Search Engine Webcasts

I’ve been watching Berkeley webcasts for some time now, but I recently noticed that during this past fall, The School of Information Management and Systems had a class on search engines.

On the webcast site, you can watch the talks given by:

And more.

I found Dr. Najork’s talk real interesting. He spent the majority of his talk covering web spam techniques and which techniques search engines could detect. I’d recommend everyone spending sometime to listen through his talk. He goes through every well-known spam technique and describes ways search engines can train themselves to detect spam. Given enough processing time and a large enough document set, expect the search engines to detect spammy sites.

Google Stock Target at $575

How high can Google’s stock go?

From TheStreet:

JMP Securities raised its 12-month price target on the stock to $575 from $400. Google shares, which have doubled this year and are up fourfold from their August 2004 initial public offering price, rose 76 cents to $427.09

Google Purchases 5% Stake In AOL

Looks like Microsoft lost this deal. I think this deal is actually a way for Google to start tapping into more of AOL’s userbase and content. Google can potentially gain so much more than advertisement space on AOL’s web properties. I’m thinking of AIM, AOL users, Time-Warner’s video content, etc. Incorporating Google branded software (Google toolbar, Google desktop, Firefox with Google search) in AOL cds could be another route. I’d expect to see many more Google/AOL deals in the future.

From the WSJ Article:

Time Warner Inc.’s AOL and Google Inc. have entered exclusive negotiations over a deal that would have the search giant pay $1 billion for a 5% stake in AOL, deepening their advertising partnership, according to a person close to the situation.

The talks shut out Microsoft Corp., which has been wooing AOL since January.

As part of the deal, AOL would be able to sell advertising among the search results provided by Google on AOL Web properties. AOL’s sales staff would also sell display ads across Google’s network of Web publishers.

More details at SEW and the BBC.

Web CEO Review

You might have noticed that I have a Web CEO advertisement running on my sidebar now – I agreed to post my own honest review of Web CEO as part of the the advertisement deal.

So for the past couple weeks, I’ve been using the Professional Unleashed version of Web CEO for various seo/sem tasks – specifically for keyword research, rank checking, and link analysis.

Web CEO is a suite of 10 seo tools:

  • Research Keywords
  • Optimize Pages
  • Edit Pages
  • Submit URLs
  • Check Rankings
  • Analyze Link Popularity
  • Get Traffic Reports
  • Upload Files Using FTP
  • Control Site Quality
  • Monitor Site Uptime

Out of the ten tools, I really only used three – research keywords, check rankings, and analyze link popularity.

Research Keywords

This tool reminds me of Wordtracker with a much better interface and a few less features. You can search for variations on an initial keyword phrase and the tool returns related keywords, daily searches, competition count, and kei. After building up a keyword list, you can then see what sites google returns for each keyword search and each site’s pagerank. Pretty useful for doing a real quick competition analysis.

Check Rankings

This tool is your basic rank checker with history and a nicer layout. You have the option of sorting the report by keyword or search engine, making it real easy to compare results. The history feature is a big improvement compared to other free tools – many do not allow you to save a history of your previous reports. Color coding is nice too.

Analyze Link Popularity

I liked this tool alot. Similar to some other free tools but this one allowed me to view the data in various formats. This tool does a backlink check on a site and saves the anchor text, referrer, and page. Most checks took a while, so I’m assuming this tool actually scrapes the search engine results and the linking page. Good to look at how natural your links look and the variation on anchor text.

Overview

Overall I liked Web CEO but I doubt I’ll be using it regularly. There was no save feature on my copy of the software, so I was not able to save my data – sometimes history data was saved, sometimes it wasn’t. I believe a paid version of the software allows for exporting.

The other tools in the suite were fairly useless to me – I don’t need a new editor/ftp client and I don’t need help optimizing my sites.

