Archive for ‘Search’

May 4, 2014

Bing Search: Webmaster Chicken

Google Search has a well-known competitor, Microsoft Bing. Google is first, but Bing (and Yahoo, who contracts search to Bing now) has the second largest share of U.S. domestic internet search volume. Globally, Google is also first, with Baidu, Bing and Yandex in varying relative share positions depending on geographical locale.

Today’s post is about a (no longer) recent entry on one of the five* official Bing blogs.

screen shot of old version of Bing Webmaster Center

Old version of Bing Webmaster

Chickless in Seattle

The Chicken Has Landed (5 June 2013) offers guidance on how to improve search rank, website quality and traffic volume. It is applicable to e-commerce, blogs and most publicly accessible websites.

April 14, 2013

Search and tell

Hide from cache

If you don’t want web searchers to be able to access a cached version of your page, use the noarchive meta tag like this:

<meta name="robots" content="noarchive">

The page will still be crawled and indexed by Google, but users will not see a cached link in search results.

Similar to your website

The related: operator displays websites similar to the site you are looking for. It returns the same results as clicking Similar pages next to a result on the search results page.

I was curious about the results returned by Similar pages, as its intent is to return overlapping resources. Specifically, I was worried whether it indicated anything potentially detrimental, for search engine optimization purposes. According to Google, there’s no need for SEO concern, not for the moment:

The quality of the sites returned has no impact on your ranking or on how Google indexes your site.

Webmaster documentation

Another find: Google recently updated its References for Webmasters.

Fan memorabilia

 

December 29, 2012

Google Zeitgeist Snapshot

This is an especially short post, as it is a high-level summary of an even higher level summary. Of course, we all know how meaningful THAT is :~

Google Zeitgeist 2008

Nostalgia

Zeitgeist is a borrowed word, from an English language point of view. It means “signs of the times”. Yes, I realize that zeitgeist is singular, but somehow we seem to have made it plural in the process of adoption from German. Or maybe not, as it is sometimes capitalized, as a proper noun, the Zeitgeist. Perhaps it is one of those mysterious, uncountable words?

Quartz News looked a little more deeply into the annual Google Zeitgeist survey, with thankfully human, not machine, translation and analysis.

Methodology

Quartz took the top results for the 34 countries for which there was data for the Zeitgeist “How to…?” category. He then rank ordered by frequency, chose the most common result for each country, and asked around, to assure that everything was translated correctly.

Do the results accurately capture each country’s national character?

Chrome screenshot

In most instances, I think the answer is, “Yes”.

The number one “How to….?” query for The Netherlands was “How to survive”.

 

September 22, 2011

New Google domains

Google offers search on different regional domains, to give users the most locally relevant results.

These are two examples of regional domains

  • google.fr for France
  • google.dj for Djibouti

In March 2011, Google introduced two more domains, google.iq for Iraq and google.tn for Tunisia. This brings the count of local Google search domains, worldwide, to 184. According to the Official Google Arabia blog, 15 of these domains are now in Arab countries.

Coupon

Free search!

Curious to view the internet from the view point of these domains? Or any other Google local domain?

The GoogleSystem Blog gives a step-by-step explanation for changing Google’s search domain from the default associated with your physical location.

September 17, 2011

Google Plus impact on page rank

Controversy over the impact of Google Plus buttons on search engine page rank is the latest news story associated with Google’s recently introduced social network. Will it benefit large websites to the detriment of small or specialty sites, particularly blogs? Since Google page rank is part of the mysterious world of search engine optimization, speculation is plentiful.

I found this attractive rendering of a Google Plus button on the Flickr page of a Second Life resident.

Circle Me! on G+

The image was used as the illustration for a mysteriously de-listed Forbes article* about the effect of Google+ buttons on website page rank. The article URL was supposedly removed from Google search results. Based on the error returned when I checked just now, I think it is more likely that it was deleted by Forbes. Whether accidental or by intent wasn’t obvious to me.

Yet it is not easy for anyone, not even Google, to erase digital footprints. Alternative search engine Blekko has the article in cache. Publication date was 18 August 2011 (Forbes Online). I will amend this post with a cleaner URL for the web cached result from Blekko. The article didn’t seem objectionable to me, upon first glance. But I am not an SEO expert.

* Thanks and attribution given to a Google+ user discussion of 31 August 2011.

UPDATE

Here is the Blekko web cached URL: http://blekko-webcache.com/cache/http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Fkashmirhill%2F2011%2F08%2F18%2Fstick-google-plus-buttons-on-your-pages-or-your-search-traffic-dies%2F

The author is Forbes staff writer Ms. Kashmir Hill. The article is time stamped 11:21 AM on August 18, 2011, Technology section. The title is Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Dies. The content of the article is not as dire as the title. These are the salient points, and possibly cause for concern by any website involved in e-commerce, publisher or otherwise:

Though recommendations from contacts in your Google circles will be weighted more heavily, the number of “+1″s overall will now be a factor in search whether you’re part of Plus or not…. The Google guys explained how the new recommendation system will be a factor in search. “Universally, or just among Google Plus friends?” I asked. ‘Universal’ was the answer.

