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Google Purchases Artificial Intelligence Company DeepMind


In hopes of delving deeper into our own brains, Google went to London and shopped around for an AI intelligence company to join forces with. Doesn't that sound like fun? Actually no, it's petrifying. 


DeepMind and Google Moving up in the World

Ok, let's just unpack this for a minute before we worry too much about Google getting into our brains. Realistically, beyond confirming the $ 400 million purchase is true, there is little we know about the plan behind it. 
The facts are that the company was bought to work on the search side of Google. Known colloquially as the "Knowledge" this side of the Google machine runs everything on the search engines and develops around how we use keywords and larger concepts. The value of the AI company will be to push Google services even further, thus being able to serve us more efficiently in our daily tasks with which we use the internet. 
Google have kept rather quiet about the deal but the co-founder of DeepMind, Demis Hassabis said they were very much looking forward to working with Google as it would enable them to "harness the power of machine learning tools to tackle some of society's toughest problems." I am not sure what he considers the toughest problems faced by society but it seems promising for now. 

What does an AI company do?

Contrary to popular belief, this AI company will not be used to support Google in its invasion of our privacy a step further. Indeed, many could be concerned considering Google's last year has been one of NSA scandal and more recently, defending its Android Facebook app from needing to read people's text messages. The last thing we need are more companies with shady operations to join the force. 
Up until now, DeepMind have been creating games with an enhanced AI, therefore making the gaming experience closer to reality than ever before. The are effectively making the internet a more human like place. 

Link with Google

In reality, DeepMind "Combines the best techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms." Of what I have gathered from this technical definition is that it will enable Google search tools to respond to our needs in a closer way to how a human would. Instead of just searching through the keywords we have typed in the box, it will expand beyond and search for connections in more innovative ways. Thus making the search more efficient in the first place. 

Robots but not robots?

Although they claim this merge will have nothing to do with robots, it is difficult to see how this is not what we envisioned robots to become. 
Put it this way, a robot in its stereotypical form is perhaps a metal body with a digital brain that will be able to perform actions that serve us according to what we ask it to do and shape their actions according to our behaviour and needs. Now, if you take the physical aspect of said robot away, you are left with what Google and DeepMind are developing for search. Robot are meant to replicate humans. 
If they can pull this off and create something that will be able to understand what we are looking for without us even knowing what it is, it will be the turning point of search and the internet as a whole (bold statement alert).
It is true that for now, one cannot always write a full question into Google and expect a coherent answer. Watch this space as we could be witnessing our own future behaviour being created. 

Google China Boss Quits


This really is a bad time for Google in China. After it was discovered that their search engine was ranked fifth in the country, it now also transpires that the big China boss (routed through Hong kong…) is leaving after 6 years at the helm. 


Losing ground?

Why is he leaving is what I would like to know. Also, does 6 years seem like a little or a long time to be heading a company like this in China?
John Liu has been the man in charge and has decided that 6 years was long enough. He is expected to pursue other opportunities but it is unclear if he will stay within the Google family and indeed in China.
His reign has been considered controversial by many, in his defense, having to deal with China not wanting them there can't have been easy any day. 

Google future in China

Since the fallout between China and Google in January 2010 because of a dispute involving certain unmentionables, the status of the Google search engine has been waning. 
Indeed, since 2010, the search engine is rerouted through Hong Kong servers making it harder to use and subject to periodical blocking from the good folks on the mainland. 
Beyond that, the competition for search engines in China is MASSIVE with many companies offering very good service and are growing in influence daily. 

New kid on the block

According to the press, it will be Scott Beaumont's turn to run the show over here in China as Mr Liu takes a well deserved break. 
Some are skeptical that someone with limited knowledge on China will become the new head of the company in what is a less than simple market for Google. 

Baidu Grows 41.6% in a Year, Makes no one Happy.


Why all the negative reporting?

It's a hard time to be a tech company when even those who manage to achieve a profit rise of 36% in a quarter are seen as failing. 

Q4 earnings revealed

It turns out Baidu's Q4 earnings have been posted to the dismay of everyone. The 41.6% is the slowest we've seen since 2009, call in the administrators! 
The bulk of revenue generated by Baidu comes from search-engine advertising. Which is no surprise when one knows it's the most popular search engine in China (and quickly trying to become the world's as it ventures into Africa). 
Although the online marketing revenues were up 40.8%, that is actually slower than the quarter before where they were up 49.6%.

Too much gloom?

Am I the only one astounded that most reporting on these earnings denotes doom and gloom? A company elevates its earning by over 40% and NO ONE IS HAPPY. Perspective is sometimes sorely needed. 