For the tools I did use, I have access to better alternatives. For keyword research, Wordtracker offers a more expensive but more comprehensive tool for discovering related keywords. For rank checking and link popularity, I use in-house software.

Bottom line – Web CEO is a convenient place to access your basic tools. This is good suite for beginner seos without their own tools or do not want to go through the hassle of visiting several different free online tools. The keyword research tool, although basic, is easier to use and generally better than what you can find online for free. Organizing several projects is a breeze with Web CEO, so if you have problems keeping track of several campaigns, you might want to think about Web CEO.

I do recommend that everyone spend some time testing the software suite – the basic version of Web CEO is free.

New Look for Yahoo Sponsored Listings

Got this through the SEM 2.0 group. Looks like Yahoo will be updating it’s look. Basically, Yahoo is cutting down the number of characters it will be displaying for Sponsored Listings.

Subject: New look for Yahoo! Search Results, More Clicks for You

Dear Advertiser,

A new look is coming to the Yahoo! search results pages that will translate into more clicks for your listings. On January 18th, Yahoo! will debut a streamlined design that will make the search results displayed on Yahoo! even easier for consumers to read. Our research has shown that by improving the search experience in this way, advertisers can generally expect to see an increase in clicks, while maintaining their conversion rates.

How this change impacts your listings:

* Yahoo! will display shorter descriptions for Sponsored Search listings

* You don’t have to make any changes to your listings; they’ll be automatically shortened for you when displayed on Yahoo!

* If you’d like to optimize your listings for Yahoo!, begin your description with one short sentence that includes your keyword and focuses on your most important information in the first 70 characters

* Over time, we will fine tune the exact character count that we believe works best for advertisers and search users

* Most of our partners, including MSN, CNN, ESPN and Infospace, will still display longer descriptions for your Sponsored Search listings, though the exact length may vary from partner to partner

Yahoo! is taking this step to improve the search experience for its users. By continuously focusing on delivering highly relevant search results in a user-friendly format, Yahoo! also gives you the best possible platform for reaching customers interested in what your business provides.

Sincerely,

Your Partners at Yahoo! Search Marketing

Alexa Web Search Platform

Wow. I was checking out the Amazon web services homepage for some affiliate stuff and noticed there were some new Alexa related web services. Turns out Alexa is opening up their crawler and index to anyone who wants to use it, for a cost. The new service is called Alexa Web Search Platform.

So how much does it cost?

$1 per cpu hour ($0.50 for reserved but unused hours)
For every hour that a computer is dedicated to your use, your account will be charged $1. Reserved but unused time will be billed at $0.50 per hour unless 1) the reservation is canceled at least 48 hours prior to the start of the reservation or 2) the reservation has not started and is canceled less than one hour after it was made.

$1 per GB/year of user storage
A multi-terabyte storage system, the ‘User Store’, is available to store user applications, source code, and data processing output. Your total storage is measured twice hourly and billed at a rate of $1/Gigabtye/year.

$1 per 50 GB processed
Pay $1 for each 50 Gigabytes of internal data transferred to or from your reserved computers. This bandwidth may result from data transferred for processing, output written to the ‘User Store’, any communication between your reserved compute nodes, and regular system administration activities.

$1 per GB uploaded/downloaded
Pay just $1 for each Gigabyte of data you upload to the Platform or download from the Platform to your home or office network.

$1 for every 4,000 user-published web service requests
Use our self-service publication system to publish new search services. Pay $1 for every 4,000 requests to those services.

So what exactly can you do with the Alexa Web Search Platform?

Anything you would be able to do if you actually owned Alexa. You can crawl documents, process documents, create your own vertical search engine, create new web services, or store large amounts of data. This opens up the possibility for businesses to be built upon this platform. You can bet Google and Yahoo are going to think about releasing something similar in the future.

How much would you pay to have your own copy of the entire internet? Or be able to analyze whole markets without having to buy the resources you would need to process all that information? This is a big deal and a great way for Amazon to grow a big user base rapidly.

