Chap#3: Why Search Engine Marketing is essential?

Here we come with the 3rd Chapter of SEO Guide.

As you guys know, Search Engine Optimization is the process of taking a page built by humans and making it easily consumable for both other humans and for search engine robots. This section details some of the compromises you will need to make in order to satisfy these two very important kinds of user. In short this section will tell you why do you need Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

Lets begin!

One of the most common issues we hear from folks on both the business and technology sides of a company goes something like this:

“No smart engineer would ever build a search engine that requires websites to follow certain rules or principles in order to be ranked or indexed. Anyone with half a brain would want a system that can crawl through any architecture, parse any amount of complex or imperfect code and still find a way to return the best and most relevant results, not the ones that have been “optimized” by unlicensed search marketing experts.”

Sounds Brutal…

Initially, this argument can seem like a tough obstacle to overcome, but the more you’re able to explain details and examine the inner-workings of the engines, the less powerful this argument becomes.

Limitations x3

Limitations of Search Engine Technology

The major search engines all operate on the same principles, as explained in Chapter 1. Automated search bots crawl the web, following links and indexing content in massive databases. But, modern search technology is not all-powerful. There are technical limitations of all kinds that can cause immense problems in both inclusion and rankings. We’ve enumerated some of the most common of these below:

1. Spidering and Indexing Problems

  • Search engines cannot fill out online forms, and thus any content contained behind them will remain hidden.
  • Poor link structures can lead to search engines failing to reach all of the content contained on a website, or allow them to spider it, but leave it so minimally exposed that it’s deemed “unimportant” by the engines’ index.
  • Web pages that use Flash, frames, Java applets, plug-in content, audio files & video have content that search engines cannot access.

Interpreting Non-Text Content

  • Text that is not in HTML format in the parse-able code of a web page is inherently invisible to search engines.
  • This can include text in Flash files, images, photos, video, audio & plug-in content.

2. Content to Query Matching

  • Text that is not written in terms that users use to search in the major search engines. For example, writing about refrigerators when people actually search for “fridges”. We had a client once who used the phrase “Climate Connections” to refer to Global Warming.
  • Language and internationalization subtleties. For example, color vs colour. When in doubt, check what people are searching for and use exact matches in your content.
  • Language. For example, writing content in Polish when the majority of the people who would visit your website are from Japan.

3. The “Tree Falls in a Forest” Effect

This is perhaps the most important concept to grasp about the functionality of search engines & the importance of search marketers. Even when the technical details of search-engine friendly web development are correct, content can remain virtually invisible to search engines. This is due to the inherent nature of modern search technology, which rely on the aforementioned metrics of relevance and importance to display results.

The “tree falls in a forest” adage postulates that if no one is around to hear the sound, it may not exist at all – and this translates perfectly to search engines and web content. The major engines have no inherent gauge of quality or notability and no potential way to discover and make visible fantastic pieces of writing, art or multimedia on the web. Only humans have this power – to discover, react, comment and (most important for search engines) link. Thus, it is only natural that great content cannot simply be created – it must be marketed. Search engines already do a great job of promoting high quality content on popular websites or on individual web pages that have become popular, but they cannot generate this popularity – this is a task that demands talented Internet marketers.

The competitive nature of search engines

Take a look at any search results page and you’ll find the answer to why search marketing, as a practice, has a long, healthy life ahead.

10 positions, ordered by rank, with click-through traffic based on their relative position & ability to attract searchers. The fact that so much traffic goes to so few listings for any given search means that there will always be a financial incentive for search engine rankings. No matter what variables may make up the algorithms of the future, websites and businesses will contend with one another for this traffic, branding, marketing & sales goals it provides.

A constantly shifting lanscape

When search marketing began in the mid-1990’s, manual submission, the meta keywords tag and keyword stuffing were all regular parts of the tactics necessary to rank well. In 2004, link bombing with anchor text, buying hordes of links from automated blog comment spam injectors and the construction of inter-linking farms of websites could all be leveraged for traffic. In 2010, social media marketing and vertical search inclusion are mainstream methods for conducting search engine optimization.

