Browsing "internet news"
So in the world of search there’s a handful of true search engines, those little boxes of which you type in your current question or conundrum and off you go into the wild internet. We have Bing, which holds onto somewhere around 27% or so of the search market, Google who holds onto the lions share of search at just over 65%, and all those little crumbs in the bottom are search engines like Ask.com etc.
It’s not difficult to find press about how Bing is making massive inroads into Googles share of search, or how last year Bing grew by over 90%.. blah blah blah. When you boil the numbers all the way down however, all you’re really left with is Google and Bing, and the only way Bing is going to make positive growth in search is to take it from Google. So using misleading titles to the tune of Bing overtaking Google, or Bing Grows 90% over the year are nearly wholely misleading. Even with all of this “incredible growth”, with all of the addins and marketing strategies Microsoft throws at Bing they’re left with a fairly large problem. Despite owning more than 25% of the worlds search volume, Bing doesn’t make any money for Microsoft.
That may not seem like it makes any sense, but look at it from a different perspective, try and see it from the advertising angle of things. The sole product sold by search engines are the advertisements that appear on search pages, which are sold not for a set amount, but based on how many times customers click on an ad tied to the search phrase that brought the user to the page. And since Google has such a huge search market share, they’re rolling in cash right from the start because of their cost per click for their adword programs. Now the one biggest reason Bing doesn’t make money, isn’t because they have a smaller search share than Google alone, as it turns out, the cost per click tied to their advertising model is as much as 1/5 the cost of Googles cost. As bad as that may sound as a revenue model, it actually gets a little worse for the Bing machine. Less CPC looks great on the surface, but as an advertiser it brings up the issue of what is driving that low cost. Bing has less traffic than Google at the outset, the CPC to serve the same ad on Bing is cheaper than Google and in the end it translates into less ad impressions on the Microsoft search engine.
So the question in the end really, is there ever really going to be a solid competitor to the Google machine? If a multi-billion dollar a year company can’t even step into the same arena as the giant and succeed, who truly can? I say bring them all on, competition is what made the web what it is today, more will only make it better.
So if you’ve been tracking your sites progress on Googles search results pages, and you noticed some funny movement in the last week or so, you’re not imagining things. Google came out with it finally and admitted, yes they’ve had another regular update, but with Panda as part of the equation this time. Some have noticed that their sites have shifted a half dozen places or so, and some have noticed that for some of their optimized terms they’ve just completely disappeared.
As shocking and distrubing as it may be to suddenly find you’re not in the results where you were in the previous weeks, you may want to hold off on that complete site revamp to address your disappearance. To put it another way, Google took their search index, full of billions and billions of terms, tossed it up in the air and all of the websites are still coming down. Being filtered into all of their most relevant terms based on the current algorithm, it’s safe to wait just a few more days to see what happens through the weekend.
Google and +1
So search, it’s a funny game, moving, shifting, always changing. Facebook has their ‘Like’ button, which Bing has added their own special metric and weight to. And Google has their newer +1 button which they’ve come out and said basically ‘Yes it’s good for you to have on your site along side the Like button’. Basic fact though, the implementation of the +1 button on your site was actually bogging it down as of late, cutting your performance in half by almost half in some extreme cases.
While the Facebook ‘Like’ button is a flat blue color, the +1 button is a script or two which glows and stands out from your web pages. Definitely a hindrance to performance conscientious site owners, it wasn’t long until another disturbing trend was noticed. Visitors to pages with the +1 button, were slowly and steadily dropping. Almost strangely and on cue, Google has released a new version of their +1 button, faster, sleeker and much more in line with current web speed standards.
And just like the Facebook button, and those scandalous people making a living selling their browser clicks. It seems that because the +1 button can have a positive effect on your search ranking, some of the less scrupulous SEO companies out there are now selling their clicks. It’s not much of a stretch or a surprise really, as there are grey SEOs to be found all over the web selling all manner of SEO tricks. Selling links, scraping and rewriting content for you, Facebook ‘Like’ sellers and now +1 sellers. Just cut the SEO juice from the button and it’s true use will emerge, content promotion because it’s genuinely good content.
