Tag Archives: search engine

The Importance of Online Image Protection

There’s been a case of defamation in an Australian court where it was claimed that Google (knowingly) defamed someone by tying him to organized crime, both in organic and image search. Google was found guilty by jury, and has been ordered to pay a fine of what amounts to about 30 seconds of work for them ($200,000), but it’s not the fine that has the company a bit worried, it’s the precedent that it would be setting. Google is currently in the process of appealing the decision, we’ll all have to wait to see what happens.

The case was launched off of the search results for both organic and image listings which showed the claimant with ties to the local crime scene. Google responded that they’re not in control of the results page, that they merely list what has been observed as being popular search terms for the area. It sounds like a weak argument, but you can see how Google tracks their top trends by looking at Google Trends, you get a very brief glimpse into what the top searches were for the last day or so.

Back to why this is a bad idea however, to hold Google accountable as a publisher, and not as an information provider. The jury in this particular case decided that Google was guilty as a publisher and created the page which delivered the false information, and the images pages that are served up when you search are Google specific creations. As anyone who has any experience working with images online can tell you, there is the alt tag which can be used to give an image a text like value, which can then be indexed by the search engines. The image results page is actually the most recent target by black hat manipulators the last couple of months, not only because of this feature but it helps them get listed much quicker than pushing for listings in the center of the page.

Google being declared a publisher of the search results pages makes them accountable for the comments that came up in search, even though they never actually created the content themselves. It’s happened a handful of times that have made the news in recent years, with Rick Santorum being the most recent victim of results page manipulations by spammers and some other unscrupulous methods, but the results pages were driven by the users and by the most frequently used search terms. Blaming any search engine, not just Google for the aforementioned issue is like blaming your mechanic for your bus being late getting you to work. Once something is on the internet it’s also notoriously difficult to try and remove, ask anyone of the stars out there who have unflattering photos which pop up from time to time, once it’s online, it is forever. This also brings up the point of online brand protection, and the importance of a positive relationship in the local scene, with proper brand management mistakes like this can be captured and stopped before they begin.

The ruling sets a scary precedent in a way, as if it stands then it opens the door to an increasingly censored internet. Add into the mix that the ITU will be meeting in just a couple of weeks and the issue of net neutrality and freedom of use and access starts to become a threatened point.

The Fine Line of Privacy and Censorship

It’s no secret that Google is the big kahuna where search is concerned, and they make enough money year after year they should have their own printing press. But for the last year or so especially, Google has been the target of some anti-trust and privacy issues across the globe, with advocates pushing for more from the search giant. Claims that it takes too long to clean up your past from the search engine, and blaming the provider for results deemed inappropriate.

The web is at it’s core, a giant repository of everything. Pictures, videos, text, scripts, code and trillions upon trillions of 1s and 0s that make up websites and documents. It is often a strange sensation to be able to go back to an old website you used to frequent, read some of your past ramblings and wonder, what was wrong with me, or, why would I write something like that? With the way the internet holds onto its history, you can often find information about anything or anyone for that matter. You would be hard pressed to think up a legitimate search topic that wouldn’t appear on a search engine somewhere, and it’s highly likely that Google as well has it indexed and stored on one of it’s multitude of data centers across the globe.

It’s that level of access to information that seems to have the hackles of some of the population up, and has them trying to call for regulations on search engines. Soon it won’t be just Google that will be caught up in these privacy and anti trust regulation talks. Google is being made an example of because they’re the biggest target out there, and so, who better to hit. The plain and simple point of contention of access to information isn’t a search problem, I’d blame it more on a generational divide. The yougest users of the web, those 13-18 year olds have grown up with 24/7 access to the web and all of it’s content, while the top end of the user range, that 65+ age range, sees the internet in a completely different way.

40 years ago when a family went on vacation and took snap shots, they didn’t share them with 400 of their friends on a social network. It was maybe the 6-10 close family friends that they shared their details with, and so they could control their information and had a semblance of privacy. Flash forward to now with the same family, and you have little sister posting pictures to Instagram and Facebook, while the 17 year old son is watching a steaming Netflix movie. Mom and dad are using a GPS navigational system with turn by turn functionality, and are setting up a video chat with the friends they’re on their way to visit. Everytime that photo is viewed on Facebook or Instagram, it’s being saved with another web address, in another location. Everytime you’ve used your Skype or iPhone to conduct a video call, the connection and duration has been saved on a data server, and every movie or show you stream online has helped define what your likes and dislikes are with the service, so you can have a better targeted product to view at a later date. It used to be called personal accountability, if you didn’t want to be viewed in a certain way, you just didn’t act that way, and it’s become even more important to conduct yourself well.

Privacy hasn’t disappeared, but it’s definitely not the same as it was 40 years ago, as a person living in the digital age you need to be acutely aware of your online conduct. Because everything you say, do, or post is saved somewhere. Google, Bing, Yahoo, and all of the other search engines just search for information. They do not operate with bias or under the control of some megalomaniac with a god complex who is out to control the world. All they do is take a mess of 1s and 0s, and display them in a way that a person can understand them. And just remember that the information that people are trying so hard to push Google to bury, erase and hide, can be found just as quickly on the other major search engines out there.

