Archive for the ‘search’ Category

What Google Needs To Do Next

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

There are two things that Google needs to do in the next year to maintain its current momentum and market position:

  1. Reinvent itself.
  2. Explore new revenue channels. 

Yes indeed, Google needs to reinvent itself. People like to cheer for the underdog. GoogleGoogle logo used to be in that position. It is no longer the case. Due to its control and substantial market share, Google is now the big kid on the block. With this dominating presence comes a certain level of community backlash and disapproval. Microsoft experienced this and continues to do so.

Google has always had a habit of not only meeting expectations, but also exceeding them by a wide margin. Product launches have caused phenomenal buzz. Product quality has been second to none. Google needs to continue this tradition to be successful and well-liked by the Internet community. Marketing can only go so far. The products must speak for themselves. The lack of innovation, launches, and recent news (acquisition aside) has put the company in a stagnant position. I am not being critical - I am just making an observation. Having said that, I think that big things are in the works. I expect to see a full office suite (obviously), as well as a surprise in the coming months. A social network? A Google browser? A Google wi-fi network? I don’t know, but I have high hopes.

Secondly, Google needs to rethink its revenue model. Putting all their eggs in one basket has worked well for them up until now. Increased competition, click fraud, and lack of diversification are all now working against the company. Something like 98% of Google’s revenue is derived from advertising. This is not sustainable over the long term. The company needs to explore alternatives. Who would have ever thought Rome would fall? What about Enron? The big guy is never at the top forever. Nevertheless, things can be done to hedge against a collapse. For Google, this starts with revenue diversification and perhaps even an overhaul of the current AdWords/AdSense system.

If Google is able to reinvent itself and adopt new revenue channels, I think it has the opportunity to stay on top longer than it would otherwise. I have confidence that the current management team will make the right decisions. Although I doubt any of them read this blog, I hope that they are thinking the same things as I. It would be a pity for Google to run the same course as Microsoft.

The Next Step for Search

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Magnifying glassSearch has come a long way since the glory days of WebCrawler, Excite, and Altavista. The introduction of Google’s PageRank system forever changed the search landscape. Algorithms have evolved and innovation continues to occur. But what is next on the horizon for search?

Verticals, verticals, verticals

I know I keep emphasizing the importance of verticals over and over. However, their value is priceless. I will not rant about them again in this post. Instead, if you want to read more about my stance on verticals, you can do so by reading the following:

Search engine education

Most users are unaware of the full capabilities of a search engine such as Google. Did you know, for example, that Google search can be used as a calculator? A stock quote tool? A parcel tracker? A flight status checker? A dictionary? Chances are you probably don’t. Further education and instruction is needed to maximize the user experience and provide exposure for these little-known functions.

Indexing of ALL pages

This has been a topic of discussion for quite some time. It is 99.99% likely that not all of the web pages on the Internet have been crawled or indexed. Search engines strive to reach the 100% milestone, although it will never happen. The constant surge toward this target (and the innovation that goes along with it) is critical. Making as much information available as possible creates more relevant search results and more efficient browsing.

Removal of clutter and SEO landing pages

As we all know, the web is riddled with redundant, meaningless clutter. Parked pages and SEO-tailored landing pages continue to appear, decreasing overall efficiency on the web. Add to that duplicate content that has been ripped off and republished, and there is a widespread problem that needs to be dealt with in a systematic manner.

The notion of removing pages seems to contradict my last recommendation of ‘indexing ALL pages’. However, as I’m sure you’ll agree, these clutter pages are useless and do nothing more than make life on the web a pain.

Personalized search

Over and over again, the concept of personalized search seems to resurface. What fails to surface is exactly what this looks like and what it means to us. Painting a clear picture of personalized search will be the biggest obstacle. Obviously, behavioural search patterns and trends will play a key role. But how? Are search results displayed in a new way? Are SERPs tailored to your individual profile? I have no idea. Yahoo and Google are making strides in the area, but it will be years before we can truly realize and appreciate the true potential of such a concept.

