The internet is a pretty big place and with Facebook throwing its hat in the search ring with their trillion of connections made, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if a search engine doesn’t immediately deliver exactly what you’re looking for with your first search.
Google is often placed under the microscope when complaints about the web or search quality come up, but it seems exceedingly rare that anyone actually talks about how big a job it is to be a search engine. Using Facebooks example of having an index of a trillion connections made using their social software alone, it should be clear that the web is a huge place. An estimate of the size of the internet is somewhere over 100 trillion web pages and users and complainers are often quick to pass judgement on the search engines when they couldn’t find what they want. Google is the largest and most widely used search engine on the web, still holding onto more than 2/3 of the audience out there and even they don’t even try to get close to curating that massive amount of pages.
When you factor in that many pages on the web and an algorithm that sorts, ranks and tries to properly place every one that it crawls <em>and</em> that it can deliver your results pages in less than a half second it should really be amazing that it can be done at all. Constant updates and improvements to the algorithm that does the bulk of the work can alter the pages you see when you search, and even sometimes appears to completely break the results pages as was the impression when Panda and Penguin were integrated into the algorithm. As an exercise in just how massive an undertaking this can be, and how Google and the other search engines aren’t out to get you and your site specifically give this a go. Imagine you have 100 pennies in your possession all with a different year on them, after shaking them all up in a can pick out the one with the year of your birth on it, if you don’t pick out your year it goes back into the can. You might get it in the first few or it may take you 30 – 40 tries, now repeat that experiment 100,000,000 more times and you’ll have a sample of how much work the search algorithms do every time they perform your search.
It’s almost like a tragic love triangle, with Microsoft somewhere in the middle between Yahoo and Facebook. In case you missed the news, Yahoo is making a lot of fuss and bother over Facebook, and the more scrutiny that’s put into it it looks like it’s founded on some loose interpretations.
How is Microsoft stuck in the middle? While it doesn’t own Yahoo or Facebook, it does have it’s finger in both of their pools. With search and social sharing with Facebook and delivering the search results for Yahoo. Yahoo isn’t a stranger to suing others over what they see as patent infringement. They’ve also sued Google as well, which was eventually settled for some stock after a couple of years of duking it out. The difference there however, is that Yahoo may have actually won a case had they not settled. Google had began to use a similar idea to Overture’s pay per click and auction system, and Yahoo had bought the fledgling search engine. Even with changing, upgrading and innovating on the ideas, they were still taken from that basic idea that Yahoo effectively owned.
Where Facebook is concerned? Yahoo is on thin, shaky ground at best, and in la-la land at worst. Some of the points that Yahoo is going to attempt to sue? How about the “method and system for optimum ad placement on a page” which take literally on it’s own could allow Yahoo to sue any company or website using paid advertisements. If that isn’t a loose enough patent for you, how about the patent for dynamic page generation? PHP and any other database driven site or achitecture could technically be dinged on this point.
The key points which Yahoo has decided to press on in regards to Facebook infringing patents are hopefully met with a realistic view and not a literal one when the day comes. When all the points are taken together, Yahoo could almost translate any of them to suing the vast majority of the web, which is a twisted pipe dream in a literalists world.
Often times, you’ll read blogs, reviews, forum posts and editorials about the search engines. Almost in every instance that there is a complaint, the perpetrator is none other than the big guy on campus, Google. The company is no stranger to scrutiny being that it is the search engine with the largest index, and what they feel they can’t develop in house, they search for, and obtain the technology to meeet their ends.
They’ve purchased Youtube, Motorolla, and a slew of other companies in order to meet their goals. But the top skill set that the company is known for of course, is search. The company has been around for nearly 20 years now and what started off as a simple exercise to build an index, has grown into a multi-billion dollar empire. With the real juice behind the company being their famous search algorithm, techs, SEO professionals, even black hat practitioners have tried to work out just what it is that makes it tick. In the end, Google isn’t talking, and we can all just speculate on how close, or far, we are from ‘solving’ it.
It wouldn’t surprise me if even the techs who work on the algorithm itself, don’t entirely know how it all works. Google is famous for saying that the actual search mechanism is comprised of hundreds of different ranking factors. Ranging from content, quality of content, quality of the site, off site factors etc. There’s no telling just what it is exactly that’s a part of that machination, but there is however a small secret, shared amongst the search industry elite. It’s a simple phrase, and it’s a technique that none truly share; those who know, know. It’s short, simple, cryptic, and while only a handful, born with the search industry on the web truly know the loops and kinks in the algorithm, they’re not talking either. If you should happen to find yourself in the company of one such individual, pay very close attention, as you may, and will, still miss it. I know I have.
Branding, it’s what makes your business and it’s purposes widely known, usually by mention of name and reputation only. It’s like when someone mentions the name Pepsi, or Coca Cola, you know immediately what is being talked about and can picture the products.
