Making Search More Relevant
SEO Competitive Research, Part 6
Part 6 of our series will confront the very critical process of data analysis: what it is and how to create reports for the most effective competition research. The goal is to clarify how to approach the most valuable categories and examine the most critical reports. This article will further explain why certain data categories are vitally important and how to analyze each information source to better understand both your own site and that of your competition.
Getting Back To Search
|FEATURE: Making Search More Relevant
engines are amazingly apt at uncovering the depth of information buried
within the billions of pages that encompass the Web. Yet, despite their
prowess, today's search engines still produce irrelevant search results
for many queries. For instance, search engines are unable to provide an
unbiased, accurate opinion when you want to know if a Hoover is better
than an Oreck. When you search for apple, they don't know if you want
information on the fruit or on the computer.
If last month was about the never ending list of companies suing the engines, this month was about them getting back to core search.
With soccer fanatics glued to their television screens for the FIFA World Cup, the engines did their part to commemorate the event and show off their search capabilities and accuracy. Yahoo! sponsored the tournament, provided users with instant match results and created the weallspeakfootball.com blogging network to get people excited. Google did what they do best and created World Cup OneBox results filled with scores and game times, advertised a World Cup module on its homepage and created specialized logos. Ask also got in on the fun, adorning its homepage with flags from all 32 participating countries and giving users Smart Answers with tons of info on their favorite teams. MSN doesn't like soccer...
Another thing the engines had in common this month: a growing problem with sub sub domains. A DigitalPoint thread alerted users that one ill-intentioned individual was able to get five billion pages indexed and ranked in just a matter of days--a feat even the best SEOs would be unable to duplicate. While MiniMatt assured us the problem was under control, users found out a few days later the problem was nowhere near solved when Craigslist-based sub sub domains were found dominating the engines. Yahoo!, MSN and Ask were all found to have similar problems, though in slightly smaller numbers due to their respectively smaller indexes.
Getting engine-specific (Because I like to be different, I'm going in alphabetical order, not by market share, and leaving Yahoo! out completely.):Ask.com
Ask used its sponsorship of NBC's Treasure Hunters to highlight their uniquely powerful search engine and attract users. What we really liked (beyond the cool T-Shirts and random "Ask Is The Best" exclamations, of course) was they finally began using the Ask blog as an effective marketing tool. In fact, I never would have known about the Treasure Hunters debut if Ask had not blogged about it beforehand.
Ask is also running a "play-at-home" type game for viewers using simple trivia questions they can solve by using the Ask.com engine. While the first edition didn't go off as smoothly as it could have, we have high hopes that Ask will be able to use this new game to shows users the wonder of the Ask.com.Google
Whether it's because Matt Cutts has yet to return from his extended vacation or just that time of the year, Google had a rough month. There were sub sub domain issues, accusations that they were editing results by hand instead of fixing core problems, and the ever annoying idea of Googlebowling was brought back into the limelight.
Will things settle down for Google once Matt returns later today? We hope.
In China, Google.com was blocked for two weeks, overlapping the June 4 anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. China.cn remained available. Would this have happened if Google.cn had never been released? Some people think not.MSN Search
MSN impressed us this month when they threw one of their own into the fire, we mean forums, to get feedback on how they can improve their search engine. Msndude appeared over at WebmasterWorld early last week asking users to define quality and authoritative sites, then this week he was back over at WMW asking users to define Spam (are affiliate sites spam? What's the difference between spam and spam tactics?) and letting them know MSN doesn't update their index on the weekends.
Some used msndude's approach to illustrate how far MSN had fallen (they need users to tell them how to run their engine?), but I think they missed the point. We loved their grassroots approach and appreciate how sincerely they seemed to take user criticism. Good job, MSN.
Microsoft lead the pack with high profile exits this month as Bill Gates announced he would leave his full-time role at Microsoft to concentrate on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, blogger Robert Scoble announced he was leaving to join podcasting startup PodTech, and Vice President of Windows Live & MSN Marketing Martin Taylor left quickly and mysteriously to... well, we're not sure exactly, but we wish him the best!
Vice President of Product Strategy at Chrysler Jeff Bell must have missed the "leave Microsoft" memo and came on board as their new Entertainment Marketing Chief.
Over at Yahoo!, diet guru Jeremy Zawodny transferred out of Yahoo! Search and into the Yahoo! Developer Network, and David Beach, Senior Product Manager of Yahoo Shopping Search, closed out five years at Yahoo! to join tagging engine Wink.
