Tagged with " search"
Using the web to find the information and services isn’t a difficult task, most of the time it can be a mundane process to tell the truth. You visit your preferred search provider, type in your terms and go from there. So why such the big deal about who stole what idea from whom, and the fuss over having social results in our search results when they’re entirely different pieces of information?
Because after all, that’s all the web is, a cluster of information which you cherry pick what you want from it. Google has their knowledge graph, which is like looking at a Coles notes version of what you’ve searched for, and Bing has recently adopted the idea and called it Snapshots. It provides the same brief information delivery niche, and likely doesn’t get noticed a good 70% of the time. It’s not because Googles version is just that much better, they’re virtually identical in how they display and offer data, and it likely gets passed over just as much as the Bing variation. It’s just another method to getting the information out there when you search.
How about the social side of the web, there’s Facebook, the dinosaur of Myspace and Google+. Facebook is the monster on the web, with more than a billion accounts passed this year, if they can just figure out what to do with all of the noise that the site generates, perhaps it can come out with some useable information at some point. Because Facebook doesn’t really have a way to generate money, it has it’s few ads that it runs and preferred postings, but that’s been done before and as much as people on the web like change, the ad spaces on Facebook don’t get used anywhere near the same level as the spaces on Yahoo, Bing and Google.
Bing and Google both have their own ideas for meshing the social side of the web into the informative side, but neither has found that magic formula that delivers what the users of today are looking for. On average when someone completes a search, they’re already 50% of the way qualified, either as a buyer or a subscriber – they were prompted by something outside the web in the first place. Facebook doesn’t have the search fomula nailed down to provide any kind of search results page, and the search engines haven’t worked out how to weave the social side of the web into the informational. Yet.
We’ve seen the web grow in leaps and bounds over the last year, the search algorithms have taken the results pages through dips, dives, ducks and doges, and 2013 will likely continue more of the same. The year is likely going to start out fast and who knows, maybe the world will finally see the ideal implementation of a social and search mix on a results page.
Typically when you want to learn the answer to a question, or you want to find the name of that actor in the show you saw, you turn to the internet. Most of the time you have an idea on what site you need to visit to learn your answers, but when you’re not entirely sure where to start you always go back to the beginning of the web. While it’s not really the beginning of the web, search engines do a great job of being a front page, which you can use to access the information you’re looking for.
The web, the way that we interact with it, websites, and search engines have all changed a great deal since this whole thing began. At first the web was just some random websites, that in order to access you needed the IP to get to them. Primarily text based and only informational, it was no where near what we have today. Search engines, Google especially so, have caught the attention of the world. Privacy issues, defamation cases, anti-trust lawsuits, all of them pointed at the largest web index out there, mostly because they’re number one. There is absolute truth about the way Google shares your account information with any devices you use while signed in, it’s how the service learns to deliver you results which you might be interested in. Anti-trust suits are growing mostly for the same reasons that they did against Microsoft a while back with their Internet Explorer browser and how EU users felt they weren’t given a choice with the Windows OS (largely paraphrased). And defamation suits may pick up steam with the recent ruling in Australia, that Google can be viewed as a publisher of the search results page, making them liable for the links they post. In all of these cases the thinking is fairly basic, if you can make the biggest fish in the sea change the way it operates, everyone else will likely follow suit.
A point it seems that lawyers and judges seem to forget however, is that the web is a much bigger place than it was even a few years ago. With somewhere in excess of 2 billion connected users, websites, search engines, and every online resource has had to rapidly change to serve their visitors needs. Search engines like Google and Bing, developed an instant answer service which immediately displays results based on what you’re searching for, based on the most searched terms currently. Instant results vary a fair amount every couple of weeks and often more frequently, but the key point that seems to be ignored: the terms used in autocomplete are the most popular terms that have been searched so far. Your autocomplete searches will vary greatly depending on your search history, the top search trends and the your local search activity. Unfortunately for Google and any other search engine that uses a results page of any kind, the mantra of ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ is still largely unheeded in current court cases.
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 US Thanksgiving has come and gone, and with it Black Friday, the occasion when everyone tries to find the best deal. But the limelight is slowly turning to focus on the new comer to the shopping scene – coined Cyber Monday in 2005. We’d written about the date in early August, as with the internet and the search engines working the way they do, it would give you time to put yourself in a commanding position. Did you take advantage of the forewarning? Or did you just settle for where you are, and lean on your in-store sales? If you did the latter, you’ll likely soon be kicking yourself as the predictions and the numbers are starting to come in.
