized social hub of activity that connects search results with social functions, we must be cognizant of the fact that the search engine will likely be testing algorithms that introduce weighted social search signals into Google's public web search results.

Google search has historically been about finding the best results for the many. Google Search Plus Your World is about finding the best results for you. Now, “you” are the enterprise. That is to say, each individual that uses Google Plus represents a new opportunity to have digital content produced by or about your enterprise discovered and shared among immeasurable circles of friends.

SEO in 2012, be it public or personal, is all about providing content that is worthy of being shared, by links or by circles. Now that the context of the search query is the conversation, relevancy is truly in the eye of the beholder … as long as the people or the publication is beholden to Google+


Google Adds Emergency Alerts to Google Maps

Google has rolled out Public Alerts, a system for notifying the public about emergencies that will be integrated into Google Maps.

The company announced Wednesday that it is integrating feeds from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service, and the US Geological Survey (USGS) into Google Maps.

Providing a glimpse of how the program will work, Google offered the hypothetical example of Tornado Warning in Houston - Galveston. If you searched “Tornado houston,” you’d see a Google Maps page offering links to local tornado-related businesses. However, if there were a flood warning, Google would state there was a “Tornado Warning in Houston - Galveston” and offer a “more info” link, which would lead to a page like this offering more details on the progress of the Tornado.

Google is also aggregating all its public alerts on The idea, according to Google, is to provide the public with better information to make decisions during a crisis. So far, however, the company doesn’t appear to be integrating dynamic data from its Google+ social network (or other social networks, like Twitter and Facebook), which might yield even more relevant data.

This isn’t the first time Google has attempted to use its dominance in search to aid public safety. In 2008, the company introduced Google Flu Trends, which analyzes search data to show where the flu is spreading. Last year, Google also rolled out Google Dengue Trends, which performs a similar service related to Dengue Fever.

Google also has a Crisis Response Team that focuses on providing information to the public during emergencies.

What do you think? Is Google offering a needed public service, or is this just an attempt to garner good pr? Let us know in the comments.


Google in privacy policy changes across its services

Google has changed its privacy policy, streamlining it across its multiple services including search, email, video and social networking sites.

More than 60 different policies will be combined into one that will go into effect 1 March, the company said.
Google said the new policy will give people more relevant search results and help advertisers find customers.
Google has previously faced criticism over the sharing of users data.
"We're rolling out a new main privacy policy that covers the majority of our products and explains what information we collect, and how we use it in a more readable way," said Alma Whitten, Google's director of privacy, product and engineering.
The single privacy policy will apple to Google search, Gmail, YouTube and Google+, its social networking site.
The main change applies to users who have Google accounts.
"If you're signed into Google, we can do things like suggest search queries, or tailor your search results, based on the interests you've expressed in Google+, Gmail and YouTube," the company said, explaining the changes.
The revision comes after Google's previous attempt at social networking, Buzz, was shut down.
The company was criticised for inadvertently revealing users' most e-mailed contacts to other participants through the Buzz platform.
Last year, Google and the Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement to prevent Google from misrepresenting how it uses personal information and from sharing a user's data without approval.
Google said it had been in touch with regulators over these latest changes to its privacy policy, which will apply globally, according to the Associated Press news agency


Pseudonyms on Google Plus? Wrong.

Summary: Google Plus made a small change to its “real name” policy but it still doesn’t support pseudonyms.

Today Google Plus VP of Product Bradley Horowitz posted that Google’s social network is adding support for alternate names in the next few days.

Everyone announcing that G+ now supports pseudonyms is wrong.

Don’t read the headlines - or Horowitz’s post - and crack open the champagne thinking that people who use pseudonyms are now able to use the service.

Google Plus is now only supporting “nicknames” and names in another script in addition to the “real name” users are require to register with the service.

Users’ birth names (or names on ID) are still rooted to the account and displayed with the added name.

The change they made on this explosive issue is minor. The implementation makes it clear that this is “nickname” support and not true pseudonym support.

Clarification: The very limited pseudonym option to be offered in Plus is not tied to a user’s “real name” only if the user signs up for a new account using a pseudonym (and the ‘nym is considered “established” and gets approved by Google’s hazy “appeal” process - or you are famous, like Horowitz’s example, Madonna).

