Quick Google Update

Just a short Google update since there is better coverage over at SEW/SE Roundtable.

During Google’s Press Day yesterday, Google announced the release of four new products:

Google Co-op is a way for users to help us improve search. It lets people and organizations label web pages and create specialized links related to their unique expertise. Whether it’s information about a hobby, a profession, or an unusual interest, everyone can contribute to making Google search more relevant and useful for the entire community.

Google Desktop 4 gives you another way to improve search, by personalizing your desktop. New “Google Gadgets” deliver an array of information–ranging from games and media players to weather updates and news–straight to your desktop.

Google Notebook (which we’ll be launching next week) is a personal browser tool that lets you clip text, images, and links from the pages you’re searching, save clippings to an online notebook, and then share notebooks with others.

Google Trends builds on the idea behind the Google Zeitgeist, allowing you to sort through several years of Google search queries from around the world to get a general idea of everything from user preferences on ice-cream flavors to the relative popularity of politicians in their respective cities or countries.

I’ll be taking a look at Google Co-op and posting more information about it in the future.

Livesearch on AlltheWeb

Yahoo just launched a new feature called “Livesearch” on AlltheWeb.

Livesearch is a combination of Google Suggest, Related Searches, and Instant Search. With some slick use of AJAX to make searching faster, Livesearch aims to speed up search time.

Yahoo plans to introduce new search features over at AlltheWeb in the future:

AlltheWeb is a search destination that has its roots as a showcase of new and innovative technology – for example AlltheWeb was the first site to roll out the calculator functionality within the search box. The site will remain true to its roots as we continue to introduce new technologies there in the future.

Search Marketing Standard is Out

Just got this email from Boris Mordkovich – the Publisher of Search Marketing Standard magazine.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that after 5 months of hard work, the inaugural issue of the first and only SEM publication is now officially out.

It has been mailed to over 15,000 subscribers last week. U.S. based readers can expect it in their mailboxes this week, while International will be receiving it within the next 10 business days.

The magazine will also be distributed to all attendees of the Affiliate Summit conference in Florida in July and PubCon conference which will take place in Las Vegas in November.

Once you receive the magazine, please email me (boris@smstandard.com) with your questions, comments and suggestions. We want to know what you think and your feedback is very important to us. Every single email will be read and responded to.

Thank you for your support and we hope that you will enjoy reading our Summer issue.

Best Regards,
Boris Mordkovich
Publisher

I’m looking forward to getting my copy soon!

Google Crys Anti-Trust Over IE7

From Wired:

Google has informally complained to U.S. and European antitrust regulators about what it says are biased settings on Microsoft’s latest web browser, marking the latest spat between two companies whose business models are increasingly bumping up against one another.

Here’s the feature that Google is complaining about:

The next version of Internet Explorer, available now in test form, includes a box in the corner that lets people perform an internet search without going to a separate web page, much like what’s available from Google’s downloadable “toolbar.” Users who download IE 7 will be assigned a search engine preference based on the AutoSearch function from the previous version of IE, which is likely to be MSN Search.

Funny isn’t that the same feature as Firefox? Except with Google as the default search engine?

Traffic Determines Google UI Snippet Links

Update: This article discusses how Google determines the snippet links – not how Google determines what sites return snippet links. I hope that clears things up.

There’s been a bit of discussion over these snippet links over on SEM 2.0 and no one really knows how Google is determining these links. I spent some time researching the links and I believe Google is using traffic data to determine these links.

First off a bit of background for those of you that don’t know which Google UI snippets I’m talking about.

For some sites, Google exposes “useful links” from within the site. For example, Google will show extra links from Berkley’s web site for a search on “Berkley”. Matt Cutts has said before that these links are generated algorithmically.

People who know Google well will go “Cool” and move on. Other folks will ask things like “Are sites or their links selected by hand–can my site get in on this? Is money involved?” And the answer is: it’s all algorithmic. The algorithms pick the sites where this could be helpful. Of course money isn’t involved at all.

But how exactly are these snippet links being determined?

First off let’s analyze an interesting example – A search for “adidas” will return to you 4 snippet links: Style – Originals – Performance – Change Location.

This is a good case study because adidas’s homepage only contains 5 links in total and out of those 5 links, 4 are shown as a snippet link. From a user standpoint, you’d be suprised that Google did not return the shop link as a snippet link. That’s because the link is to a page (shopadidas.com) not on the home domain, adidas.com.

Now let’s take a look at the Style link returned by Google. It’s actually a javascript link around an image on the homepage. Google has indexed the link and the alt text.

Interesting, so how is Google picking up the javascript link? They’d have to parse the javascript and that could potentially lead to some security issues. There’s an easier way though – Google could use toolbar data. If you are using the Google Toolbar’s advanced features, when you visit a web page, the toolbar sends Google some information including the url of the page. This data could be used to track linking data that Google’s crawler can not successfully crawl. In other words, with the Google Toolbar, you are Google’s crawler.

Could Google’s toolbar traffic be determining which links they are showing as Google snippet links?