Conclusion

The way I see it, search is still in its infancy. Anyone who’s read the book “The Search”, by John Battelle, would probably agree with me. Soon, we will be able to search for anything, at any time. He sees a day when you can Google your lost luggage in an airport. I see a day like that as well.

What is the Next Step for Yahoo?

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Yahoo logoRecent executive turmoil has landed Yahoo in the spotlight many times. This isn’t the kind of PR and publicity that any company wishes for. Obviously, changes and transition are in store for this Internet giant over the next year. But where should the focus be placed? How will short term strategy decisions affect long term goals? To be honest, I really have no idea at this point. I think we need to delve further into the strengths and weaknesses of the company to determine where emphasis needs to placed and where losses need to be cut…

Yahoo started out as a directory, then blossomed into a search engine. Today, most people would still consider Yahoo a search engine by all accounts. I do not believe this to be the case, although search obviously does play a big role in the success or demise of the company. In my mind, Yahoo is a services company. Unlike Google, which derives the majority of its revenue from search and advertising, Yahoo provides a vast array of services which diversify its revenue stream. We do know that Yahoo Search Marketing (i.e. the new Overture) does bring in large revenues. Having said that however, we also know that many other services drive huge revenues that Google (among others) fail to acknowledge. Examples of this include:

All of these areas drive revenues that are NOT advertising-based. This presents a significant opportunity, as well as the possibility cross-marketing and promotion. Evidence is apparent by the willingness of Yahoo users to spend money on services they find value in. Once this trust threshold can be reached, the sale of further services is quite possible. I guess what I’m trying to say is:

“Yahoo is NOT a search company. Search simply provides an entry way into Yahoo’s world of services.”

This does bring up an interesting point however. If Yahoo places less emphasis on search and continues to fall behind, then they are failing to provide that initial entry way or door. Yahoo must continue to allocate a reasonable amount of resources toward search to *at least* remain on par with the rest of the second-tier players (i.e. MSN, Ask, AOL). Failure to do so will not only affect the prospect of future users, but also the loyalty of current ones.

Many may argue that Yahoo should push the limits and throw huge amounts of resources into search in an attempt to thwart Google and create the next-generation search engine. My thought for those people is this: Yahoo has already established an image in the minds of consumer. The company has not positioned itself to be the best search engine, providing cutting-edge, relevant results. Their search technology is ‘good enough’ - it is the status quo. The company and brand would have to re-invent themselves to do so, and spend a ridiculous sum of money in the process. Even then, I still don’t think Yahoo could compete at a higher level. Google, on the other hand, is known as the leader is search. The company is globally recognized for its PageRank algorithm and relevant results. Positioning of the brand has already been established. Lastly, further evidence against the re-invention of Yahoo: the recent attempt at re-invention by Ask.

Whether Yahoo continues to focus on search or put more resources into other services is yet to be known. One thing is for certain - a strong action plan is need, and it is needed soon. The fate of the company will be strongly influenced by decisions to be made in the next year. Good luck to whatever management is left.

Optimizing Your Blog for Search Engines

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

An execellent way to drive free, qualified traffic to your blog is via search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) has become known as one of the most effective, economical ways to generate prospective traffic. As a blog owner, I undertook an endeavour to optimize my blog for search engines to reap the benefits listed above. After some careful research and due diligence, I came up with a all-encompassing SEO strategy.

Having said that, I have to give many props to Neil Patel and his crew at Pronet Advertising. His post on blog optimization is second-to-none. I am simply hoping to add on a few bits and provide an analysis in my own words.

Title - For simplicity sake, ensure that the title of your homepage is the same as your blog name. This works well for branding purposes. A tagline or catch-phrase can be used, but I would argue against doing so, as it decreases the prominence and importance of the blog name.

With respect to post title, I would completely eliminate branding and focus on the content at hand. Unless you are a big gun in the blogosphere, no-one knows who you are or cares for that matter. Focus on the content. In other words, the post title should be the same as the page title, thus ensuring consistent keyword theming throughout the page.

Neil has posted both Wordpress and Movable Type hacks for this in the article above.