A new field will be under your Profile/About page. This is where users can now enter a “nickname.”

The nickname appears either in the middle of the user’s name (Example: Amy “IHaveAnAbusiveStalker” Jones) - or at the end in parenthesis - Amy Jones (IHaveAnAbusiveStalker).

There is no option here for users to show only a pseudonym.

Let’s be absolutely clear here: there is a big difference between a nickname and a pseudonym, especially online. A nickname is a name someone is known by in addition to their regular name.

A pseudonym is a different name that is used in place of someone’s real name, for a wide variety of legitimate reasons.

In Horowitz’s Google Plus announcement post Toward a more inclusive naming policy for Google+ he acknowledges that there will be more shaping to Google+ naming policy saying, “To be clear - our work here isn’t done (…)”

Not long after Google launched Plus, it staked its citizens ability to participate in the social network and ancillary Google services on whether or not Google thought its users were operating in Plus under their “real names.”

It pitched many ordinary netizens into longstanding battles surrounding identity and anonymity online – and brought issues of privacy and safety to the fore.

In his announcement, Horowitz said:

On Google+, we try to flag names which don’t represent individuals, such as businesses or abstract ideas which should be +Pages. Sometimes we get this wrong, so starting today we’re updating our policies and processes to broaden support for established pseudonyms (…)

But even for pseudonyms, Google Plus still wants you identified on its records and tied to your government name - and the request to have use of your ‘nym goes under review for days, with Google requiring proof and evidence that it is your pseudonym.

Bizarrely, this evidence could range from a URL to your scanned driver’s license. And your account remains visible with your “real name” throughout the review process.

Google+ is not accepting new pseudonyms. This apparently only for “established ones.”

Before we announce the change, let me tell you no one really needs it

Most disconcerting in the announcement was the downplaying of the “real names” issue (also known as #nymwars).

Their announcement presents the statement, “The vast majority of users sail through our signup process - in fact, only about 0.1% submit name appeals.”

This might suggest that 99% of Google Plus users don’t want, or need, pseudonym support.

The 99% appears to be normative in this statement - this creates an image that contrasts a “normal” user (i.e. a “real name” person) versus one that wants something unusual or weird (a person that uses a pseudonym).

Whereas, look at Twitter and we see that pseudonyms are actually quite normal - far more than .01% and not necessarily a cutesy nickname choice.

I believe it also incorrectly asserts that the need for pseudonyms can be measured by the amount of Google+ name appeals Google’s system is processing, or willing to classify as legitimate by its standards.

Is everyone filing appeals, or do they just give up?

A new lesson about social networks and “real names” from China

The timing of Google Plus’ weak announcement comes just after Chinese authorities announced plans to expand their trials of the newly revealed “real name” regulations last week.

Like Google Plus, China’s cyber authorities want to attempt to enforce online accountability, by requiring and tying user accounts to real names, especially within social networks.

Also like G+, microbloggers and social site users in China will be forced to verify their accounts with official ID under the regulation.

As Hana Stewart-Smith writes about China’s new “real name” policy in Unboxing Asia,

For those that favour anonymity in order to discuss or report on topics that might otherwise be censored, this would force them to face accountability in the eyes of the Chinese government.

Considering that a woman was charged with a year in a labour camp just for retweeting an activist message, these concerns are certainly not unfounded.

I shudder to think what these global “real name” policies could mean for innocent internet citizens.

For instance, take the case of web programmer Saeed Malekpour, who has recently been sentenced to death by the Iranian government for what amounts to writing an open source script for photo uploading.

The Canadian citizen will be killed for crimes against the government because the script was used by an adult website (without his knowledge) - and Iranian officials claim that because his name was the only name tied to the software, he must pay the ultimate price.

I wonder, if he had simply released the package under a pseudonym, would he not have been tortured for three years and now face execution?

Just a thought.

Google Plus and its truly problematic pseudonym policy encompasses issues of online harassment, personal safety, political speech, sexual minorities, women and gender identity, privacy, the collection and use of personal information by corporations, identity verification, and online deception.

So if you left Google Plus because you couldn’t safely use a pseudonym - don’t come back just yet.


