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Google remains synonymous with search, but we all know that there’s so much more to it than that.
Most internet professionals use Google’s apps and services to help power their businesses. It’s pretty much unheard of for a website owner to be unfamiliar with Google Adwords, Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, much less to avoid using any of these products.
The trouble is, as good as they are, there is always scope for improvement. So here are my five wishes for improvements to Google’s existing product set. Admittedly they are not the most ambitious of requests: they’re simply tweaks that I think Google can introduce quickly, perhaps with the exception of the first one…
Google Analytics - real time reporting
As a publisher, this is something we’d love to see. In Google Analytics you might think you’re seeing real time data, once you change the default ‘yesterday and before’ date to today’s date. In fact, you’re not. There is a lag in Analytics of between three and four hours.
It’s important for publishers to optimise in real time, as it is for retailers during busy shopping periods. Seeing where traffic is coming from and working to get the best out of spikes can help improve website and business performance.
We’d pay for Google Analytics Pro, were it to become available. Alternatives include using a high-end analytics platform such as Omniture’s Site Catalyst, or a low-end stats tool like Statcounter, but dammit, we want Google Analytics to be able to do this, and we want it now!
Google Webmaster Tools - multi-user management
The problem with Webmaster Tools is that it requires a single log-in. If - like me - you signed up to Webmaster Tools via your primary Gmail account then you’re in a world of password-sharing pain should you wish to share access with your sys admin / tech team / optimisation ninjas.
There are workarounds of course, but Google should allow for multi-user access, with different user types (admin / read-only) just like it does with Google Analytics. Seems easy enough.
Google Maps - stored maps for offline
I’d like to save maps / directions for offline access. I guess I can take a snapshot of my iPhone screen, but an inbuilt ‘saved maps’ feature within the app (or web version of Maps) would be pretty useful.
Google Adsense - improved transparency
Call me old fashioned but I’d like to know exactly how much revenue I’m taking out of Adwords as a net percentage. I want to know Google’s cut. Simple.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt told Danny Sullivan that one day it may reveal this figure to publishers, but reckoned that “90% of people seem to be quite happy” with the current set-up, but “10% want much, much more information for god-knows-whatever reasons”.
I fall into that one-in-ten category. My reasons are simply that I want to know what Google’s cut is, and I would have liked to know how - and why - that has changed over time (my own earnings from Adsense have fallen dramatically since 2007).
Google News – promote more news sources
I’m convinced that Google News, like Digg, operates a whitelist, made up of tier one publishers, which are more actively promoted on the key pages.
Google News noticeably stopped promoting independent publishers on the Google News homepage and category pages sometime around September 2007. I have a vested interest, as an owner of a website that once attracted up to 100,000 daily visitors from Google News. Referrals plummeted when Google News started favouring the mainstream publishers. But - as a user - I genuinely preferred Google News when there were a variety of sources promoted across its key pages. Twitter is now, for me, a better discovery engine than the comparatively staid Google News, which tends to point me at the same old big media sources.
At the time of writing big media thoroughly dominates the listed sources on the Google News homepage, as I’m sure it will if you check it out now. Although the Google's 20,000+ news sources can all be found via keyword searching (where the results displayed are a bit more democratic), the majority of referred traffic comes from the homepage and category pages. People like to browse and click, rather than searching by keyword.
So what's on your wishlist? Leave your suggestions below...