It’s fairly easy to find an article or blog with the viewpoint that Google is too big to be considered ‘not evil’ and they’re just a data hungry machine. It’s also not uncommon to find a writer who’s convinced that Facebook is the embodiment of forward progress online, that you need to have your eggs in the social basket to move forward. The American Customer Satisfaction Index came out recently, and while Facebook and Google are in different categories, only one of them comes out on top; as a hint it’s not the social one.
The average satisfaction mark for the public for social networks is at the 70% mark, and Facebook came in at a 66% approval rating irregardless of being the biggest on the block. The leaders of the social category as it were, are Wikipedia, the largest online publicly edited information source, and Youtube whose billions of hours of video can help wile away the rainiest of days. Those who answered the poll cited issues such as privacy and security concerns, unexpected changes to service and overcommercialization as the reasons for ranking Facebook so low in the results. This doesn’t mean of course that Google+ will immediately supplant Facebook as the social experience destination on the web, but after looking at the poll numbers, Facebook has to realize that their platform they’ve been on for so long isn’t as stable as it first appears. It does give Google and Google+ a bit of a cheat sheet however when it comes to user experience.
In the search engine portion of the same poll, Google did come out on top of their category with an 83% customer satisfaction score, it’s a 3% increase from the previous years score. Bing also climbed swiftly up the ladder as well, from a 77% rating last year, to an 82% rating this year. Bing has seen some solid gains in the customer satisfaction experience while serving up 30% of the webs searches to Googles 70% served. In the realm of search, Google is still the king of the mountain even with Bing making some headway in the space.
When it comes down to the bottom line, what will really determine the shape of the web at this time next year is what happens with these companies in the next 12 months. Facebook could turn around and make privacy a no brainer and Google may completely flub the search game. Or Google could submit their offering to the social web and Facebook may see a trickle of users slowly leaving for a more controllable social experience. Competition is a great tool to help improve the quality of the user experience on the web, putting strangle holds in place for these web giants where their every move is scrutinized by the public, lawyers and the government, is the surest and quickest way to stunt online growth.
Google Realtime search is officially dead in the water with the expiration of the agreement with Twitter. But is it truly finished with the beta testing of Google+ social site going on in the background?
It’s no surprise that when Facebook rolled out their version of search some months ago it did worse than bombed, it was a terrible smattering of Facebook pages somewhat related contextually to your terms. Where as when Google made their first in roads into social with Buzz, they really messed up with pretty much everything where privacy was concerned. Facebook hasn’t really rehashed their search algorithm or modified it to be any kind of a competitor in the search arena, but Google is making a play on their turf.
By all accounts Google+ so far in it’s beta testing is a fairly decent product. With the ability to essentially sort your friends into your own personal groups and the ability to turn the privacy knob up to 11 has the newest offering on some solid ground out of the gate. Google has an immense suite of products already on the table with documents, calendar etc which could even make the social site a place of productivity as well. And with their Realtime search now defunct, having their own social site gives the search giant the tools to use their own posters to fuel that engine. Google+ also has a group video chat they call Hangout, that with some tweaks (rumor says it devours bandwidth) could be a great way to collaborate with friends and even colleagues. Facebook in what could be construed as a response to the Hangout feature released the integration of Skype into the social sites chat features.
At this moment it looks like Google+ beta testing is going to be a solid competitor in the social arena, it just remains to see what they can continue to plug into it. Being able to say, completely migrate all of your Facebook friends into the Google+ site would be a good start.
In a somewhat strange twist of irony, Googles social site Google+ most followed member is Mark Zuckerberg. “Mark Zuckerberg isn’t banned from using Google+” you might ask but its probably the best indication that the two giants don’t really compete with each other. On the other side of the argument, Google is making some decidedly strong headway into the social arena with the beta of Google+ so who better to push it’s boundaries than the head of the largest social media network on the web.