Google Plus user base crosses 90 million mark

Google's online social networking service 'Google Plus' has crossed 90 million users mark since its launch in June. 

Google Plus now has attracted 90 million users, reflecting the huge interest in the social networking site which was opened to the public on September 20. That more than doubles the 40 million that Google reported in October. 

Earlier, Google Plus service was available only through invitation as part of trial runs. 

Interestingly, rival Facebook took about four years to reach 90 million users. Facebook, founded in 2004, has now 800 million users globally. 

"I am super excited about the growth of ... Google Plus, which now has 90 million users globally - wellover double what I announced just three months ago. By building a meaningful relationship with our users through Google Plus we will create amazing experiences across our services," Google CEO Larry Page said while announcing the company's latest quarterly earnings. 

Google unveiled 'Google Plus' in late June as part of efforts to garner a share of the lucrative social networking space that has so far been dominated by Mark Zuckerberg--led Facebook. 

Since launch, Google has added toolbars and other buttons on its websites to aggressively promote the service. 

During the quarter, Google has reported a net income to $ 2.71 billion in for October-December, which analysts termed as below market expectation. 

It registered revenue of $ 10.58 billion for the quarter ended December 31, 2011, an increase of 25 per cent from the year-ago period.


Google best place to work in US: Fortune

Internet giant Google has been by Fortune magazine as the best place to work in the US.

The Mountain View, California-based company hired about 7,000 people in 2011, the most intense hiring spree in its 13-year history, which moved Google up from fourth to first on Fortune's annual list of the 100 best companies to work for, Xinhua reported. 

"Employees rave about their mission, the culture, and the famous perks of the Plex: bocce courts, a bowling alley, eyebrow shaping (for a fee) in the New York office," Fortune wrote.

"What people often focus on are the flashy, showy things, like the massages and the food, which are important to us. But they are not the real story about what makes our culture work," Laszlo Bock, Google's senior vice president for people operations, told San Jose Mercury News, a daily newspaper in Silicon Valley.

Larry Page, Google co-founder and chief executive officer, said in an interview with Fortune: "We've always been good at making sure we're treating employees flexibly. You treat people with respect. They tend to return the favour to the company. And that goes for families."

“Then there’s the food: some 25 cafcompanywide, all gratis,” it noted.
In the second spot was Boston Consulting Group. Fortune said the global consulting giant invests 100-plus hours and thousands of dollars to recruit each consultant and once hired, they earn an average of $139,000 a year.
Other companies in the list are Mercedes Benz US (12), DreamWorks Animation (14), Goldman Sachs (33), software-maker Adobe (65), Intel (46), Starbucks (73) and Microsoft (76).


Google Grows G+ As Earnings Miss

Google reported fourth quarter fiscal 2011 earnings on Thursday that missed analyst expectations. Google CEO and Co-founder Larry Page, however, remarked during his company's earnings call the he was 'happy' with the results overall during the quarter.

Google's revenues for the fourth quarter grew to $10.58 billion, which is a 25 percent year-over-year increase. For Google, revenues excluding Traffic Acquisition Costs (TAC) is another key metric and that came in at $8.13 billion, which was a miss from analyst estimates of $8.41 billion.

Net Income was also on the rise at Google, growing to $2.71 billion, up from $2.54 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The reason for the earnings miss was related to a declining average cost-per-click (CPC) number from Google, for ads served on Google and its network partner sites. Google reported that the average cost-per-click, decreased approximately 8 percent over the fourth quarter of 2010.

Google's Larry Page stressed during his company's earning call that Google had a good quarter and is growing new business areas including Google Plus and Android.

"I'm pleased to announce that there are over 90 million Google+ users, well over double what I announced just a quarter ago on our earnings call," Page said. "Engagement on plus is also growing tremendously. I have some amazing data to share there for the first time. Plus users are very engaged with our products, over 60 percent of them engage daily and over 80 percent weekly."

Google+ is Google's effort to take on Facebook in the social networking space. Page noted that Google+ is much more than being about just individual features.

"It's also about building a meaningful relationship with users so that we can dramatically improve the services we offer," Page said. "Understanding who people are, what they care about and the other people that matter to them is crucial if we are to give users what they need, when they need it."