Cyber Monday was first used in 2005 after the increase in online spending had suddenly jumped. Since then, the industry has climbed to being such a huge business that some stores are reporting that nearly 40% of their yearly income is from this singular online shopping day. And that number will only continue to grow. This year it’s estimated that on this one day alone Americans will likely spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.4 billion dollars in 24 hours, and that’s up a good 17% from last years online spending. With more and more people having more connected devices, from phones to computers, iPads and laptops, the lure to shop online is growing rapidly. The best quote about from comScore came would have to be the following:
Of all the benchmark spending days, Thanksgiving is growing at the fastest rate, up 128 percent over the last five years
That’s a huge portion of income that you could potentially be missing out on just by not taking advantage of the online branding advice we hand out freely here on our blog. The number of 17% growth, year after year needs to be taken with a grain of salt of course, as some industries can expect consistent sales, but as a business owner you need to take stock. What could you achieve with a better online position, what improvements could you make with a 5% increase in income? What about 8%, or 10% for that matter? When you’re ready to find out, contact us here at Fresh and we’ll help you answer those questions.
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.
Online marketing and branding is can be an intensely competitive market, made even more difficult with there being billions and billions of web pages out there about everything you can imagine. And while they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it can tend to be a death note where the search engines are concerned.
With the web being so massive, it’s can be often difficult to say where content originated. Images get copied, text gets scraped and snippets of code gets replicated across the web on untold amounts of websites. Where organic optimization is concerned, it’s a time intensive process to prove original authorship in some cases, and even then it may not make a ton of difference. There is a difference however, where paid advertisements are concerned, such as with Adwords campaigns.
Adwords is a much different platform from organic search, the biggest being you’re paying for your positioning in the results pages. You bid for your chosen keywords, and if your ad copy and your bid are better than your competitors then your ad will appear, frequently before theirs. It’s a lucrative search market namely because it’s where people make their snap buying decisions. Sometimes, there are companies out there which play a little dirtier than others, sometimes copying ads copy directly, or even copying ad titles and format. It is a dirty business practice, and you can compare it to Pepsi mimiking a Coca Cola commercial or tune.
As dirty as it is to copy your competitors titles, copy or entire text, due to the nature of the business they may be allowed to run the ad, that is of course unless you dispute their usage. A prevalent argument that is often found in these cases falls under the Adwords informational site policy, a long winded document that exists to cover the usage of trademarked terms use in Adwords. It basically limits the use of a trademarked term to the original mark holder, or a reseller of the product. The loop hole exists however, when you get to the portion of informational sites, which can carry the trademarked text if the landing page of the ad is informative in nature to the written ad text. Now just because the loop hole exists, it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if your competitor runs an identical ad using your text, your primary step should be to file a dispute in your Adwords account against the ad. You’re also covered in the same trademark policy text where it basically says you can’t use a trademarked term if the goal is to take sales away from the trademark holder.
Make sure to be diligent with your Adwords copy, and if you see someone using your very own text to try and snag away sales then you should be reporting them as soon as possible. If you let it slide, there’s nothing stopping you from losing your next big sale.
Recently Google went and turned on their own tool which enabled website owners to disavow selected backlinks coming to their site. Great tool, that allows a diligent site owner to take control over who links to them. The process is fairly basic as to the steps to follow, you create a text file which you upload to your webmaster tools account with the backlinks you’d like to have disavowed and voila, supposedly case closed.
It seems however, that some people aren’t content with the way the system works. After submitting his disavow list, and resubmitting a reconsideration request they were greeted with the advisory that there was still some bad links pointing to his site. The timeline with which this webmaster is unhappy with, has been a month since their initial submission of their disavowed links. There are a couple of theories about why there are still some problems, but there are also a handful of points that all webmasters who use the disavow link tool need to bear in mind.
A primary point you need to think of when using the disavow link tool, is that it is not an instant or a quick fix tool to any and all back links you might want to remove. Google has data centers all over the globe, and with that it has a number of different versions of your website at any given time. As odd as it may sound, it’s like using a collation system when working on a project through various stages of completion, so when you’re finished you can see what your steps were all the way through. Just like you could look at version 2 of your project development and have an idea of where you were, each data center will have a slightly different version of your site and it’s backlinks. It takes time for any kind of a clean up request to propagate through the entire system.
A second major point that needs minding, is you need to understand that just because you’ve submitted the disavow list, and/or asked the offending back links to be removed, it doesn’t mean it’ll happen quickly (as per the first point) or at all. The tool funtions much like asking another site owner to remove a link to your site, it’s a request, and if it happens you have no control over how quickly it does.