Some of the reports coming out of the beta testing waters are interesting. Little tweaks to the social experience like a group video chat, better friend controls and more powerful privacy tools go a long way to providing a unique enough experience over Facebook. Google+ being one of the search giants products is going to be widely accessible right from the get go as it’s development on multiple platforms occurs in tandem. It will be available in browsers, on mobile, through search and as rumor has it, as an enterprise product as well.
Staying within the boundaries of the social aspect of the web, Farmville creator Zynga filed their S-1 form last week. For those of us (myself included) who have no idea what that means, the social gaming innovator is working on becoming public. Contained within their filing spells out just how dependant they are (at present) on their relationship with Facebook to remain as profitable as they are, for as long as possible. And with the switch to using Facebook credits as currency for their online social offerings, Facebook stands to earn a good lump sum, as Zynga reported their ‘hardcore’ players spent $600 million alone last year. A little more than pocket change at their 30% share of the pie for Facebook.
To continue in the same grain of sorts from yesterdays blog, Matt Cutts made an appearance on a Hacker News forum to shed some light on the notion of users being trapped in a search bubble.
Some of the main points that he made were:
- If someone prefers to search Google without personalization, add “&pws=0″ (the “pws” stands for “personalized web search”) to the end of the Google search url to turn it off, or use the incognito version of Chrome.
- personalization has much less impact than localization, which takes things like your IP address into account when determining the best search results.
- We do have algorithms in place designed specifically to promote variety in the results page. For example, you can imagine limiting the number of results returned from one single site to allow other results to show up instead.
As I mentioned yesterday, a search bubble doesn’t strictly exist, and it doesn’t remove sections of the internet from your searches and viewing history, it does however try and give you a results list that fits within your, at the least, location. Using the incognito version of Chrome, the private version of Internet Explorer will allow you to access as fully unfiltered a web as you like. You can even go so far as to remove the location factor in your Google searches by pointing your browser to www.google.com/ncr. The NCR extension essentially sticks you into cyber-space with no location setting.
When you logon to your computer, fire up your browser and start your internet trek for knowledge, entertainment or what ever it is that has your mind occupied, are you going to be able to find your answer? It’s a question which has been gaining more and more traction in the last year or so, and DuckDuckGo, a new start up search engine has been shaking the search cage in an effort to forge it’s own path.
Recently they have put up a page detailing how when you perform a search on Google, Bing or Yahoo, you’re not getting a true results page. The screen shot of the search results clearly shows that different people will receive different results searching for ‘Egypt’ as a search term. Without reading the link text, it’s clear that the results pages are vastly different. But why are they different comes down to dozens, if not hundreds of different reasons. It can be as simple as your location in the country, the time of day or the trend in the news lately. The short pictorial provided on the DuckDuckGo page details essentially how search engines, Facebook, Twitter etc are all delivering pre-packaged results based on your web usage and they also contend that this shouldn’t be happening.
DuckDuckGo is a search engine which doesn’t save your search results, doesn’t pass your search terms onto referred websites, has a nifty red box they call zero click info (handled by Wolfram Alpha) which appears on some searches and after all that, is throwing their hat into the search engine ring. Being a new player at an old game is a tough market to break into, and DuckDuckGo is performing search in a way that is attempting to deliver a filtered *and* unfiltered internet. It’s a noble idea and does have some merit if you’d like to perform somewhat private searches on sensitive matters it may be an alternative for you. Google Chrome and Internet Explorer however both offer a cookieless browser which accomplishes the same result so you don’t really have to give up the engine you know and are familiar with.
The only real way to test if you genuinely live in a “search bubble” is to perform the same search, with 0 clicks on multiple computers. If you begin seeing that your results are significantly different than other peoples then perhaps you have a case. Personally after viewing the screenshots, when you look closely at the how many pages were fetched for each search term, there are tens of millions of pages of difference, so of course the results are going to be different. Part of Google, Bing and Yahoo’s success comes from the fact that they pass some search data to the referred website in the form of the search term, it’s what enabled the search engines to build their ad programs for web users. There are dozens of different variables when you receive your search results after you click that search button and even a simple variable like which data center sends you your results influences your page. If it happens to be running with an index which is a few hours older than others, you can very easily get different results when performing the same search multiple times.