While Google+ is growing at a rapid rate, Google's Android mobile OS is growing even faster. Page noted that 700,000 phones are lit up every day and there are now currently 250 million Android devices in total. Android users are also downloading a lot of apps, 11 billion of them in fact, according to Page.

Though Google is expanding its footprint with Google+ and Android, it was busy during the fourth quarter cancelling a number of initiatives as well.

"Since we last spoke, we've announced that we're closing 12 of our products, including Buzz, Knol and Friend Connect, integrating a whole bunch of others into features of existing products," Page said. "This means that we can double down on the really big bets we had made like Android, Chrome, Gmail, Display and YouTube."


Google Plus Has 90 Million Users, 60% Come Back Every Day

Google CEO Larry Page just announced Google+ user numbers. They are surprisingly big 90 million people have registered for the site. Page says 60% of them come back every day – 80% every week. Facebook, which has more than 850 million monthly active users, likes to brag that half of them come back every day.

Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz led development of Google+

I’m also pleased to announce that there are over 90M Google+ users -- well over double what I announced just a quarter ago on our earnings call. Engagement on + is also growing tremendously.
I have some amazing data to share there for the first time: +users are very engaged with our products -- over 60% of them engage daily, and over 80% weekly.
In the middle of last year, Page announced that every single Google employee's bonus in 2011 would depend on the success of the company's social strategy. In December, we learned those bonuses were paid. Now we know why.
Here's guessing that Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz, who led development of Google+ and are pictured above, don't have to buy their own drinks around the Googleplex.


Is Your Child Ready to Design Google’s Next Doodle?

Your little sister, brother, favorite kid in the neighborhood or child could be the next Google star – that is, if he or she is a K-12 student living in the United States who has doodling skills that are beyond belief or are good enough to beat out the expected 100,000-plus entries from around the country.

Google announced this year’s theme for the fifth annual Doodle 4 Google contest for kids is: “If I could travel in time, I’d visit….” Doodles can reflect visiting the past, present or future. So, hop in your time machine whether it be an old-time pirate ship or a decked-out space travel machine.

Google also announced a few changes this year after last year‘s record-breaking number of entries (107,000) — making this year’s competition bigger than ever.

Kids who want to win a $30,000 scholarship for themselves, plus a $50,000 technology grant for their school are invited to participate in the 2012 Doodle For Google contest. Children in grades Kindergarten through 12th may create their best Google artwork for the homepage, centered around the theme of "If I could travel in time, I would visit..."

The winner of the contest two years ago was then third grader Makenzie Melton of El Dorado Springs, Mo. Makenzie's design was selected as the winner among 33,000 entries.  Her design centered around the future of the rain forest.

Entries for the 2012 contest will be accepted from now until March 23rd.  The judges will include Katy Perry, Jordin Sparks, and the co-creator of "Phineas and Ferb", Jeff Marsh.

The top 50 doodles will be displayed on the contest site beginning May 2nd and people across the country will be able to vote for their favorites.  In addition, the New York Public Library as well as local museums throughout the U.S. will exhibit the best doodles from their states after the national winner is announced.

Info for participants

The Doodle 4 Google competition is now open to all K-12 students in U.S. schools (including home schoolers). Parents, teachers, or after school programs may submit doodles on behalf of their child or student as long as they are accompanied by a completed and signed entry form. Like last year, we do not have a cap on number of submissions from one school, family, or after school program but we still require that only one doodle is submitted per child. In the case of duplicate submissions by a single child, we will accept the submission that arrives first as determined by the "received by" date. Completed entry forms must be received by March 23rd.
New! We no longer require preregistration.
Parents or Legal Guardians of K-12 Kids: Parents or legal guardians who have children currently enrolled in U.S. based schools are allowed to submit artwork on behalf of their child as long as the parent or guardian signs and completes page one of the official entry form (available on this page) for each child who submits artwork for the contest. If you are a parent, we ask that you check with your child’s school first to see if they are participating in the contest in order to prevent duplicate submissions.
U.S. based private, public, and home schools serving K-12 students: Teachers in U.S. based schools are allowed to submit doodles on behalf of their students as long as they are accompanied by a completed entry form signed by the child's parent or legal guardian.
After school programs: Representatives from any after school organization are allowed to submit students' doodles as long as they are accompanied by a completed entry form signed by the child's parent or guardian. Also, please check with the child's parents to prevent multiple entries as we allow only one entry per student.