There’s a bit of a razing argument going around lately about how if you’re a “real brand” that you shouldn’t, or won’t have to worry about the search engines. The argument is basically online shoppers don’t search for brands nearly as often as they Google generic categories and phrases. Which is somewhat true, and the article goes on to argue that ‘everybody’ automatically knows that Amazon sells online books and knows that eBay is the number one online auction site. The problem with this argument, is that the average online user doesn’t strictly use a search engine to search for a single term. Most of the time users are searching for an article or they’ve seen a product or service which they want to research.
Even when a user is searching for a specific brand name or service, it’s typically typed directly into a search engine to quickly find their desired destination. It’s a fallacy to think that the only time a person uses a search engine is when they have no idea what they’re looking for. Small business, large business, branded and not branded all need to recognize that search engine optimization is more and more becoming a required marketing tool. To believe that your company, name and brand will be easily found online only because of your brand, is a misinformed position, typically trumpeted by old media advertisers. Do not get trapped in the idea that your name, your brand and your company are too big to fail in search, because more often than not it’s the little guys who rank better than the brands because they embrace the high return on investment where search is concerned.
As a daily user of the web, Google, Bing, Yahoo and a vast majority of their tools and services, I’m having trouble with the issues that are being brought up with regards to the new policy. When Google first introduced the idea, one of the first terms which needs to be satisfied in order to glean your personalized information was: sign into your Google account. If you don’t sign into your account, anything you search for via the search enging, any videos you view, will just be dumped into that already existing cache of trends and web usage. If you happen to be signed into your account, using Gmail, Docs or some other tool, then your search will possibly (likely) be used as an advertising tool at some point down the road.
I would have to admit, the confusion for me exists where users are calling it an infringement of privacy of what they are doing on the internet. But as someone so eloquently put it in a discussion I’d had about the new policy: Unless you’ve been living in the hills, hunting for your food and clothes and being completely cut off from *everything* in this techno world, you have a web history, it’s been recorded, and it is used to deliver advertising to you.
In what seems like a lucrative and exciting idea for any local business, it was announced recently that the possibility to pay for a guaranteed listing may be possible through Google, Bing and Yahoo. On the surface it seems like a great idea, especially for smaller businesses who may not have the time to wait for organic listings to kick in. But as anyone who has been in search engine marketing for more than a few days, the web just can’t work that way.
The idea for the paid inclusions was put forward as a program which was “officially approved” and in “cooperation” with search engines. The release stated:
“Local Paid Inclusion is a Google, Yahoo and Bing contracted service and is offered as an approved official program in cooperation with those search engines.
Local Paid Inclusion promotes a local business’ profile page, like those found in Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Local, into a top position on the search result page for up to 30 keywords per profile page.”
The idea was simple, you could simply have your local page, and pay to have it ranked highly within the search results locally. But then, shortly after the news began to spread and be picked up, Bing, who serves Yahoo their results, threw their hat into the ring.
“Bing has no interest in paid inclusion into the local algo that artificially impacts ranking of algo results…”
And as for Google:
“We are not working on any program that enables a site to pay to increase ranking in organic search results.”
The idea that any company is going to guarantee a search result simply makes no sense, and it would be especially tricky in the local space. Local search results change, depending on your province, city and can even be influenced on the time of day.
With the influx of so many SEO “experts” into the field over the last few years, it’s not really a surprise when discussion topics begin to crop up about some old topics. The most recent discussion which has had me pondering who might actually work with this individual, involved one of these aforementioned experts.
Apparently they’ve noticed that when they made content changes on their website, it has zero impact on their search rankings. The point which this began to bother me, is somewhere along the way this search engine otpimization expert had learned or decided that your content was what would make you or break you online. That is true to an extent, but just like you need more than just flour to make a cake, your content isn’t the only factor that will make your website king. Content is not the only piece of the puzzle, just like social isn’t, just like working for quality links isn’t, just like a properly coded and built web site isn’t. They’re all pieces in the SEO puzzle, they need to be put together properly and completely to make you a leader in your field.
Google, Bing, and Yahoo have maintained for years that the content of your website is tantamount to your ranking within the SERPs, but it’s not the only deciding factor. Your tags, your headers, your images all tell a story to the spiders who digest your content and file your website accordingly. If you own a business which makes blue shoes and your content is about red umbrellas with tagged pictures of yellow bananas, then you’re not going to get too far on the SERPs for any term as you’re not relevant to any of them. If however, you’ve created your website, developed your content around blue shoes, provided and tagged pictures of them and optimized your web site properly? You will be viewed as highly relevant should anyone search for the topic ‘blue shoes’ online.
I think the best way to describe how content relates to your SERPs appearance would be – your content is how you tell the spiders who you are. If your content is relevant to all of the elements present on your website, you will be rewarded for your hard work. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to craft your content to be as relevant to your niche as possible, then there should be no surprise if you do not appear in the index for terms you may wish to rank for.