The founder of the newer engine DuckDuckGo has recently discovered that he’s being hit with tons of spam queries for all sorts of seemingly random searches. He’s made note of the fact that while he can block these botnets from spamming his servers for the same query over and over and over again, he’s formed a question about this traffic.
In his own words from his blog:
“if other search engines include this errant traffic in their query counts. We work hard to keep them completely out because they would overwhelm our real direct queries #s and therefore distort our perception of progress. “
And while Gabriel makes a solid point and brings up a great question as to the quality of the searches and query numbers being generated, I think he’s missing the simplest answer. The founder of DuckDuckGo has managed to block the botnets at the firewall level to prevent them from skewing the query numbers and influencing the search numbers. And being that the other search engines, Google, Bing and Yahoo respectively, have been around far longer, it would lead to the assumption that they’ve already dealt with the issue about the false searches. As far as SEO is concerned, this kind of activity can be seen as a quality spam, as it can be seen as bots that the websites in question have received hundreds of thousands of queries and results from these malicious users. A game and method which was dealt with years ago by both Google and Bing, so it’s almost completely a non issue.
I think the more realistic reasoning behind the botnet traffic on the new search engine is a very simple problem that anyone with a website that has an input box and no validation can relate to. It’s just spam, either looking for an exploit or a kink in the code to be able to exploit the website software that’s been picked up. It’s argued that the small search engines like Blekko and DuckDuckGo offer a better quality of search due to the fact that they are smaller and less bloated than their big brothers. In time however, I can see it being realized that the larger and larger these small engines become, the more increasingly difficult it will be to deliver incredibly fast results (less than half a second) while maintaining a complex directory of hundreds of billions of pages. Google just last year reached the 3 trillion pages indexed mark, a number which would cripple most data centers in existence.
Since they’ve up and done it again, Facebook that is, they’ve stepped over another line which has prompted EPIC to petition the FTC to get involved. The feature that has stoked their fire? The facial recognition software which Facebook enabled to auto-tag members pictures.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) stepped forward and asked the FTC to become involved in the new software because the new service in their eyes is unfair and deceptive in it’s use and methods. They’ve called for the FTC to force Facebook to suspend the entire program until stronger privacy standards are put in place and the feature is set to opt-in only. Facial recognition software and technology has been a touchy point since Facebook announced they were beginning to test it in Decemeber, and they’ve decided to make it like the rest of their programs and make it opt-out; hence the attention of EPIC. The statement EPIC released on the issue:
“users could not reasonably have known that Facebook would use their photos to build a biometric database in order to implement a facial recognition technology under the control of Facebook”.
To change the tone a little, location based mobile services, including search and advertising, is projected to reach more than $10 billion in the next few years. Location based advertising has attracted a lot of negative attention lately namely because the privacy angle of how much data your phone stores about you. Both Apple and Google admitted that yes their phones temporarily store your location data but that information was obtained by triangulating your position using cell phone towers.
Location based advertising and marketing, say like flash sales for consumers in the area, is only just starting to become a lucrative angle for businesses. The full potency of how far the metric can take you and your business is only just starting to be realized. Google is far and away the leader of the pack in mobile search, and with a click through retention rate of more than 75%, mobile search advertising is becoming the newest marketing tool for businesses everywhere.
The folks over at Search Engine Land developed a great chart which details SEO and used properly, may even be able to pinpoint issues in your current website and campaign.
It has several areas which layout a basic SEO checklist, beginning even from the coding of your pages, all the way up to the off page SEO tactics used. As well it has a section labeled as Violations, which starts with the very light errors of having poor content and keyword stuffing, up to methods which can grant severe penalties like using paid links and cloaked pages.
It’s a well put together chart which gives a great starting point for the technically minded business owner interested in their websites and would like to take a peek at things under the hood so to speak. Bear in mind as well, the graphic is not the end all be all list of SEO tips and guidelines, it’s merely Search Engine Lands version of what they feel is the absolute neccesary list of pros and cons.
You can have a better look at their image here.