Contest Rules

You can read the official contest rules for this year's competitionhere.

How do you enter the contest?

The entry form is available at the top of this page and needs to be completed as follows:

Page 1: This page needs to be completed and signed by the parent or guardian of the child entering the contest.
Page 2: The entrant's artwork needs to be drawn on the second page of the entry form. We have provided three options for page 2 of the entry form (two with the Google logo and one with a blank entry space). All are equally acceptable but only one may be submitted together with Page 1. We limit only one doodle per child. Duplicates are disqualified.


Design Guidelines

  • The doodle should be completed on page two of the entry form available at the top of this page.
  • The Google logo in the student doodle should be clearly visible and recognizable.
  • The student doodle should be done in pencil, crayon, felt tip, paint or by using computer drawing or design software.
  • We do not accept entries that use additional materials to create 3D effects.
  • While we encourage your students or children to use the previous doodle artists and winners as inspiration, we remind participants not to recreate or plagiarize previous designs. They cannot contain any content, element, or material that violates a third party’s publicity, privacy or intellectual property rights.
  • We keep all the original artwork and do not send it back. If you'd like to retain a copy of your student's or child’s doodle, please make a color copy of it before you mail it in.

Where to Send Submissions

Doodles are due on March 23, 2012 and must be postmarked no later than March 20, 2012.
All submissions should be sent to the P.O. box (regular mail) or courier service address (e.g., UPS or FedEx, etc.) listed below.Please note that you cannot submit artwork via courier service to the PO box below. If you use USPS you must use the top address and if you use a courier service you must use the bottom address.
P.O. Box Address
Doodle for Google
PO Box 9112
Plainview, NY 11803-9112

Courier Service Address
Doodle for Google
c/o Tenthwave
35 Pinelawn Road Suite 207W
Melville, NY 11747


Ahead of the Bell: Google 4Q Earnings May Top $3B

Google Inc. is expected to surpass another financial milestone when the Internet search leader releases its fourth-quarter results Thursday afternoon.

If analyst forecasts pan out, it will be the first time that Google has earned at least $3 billion in any three-month period since the company started in a rented Silicon Valley garage in 1998. It would be the third straight quarter that Google's net income has increased by at least 20 percent from the previous year.

The streak of steady growth has occurred since Google co-founder Larry Page replaced Eric Schmidt as CEO in early April. Google's performance since then has eased worries among investors that the company's earnings would falter under Page, who has made it clear he is willing to sacrifice short-term profits to pursue projects that might not pay off for years.

Wall Street now seems more confident that Page will ensure Google remains a well-oiled moneymaking machine. The company's stock price has gained 7 percent since Page became CEO while the technology-driven Nasdaq composite index has dipped by about 1 percent during the same period. Google shares closed Wednesday at $632.91.

Although it also has become a force in mobile software, e-mail, Web browsers and online video, Google still depends on its dominance of search to bring in most of its revenue.

Becoming the go-to place to find things online has also turned Google into the Internet's biggest advertising hub. Being in that position paid off during the final three months of the year as more people did their holiday shopping on Internet-connected computers and mobile devices.

The digital shopping spree spurred more Google searches as consumers looked for the best prices and things to do during the holidays. That, in turn, led to more clicks on the ads that Google sells.

Google probably faced its biggest challenges in Europe, where earnings were hurt by a weakening euro as the continent wrestled with unwieldy government debts.

The fourth-quarter earnings could be even better than analysts expect if Google eased its hiring at the end of the year. Through September, Google had already added nearly 7,000 workers in 2011 — the largest payroll expansion in the company's 13-year history. Google CEO Larry Page indicated in October that the company had expanded its workforce more than he anticipated — a remark that could have foreshadowed a slight slowdown in new hires.

A conference call scheduled shortly after the fourth-quarter earnings come out will give Page and other executives to update investors on the expansion of the Plus service that Google introduced nearly seven months ago as an alternative to Facebook's popular online social network. Google disclosed Plus had more than 40 million users in October, but hasn't provided additional figures since then.

