November 21, 2008
Search engine marketers aren’t having an easy time with Google these days.
Google have made a change to the search results interface which aims to make it more Digg/Wiki like by allowing users to move results up and down the list, delete sites from a results set and even add sites into a set of results.
For the user this is actually a really nice piece of functionality as it allows you to tailor search results to make them more relevant to you, I’m assuming it’s all stored in your web history so future searches keep the customisation.
What this does do is make it really hard for a search engine marketer to know whether what they see as the top ten results on Google is what the users are seeing. In most cases the answer is probably no now.
I think it’s a great move though and could actually help to focus the search engine optimisation industry on making pages more relevant through improving content and engaging users as that is what will encourage them to keep a result high up their list!
Full details on the Google Blog.
January 8, 2008
So, yesterday Bill Gates hinted in his keynote at CES that Microsoft would improve search. It’s an area where they haven’t really shown any improvement in recent years. I thought to myself at the time, maybe they’ve finally realised that it’s all about the algorithm and the quality of results you deliver to users, not in the interface and fancy AJAX tools.
So I watched, and waited, and lo and behold they announce an offer to buy FAST Search and Transfer!
The offer comes to approx $1.2B which is a fair valuation. Rumours are that the shareholders have already approved this and it’s all a formality and will go ahead pretty quickly.
Top move Bill! FAST is a great piece of search technology with many applications. It has it’s heart rooted in providing good algorithms and tailorable search tools which is exactly where Microsoft should be pushing it’s Live Search offering.
Now you just have to integrate this with Adcentre and deliver a Google beating search engine, no small task, that should make the next year very interesting!
December 11, 2007
Eye tracking company Enquiro Research has produced a report (sponsored by Google no less) which shows the importance for brands to be well represented at the top of both natural and paid search listings.
They say ‘There is significant correlation between brands’ appearing in the top organic search and sponsored placements and consumer brand affinity, recall and purchase intent‘. Well that’s pretty obvious, but it’s always nice to have these concepts validated by eye tracking (something that I place great value in as an insight and usability tool).
The most interesting findings are:
This shows that there is definite brand affinity and recall to be gained by being well positioned and using the brand name in your listings. Good advice for travel companies with January coming, I see so many travel listings that are just a destination name and no brand mention at all.
The full report can be found here.
November 6, 2007
Less is more it would seem when it comes to search interfaces. Just look at Google to see the less-is-more approach at it’s best. Their minimal approach to the search homepage works really well, although I do think a big reason for that is that their algorithm is much better at returning relevant results with minimal input from the user.
Prof. John Maeda of MIT Media Lab had put together an interesting image showing the development of both Google and Yahoo’s homepage over time. It’s really interesting to see how Yahoo lost their way and Google stayed true to the minimal approach. Click the image below to see a full size version:
October 2, 2007
I posted the other day surmising whether Yahoo is catching up in search based on some new metrics from Compete. The general feel from that post was that they weren’t really and the numbers were questionable in value.
So, what should I see this morning? New, useful features in Yahoo’s main search interface, the kind of features that make search a whole lot less painful for users and add a lot of value, helping users to target searches more effectively.
The first thing I noticed was that they have integrated images from Flickr and also playable videos, kind of like Google’s universal search idea and equally as useful to the user. So if you search for a music artist (eg. Unkle) you should get images and video in the results along with useful additions such as links to albums, lyrics, photos and more videos. Next I did a search for a hotel (eg. ‘hudson hotel new york‘) in New York (being the online travel buff that I am) and the top result in this case was a Yahoo Local listing for the hotel complete with map links, again extremely useful (although possibly doing themselves out of a small amount of ad revenue here). Another cool feature is the inclusion of custom results for searches such as health related (eg. ‘lyme disease‘), quick easy access to relevant info is the killer in search and here Yahoo have it spot on.
And then there’s the biggest and most useful addition, and it’s an addition that Google haven’t yet implemented… It’s an AJAX based search assistant panel that appears if it senses you hesitate while typing a search query. It works as an auto-complete assistant and also a guided search tool as it will both try to guess what you were typing and give you suggestions as well. This is extremely powerful and really makes search easier for the user. It also adds a lot of value to advertisers as it should mean more qualified clicks on paid search results as the searches are better informed.
I’m actually really surprised this has come out of Yahoo first, I’ve been waiting for Google to implement something like this for a while now but for once Yahoo have the upper hand. Now all they need to do is sort out the problems with their paid search results (relevancy, gaming etc), fix their algorithms for natural search and improve the interface and they could become my search engine of choice!
September 28, 2007
Okay, so Google are still miles ahead on market share in the search world. Below is the latest graph from Compete.com showing just how commanding a lead they have.
However, Compete have some interesting insight into quality rather than reach. Quality in search is rarely discussed and whenever it has been Google has always been assumed to be in the lead there as well due to their massive research and development capabilities.
That may be the wrong assumption though!
Compete have looked at a metric they call search fulfillment. They came up with this because even though there are many searches taking place on the major engines, not all result in a click on a result and a referral. In fact, according to their data out of approx 7.5 billion monthly searches only 5 billion result in a referral.
So, if Google looks like the leader from a search volume point of view, how about from a fulfillment point of view. The graph below shows an interesting picture…
So Google is not getting the referrals the volume suggests it should.
Yahoo seems to do really well from this which I find strange as the relevancy of results in Yahoo never seems as good to me as Google. Of course there are many other possible reasons for this, a couple being that the figures may exclude clicks on paid links and that Google returns much more useful snippets in the results than any other engine often negating the need to click through.
Of course Google’s figures could be vastly inflated by all the agency types, SEO’s and webmasters out there who perform daily searches to check their sites rankings without ever clicking on anything. It would be really interesting to understand those volumes!
September 4, 2007
Japanese authorities have finally recognised the fact that their dominance in all things device and hardware is slipping and that they have missed a trick by not moving into the service side of things such as search.
The Financial Times carries a story about a new initiative to move into researching search and ways to personalise devices such as in-car navigation using search as the building block.
I’d love to think that a state funded program could compete with Google (GOOG), but I fear it will take all of the Japanese inventiveness to come up with anything that comes close. I’d say they’d be better off investing the money into research in new network protocols and ways to usher in a new era of web connectivity. That is after all something the Japanese have always been very very good at.
August 23, 2007
…search, advertising and everything else in between!
During a keynote speech at the Search Engine Strategies conference in California this week, Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Products and User Experience at Google talked about personalisation as key to Googles future strategy for search and most other avenues. She said that within 10-15 years time search sites will understand much more about their users such as location and personal preferences.
She also said it’s important that the ads are personalised too. Now that could have an impact for Adwords advertisers in the future, some advertisers won’t want to limit their coverage by being restricted by individual searchers histories and preferences. Although other advertisers will be getting excited by the prospects of better targeting.
Interestingly she mentioned that Google is looking at changing the presentation of its universal search page “to guide users’ eyes” so they can see the results and the advertisements, her philosophy being that the ads and the search results should match.
She also said that the way Facebook aggregates data about relationships between people, including when they met and how they know each other is interesting. She said “The type of information they’re building about the social graph between people is something that is intelligent and will be particularly useful in the future”. It certainly looks like Facebook have noticed this…