Since you don’t have access to Google’s toolbar traffic data, you have no way of seeing what Google knows about a site’s traffic. But you can compare Alexa traffic to Google snippet links to see if there is a correlation. It’s easier to compare snippet links to Alexa traffic if the domain contains many sub domains, so I took a look at some of those domains to see if there was a pattern. Take a look at this excel sheet to see some domains that resemble Alexa traffic trends (go.com, cnn.com, zdnet.com, netscape.com, w3c).

Best example:


Craigslist’s snippet links are a perfect match to Alexa traffic. There are some discrepancies for sites with multiple “homepages” – for example yahoo, where people may start off at different yahoo properties and thus affecting Alexa traffic data. It’s hard to tell whether or not you traveled to another page from the homepage or you started from that different page – both ways, Alexa counts that as traffic to the page. Most likely, Google is only considering traffic that originates from the homepage.

Summary:
Google snippet links are most likely determined by traffic patterns. Since Google does not allow access to toolbar traffic data, there is no way to know for sure. Many site’s snippet links closely resemble Alexa traffic stats.

Findings:
Google snippet links do not return links outside of the home domain.
Google snippet links do not have to be from a text link, it can be an image link or even a javascript link.
Google snippet link text can be determined from an image’s alt text.
Google snippet links can be subdomains of the home domain.
Google snippet links are not determined by PageRank.
Google snippet links are displayed for the top result for a “brand” search or “domain” search. (For example, “zappos” and “zappos shoes”)

Google Calendar

If you haven’t checked it yet – Google Calendar. You can manage multiple calendars and share calendars or events. I like the clean UI and the search functions. I can already tell that I’ll be using this over Outlook’s calendar. Google has made it real easy for you to switch since Google Calendar allows you to import event information in iCal or CSV (MS Outlook) format.

In addition to the basic calendar features, Google Calendar also includes an Agenda view, repeating events, and reminders.

My favorite feature is the SMS notification – you can setup Google Calendar to remind you of events by text message. If you don’t want to be notified on your cell, you can use the default email option.

Here’s a sample shared event. Reminds me of Upcoming’s badge and event system.

Quick rundown of the features:

Calendar Sharing: Set up a calendar for your company softball team, and share it with the whole roster. (Your shortstop will never forget about practice again.) Or share with friends and family so you can view each other’s schedules side by side.

Invitations: Create event invitations, send them to friends, and keep track of people’s responses and comments, all in one place. Your friends can receive your invitation and post responses even if they don’t use Google Calendar themselves.

Quick Add: Click anywhere on your calendar where an event belongs (or use the Quick Add link), and start typing. Google Calendar understands whole phrases like “Brunch with mom at Java Cafe 11am on Saturday,” and will pop new events right into your agenda.

Gmail Integration: Add your friend’s Super Bowl party to your calendar without ever leaving your Gmail inbox. Gmail now recognizes events mentioned in emails.

Search: Find the date of the Baxter family BBQ (you knew it was sometime this summer). Or, search public calendars to discover new events you’re interested in and add them to your own calendar.

Mobile Access: Receive event reminders and notifications on your mobile phone.

Event Publishing: Share your organization’s events with the world.

Yahoo Travel, Trip Planner, and Travel Web Services

Yahoo combines Web 2.0 style communities, Travel search and Web Services to create one cool travel planning experience.

Now when you search for travel related terms on Yahoo, you’ll be served one box result that taps into Yahoo’s FareChase.

Yahoo! FareChase (which is now in general availability) is a travel search engine that searches across many airline sites like AA.com, hotel sites like Sheraton.com, and on-line travel agency websites such as Orbitz.com and Cheaptickets.com, to give searchers a comprehensive set of prices and availability for flights and hotel rooms that is available on the web.

FareChase resembles offerings from similar services like Kayak but does not poll as many sources. Here’s a list of some of the travel sites that FareChase searches. Compare that to Kayak’s airline and travel lists.

My favorite part of Yahoo’s new service is the community integration – Yahoo Trip Planner. Take a look at some of the features – very Web 2.0. You can share your trip, create a trip profile, receive comments on your trip, add maps, combine guides, rate trips, add photos, add a journal, and more. Tons of stuff that you will be better off playing with.

Trip Planner is a tool on Yahoo! Travel that lets you save hotels, attractions, restaurants, maps and more to a customized travel guide. You can add travel dates, your own comments, even bookmarks for other sites to your trip. Once you’ve created your trip, you can print a copy to bring with you, or access it from any computer with Internet access.

More about Trip Planner at the FAQ.

This will open different advertising opportunities as search engines continue to develop rich interfaces to aggregate information. Google has already started to experiment with Google Map advertising and Yahoo is sure to follow. Yahoo has the tools to combine their search services with community building experience and this is another product showing the collective effect of both.

Even more exciting is the release of Yahoo APIs for the new services. You can use the APIs to search for public trips by keyword or place a FareChase box on your site. By combining user generated content (trip guides and plans) with search, Yahoo is doing what other search engines aren’t – smart search with community input. This type of search is a review based search and I can see this extending to Yahoo’s already huge base of content and reviews. I bet we see similar things coming for movies, shopping, real estate, music, etc. Product data combined with user reviews will be huge.