The future may be uncertain, but in the world of search, change is a constant. For this reason, along with all the many others listed above, search marketing will remain a steadfast need in the diet of those who wish to remain competitive on the web. Others have mounted an effective defense of search engine optimization in the past, but as we see it, there’s no need for a defense other than simple logic – websites and pages compete for attention and placement in the search engines, and those with the best knowledge and experience with these rankings will receive the benefits of increased traffic and visibility.

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What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

New to SEO? Need to polish up your knowledge? My blogs related to SEO are crux from “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO” that has been read over 1 million times and provides comprehensive information you need to get on the road to professional quality SEO. Lets come back to some basics!

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

SEO is the active practice of optimizing a web site by improving internal and external aspects in order to increase the traffic the site receives from search engines. Firms that practice SEO can vary; some have a highly specialized focus, while others take a more broad and general approach. Optimizing a web site for search engines can require looking at so many unique elements that many practitioners of SEO (SEOs) consider themselves to be in the broad field of website optimization (since so many of those elements intertwine).

This guide is designed to describe all areas of SEO – from discovery of the terms and phrases that will generate traffic, to making a site search engine friendly, to building the links and marketing the unique value of the site/organization’s offerings. Don’t worry, if you are confused about this stuff, you are not alone.

Search Engine Market Share

Why does my company/organization/website need SEO?

The majority of web traffic is driven by the major commercial search engines – GoogleBing andYahoo!. If your site cannot be found by search engines or your content cannot be put into their databases, you miss out on the incredible opportunities available to websites provided via search – people who want what you have visiting your site. Whether your site provides content, services, products, or information, search engines are a primary method of navigation for almost all Internet users. (See: Search Engine Market Share below)

Search queries, the words that users type into the search box which contain terms and phrases best suited to your site, carry extraordinary value. Experience has shown that search engine traffic can make (or break) an organization’s success. Targeted visitors to a website can provide publicity, revenue, and exposure like no other. Investing in SEO, whether through time or finances, can have an exceptional rate of return.

Search Engine Traffic

Why can’t the search engines figure out my site without SEO help?

Search engines are always working towards improving their technology to crawl the web more deeply and return increasingly relevant results to users. However, there is and will always be a limit to how search engines can operate. Whereas, the right moves can net you thousands of visitors and attention, the wrong moves can hide or bury your site deep in the search results where visibility is minimal. In addition to making content available to search engines, SEO can also help boost rankings so that content that has been found will be placed where searchers will more readily see it. The online environment is becoming increasingly competitive, and those companies who perform SEO will have a decided advantage in visitors and customers.

How much of this article do I need to read?

If you are serious about improving search traffic and are unfamiliar with SEO, I recommend reading articles i posted in my blog. There’s a printable PDF version for those who’d prefer, and dozens of linked-to resources on other sites and pages that are worthy of your attention. Although this guide is long, I am attempted to remain faithful to Mr. William Strunk’s famous quote:

A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.

Every section and topic in this report is critical to understanding the best known and most effective practices of search engine optimization.

Courtesy  of seomoz.org

Chap#2: How You Interact With Search Engines!

One of the most important elements to building an online marketing strategy around SEO and search rankings is feeling empathy for your audience. Once you grasp how the average searcher, and more specifically, your target market, uses search, you can more effectively reach and keep those users.

Search engine usage has evolved over the years but the primary principles of conducting a search remain largely unchanged. Listed here are the steps that comprise most search processes:

Experience the need for an answer, solution or piece of information.

Formulate that need in a string of words and phrases, also known as “the query.”

Execute the query at a search engine.

Browse through the results for a match.

Click on a result.

Scan for a solution, or a link to that solution.

If unsatisfied, return to the search results and browse for another link or…

Perform a new search with refinements to the query.