External factors

Baidu came out, in advance, to say that the earnings will be different from usual because of the overall slowdown of China's economy (not to mention the rest of the world) and a more fervent competition from other budding companies. 
Part of reporting on the economy and the major companies surely includes taking into account the external factors that come into play and influence earnings and growth. 

Baidu still a major player

According to sources, Baidu still maintains its 80% share of the search market in China and its revenues for the last quarter of 2012 were higher than analysts expectation. Again may I reiterate that everyone have a sit down and ask themselves what they are so worried about. 

Innovation is key

Admittedly, one of the big hurdles Baidu will have to cross if it is to continue its rise will be the switch from PC to mobile. In fact, the company's R&D department is pumping all its steam into developing cloud computing and mobile related services. In time, the company will have caught up the gap and will be in tune with the ever-changing demands of netizens today. 

Baidu's Travel Site Qunar Gets Makeover



Baidu at the frontline of everything

Potentially in a bid to give itself a boost before Monday's revenue announcement, "King of Search Baidu" has revamped it's travel search engine Qunar. This means that even more searching will be happening as well as all the search taking place on the main search engine. Search. 
There is now an entire new part of the website dedicated to rich people and their needs. A net-a-porter for hotels in you will. The website is relatively similar to other travel search engines and sites but has a slicker look and more features geared towards the wealthier among us. Also, pictures are bigger because rich people are famously blind. 

What's New About it?

This new site is named and the more prominent features is the refined search categories. Don't you just hate it when you book a nice hotel and then there's nowhere to park your G6
Well fear not peeps, with Qunar's fancy new search engine, we can search for hotels according to their gym, spa services, pools and even - in true China style - according to a hotel's build date. Why one wants to know that is beyond me but never mind. 

China's Hotel Industry

China is the fastest developing country for high end hotels. It comes as no surprise then that Baidu would invest in a search engine dedicated to this expanding market. 
Baidu has owned Qunar for about 18 months since it invested $306 million in the firm. 
And for my next blog, I will use the new site to book a luxury hotel room and then review it to ensure Qunar is telling the truth. Now if the accounting department will just extend the limit on my company credit card I will get to work…

How Qihoo 360 Search Engine is Going to Threaten Baidu

Logo Qihoo

Do You Know Qihoo 360?

It's a Chinese software company specialized in the safety use of the Internet. It is especially known for its antivirus 360 Safeguard (more than 400 millions users) being the leader in China and its web browser 360 Browsers (almost 300 millions users) being second behind Internet Explorer.

Its website is very AOL-like (meaning a lot of links directing to the main Chinese websites) and has a lot of traffic as it is the default landing page for the browser.

What's New for Qihoo?

Qihoo 360 launched its own search engine in public beta on August 16th : 360 Search. On, you get pretty much the same features as those on Baidu but you also have access to a software's downloading platform.

Qihoo Search is now the default search engine on its landing page and on its browsers (even on smartphones).

What about Google and Baidu then?

Before it releases its newest software, Qihoo was using another search engine, namely Google! It's a tough decision for the American company who was already having trouble in China as they moved in Hong Kong in 2010 and lost market share.

In a market dominated by Baidu, which holds 78,6% of the Search Engine market shares, Google (15,7%) and Sogou (basically almost the remaining percentage), Qihoo will have to find a spot to settle down. It sure has two major assets : its landing page and its browsers.

What Changes Can One Expect on Search Engine Market?

The Chinese Search Engine market will probably change. Will Qihoo manage to attract enough users and keep those they already own by default?

There will probably be collateral damage on Sogou that has the same business model as Qihoo. It already affected Google - they lost a lot of traffic not being the default search engine on Qihoo landing page already. And Baidu probably won't be as big as before.

The Question is : "how much"? There is already a rumour saying Qihoo 360 Search would hold 10% of the market share. Even if it's highly plausible, we'll have to wait to know the actual figures. There are also experts saying that the non-Qihoo users are very unlikely to switch to 360 Search as Chinese internet users don't like to change their habits.

Anyway, we know for sure it's going to be a major actor on the SEO market anytime soon.

Qihoo Already Playing Tricks?

Apparently, not everybody likes Qihoo 360. A few weeks ago, they were proven overestimating the traffic on their landing page by the well-known hacking activists, Anonymous. That way, they could sell the links on their website a higher price.

Only 8 days after launching its new service, they would be playing tricks to Google...

How to Choose your Search Engine and other SEO Stats


A few months ago, Aaron Wall from SEOBook made a survey about the behavior and the knowledge of the US internet users toward the search engine and especially toward Google.

Among the various topics he analyzed, you find out how people choose their search engine, how many they use, what they do if they don’t find satisfying results, what they think of Google and what they know about SEO and Internet.

