Thursday, 16 February 2006

Google: Measure Map blog analytics, Blogger Google Group - but whither Google and blogs?

If you've not already heard, Google seem to be beefing things up on the blogging front. Or are they...?

Measure Map

Yesterday they acquired Measure Map, which provides web stats for blogs, from Adaptive Path - interesting move, that, given that they released a free web analytics tool Google Analytics not that long ago (though they then "temporarily limited", i.e. suspended, new sign ups for Google Analytics, so if you didn't get your blow in earlier you'll have to submit name and your email address to Google and join the queue). Of course, Google Analytics is very very marketing oriented, aimed mainly at advertisers on Google, and you have to root around a bit to find the statistics that might interest you most as a blogger and learn to translate the marketing jargon, so perhaps Google figured a dedicated tool aimed at bloggers was needed.

Oddly, they haven't (yet) made it available automatically to all Blogger/Blogspot users. It seems you have to sign up at Measure Map for an invitation, so if you want to try that tool out you should sign up now just in case they suspend invites for that too. It looks like all bloggers using whatever blogging platform can sign up for this web statistics tool, you don't have to be on Blogger/Blogspot to request a Measure Map invite.

Blogger Help Group

Then, just today, they announced a new Google Group for Blogger users called Blogger Help Group - a "Blogger User-to-User Help Group. It's a new community on Google Groups that will let you talk to other Blogger users, ask questions, and share your blogging expertise."

But although Blogger are "really happy our team is able to provide this for you," it doesn't look like Blogger support staff will actually be posting on that group - it seems to be intended as an (only) "users help users" forum. If Google are offloading their support for Blogger/Blogspot blogs onto their users, no wonder they're "really happy", sez she cynically. Certainly I've noticed that, in the last few months, any requests to Blogger Support for help (which used to get answered by a real person in a few weeks) now receive an automatic email (but again only after a delay of a week. Why make users wait that long just for an automated reply?) just referring people to Blogger Help or the Blogger status page, but oddly enough not referring to the new group yet - at least, not in the email I got just today, in response to a previous email I'd sent them. I wonder if lots of other bloggers have stopped receiving real replies too?

And you may have noticed too that the Blogger Help front page now refers you to the Blogger Help Group. I really hope they don't get rid of the "real human" support completely, but I fear that may be the case (though I suppose that's understandable given the volume of requests they must get, ever increasing no doubt), and that may be what lies behind the establishment of the new Google Group. Presumably though Google will at least keep an eye on the new group, one hopes, so that they can monitor any widespread problems, and I really hope they don't get rid of the ability to report errors/problems from their help pages.

Personally, while I think it's worth signing up for the new Blogger Help group if you're a Blogger/Blogspot user (you need to create a Google Account if you haven't already got one) and then seeing how it develops, I think that currently the best user support forum for Blogger/Blogspot users is Blogger Forum, just due to the sheer number of quality users who hang out there (they know who they are!). I certainly got invaluable help from the fab users on Blogger Forum, such as Tab and my Magical Sheep pal Kirk when I took my first blogging baby steps all of about a year ago. You can also search that forum to find answers to most Blogger questions you could think of. Not to say that the new Google Group won't gather great users too, in time, but it may be a while before it gathers momentum properly, and certainly it will take time to build up as good a database of answers.

Blogger/Blogspot - and Google and advertising?

While it's good that Google seem to be focusing on bloggers more if the Measure Maps acquisition anything to go by, it would be even better if they would turn their attention to improving the service provided for Blogger/Blogspot users (e.g. allowing us to see the detailed stats on Google Sitemaps, which we currently can't access because we can't upload their verification file to the root of the Blogspot servers hosting our blogs; or building in trackback or even categories, ideally automated).

Blogs are getting so big now, and generally appeal to such specific audiences, that surely they're a marketer's dream. I'm pretty confident that non-Adsense bloggers using Blogger/Blogspot would not object to Google automatically including ads on their Blogspot blogs compulsorily (e.g. in the left sidebar?) in return for the free hosting and blogging tool they provide, so why aren't Google putting more into developing Blogger/Blogspot and growing (and keeping) their Blogspot users? Wouldn't Blogspot blogs plus targeted advertising be a marriage made in heaven for Google, given its business model? That is a big mystery to me. If I were Google, that's one of the main things I'd be focusing on right now. And yet, as Blogger users are all too aware, Blogger/Blogspot seems still to be a relatively neglected part of the Google family. Unless someone else knows something I don't about Google's plans for Blogger/Blogspot...?

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John said...

What of Trogdor, the rumored Ajax-upgrade interface? Are we looking at an ajaxified service with integrated stats, & multiple publishing options of which the "blog" format is only one?

John said...

You've covered a lot of salient points in this article. To all it intents and purposes we're reading from the same page! How does Blogger fit into the Google paradigm? At the moment they appear 'distracted' with new acquisitions and services. Time for consolidation.

kirk said...

Can I comment even if I'm not named John? :-)

An excellent post Imp, as always.
I do disagree with one thing tho' (hey it had to happen sometime), as far as google putting ads on ALL blogspot blogs I think it's smart for them to make it voluntary. Why, it gives the appearance of choice (well, actually it does give choice). And still works out in their favor, ever since integrating adsense into blogger by choice, MOST bloggers will sign up and put it in. For those that don't want it, or want to choose another service they can. That's probably a fairly small number now. Giving the user the option makes blogger a better deal. And since most will put in adsense anyway, it's no major loss for google.

All this does make you wonder exactly what google's intentions are with blogger. They have ALL the pieces to make it much better than it is. If they can integrate analytics/measure map into the system/add categories would be hard to beat. But I dunno, the integration of photo hosting into blogger I think is horrible (that's a whole other subject I suppose). It will be interesing to see if/how they develop over the near future.

Improbulus said...

Thanks for your comments, Johns and non-John ;)

Trogdor, well it all sounds very exciting but I for one am not going to speculate. Maybe Google is working on great things behind the scenes for Blogger or more, all super-integration, who knows. But I'll believe it when I see it...

It will certainly be interesting to see where Google takes Blogger, John. You're absolutely right about consolidation (and proper integration) - let's hope they'll be focusing on that next.

Kirk, point taken about the advantages of making ads voluntary. I just don't think people would mind hugely if it was compulsory. My main point is, there's so much potential for advertising on blogs, many of which target highly specific niche areas - perfect fodder for advertisers. Why aren't Google exploiting that by making Blogger more attractive to users?

Photo hosting, well I think it's fine myself actually. I'll look forward to your post about it then!