Robot Evolution

When this process results in the satisfactory completion of a task, a positive experience is created, both with the search engine and the site providing the information or result. Since the inception of web search, the activity has grown to heights of great popularity, such that in December of 2005, the Pew Internet & American Life Project (PDF Study in Conjunction with ComScore) found that 90% of online men and 91% of online women used search engines. Of these, 42% of the men and 39% of the women reported using search engines every day and more than 85% of both groups say they “found the information they were looking for.”

A Broad Picture with Fascinating Data

When looking at the broad picture of search engine usage, fascinating data is available from a multitude of sources. I’ve extracted those that are recent, relevant, and valuable, not only for understanding how users search, but in presenting a compelling argument about the power of search (which I suspect many readers of this guide may need to do for their managers):

A Broad Picture

An April 2010 study by comScore found:

  • Google Sites led the U.S. core search market in April with 64.4 percent of the searches conducted, followed by Yahoo! Sites (up 0.8 percentage points to 17.7 percent), and Microsoft Sites (up 0.1 percentage points to 11.8 percent).
  • Americans conducted 15.5 billion searches in April, up slightly from March. Google Sites accounted for 10 billion searches, followed by Yahoo! Sites (2.8 billion), Microsoft Sites (1.8 billion), Ask Network (574 million) and AOL LLC (371 million).
  • In the April analysis of the top properties where search activity is observed, Google Sites led the search market with 14.0 billion search queries, followed by Yahoo! Sites with 2.8 billion queries and Microsoft Sites with 1.9 billion. Amazon Sites experienced sizeable growth during the month with an 8-percent increase to 245 million searches, rounding off the top 10 ranking.

View Online

An August 2008 PEW Internet Study revealed:

  • The percentage of Internet users who use search engines on a typical day has been steadily rising from about one-third of all users in 2002, to a new high of just under one-half (49 percent).
  • With this increase, the number of those using a search engine on a typical day is pulling ever closer to the 60 percent of Internet users who use e-mail, arguably the Internet’s all-time killer app, on a typical day.

A EightFoldLogic (formally Enquisite) report from 2009 on click-through traffic in the US showed:

  • Google sends 78.43% of traffic.
  • Yahoo! sends 9.73% of traffic.
  • Bing sends 7.86% of traffic.

A July 2009 Forrester report remarked:

  • Interactive marketing will near $55 billion in 2014.
  • This spend will represent 21% of all marketing budgets.

A Yahoo! study from 2007 showed:

  • Online advertising drives in-store sales at a 6:1 ratio to online sales.
  • Consumers in the study spent $16 offline (in stores) to every $1 spent online.

Webvisible & Nielsen produced a 2007 report on local search that noted:

  • 74% of respondents used search engines to find local business information vs. 65% who turned to print yellow pages, 50% who used Internet yellow pages, and 44% who used traditional newspapers.
  • 86% surveyed said they have used the Internet to find a local business, a rise from the 70% figure reported last year (2006.)
  • 80% reported researching a product or service online, then making that purchase offline from a local business.

A study on data leaked from AOL’s search query logs reveals:

  • The first ranking position in the search results receives 42.25% of all click-through traffic
  • The second position receives 11.94%, the third 8.47%, the fourth 6.05%, and all others are under 5%
  • The first ten results received 89.71% of all click-through traffic, the next 10 results (normally listed on the second page of results) received 4.37%, the third page – 2.42%, and the fifth – 1.07%. All other pages of results received less than 1% of total search traffic clicks.