Usage of Search Engine

Here’s the first surprise: even though it’s quite logical that the users choose the most relevant search engine, it appears that women are more likely to use the default. The younger (18-24) are also easier to influence with advertising.

Primary Choice of Search Engine

Primary Choice Search Engine by Age

This is a very important if you’re advertising a very precise group of people depending on their age and gender. But you should not forget that almost half of them use more than one search engine.

User Behavior on the Search Engine

What if they don’t find what they were looking for on the first page? Apparently, 56% of them would make a new search request and the rest would go on the second page. The split is fairly consistent among men and women. But if your website is SEO-friendly, there is no way it can happen, right? Else… you know what to do!

What if they don't find a satisfying result

Google Policy

Apparently, the fact that Google promotes preferentially its own listings on its SERPs is not appreciated by its users as 3 in 4 people believe that a search engine is supposed to be objective.

Google+ listings

What about the paid results?

65% thinks it’s often disappointing. However more than half of the 25-34 people think it’s ok as long as they’re relevant. Once again, you should know who you’re targeting.

Paid Search

Paid Search by Age

And Google+ influenced results?

It must be very hard for Google since 65% haven’t noticed the difference. The others either think it’s better or worse. Don’t worry, Google is investing a lot of money to improve its social network that now have more than 110 millions of users. If you haven't started your Google+ page, see why you should start being active on Google+.

Google+ influenced results

How aware are the consumer of common SEO/SEM term

They were asked about 5 words and the result is... *drum roll* : Pay Per Click wins!
It does mean something very important: They would think more of SEM than SEO. So if they were to communicate about it on the internet, they’d prefer Adwords. This also means that Google and the other Search Engine did great marketing their Paid results and this can only benefit them!

Awareness on SEO/SEM terms

Don’t forget :

It is an American survey so don’t try to use it on any other markets, that could be lethal for your company: I’m obviously thinking about China which is a very different country for search engine since Chinese Internet users mainly search on Baidu as shown in our infographic about Internet in China

Google Unveils Knowledge Graph and Gets Closer to Semantic Search


A few days ago, Google launched a new feature called the "Knowledge Graph". With this new update, Google is getting one step closer to semantic search by attempting to understand the meaning behind the strings of keywords that users search for. Google sums up the Knowledge Graph nicely by saying that it enables users to search for "things", not "strings".

What is Google's Knowledge Graph?

The Knowledge Graph finds relationships between different items including people, places and things. Google has developed a huge library of over 500 million objects and 3.5 billion facts, sourced from Wikipedia and the CIA's World Factbook amongst others.

At present, the feature is only available for the index but it will soon be rolled out to other countries in the coming weeks.

Below is the official video by Google introducing the new feature:

Benefits for Google's Users

There are three main benefits:

1. Improved relevancy

Google will be able to better determine which item you are specifically searching for. In some instances they will provide users with a box to select the appropriate item which they are looking for. For example, if a user searches for "taj mahal", the user will be able to choose if they want to see results related to the monument in India or to the famous casino in Atlantic City.

2. A quicker search process

Normally, if you searched for "china" in Google, you may have decided to visit the appropriate Wikipedia page which is the second result in the SERPs. However, Google now provides some details within an information box in the SERPs which includes the capital city, dialing code, GDP etc.

3. Suggestions for further research

When searching for "william shakespeare", the information box provided shows a selection of his most notable plays as well as people who are in some way related to or are similar to William Shakespeare. Users can discover Shakespeare plays that they may not have heard of before for example.

SEO Implications : What Changes in the SERPs?

Our opinion is that sites such as Wikipedia may be affected in the long-term as often people are just searching for one fact; providing an entire web page about a certain item means that more information is provided, but this actually makes it less efficient for a user who is just looking for a specific fact.

The Knowledge Graph is primarily focused on providing facts to users. This means that for the vast majority of business and ecommerce sites, there will be minimal/no impact. It will mostly affect users who are in the research stage of the buying process; not necessarily users that websites should target so early on.

As always we will closely monitor how this new development changes the search landscape.

Baidu Integrates Maps in SERP


Baidu has released a few weeks ago a new feature that allows its Maps listings to appear into its Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).

For instance, if you now type “accommodation in Beijing” (北京住宿) in China's leading search engine, you can directly see a map in Baidu SERP with a listing of several businesses that offer accommodation in the Chinese capital city:


This feature is new in Baidu, but already exists in other search engines such as Google.

We already blogged about Search Engine Optimization and Google Maps. If your business has a local presence, it's crucial that your website appears in the top rankings, including positions that are featured in maps.

After this new release, it's now time to review your SEO strategy for Baidu Maps! You can also read more articles about SEO for Baidu

THEM is a digital agency specialized in Chinese and international SEO. Feel free to contact us to know more about our search engine marketing services.