After putting in extensive time and effort into procuring a website and filling it with great content, it’s then that the single most important step you can take online needs to take place. Your search engine optimization efforts – do you hire the professionals, or do you try to take care of it in house. In case you’re asking, the right answer is always hire the professionals, but, if you do decide to take on more than just the basics of good design, there are some pitfalls you need to be aware of.
One of the primary steps you need to consider with a new website if you had one previous, is what to do with all of those old links and content. The right answer, is to properly 301 redirect them and make sure that you’re tieing everything together properly. If you don’t, you’ve basically destroyed any kind of history and relevancy you may have already built with the search engines. Just because you’re revamping your image and/or your marketing drive, doesn’t mean you immediately toss out what you had previous, think of your old site and links your bedrock. If you just toss it to the wind you’re cutting your legs out from under you.
Also in the same line of thinking, just because you may be the big fish in the pond for your industry, that means little or nothing on the search engines. Even if you’ve been the key player for the last 10 years, don’t automatically assume that you know how your current and prospective clients might try and search to find you. Proper keyword research is absolutely imperative in being able to be properly indexed and found online. Just like in the previous example, you’d be selling your site short if you don’t do it right.
Don’t be lazy and take shortcuts, whether it means in your website or in your optimization efforts. If you’ve hired someone to take care of your SEO for you (as you should) then make sure to get periodic updates from them so you can have an idea as to how you’re progressing online. It’s in our best interest to do our absolute best for you, because great ROI for you means great ROI for us, it goes both ways. If you’ve chosen to go your own way and try and perform SEO on your own, be extremely mindful that there are hundreds of ways to get caught up, even accidentally, in the search web. If you don’t know how to navigate through the myriad of mazes that is the search engine optimization process, then you should know enough to call in the big guns.
My last point has to do with the idea of being lazy, and not really knowing what you’re doing, but I won’t elaborate on it a whole bunch as the answer is very simple. Links – if you don’t have the time or the skill to properly build them, do not assume you can buy them. You never buy links.. ever.
And finally after being patient for the last few months, site owners with a Google webmaster account have the final say over how links to your site are treated. From the Google webmaster blog:
Today we’re introducing a tool that enables you to disavow links to your site. If you’ve been notified of a manual spam action based on “unnatural links” pointing to your site, this tool can help you address the issue.
This is going to be a great tool to add into your toolkit if you use webmaster tools directly, and if you don’t you should check that your site manager is keen on what the tool can actually do for you. A quick rundown of how links to your site affect you – you create content, and if it’s unique content that is relevant to your niche then users will generate a link to that page. These links are used as a factor when determining relevance in the results pages for the terms you may wish to rank for, and if you’ve created great content then the links will follow. More links is used as a measure of relevance, so the more the better. Well there’s a downside to links and that happens if you have too many ‘unnatural’ links pointing to your site. That would be having links from a plumbing site pointing back to your website on shoe sales, the two topics are irrelevant to each other. The recourse you had as a site owner in this instance was to contact the website that posted the link to your site and asked to have it removed, it was then out of your hands and left for them to deal with, and until it was you could be handed a stiff penalty from search engines.
The problem with that scenario is after you’ve notified the site owner to remove your link, you no longer had control of what happens next. But with the addition of the disavow tool in Google, you can now take matters into your own hands and manage the backlinks coming into your site. it’s a great step in cleaning up the web and improving the relevance of the search results overall. You can find out more about the disavow tool here.
Google has always had the spotlight when it comes to search since it revolutionized the way users access the web. It’s grown to a point where in the last year they consolidated all of the privacy clauses into one, giant blanket one that affected all of their online properties.
An example of moving forward with search, I’ve mentioned a handful of times in the blog, is the DuckDuckGo search engine. Recently the small search company produced a video where they talked about how Google has each use caught in what they called a search bubble. Where they took more than 100 users, ensured they were not signed into their Google accounts and had them conduct searches on specific terms and captured their results.
What they found, was that even when the users were not signed into their accounts, and even in the same geographical area, they received differing results pages. It’s not a revelatory video really, as Google isn’t the only company on the web that utilizes browser cookies to determine who a user is and what they may like. Not to discredit what DuckDuckGo is hinting at, but with such a small sampling, and by allowing users to use their personal computers without clearing any session cookies, it’s no wonder the results were different for each user. Perhaps with the addition of a control group, a group of 20 users or so who were using completely clean installs of a browser and OS would help balance their results.