That's Some Spicey Data You Got There

All of this impressive research data leads us to some important conclusions about web search and marketing through search engines. In particular, we’re able to make the following assumptions with relative surety:

  • Search is very, very popular. It reaches nearly every online American, and billions of people around the world.
  • Being listed in the first few results is critical to visibility.
  • Being listed at the top of the results not only provides the greatest amount of traffic, but instills trust in consumers as to the worthiness and relative importance of the company/website.
  • An incredible amount of offline economic activity is driven by searches on the web

As marketers, the Internet as a whole and search, specifically, are undoubtedly one of the best and most important ways to reach consumers and build a business, no matter the size, reach, or focus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chap#1: How Search Engines Work? (Google, Yahoo, Bing)

Search engines have four functions – crawling, building an index, calculating relevancy & rankings and serving results

Crawling and Indexing

Crawling and Indexing

Imagine the World Wide Web as a network of stops in a big city subway system.

Each stop is its own unique document (usually a web page, but sometimes a PDF, JPG or other file). The search engines need a way to “crawl” the entire city and find all the stops along the way, so they use the best path available – links.

“The link structure of the web serves to bind together all of the pages in existence.”

(Or, at least, all those that the engines can access.) Through links, search engines’ automated robots, called “crawlers,” or “spiders” can reach the many billions of interconnected documents.

Once the engines find these pages, their next job is to parse the code from them and store selected pieces of the pages in massive hard drives, to be recalled when needed in a query. To accomplish the monumental task of holding billions of pages that can be accessed in a fraction of a second, the search engines have constructed massive data centers in cities all over the world.

These monstrous storage facilities hold thousands of machines processing unimaginably large quantities of information. After all, when a person performs a search at any of the major engines, they demand results instantaneously – even a 3 or 4 second delay can cause dissatisfaction, so the engines work hard to provide answers as fast as possible.

Providing Answers

Providing Answers

When a person searches for something online, it requires the search engines to scour their corpus of billions of documents and do two things – first, return only those results that are relevant or useful to the searcher’s query, and second, rank those results in order of perceived value (or importance). It is both “relevance” and “importance” that the process of search engine optimization is meant to influence.

To the search engines, relevance means more than simply having a page with the words you searched for prominently displayed. In the early days of the web, search engines didn’t go much further than this simplistic step, and found that their results suffered as a consequence. Thus, through iterative evolution, smart engineers at the various engines devised better ways to find valuable results that searchers would appreciate and enjoy. Today, hundreds of factors influence relevance, many of which we’ll discuss throughout this guide or you can find out our daily tips on our Facebook Page  or twitter account.

Importance is an equally tough concept to quantify, but search engines must do their best.

Currently, the major engines typically interpret importance as popularity – the more popular a site, page or document, the more valuable the information contained therein must be. This assumption has proven fairly successful in practice, as the engines have continued to increase users’ satisfaction by using metrics that interpret popularity.

Popularity and relevance aren’t determined manually (and thank goodness, because those trillions of man-hours would require earth’s entire population as a workforce). Instead, the engines craft careful, mathematical equations – algorithms – to sort the wheat from the chaff and to then rank the wheat in order of tastiness (or however it is that farmers determine wheat’s value). These algorithms are often comprised of hundreds of components. In the search marketing field, we often refer to them as “ranking factors” For those who are particularly interested, we crafted a resource specifically on this subject – Search Engine Ranking Factors.

Search Engine Results

You can surmise that search engines believe that Ohio State is the most relevant and popular page for the query “Universities” while the result, Harvard, is less relevant/popular.

So How Do I Get Some Success Rolling in?

How Online Marketers Study & Learn How to Succeed in Engines

The complicated algorithms of search engines may appear at first glance to be impenetrable, and the engines themselves provide little insight into how to achieve better results or garner more traffic. What little information on optimization and best practices that the engines themselves do provide is listed below:

Google

SEO information from Google (webmaster guidelines)

Googlers recommend the following to get better rankings in their search engine:

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don’t deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, which is commonly referred to as cloaking.
  • Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content. Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.
  • Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number (fewer than 100).

Yahoo!

SEO information from Yahoo (webmaster guidelines)

Many factors influence whether a particular web site appears in Web Search results and where it falls in the ranking.

