Google Realtime search a powerful business tool

Google added new functionality to its real-time search engine, and moved it from an obscure feature buried in the options on the left pane of the standard Google search, to its own Web site. The new Google Realtimecan be a powerful tool for businesses that know how to use it.

Search rivals Google and Bing were engaged in a heated race last fall to forge deals with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter in order to incorporate those real-time status updates into search results. With the changes delivered by Google, the real-time data is more customizable, and more accessible–making it much more valuable.

Customer Relevance

Companies can use information gleaned from Google Realtime to “read the minds” of consumers. Conducting searches related to current or planned products or services can help identify what customers want and what concerns they might have.

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As the next-generation Kindle launches today, e-reader rivals like Barnes and Noble and Sony can use Google Realtime to monitor real-world comments and feedback about the device. The information will let them know what the target audience likes about the new Kindle, as well as what customers still feel it’s lacking or wish it had–enabling them to apply that information to their next e-reader models and stay a step ahead of consumer demand.

Proactive Support

Most customer contact centers maintain a database of known issues and resolutions for more efficient customer support, but that information is typically gleaned as the calls come in. Google Realtime enables businesses to monitor customer issues and complaints–in real-time–to track any pervasive issues and begin to develop solutions before the phone starts ringing off the hook.

The filters provided by Google Realtime can also help isolate an issue. If HTC were to monitor Google Realtime and see a spike in Droid Incredible customers complaining that the device can’t get a signal, it could filter the results by location to determine if it is a prevalent issue with the smartphone in general, or if it is limited to a specific geographic area–perhaps indicating that the problem is with a Verizon tower rather than the HTC device.

Reputation Management

This is perhaps the Holy Grail of real-time search. What company wouldn’t like to know what customers really think of it? Commissioned telemarketing or Web surveys are helpful, but being able to see what people are actually saying to one another behind closed doors is truly valuable.

The significance of monitoring real-time Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets is that it is raw, unfiltered information. When a customer has a bad experience at a restaurant, he is not shy about sharing that information with the Twitterverse. When someone really loves the movie she just saw, odds are fair that the Facebook social network will hear about it.

The best part for businesses that want to put Google Realtime to use is that it doesn’t require hiring a full-time employee dedicated to monitoring Google Realtime streams. As Google explains in the blog post announcing Google Realtime “we’ve also added updates content to Google Alerts, making it easy to stay informed about a topic of your choosing. Now you can create an alert specifically for “updates” to get an email the moment your topic appears on Twitter or other short-form services.”

For Google’s search team, it’s important to offer users the ability to search for real-time content, given the massive popularity that social-networking and microblogging sites have gained in recent years.

Most of the real-time fodder for search engines comes in the form of status updates, popularized by Twitter, where people, companies and public figures post short text messages about a variety of topics and for a variety of purposes.

For example, individuals often comment about news events, companies promote their products and public figures communicate with their fans.

Still, Google and other search engines can only index content that users have determined is public, and the proportion of private and public content varies from site to site. For example, most Twitter posts are public, which isn’t the case on Facebook.

Google Realtime is a valuable business tool. Check it out. Experiment with different search terms to understand how it can be applied for your business. Set up some Google Alerts to keep an eye on it, and put the information to use.

(With notes from Juan Carlos Perez)

Source: PC World

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