Presidential SEO

So finally the election is finished, and the winner has been decided. If for some reason you’ve been living in a cave the last couple of days, Obama took the crown and is set to begin his second term as the President of the United States. And regardless of who you were rooting for, there were some interesting search discoveries over the last couple of months of the battle, which have their roots in search.

A few days back, there was a story run in the Wall Street Journal about how Google was serving up results pages in what some were thinking was a strange coincidence. It seemed that even with being signed out of a Google account, and being on a cookie free browser, the results when searching for Obama almost bcame personalized. The article that was published even went on to say that the search engine was biased when searching for obama and related news, with one story coming right out and saying that the candidates were being treated unfairly. While it would make for a great conspiracy story, the unexciting truth is that it’s just how the Google algo works. Google simply displayed results based on how people searched for terms, the example being

more people searched for “Obama” followed by searches for “Iran” than the number of people who searched for “Romney” followed by “Iran.”

That was the first interesting point, the second follows in a similar vein.

It’s not really news anymore that between the candidates there were hundreds of millions of dollars spent on campaigning, but it was interesting to find that Obama out bid Romney on search ads online at nearly three to one. Both were bidding on the big hitters like ”2012 election” and “2012 presidential polls” to lead people to their campaign websites, but it was the former President who owned the paid advertisements of the results pages. Sticking in the trend of online visibility, Obama had Romney beat across the board with more Facebook fans, website visitors and Youtube video views.

The largest demographic in the voting populace is shifting to a much younger, information hungry crowd, so being able to be found online should be an integral cog in any parties agenda. When you shake all the numbers out from organic results to paid search, it looks like in the end Obama simply out optimized his opponent, and as helped secure himself with a second term.

Google Gains and Losses

With Google making their gaff and releasing their earnings numbers in the middle of the day as opposed to the end of day, it caused a bit of excitement. So much do in fact, that trading on their stock had to be halted, due to their earnings being lower than expected.

The market had already been aggressive with the stock, estimating positive growth in the company. With the final numbers coming in lower than what was expected, it caused the knee jerk reaction that the stock experienced. But just how is it, that one of the most powerful online properties failed to increase earnings when they picked up notable acquisitions like Motorola? Perhaps the answer isn’t as complex as it seems on the surface.

When it comes to search there is a handful of (viable) options for being found online, Google, Bing etc. But one of the avenues that mostly levels the search playing field is paid search, or PPC. Pay per click is almost the gear equalizer, as it’s limited to daily budget and doesn’t have any real bearing on age of domain or rely on heavy back linking strategies, you just need to write a better ad than the other guy. The issue we’ve been seeing in the last 8 months or so is the cost per click on client campaigns, previous costs ran in the 35 to 40 cent range where now we’re seeing increases to the 3 dollar plus range.

It makes it vastly difficult for anyone who doesn’t have a budget of several hundred dollars, equating to budgets of several thousand dollars per month. Short term gains are much more difficult for the mid to small business owner and who knows, maybe a direct correlation was their bottom line.

The Future of Search

Google has been king of the search world, from almost the day it became a tool on the web. There are a handful of other search engines as well, all which do their best to offer a choice when you’re looking for online information.

There’s been some discontent with Google as a service, and it sometimes leaves users craving an alternative to the giant. There is a small problem with that idea however, and it’s the same reason that makes Google so successful. When you consider the basics of search, if you have quality content that people easily link to, you’re going to be well represented on the search engines, Google, Bing, etc. Google has just worked out how to best deliver the most likely content you’re searching for, because it can work out the content and the links leading back to that content.

It doesn’t mean though, that the web and search is due to stagnation. Everyone is working to innovate on the space, trying to find the newest, and biggest evolution in search and online interaction. There are some out there that do their best to be an answer engine, where you can basically query a database for an answer, and there are others out there which pride themselves on being hand curated by teams of human users to help promote the most relevant content. Bing and Google are both trying their hands at integrating your social life into your search results, both with mixed success at the present. But what all of these search engines become stuck and stuble upon, is the same issue, all of the current relevant results are built primarily upon links and link structures to help give value and authority to the website.

The future of search, won’t lie in constructing links back to your quality content, it will be when someone is able to come up with a search engine which can predict what it is you may be searching for. When you’re able to start looking for a new home for sale in a new city for example, and based upon your current, and previous searches it can determine that you’re in need of a new home near a school for your children, and it delivers those results to you as the most relevant. The technology doesn’t quite exist in such a way at the moment, as it would require massive amounts of calculations to hold the web open, ready to pick out the points you’re searching for. But the web and it’s technology do grow everyday, and perhaps soon enough we’ll be able to talk to our devices to find what we want.