These factors can include:

  • The number of other sites linking to it
  • The content of the pages
  • The updates made to indices
  • The testing of new product versions
  • The discovery of additional sites
  • Changes to the search algorithm – and other factors
Bing

SEO information from Bing (webmaster guidelines)

Bing engineers at Microsoft recommend the following to get better rankings in their search engine:

  • In the visible page text, include words users might choose as search query terms to find the information on your site.
  • Limit all pages to a reasonable size. We recommend one topic per page. An HTML page with no pictures should be under 150 kb.
  • Make sure that each page is accessible by at least one static text link.
  • Don’t put the text that you want indexed inside images. For example, if you want your company name or address to be indexed, make sure it is not displayed inside a company logo.

An article by Seomoz.org. (Courtesy of Pludu Inc.)

Why game developers hate Facebook-Zynga marriage and how Google+ can benefit

Facebook game developers were furious when they found out about the tight relationship between Facebook and Zynga.

If Google properly channels that anger, it could find considerable support for the idea of making games that run on its new social framework, Google+. The question is whether that anger is justified – and the answer isn’t crystal clear.

Because Facebook appears to favor Zynga more than other game developer, including through an unusual growth-target agreement, those two companies seem to be just about joined at the hip. Developers of Facebook games might logically conclude that there’s no hope for them to compete with Zynga. They might instead focus on Google+, which is expected to support games in the future and is currently virgin territory.

“It’s an outrage,” said an executive at one Facebook game developer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, at last week’s Casual Connect game conference in Seattle, where the Facebook-Zynga deal (and a filing Zynga made with the Securities and Exchange Commission describing the deal) was the subject of much conversation. “It means we can’t move to Google+ soon enough.”

Dan Rose, vice president of partnerships and platform marketing at Facebook, acknowledges that some developers are upset and that his company is restricted about saying everything because of the IPO quiet period. But he insists that Facebook isn’t playing favorites, contrary to rumors of kickbacks or some special favoritism in exchange for Zynga’s adoption of Facebook Credits.

“It’s actually a level playing field,” Rose said in an interview. “Everybody on the platform is playing by the same rules, whether that is from an economic perspective or a distribution perspective.”

Trip Hawkins, chief executive of Digital Chocolate, which makes both mobile and Facebook games, was the only CEO willing to go on the record for this story. Hawkins described platform holders as “feudal lords” in a recent talk at our GamesBeat 2011 conference.

“We all knew Zynga had contractual advantages, but the extent of it makes Facebook a tough platform for everyone else,” Hawkins said. “Policy changes have made revenue and margins more challenging this year, so it is a bitter pill for all of us to find out that the market is neither competitive nor fair.  Their relationship could not be more complicated.  It’s like a bad marriage that is staying together for the money.  You don’t get the feeling that either side really feels happy or free.  Ironically, they could both use more real friends.”

Other Facebook partners are not satisfied with what they have heard so far. A different chief executive at a Facebook game company, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “The bottom line is those two need each other and Zynga got a preferred deal. It sucks for other developers. We have long-lived in a world where the playing field wasn’t fair. We knew that for a long time, and this doesn’t change anything. It’s annoying. We would very much like to participate in Google+.”

And still another chief executive at a Facebook game company said, “I fully expected they had a sweetheart deal from the beginning in order to get Facebook Credits to take off. They needed the biggest player to support it. Where it gets shady is where Facebook gives them growth targets. That makes me sick.”

The executives spoke with VentureBeat but didn’t want their names published in order to protect their business relationships with Facebook. That’s an indication of how little leverage these developers have, and how important Facebook remains to them. They might also one day be acquisition targets for Zynga.

“I think the tight relationship is positive for Facebook and Zynga, but places other game developers at a disadvantage,” said Lou Kerner, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, who has also spoken with developers about the deal. “All else being equal, other developers will seek out opportunities that offer a more level playing field. The agreement is counter to what Facebook has been saying about how it’s an equal platform for all.”