Mark Fletcher and David Warthen did something I would never do - they left their positions at Ask.com. Heh. Mark left his Bloglines brainchild and Ask to spend more time with his family and develop future startups, while Ask Jeeves co-founder David Warthen joined the Answerbag team as Executive Vice President and returned to his question and answer roots.
Om Malik left his Senior Writer position at Business 2.0 to become a contributing editor as he builds GigaOm into a larger business.
In non-people shufflings: Jason Calacanis turned Netscape into a social news portal, combining features of Digg, Google News, Slashdot, del.icio.us and every other site that was doing something original; Gary Price's ResourceShelf moved to Blogger; Yahoo! re-launched Yahoo Video with uploads; Yahoo! Search Marketing left Pasadena and headed over to Burbank for a more Google campus feel; and MSN launched (again?) its AdLab site for search marketers.
If you'd like to see your name appear in the July issue of the SEO Newsletter, Yahoo! Groups is currently accepting applications...
If you're in the Seattle area, Gnomedex is currently going on until Saturday, featuring some of the biggest ner- , um industry experts around. Om Malik, Michael Arrington, Chris Pirillo, Jeremy Zawodny, Robert Scoble and about a million other impressive people whose names we can't find in the non-alphabetized list are expected to be there.
Also this month, Latino SES Miami on July 10 and 11, and ad:tech in Chicago running from the 24th and 25th. We hear SES Miami will feature tasty Google-itos (aka Google mojitos) and Y!SM is said to be hosting a cruise. oOo, make sure to get in on the fun.
And if you're looking for an excuse to go to Disneyworld (and really, aren't we all!), the Affiliate Summit is taking place from July 9-11. Registration closes July 3, so if you're interested, you better sign up quick!
Calling all women bloggers: The second annual BlogHer Conference will hit San Jose July 28th and 29th. This year's theme is how women's blogs are changing the world. Oh, if I lived closer to San Jose...
Congratulations to Barry and SER gang who won the Best Blog award from MarketingSherpa in the Search Marketing category. Our nomination must have gotten lost in my junk mail folder...
Another round of congrats go to Search Engine Watch whose discussion forums celebrated their second birthday this month.
Billonaire Warren Buffett announced he will donate up to 85 percent of his fortune (approximately 37 billion) to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Yowsa. Warren, if you need help finding a home for the remaining 15 percent, give me a call.
Yahoo! joined forces with U2 humanitarian Bono to revamp the anti-poverty site One.org and spotlighted the site on the Yahoo! homepage during its June 16th launch. The project was part of Yahoo!'s "Yahoo! for Good Scrum" program that gives employees up to three months of their typical workday to apply their talents to "projects that deliver a positive impact in the world". I like that.
AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and a host of others are teaming up with the National Center for Missing and Exploited to fight child pornography on the Web. The companies will work to develop a database of signatures to identify and censor known pornographic images, as well as work with law enforcement officials to study the technology predators use to exploit children.
Microsoft and Google are working with tech companies like Intel, eBay and Symantec to create a national consumer privacy law that would inform search engines and their users of exactly what data the government can and cannot subpoena. Know what information can hurt you before you put it out there.
Congratulations to Ask for the very successful launch of its new blog search (which I love), for being named a "rising star" by Fortune Magazine and for becoming the official sponsor of the NBC reality adventure show Treasure Hunters. It won't be long now, boys.
Word on the Wire
If patents tell the story, Microsoft is working on new ways to scan malicious web sites, forming clustering queries, and extracting feature and formatting information from pages.
Eric Schmidt told a bunch of Wall Street analysts he wouldn't build a Google browser just "for the fun of it", but does that really mean we shouldn't be on the lookout for one? eWeek and a host of others say, "give it up". I give them 36 months to launch one.
Need more Google? We hear Google Weaver, Google TV, Google Click to Call and Google Presentation App may all be on the way.
Rumors flew mid month that Link Vault, a major linking network, had been banned from Google. Barry reported doing a search for link-vault.com brought up zero results and doing a site command only brought up one. Link Vault customers also began feeling the Google squeeze, though no one was sure if it was an official ban from the Google Quality team or if similar networks would feel the same pressure.
A "hush hush", rumored-to-be-in-the-works new Google datacenter got way more attention than it deserved this month, especially after the "mystery" datacenter found its way into the New York Times. We thought gaining national coverage sort of blew the "secret", but no one else did. So, word on the wire it is!
If you have any questions or comments on any of the articles above or if you would like to suggest topics for future search engine optimization articles, please contact us at Bruce Clay, Inc.