Here’s an example of what can be built on the platform: http://photos.alexa.com/

Right now the only code sample Amazon has is of a Java REST Sample making a request, but I’m sure as the news spreads there will be many more examples.

For more information, take a look at the Alex Web Search Platform User Guide. Over the next week, I’ll try and write up a more comprehensive post on how to use the web service.

What does this have to do with search engine marketing?

Well for one, you could build a tool analyzing every single page that links to your site – including anchor text, subject, the sites that link to those pages, alexa traffic of those sites, etc, etc – for a very small cost to process. Personalized link network analysis of client sites would be a great service. Right now our current tools are based on what Google and Yahoo return back through their APIs. The information we get back through the APIs may not be exactly the information Google and Yahoo use to calculate rankings. With access to your own full blown search engine, we have access to the same information the big search engines do.

With this service you can not only see who is linking to you, but who is linking to those sites – a real link network. You can filter out by criteria important to you. Let’s say you only need data on search engine marketing sites, you can filter for that. Or maybe you need search engine marketing sites with a certain level of traffic and amount of incoming links, you can filter for that. This is a powerful tool.

I can also see many mashup type applications being built off of this service – individualized search engines, vertical search engines, specialized reports, etc.

Update: Battelle had the inside scoop earlier today.

Update #2: Danny Sullivan doesn’t think Alex Web Search Platform is anything new, but I think he’s missing the big picture. This is not roll your own vertical search service. John Krystynak understands why the alexa web search platform is a big deal though.

Matt Cutts on Paid Links

Great post over on Matt’s blog about paid links and how easy it is for Google to know what you are doing with your link networks.

They had lots of really good backlinks, including industry-specific links. But I could also tell that they’d been buying some backlinks. And they were buying backlinks from the exact same place as one of the earlier sites! At the point when in a minute of typing, I can say: you guys are both trying to buy backlinks, and I can tell that you’re buying them from the same network, and here’s an example page from ketv.com where both of you are even on the same page, and it’s not doing you any good at all: that just made my day.

Whats the point? Google knows way more about your link network than you think. So stop trying to game Google and focus on building a good site with great content. Spend more time on clean SEO and creating something people will want to link to.

Yahoo Buys del.icio.us

Yahoo snatches up another Web 2.0 site. This one is the grand daddy of all social tagging sites.

I’d like to change the non-committal answer I gave to this: “Yes! And as of today, del.icio.us is part of the Yahoo! family.”

As Joshua writes, the del.icio.us team will soon be working in close proximity to their fraternal twin, Flickr. And just like we’ve done with Flickr, we plan to give del.icio.us the resources, support, and room it needs to continue growing the service and community. Finally, don’t be surprised if you see My Web and del.icio.us borrow a few ideas from each other in the future.

W3C Teaches You How to Build a Better Web Page

I was looking at some of my referrers and I noticed someone from w3.org had linked to one of my articles. Turns out the link came from their new working draft on web content accessibility. I spent some time reading through the working draft and was amazed at the amount of good information in the document.

The document is a comprehensive guide of the techniques you can use to conform to web content accessibility guidelines. Although the guide is not written from a search engine marketing standpoint, most of the document’s techniques are applicable for search engine optimization.

Here are a couple other w3 documents that can help you craft better web pages:
http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/
http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/
http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20-HTML-TECHS/

Yahoo Answers and New Formats for Site Submission

Yesterday, Jeremy Zawodny announced Yahoo! Answers – Yahoo’s new question and answer service. But what makes Yahoo Answers unique is the approach. You post a question and a real person answers it, sort of like Google Answers but without the price tag.

Gary Price wrote up a nice article about Yahoo Answers over on SEW.

Yahoo also added several new formats for site submissions. You can now submit your list of URLs as an RSS Feed or an Atom Feed – which makes it even easier now since many websites already have feeds of their URLs.