In conversations with game developers, Facebook is trying to calm developers down and explain that it really doesn’t favor Zynga in a way that is unfair to the rest of the development community. There were, in fact, times when Zynga hated the Facebook-Zynga relationship. A year ago, Zynga’s chief executive Mark Pincus told employees that Zynga planned to expand beyond Facebook and start its own Zynga Live web site as a portal for its own social games. That never happened because Facebook cut the deal on Facebook Credits with Zynga.

Zynga already has enormous advantages over other developers on Facebook, with more than 264 million monthly active users on the social network, more than the top 15 other game companies combined.

But what’s really making developers angry is a new disclosure by Zynga filed with the SEC, which shows that Zynga gets benefits that apparently no other game company gets. In the filing, Zynga said that it received a special deal when it agreed to support Facebook Credits, a new virtual currency from Facebook, a year ago. In that deal, Zynga agreed to give 30 percent of its virtual goods game revenues to Facebook, the standard fee for using Facebook Credits.

In exchange, Facebook agreed to help Zynga hit growth targets for its games. Facebook did not, as initially reported, agree to kick back revenue to Zynga from ads placed by Facebook alongside Zynga games on Facebook. Facebook said there was a deal to share ad revenue with Zynga if it chose to move its Facebook games off of Facebook, but that ad deal never kicked in, according to a statement by Facebook. The 30 percent fee is what every developer pays, and Facebook told developers that everyone was treated the same.

But other developers were upset about Facebook’s support of Zynga’s growth targets. Facebook reportedly (in a redacted section) promises growth by the end of the five-year agreement, according to a source familiar with the agreement. Those developers said they specifically asked Facebook last year if Zynga was getting a special deal when it signed up for Facebook Credits, and they were told there was no such deal. But the developers said there were no growth targets in their own agreements about Facebook Credits.

“Were developers misled?” said another source from a social-game maker. “The unequivocal answer is yes. In meetings with us, they told us there was nothing to the agreement that was not available to other leading social game developers. That’s patently not true. We look at the agreement and it does not allow a level playing field.”

From Facebook’s point of view, it is easy to see why the company entered into a special deal with Zynga. A year ago, there was a lot of resistance to Facebook Credits. Facebook charges a 30-percent transaction fee, whereas other virtual currency providers take as little as 10 percent. It amounts to a huge tax increase for developers doing business on Facebook. Facebook planned to make the virtual currency mandatory, but it needed to work out the kinks in the system with real-world trades. Zynga was prepared to expand its games off Facebook to its own portal, Zynga Live, and move to other platforms as quickly as possible. At the time, that was pretty alarming to Facebook.

So Facebook cut a deal to get Zynga on board. That deal was similar to other deals that console makers have made to get crucial support for their platforms, for instance when Sony was able to convince RockStar Games/Take-Two Interactive to publish Grand Theft Auto games exclusively on the PlayStation 2 console. Facebook’s position was that it would increase its overall support for the game ecosystem, but it would not arbitrarily help Zynga’s own games grow faster.

But for the smaller developers on Facebook, the Zynga-Facebook deal is a sign that Facebook isn’t being fair to all comers.

From Facebook’s point of view, the favoritism isn’t as bad as what some platform owners have done in the past. Console makers, for instance, typically have their own first-party (in-house) game studios that get access to information about a new console far earlier than third-party developers. That allows the first-party game makers to get a head start. Facebook has no such first-party studios.

Also, Zynga and other early adopters of Facebook Credits — CrowdStar, RockYou and Electronic Arts — had to start paying the 30-percent royalty to Facebook earlier than other developers, simply because they started using Facebook Credits earlier.

Zynga also had a major restriction. If Zynga hit its growth targets with Facebook, then Zynga’s games had to stay exclusive on Facebook. From that perspective, that part of the agreement may return to haunt Zynga. Now that Google+ is a viable platform, Zynga may want to extend its games there. But Zynga can’t just take the exact same game and move it over now, due to its contract with Facebook. Paradoxically, the lack of a special Facebook deal will give other game developers more flexibility to pursue Google+ games.