How did the internet get started? Here is one story you might find interesting
In ancient Israel , it came to pass that a trader by the name of Abraham Com did take unto himself a young wife by the name of Dot.
And Dot Com was a comely woman, broad of shoulder and long of leg. Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot Com.
And she said unto Abraham, her husband, “Why dost thou travel so far from town to town with thy goods when thou canst trade without ever leaving thy tent?
And Abraham did look at her as though she were several saddle bags short of a camel load, but simply said, “How, dear?”
And Dot replied, “I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price. And the sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah’s Pony Stable (UPS).”
Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums. And the drums rang out and were an immediate success. Abraham sold all the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent.
To prevent neighboring countries from overhearing what the drums were saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers knew. It was known as Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS), and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures – Hebrew To The People (HTTP).
And the young men did take to Dot Com’s trading as doth the greedy horsefly take to camel dung. They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS.
And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land. And indeed did insist on drums to be made that would work only with Brother Gates’ drumheads and drumsticks.
And Dot did say, “Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others.” And Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel , or eBay as it came to be known. He said, “We need a name that reflects what we are.”
And Dot replied, “Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators.” “YAHOO,” said Abraham. And because it was Dot’s idea, they named it YAHOO Dot Com.
Abraham’s cousin, Joshua, being the young Gregarious Energetic Educated Kid (GEEK) that he was, soon started using Dot’s drums to locate things around the countryside. It soon became known as God’s Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (GOOGLE).
That is how it all began. And that’s the truth.
Did Bing play dirty over the shopping holidays? If you tried at all this most recent Cyber Monday to use the Bing search engine, the signs currently point to yes, they did play dirty with their results.
The creators of the idea of Cyber Monday, found themselves lost in Bings search listings because according to Bing their content was too “thin”. If the term is familiar, it’s because it sounds a lot like Google-speak when they started rolling out the infamous Panda updates and culling “thin content” based websites from their index. A difference to note however, Panda didn’t actually remove the offenders from the index, it just meant the odds of those sites ranking well plummeted.
Back now to Bings version of taking care of thin content and removing websites which fall into this category. Cyber Monday is now a billion dollar online shopping event, where website owners have the opportunity to make some good money heading into the holiday shopping weeks. If a site which could promise and deliver strong referrals could rank well, they would also stand to make a fair bit of change. Shop.org came up with the term Cyber Monday in ’05 and a year later created the corresponding website, cybermonday.com. This past Cyber Monday Google had the website in their SERPs, while Bing did not. Bing did however, have their shopping channel listed at the top of their results for searching cyber monday.
Bing has stated previously that they will dispense internet justice on sites deemed unworthy to be listed as part of their SERPs, but completely removing any and all traces of a site? Bing defines spam as:
Some pages captured in our index turn out to be pages of little or no value to users and may also have characteristics that artificially manipulate the way search and advertising systems work in order to distort their relevance relative to pages that offer more relevant information. Some of these pages include only advertisements and/or links to other websites that contain mostly ads, and no or only superficial content relevant to the subject of the search. To improve the search experience for consumers and deliver more relevant content, we might remove such pages from the index altogether, or adjust our algorithms to prioritize more useful and relevant pages in result sets.
So by removing the cybermonday.com website, if Bing were to stick to their guidelines they should remove all “thin” websites which fell under the same blanket. Yet they did not entirely and websites which feature almost identical content to the cybermonday.com website still appeared in their results. To further muddy the waters, the Bing powered search results which were served up in Yahoo would turn up Black Friday “websites” which would be deemed even thinner than the Cyber Monday website. With all the fuss that Bing was putting up about Google favoring their own results over all others, this sure doesn’t look well on the Bing radar. The Panda updates may drop websites rank if they’re found as being too thin a website, but at least they’re not completely removing them from the index ala Bing.
I had an odd occurence recently in terms of how search is evolving and it involved a rogue browser extension. It’s mildly annoying when you have a toolbar become installed in your browser of choice, but it’s frustrating when it’s installed without your expressed knowledge, say by having the install clause buried in a EULA for another program.
The rogue extension in question was Surf Canyon, a real time search reorganizer would be the short description. With the internet being comprised of literally trillions of web pages, search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo are the big hitters in locating what you need online. They all offer their own pros and cons, Google is the weapon of choice for the majority of searchers out there for the past 10+ years.
Real time search results have become a challenge for all of the search players, with everyone working to get a solid solution to serving up relevant results which compliment the current organic offerings. The idea behind Surf Canyon extension is that it personalizes the web for you as you search. A fine enough idea, what was actually noticed however was the extension has somewhat a mind of it’s own.
Toolbars are a nuisance in a browser, fake links on webpages are a pain as you don’t really know what’s real and what isn’t without clicking. But a browser extension which supplants false links into webpages which you know have no outgoing links? That’s poor business practice and sketchy access to a computer and browser history.