January 25, 2010

My late night encounter with Venus Williams and Google

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While lying in bed last night I was keen to find out the score of Venus Williams’ fourth-round match in the Australian Open (like you do).

I had been watching the match on my laptop. It was a good match in what looked like very hot, uncomfortable conditions. Venus had lost the first set against a much lower seed in the world rankings and appeared to be in trouble.

I wanted to watch the whole match, but it was gone midnight and the start of the working week. However, twenty minutes later I was still awake and wondering whether Venus had clawed her way back into the match.

Not wishing to go through the hassle of turning on the lights on and firing up the laptop at a late’ish hour, I picked up the iPhone lying on my bedside table and googled ‘Venus Williams’.

The first result was a live score board above traditional results, but it was clearly delayed as it hadn’t progressed much beyond the score as I left it twenty minutes earlier.

I looked down the results page and for the first time noticed Google’s newly launched real-time search function embedded (see pic) among traditional results.

Instantly, I could see that Venus had heroically fought her way back into the match and was closing in on winning the second set. I picked this up from the tweets people were sharing as well as live scores from sports websites with as-it-happens Twitter feeds.

It was simple, yet pretty powerful stuff to see in action and rendered Google’s attempts at surfacing the live score through traditional results redundant.

It got me thinking about what this means for brands. As this new feature rolls out and becomes more ubiquitous, anyone that has historically relied on Google traffic to drive traffic and business leads will need to think about their social media presence.

What people are saying about your brand or company will become one of the first sections of results a user sees in Google. Being first in traditional Google search results is arguably now less important. This will be probably be more true for small-to-medium sized businesses which have historically relied on SEO to drive leads.

Returning to the tennis, Venus won the third set and now faces a semi-final encounter with her younger sister, Serena. Game, set and match.