Rose at Facebook said, “Our focus is to grow traffic for games on Facebook. And the developers who build good games will benefit from the products we launch that are designed to grow distribution. That’s the way we run the platform. That is how we grow the platform generally. The best games will benefit the most because those are the games our users will want to play. We don’t apply the distribution mechanisms of the platform from one developer to the next in any way. The largest developers on our platform down to the smalllest developers on our platform operate on the same distribution rules. There are two ways to achieve a growth target. One way is to single out a developer and grow their traffic. Another way is to grow the entire platform and assume the developer that makes good games will grow with the platform. Our approach with any single developer is the latter, period.”

Developers aren’t necessarily buying that. It didn’t help that some sections of the Facebook-Zynga agreement were heavily redacted in the SEC filing, fueling more rumors that there were other special deals in place. In fact, in section 8.3 of the document, the agreement states the fee that Zynga has to pay to Facebook for the use of Facebook Credits. That section doesn’t say 30 percent. Rather, the actual fee is redacted. The SEC document also has a chart of the schedule for growth targets, but the numbers in the schedule are redacted. (Facebook says it said publicly in January that every developer pays the same 30 percent fee per transaction for using Facebook Credits, and that is still true now).

Developers have also heard rumors of other examples of favoritism. Zynga, for instance was reportedly allowed to issue more invitations to gamers to join a social game than other developers were allowed to send, according to one executive at a Facebook game developer. But Facebook’s policy on invites depends on whether the users embrace or reject the invitations. If users reject more invitations from a certain game, then the number of invites that game can send will be reduced, according to conversations that game companies had with Facebook.

Officially, Facebook says it supports the idea of more game companies and games on its social network. Sean Ryan, head of game developer relations at Facebook, said in a speech last week at Casual Connect that there are plenty of opportunities for game developers to make social network games in genres that aren’t crowded. While Zynga has a lock on city and farm simulation games, there are still plenty of opportunities in areas such as role-playing games, hidden object games and casino games, Ryan said. Facebook continues to invest heavily in its game ecosystem and will continue to offer new features for game companies in the future, Ryan said.

Ryan also said there were 376 games with more than 100,000 monthly active users and 80 games with more than 1 million monthly active users.

Google, as we noted in our other Google+ story today, has yet to come up with an applications programming interface, or API, which sets the rules on how to create a game that sits on top of Google+. Google would be smart to create a smaller royalty — perhaps 20 percent or lower (as is rumored) — to attract game developers who don’t want to share 30 percent of their revenues obtained via Facebook Credits.

“On Zynga-Facebook and how that impacts Google+, any substantial social platform without an established games ecosystem offers opportunities for new entrants,” said Tim Merel, managing director at game-focused investment bank Digi-Capital. “These must be offset against the risks of it being a new social platform. All the established games companies, particularly strong social players like Zynga, Wooga, Crowdstar, Playfish, Playdom and others should also be considering how to play the Google+ market.”

Hawkins said, “Google is a major force in the industry and could drive important innovations with Google+.  When there are alternatives and different approaches it makes things more competitive and keeps everyone on their toes.  These new industries are still in the first inning, so much remains to be decided.  Every major participant has great opportunity and will make many good moves, and also bad ones from which they will need to retreat or recover.  Whoever goes down their learning curve with a humble attitude will adapt fastest and be likely to win.”

Already evident from the trend at Casual Connect and our recent GamesBeat 2011 conference is the fact that many social game developers are moving into mobile, where the battle for market share is still wide open, since there is no dominant company. But they’re also looking around for any other platform that can give them large numbers of users.

“We’d love to move to Google+, but the only problem is that there isn’t anything to move to yet, and they will have a smaller audience for games than Facebook for a long time to come,” said one Facebook game developer CEO.

Courtesy Dean Takahashi