Facebook has more than 800 million users, so Plus has a long way to go before it poses a serious threat in social networking.

Analysts polled by FactSet expect that Google earned $10.50 per share, excluding the company's expenses for its employees' stock compensation. Revenue is expected to rise 31 percent from last year to nearly $8.4 billion, after subtracting ad commissions.


Google Maps Play Your World game hits Google+ in February

The Google Maps team is showing that its application can be used for much more than just getting directions or seeing satellite views of the Earth. Pictured above is a screen grab from an official video that shows a new game based on Maps coming to Google+ this February.
The action depicted in the teaser video below has Maps showing off the potential of WebGL, by making data from Maps into a four-sided balance-ball game reminiscent of the classic “teeter” you may have played as a child.

Inspired by a separate Google Maps video depicting two actors manipulating a real-life 3D version of the cubic teeter board, the Maps team wanted to give you the opportunity to put “hands” on your favorite Maps region and have fun guiding a ball around a virtual playground.
As mentioned above, the Google Maps game takes advantage of WebGL, a software library that works with JavaScript to create interactive 3D environments right inside your browser. Using the GPU in your PC, tablet, or phone, content created with WebGL can take advantage of cloud based storage rather than having you install a large program to make things run properly. Add in the fact that JavaScript works across most browsers and you get a standard that presents good flexibility for developers.
Google has not announced exactly when in February users will be able to play the game, but hopefully it will be soon. You can watch both the game demo video and its real-life 3D model inspiration video link below.


Google launches ad campaign to ease privacy concerns

Google Inc., under scrutiny from privacy watchdogs for changes it made to its search engine, is launching a splashy ad campaign designed to alleviate privacy concerns.

Google is rolling out the Good to Know campaign in two dozen U.S. newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times, and in public places such as the subways in New York and Washington to encourage people to protect themselves and their information on the Web. The campaign offers practical advice and tips, including how to manage what kind of data people share with Google and websites.
Google, whose success depends on users feeling comfortable enough to spend huge chunks of their time online, originally launched the campaign in Britain in October.
The Internet search giant is trying to drum up publicity stateside as discomfort spreads with its new search feature called Search plus Your World, in which photos, updates and other private information from its Google+ social network are blended with search results.
Last week, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission widened its antitrust probe of the search engine to include Google+, according to a person who is familiar with the investigation but requested anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak on the matter. The agency is examining whether the company is giving preferential treatment to its own services in violation of antitrust laws. The FTC made the move after the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington advocacy group, filed a complaint about the search changes on privacy and antitrust grounds. Twitter Inc. has also complained that the new search feature harms competitors.
Google, which handles about two-thirds of all search queries in the U.S., is looking to blunt competition from social networking giant Facebook Inc., which has an alliance with Microsoft Corp.'s Bing search engine. Bing began displaying information from Facebook last year. Facebook has more than 800 million members, compared with more than 40 million for Google+ as of October.
Google's director of privacy, Alma Whitten, called the Good to Know privacy campaign "quite ambitious."
"Given who we are, we have a strong incentive to make the Internet a place that people feel safe to do interesting things," Whitten said.
Google, one of the world's biggest advertising companies, is increasingly using advertising on television and elsewhere to promote its powerful online brand offline. With the Good to Know campaign, it's spending tens of millions of dollars to connect with users over privacy and security as regulatory storm clouds gather.
Google, which has come under fire for privacy blunders in the U.S. and Europe, is wrestling with heightened government scrutiny around the world.
Last year it agreed to settle FTC claims that it used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy policies when it introduced the Buzz social networking service. The settlement is in effect for 20 years and covers future situations such as Google's collection of Wi-Fi data. Google agreed to an independent audit of privacy procedures every other year. The Electronic Privacy Information Center asked the FTC to investigate whether consumers were harmed when users of Google's Gmail service had private email contact information automatically displayed when they enrolled in Buzz, which Google has since shut down.
Google is banking that the campaign will cast it in a positive light and help it sidestep some of the regulatory issues that stymied Microsoft's ability to innovate, said Danny Sullivan, editor of the website SearchEngineLand.
"Google is thinking, 'We had better do a better job explaining this or we will have Congress stepping in to regulate us in a way that might be harmful to our business,' " he said.