Sidenote: I’d like to see something like this for blog comments. (Not coComment)

Searching Google with Your Voice

From ArsTechnica:

Patent #7,027,987 issued today by the US Patent and Trademark Office covers a “Voice interface for a search engine,”…Translation: the system listens to your spoken query, does its magic, and returns the results.

Google has not publicly commented on this voice search effort, although the company’s Alexander Franz did co-author a an article on the topic back in 2002 (PDF). Nevertheless, it is clear that this service would be ideal for users of Google’s mobile search. In fact, voice recognition could possibly power Google’s mobile search right into competition with local 411 services.

With voice recognition, Google would control the mobile search space if Yahoo does not work fast to offer the same service. Voice recognition technology could later be extended to podcasting and audio search.

Tieing in all of Google’s search services with a mobile interface (cellphones) would allow users to tap into the power of search at all times. Combined with Google’s eventual entry into the personal data storing space (personal files, not just email/blogs), this technology could allow users to access all their data at anytime and anywhere with a simple voice command.

More Google UI Tests

Dave Winer notices some new Google UI tests.

What’s interesting is the UI allows users to search deeper in a site from the original listings. Also looks like the content is a javascript dropdown div – more content and more time spent on Google’s search page. If users can get the content they want without having to leave, that’s a win for Google. Not so great for publishers though.

Noticing Google Changes

Still researching this but I’ve been noticing a change in Google rankings.

More than before, pages that belong to strong domains are ranking real well without good content or good backlinks. As long as the top level domain is strong, all their indexed pages are seeing a huge boost.

Anyone else noticing this?

MSN Search Down

Looks like MSN is having some issues:

This service is currently unavailable

Our team is working to restore service as quickly as possible.
Please try your request again later.

Posted in MSN

Google Base Creep

In addition to real estate, what other Google Base searches are creeping into Google Web Search?

What about Google Jobs? Top listing brings you to Google Base.

Google Recipes? Same thing.

What about Google Vehicles? Well not yet, but I bet soon.

What about Google Protein?

Want to see the next Google Base vertical page? Add “&ui=g” along with “&a_n0=term” to the query. If the page returned is usable, you’ll get a sneak peak at the upcoming interface. (Google Research Articles, Google News and Articles, Google Events)

New AdWords Feature

From SEW Forums:

We have a new option within Adwords. See below. Ultimately, you can try and determine the position of specific keywords within an account. If you go into Edit Settings you can activate this for each or all the campaigns and then decide at KW level.

Position preference lets you tell Google where you would prefer your ad to show among all the AdWords ads on a given page.

Whenever you run a keyword-targeted ad, your ad is assigned a position (or rank) based on your cost-per-click (CPC) bid, your keyword’s Quality Score, and other relevant factors. There may be dozens of positions available for a given keyword, spread over several pages of search results.

If you find that your ad gets the best results when it is ranked (for
example) third or fourth among all AdWords ads, you can set a position preference for those spots. AdWords will then try to show your ad whenever it is ranked third or fourth, and avoid showing it when it is ranked higher or lower. If your ad is ranked higher than third for a given keyword, the system will automatically try to lower your bid to place your ad in your preferred position.

You can request that your ad be shown only when it is:

* Higher than a given position (such as above 7)
* Lower than a given position (such as below 4)
* Within a range of positions (such as from 2-8).
* In a single exact position (such as position 2).

You can choose any positions between 1 and 10+ (that is, 10 or any larger number). Separate position preferences can be set for any or all of the keywords in your campaign.

Please note that position preference does not mean that your ad will always appear in the position you specify. The usual AdWords ranking and relevance rules apply. If your ad doesn’t qualify for position #1, setting a position preference of 1 will not move it there. Position preference simply means AdWords will try to show your ad whenever it is ranked in your preferred position, and to avoid showing it when it is not.

Position preference also does not affect the overall placement of AdWords ad units on the left, right, top or bottom of a given page. It only affects your ranking relative to other ads across those units.

Position preferences are not guaranteed. Your ad may still appear in other positions, though we will make every effort to display your ad where you prefer. Once you set new position preferences, it may take a few days for the AdWords system to begin delivering your ad according to those preferences.

Finally, let us note that setting a position preference can sharply reduce the number of impressions and clicks you receive for that keyword. Targeting just one or two positions means your ad will not show at times when it otherwise might have. We encourage you to choose as broad a range of positions are you are comfortable with.

Matt Cutts Grab Bag

Good Q and A session over at Matt’s blog.

Couple things I didn’t like:
The very generic answer about RK. Specially if RK does represent some sort of internal PR calculation.
Rolling out Big Daddy to all the datacenters without fully addressing the supplemental issues first. Why not wait on rolling out Big Daddy across the datacenters until the issues were all fixed/tested.
No answers discussing the 301s.

My favorite comment:

>You could whitelist the IP range that Googlebot comes from in the mean time.
Do you have a listing of all the Googlebot IP addresses?
Thanks.