Google Semantic Search: What is Going to Change?


Google is currently focusing on semantic search in order to deliver more relevant results.

Let’s review what Google’s semantic search is and what it's going to change.

Google to Develop Semantic Search

In the months to come, the US search company will use more and more semantic analysis to understand the real meaning of a keyword and improve the relevancy of its search algorithm by providing users with direct results.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google’s search engine will therefore undergo a major transformation as this change is expected to impact between 10% and 20% of overall search queries.

To implement semantic search, the search giant will rely on its huge data base of 200 million of entities including places, objects, and people thanks to Metaweb, a company specialized in semantic data that Google acquired in 2010.

What is Semantic Search?

Google will integrate the semantic to its technology of search by keyword in order to better differentiate the value of information in a web page.

For example, semantic analysis allows to differentiate keywords with more than one meaning, such as the country 'China' and the ceramic material ‘china’.

Semantic search can also help associate different words with one another, such as a company (THEM) with its services (Website Development and SEO services).

The search engine will also be able to reply to direct questions.

Semantic Search Isn’t New at Google

Google actually already uses semantic-search elements by displaying answers to direct questions.

For example, a search for “what is the population of China”, results in displaying a graph and the figures from the World bank (1,338,299,512 in 2010).

Google Wants to Keep the Lead in Search

The leading search company has a market share of over 66% (in search queries) and over 75% (in revenue) in the US and isn’t ready to let anyone grab some shares of his cake.

To maintain its leading position against Microsoft Bing, now Apple Siri on mobile, Google has no choice but innovate to stay ahead of the competition.

After introducing the +1 button and social search results, Google clearly wants to stay ahead of Facebook and Twitter's interest graphs, and therefore use other kinds of signals for both search and ad relevance.

More Relevancy and ... More Money

His social network, Google+, will therefore be a key asset for its semantic search since it allows the company to have information on a network of people, companies, places and things, and so build relationships between them to be used in its search algorithm.

Instead of showing users results or ads that just match the terms in their search, Google will have to match ads to their search based on their meaning, as well as their context, location, +1s, relationships, etc.

By providing users with direct results rather than links to other websites containing typed keywords, Google could manage that users would spend more time on its sites, and therefore earn more revenue from advertising that account for more than 90% of its overall revenue.

Google Search Goes More Social


Google recently unveiled a new social search feature named “Search Plus Your World” that brings new search results from Google+ and Picasa.

Google Search Plus Your World

If you’re in the US, and when you search on in English, you can now access 2 kinds of results: either classic links from the whole web or links coming from your Google social network (Google+) and photo sharing service (Picasa).

In this new social search, Google displays statuses, photos, circles, and profiles that may interest you from Google+, as well as business & celebrities pages linked to your search. Photos from Picasa can also be displayed.

Here is the official video presenting the new social feature:

Users can simply decide whether they want to get social results or unpersonalized results or not. They can simply choose to turn on/off the toggle button displayed below:

Search Plus Your World Toggle Button

Social Search isn’t New

It isn’t the first time Google includes contents from social networks into its search engine.

In December 2009, the search results page displayed real time status updates from Facebook, Twitter or some blog posts related to the query into a box and then a dedicated page. This feature was removed in July 2011.

In the meantime, Google released the +1 button to its search results page in March 2011. The button was connected to the new social network Google+ in June 2011. Content liked by circles of friends were given priority in the search engine results.

Social Search for Better Search and More Money

With this new feature, Google strives to improve the quality of its search results. However, it’s also a good way to promote Google+ that is still small compared to Facebook and Twitter.

And the idea behind getting more and more registered users is also getting more money from advertisement. Indeed, social networks enable advertisers to run targeted campaigns that are generally more expensive as better targeted.

According to eMarketer, 10.6% of all marketing expenses will be allocated to social network advertising in 2012, so Google wants to get a share of the cake.

A Fierce Debate

Following the announcement, some voices said Google was a threat for the Internet.

According to Wired co-founder, John Battelle, Google excludes Facebook from its social search, and this is harmful for the Internet development.

Some others think Google is pushing its own services too much, abusing from its leading position. According to the famous SEO specialist, Danny Sullivan, the role of search engines is to redirect towards the best information even though not present in-house.

And What About My SEO?

With this new feature, Google makes search more social, and therefore more personalized.

Is SEO dead? As every major update on Google search, not it isn't, it will just evolve. Previously to this announcement, Google decided to turn on secure search for signed-in users, affecting many search queries.

If you aren't familiar with Google+, I'd recommend you to read why your should create a Google+ page.

What do you think about new Google social search feature? Are you excited about it? Do you fear it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.