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August 30, 2006

Catch Up, Round Up

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No, my faithful readers, I have not forgotten you, but there is a lot to catch up on. So let’s do it.

Google gives you free books
Google has once again won my heart by letting me download full PDF versions of my favorite out-of-copyright books courtesy of Google Book Search. The service is similar to the one offered by Project Gutenberg but offers actual page scans instead of the slightly-hard-to-read text layout offered by PG. The one thing the earlier service does have going for it is its searchable 19,000 title library that (unlike Google) makes it brain-dead easy to find the book you’re looking for. It’d be nice to see Google adopt something similar.

As a book nerd, this gets my heart racing in ways I can’t even describe, though I’d be more excited if I had someplace to actually download these books to. Even thinking about reading Hamlet via my computer screen makes my eyes itch and water. Not that CNet’s method sounds any better. They seemed to be encouraging the printing of these classics. Like from your home printer. Yeah, I’m definitely not going to be doing that.

Readers can find books by searching the “Full books view” option on the Google Book Search homepage and seeing which ones have the “download” button enabled. Unfortunately, the only way to find this out is by clicking on each title. Perhaps Google could create a “Downloaded Books Only” option because it’s pretty disappointing to watch a title fall out of grasp when you realize you can’t download it. I’m easily let down.

And also, here’s hoping Google can work out some sort of iTunes-esque deal with content publishers so still-under-copyright books can be added to the pot as well. That would be super.

Are ContentAds coming?

Similar to last week’s Panama emails, MSN has reportedly emailed select advertisers inviting them to take part in a ContentAds pilot starting this fall. The pilot was originally mentioned during the Pre-SES Community briefing earlier this month. At the time we were told the initial release would be text-based only and target basic functionality. Hopefully some of the special invitees will let the rest of little people in on what the program actually looks like.

Jensense aka Jennifer Slegg says based on the wording of the email, MSN will not only run on MSN sites like MSN Money and MSN Real Estate, but on non-MSN sites as well. It will be interesting to see how lucrative these ads are for publishers, as contextual advertising is often compared to banner ads, having higher conversion costs with low click throughs.

There’s no word yet on how many people have been invited to test out the program or when we may see a public offering. If MSN has any sense they’ll do their best to release before Yahoo! unveils Panama. Of course, as both Yahoo and MSN hold back their product, they’re just allowing Google to gain more and more ground.

‘Tis the Season

The Inside AdWords blog issued us all a reminder: the kids are going back to school, the mornings are starting to get colder and it’s time to make any seasonal changes to your AdWords account.

This means if your PPC listings are talking about bikinis and sunscreen, it’s officially time to change them over to sweaters and snow boots. Don’t worry, it’s exactly what the Find and Edit Keywords Tool was made for.

Search Engine Scorecard

The folks behind the SimSearch blog have put together a search engine scorecard, explaining “the search engines have been ranking Web pages for years; it’s time for us to rate their performance.” Right on, guys!

Here’s how they did it.

“Once a month we perform the above searches using each search engine’s default settings. To keep things simple, we award a ballpark grade to each search engine. That is, a C may be as high as a C+ or as low as a C-.”

MSN and Yahoo! have both received excellent ratings so far this year with mostly A’s across the board. Google seems to be having a more difficult time, walking away with a “C” average overall (no curve for Bigdaddy, I guess). The group also included results from 2005 where Yahoo! was the clear winner, practically annihilating its competition.

I’m always amazed when MSN seems to rank well in these “taste test” situations because I’ve never had any luck with the engine myself. Perhaps it’s because these guys are basing their results off (as far as I can tell) how well the engines rank their site for their specific keywords. This may leave MSN better suited to score well since the size of its index is considerably smaller than Google’s and it’s easier to get your site to rank (due to that whole low hanging fruit thing). Take it how you will, but the scorecard proves to be an interesting read.

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