This was not surprising, but still unsavory:

Some traffic scammers are already onto this. Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic reports that SEO shops are already offering bushels of +1 votes for $9.99 a pop.

Ms. Hill then suggested that the Google+ buttons will benefit users of online services and those active in social media:

There are going to be lots of benefits to this… I just gave a hotel I liked in TownN a +1. Should I miss a Facebook status update from a friend going to TownN in the future asking for recommendations, this is a built-in back-up, so that this hotel will rise up in the search results should they Google “TownN hotels.” That’s pretty cool… And I can do that even though TownN doesn’t have a +1 on its page, since these buttons are also available from the main Google search page.

Additional web analytics information will be available to sites that include the Google+ button. But similarly, sites that choose not to place the +1 button on their pages will likely fare worse in search results than competitors who have included the button.

Is this a problem?

Facebook “Like” buttons have a similar impact, though not through Google search engine results directly.

What is the downside?

The Google Plus button is free to use, just like other social media services. There will be some work for the web maintenance staff, decisions about optimal placement. Page load speed? Uncertain. Yet it would be very unwise for Google to penalize sites in search results due to incremental delay from using one its own products! Overall, Google+ does not seem to be a cause for concern– merely the addition of another social media button to the already ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter icons.

August 16, 2011

Google Labs for Enterprise Search

Labs logo

Google Labs

Google Enterprise Search now has a lab of its own ! Actually, I first noticed this in February 2011, but just got around to writing about it. I was too busy collecting cool images of Google Enterprise hardware to put together a post.

What does Google Enterprise Labs offer?

Recall that Google Enterprise refers to these products:

  1. the Google Search Appliance (GSA)
  2. Google Commerce Search for larger online businesses
  3. Google Intranet search, and
  4. the Google Mini, a less powerful, blue-colored version of the yellow GSA.
GSA connector

GSA connector

Google Enterprise Labs offers many enhancements such as open source connectors to improve GSA connectivity with file systems, databases or SalesForce.com documents. Cross-language Enterprise Search is an interesting project too.

GSA enabled for open search also caught my attention. OpenSearch is a collaborative venture led by Amazon, and includes the major search engines. Its goal is to set up common standards for internet search. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of activity at the moment, but that’s just my personal impression. Google gives this description (via the Enterprise Labs page that goes on to describe how to implement open search with browser integration):

OpenSearch is a collection of simple formats for the sharing of search results. OpenSearch… format can be used to describe a search engine so that it can be used by search client applications. Such search client applications include all major browsers.

In other words, you can send search queries right from your browser (Firefox, Internet Explorer or Google Chrome), after registering your GSA as a search provider.

GSA for Enterprise

GSA and Open Search

The same sort of browser integration is possible for Intranet Search (with Windows 7):

If your Intranet content e.g. Windows file shares or SharePoint, have been indexed by a GSA, all Windows clients will be able to submit search queries from Windows Explorer.

Be careful, though, as Secure Search cannot be used from within Windows Explorer.

June 27, 2011

Google Translation Story Continues

Last month, developers whose applications and websites depended on the Google Translate API and the underlying Google machine translation were shocked by an unexpected announcement.

Google Says Translate and other APIs WILL be deprecated

Google APIs are deprecated all the time. Usually they are replaced with comparable services or APIs.

But that morning was not like anything else. That morning became cruel and sad when the world heard the news. The linguists and webmasters were taken aback, shocked and stuttered in disbelief. The world learnt on May 26, 2011 that Google is no longer going to support its free machine translator also known as Google Translate

via Lackuna.com: Slaughtering Machine Translators – Who Is Going To Replace Google? 

The Translate API documentation on Google Code makes the situation very clear:

The Google Translate API has been officially deprecated as of May 26, 2011. Due to the substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse, the number of requests you may make per day will be limited and the API will be shut off completely on December 1, 2011.

Regional languages of India by geographical location on the map

Regional map of India

Google suggests the Translate Element as an alternative to the API for website translation and similar needs.

Welcome to the Indic web

Deprecation of the Google Translate API does not mean an end to human usage of Google Translate.

This becomes very clear with this June 21 announcement on the official Google blog, Google Translate welcomes you to the Indic web. Google Translate announced support of five languages, in alpha* status: Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu.  According to the post,

In India and Bangladesh alone, more than 500 million people speak these five languages.

Special fonts need to be downloaded to use Google Translate with these Indic languages. The post has links to get access to these fonts, free of charge.

It is not clear whether these five alpha languages will be included in the deprecated Translate API before it is taken offline permanently on December 1, 2011.

* Google Translate introduced nearly a dozen alpha languages since 2009. At present, Google Translate supports 63 languages.

May 12, 2011

Google users pressed into service in war against spam

Google (GOOG) recently made an official announcement offering a Personal Blocklist extension for Chrome browser users. I am weighted down with far too many Chrome browser extensions already, so I haven’t tested this one. Technology press coverage of the news slightly surprised me:

Google (GOOG) is concluding that if people are so up in arms about its declining search results, then it will let the masses get to work in helping refine its search technology…

Users to spot Spam Sites

Spam Protection Extension for Chrome browser

While amusing (I’ve supplemented my TechCrunch reading with GigaOM lately), it was more in line with what I expect from The Onion. Yet it is correct. The size and growth of the spam problem warrants this reaction from the press, as well as the public and many businesses. All express frustration with spam and electronic detritus.

Google is addressing spam with a two-pronged initiative, it seems to me. The Google War on Content Farms  of a few weeks earlier was directed at particularly spammy e-commerce merchants and services. The Personal Blocklist browser extension is the second part, and directed at e-commerce consumers and users in general.

Basic search

Search!

In a worst case scenario, this can be viewed as a sign that the internet will soon become almost unusable due to clutter from impenetrable volumes of advertisements and duplication of once original but now outdated content. That is the most generalized definition of spam. As a matter of quality control Google DOES need to provide meaningful resultswith a minimum of spam, to Google Search 2.0. users.

What can be done?

Is Google evil?

Is it Google’s fault? Is Google greedy and betraying the pubic’s best interests? No, not particularly.

Google is a publicly traded company, a business with stockholders. It is not a public utility. Google employees and Google operations are not funded by the taxpayers of any nation. It is very easy to forget that. The model of free online services is wonderful, and benefits everyone, everywhere, particularly in countries where what is considered a nominal cost in the U.S.A. would be prohibitively expensive. Much of the U.S. and global economy, as well as the public in general, are dependent upon free Google services to some degree. This is analogous to physical infrastructure. It is digital infrastructure.

Infrastructure is usually part of the public sector

In order to fund the model of free internet search, and free Google products, Google sells online advertising. And so the World Wide Web’s spam problem reduces in some part, though not entirely, to the principal agent problem. Moral hazard. Conflict of interest.

Avoidance of moral hazard is a major benefit of having a public sector, and government. When the public sector functions as it should, it reduces biased behavior due to profit-seeking and other motives.

The dilemma for Google as a company

Google needs the advertising revenue provided by AdSense customers (some of whom are the Content Farmers). That is why Google must offer a quality product to the public. Not because the public are Google customers. Google search is free of charge. While it may be unethical to sell a poor-quality product, there is no law against offering crummy goods and services free of charge. That happens all the time. No one wants something that is useless or gives much less value than an alternative provider.

Good corporate citizenship is a consideration, but only a minor one. Google must provide a quality product because the public’s use of free Google products drives revenue from customers. Google is obligated to:

  • Customers. Primary customers are advertisers and revenue-generating businesses, for-profit and otherwise
  • Employees. The people whose paycheck it provides for going to work every day

Remember though that the motivation for these obligations is that they may in turn give value to shareholders in the company itself.

The war against the Content Farmers is dangerous for Google. The Google anti-spam efforts must be targeted enough to cut spam and increase search user satisfaction while not alienating the source of funding that sustains Google and allows the company to offer services at all.

March 31, 2011

Google Desktop supports 64 bit Windows

I just unearthed yet another Google product that has been in existence since 2009, or longer, that I had never heard of before today!

Google Desktop

Google Desktop search sidebar

Google Desktop Search

As I was browsing around the National Public Radio (“NPR”) online site, looking for Windows 7 supported Google Gadgets this morning, I found a reference to a Google Gadget for 64-bit Windows. This led me to a blog post dated over a year earlier. Google was far ahead of me.

Google Desktop allows one to use Google search for one’s own desktop, and not be restricted to web browser search only. Apparently, Google Desktop support for 64 bit Windows was available as of July 2009!

I do not know if it applies to Windows XP, Visa and Windows 7 operating systems, as the blog post didn’t specify. If not, Windows 7 support is probably available by now.

It was no surprise to find that the official source for information about Google Desktop is the Inside Google Desktop blog on Blogger. Google is very consistent with its product coverage strategy and data governance policies!

UPDATE

I confirmed today that Google Desktop does support 64 bit Windows XP and Windows 7.

Google Desktop has expanded more than I realized. Google Desktop search is available for users of Linux and Mac OS X too.

March 20, 2011

How to add a Google Gadget

Image by jblyberg via Flickr

Suite of Google Gadgets for Libraries

Google offers a service called home page gadgets which are little pieces of content and web functionality that you can put on the main Google page (as it appears to you) or your own iGoogle page.

This is useful if you visit google.com often. If so, you can customize the page with Google Gadgets that give whatever information you find most personally relevant. Some examples are weather reports for your area, news headlines or the latest entries from your favorite blogs or websites.

I don’t have an iGoogle page

That’s OK. You don’t have to have an iGoogle page to use Gadgets. You can add Google Gadgets to the classic Google page.

How do I install a Google Gadget?

Go to the Google Gadgets catalog. To prevent any spyware or virus issues, only install gadgets actually created by Google.

If you are certain the gadget you want to install is from a trustworthy source, such as National Public Radio, consider installing it.

Before installing any gadget, remember this: The only gadgets that are guaranteed safe by Google are those that were made by Google!

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