URL - Make certain that individual posts follow a specific format:

www.domain/post-title

By default, many blog platform number individual posts or provide IDs. These options can be changed in options section, at least for Wordpress. Another tip is to provide a descriptive “post slug” if the post title does not contain any keywords relating to the article or provides a poor description of the material. Post slug customization is easy in Wordpress, but I am not unfamiliar of the process with respect to other platforms.

As a side note, it is recommended to use dashes in the URL to separate keywords, rather than underscores.

META Tags - META keywords are lame. No-one cares. Leave them alone.

META descriptions, on the other hand, are very important. By default, Wordpress simply grabs the homepage META description and inserts it into every given post. This does not provide a very good description of the content. Furthermore, search engines index each post as having the same META description, which shouldn’t be the case.

Once again, Neil has provided hacks for Wordpress and Movable Type to ensure that each individual post has its own META description. These hacks pull the first 25 words of the given post and automatically generate a META description via this content. Very useful and much more effective.

Headings - Post titles are very important, on-page aspects of SEO. The content should in theory be tailored to the material contained within the post. In addition, the use of H1 tags, as well as h2, h3, etc… is highly recommended to put it mildly.

Categories or “Tags” - As is the case with most blog platform, one is able to categorize a post or “tag” it. These descriptive markers not only make your content easier for readers to find (if necessary), but also provide a much needed internal linking structure to ensure that all posts get crawled and indexed by the search engines.

ALT and Title tags - In this case, ‘title’ tag refers to the description given to a link. An ALT provides a description of a photo or image. These are both essential to any basic SEO strategy.

General Rules and Guidelines

  • Ensure that keywords and content themes remain consistent through a post (i.e. in the page title, URL, META description, heading, paragraph content, ALT tags, etc…)
  • External linking is a huge part of SEO. Network with other bloggers and trade blogroll links. These external links not only provide valuable SEO juice, but also direct traffic.
  • A blog will get crawled more often if content is dynamic (i.e. the fresher the content, the more often the blog gets crawled). So, post often if possible.

Follow these tips and do your own research. Let’s hope that we can all increase our search engine traffic and provide quality content to those looking for it. Let me know how your conquest goes and if, indeed, you are able to climb the search engine ranks. 

As you can see, I am very biased to Wordpress as it is my blog platform of choice. I apologize for any confusion or ambiguity created for anyone using Movable Type, TypePad, or any other blogging platform.

Top 10 Web Apps I Couldn’t Live Without

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

Everybody has their own list of web apps they CANNOT live without. These are the essential tools to daily life on the net. I find that my top apps tend to remain the same, although some changes do occur.

Anyways, here is MY list. Be sure to add your apps at the bottom…

10. Wikipedia - my source for information and research (PS. I know it’s not 100% accurate).

9. Digg - informative and entertainging news bits and articles.

8. Skype - allows me to keep in touch with friends, family, and contacts over IM or voice. 

7. Feedburner - keeps track of my RSS feeds and stats. 

6. Clicky - provides in-depth web analytics with a clean, usable interface.

5. iGoogle - displays all my RSS feeds; doubles as my search page. 

4. MSN Messenger / Hotmail - used for IM with friends; web-based e-mail. Ya, ya… I could use GMail, but all my friends use MSN Messenger and it integrates with Hotmail, so give me a break. 

3. Wordpress -  best blogging platform available, in my mind.

2. Firefox - my web browser of choice… obviously. 

1. Facebook - essential social network that keeps track of friends, family, and colleagues.

Just missed the list…

  • YouTube - premiere video site on the net; this was tough to leave out of the top 10.
  • Craigslist - used often, but on an inconsistent basis.
  • Technorati - used for searching blogs quite often.
  • Joost - I dabble from time to time…
  • MyBlogLog - blog social network; used to use more, but it’s being overrun with SPAM.
  • 9rules - my blog network; not so much a tool as it is a tight community.

So, that’s the basis for my life on the net. I’m sure many have similar apps of choice, while others have their own favourites. It will be interesting to look back at a post, such as this, in a year’s time to determine what changes have occurred in our online habits and behaviours. Which companies fell off the list? Which ones were added? The evolution of the Internet will no doubt affect the evolution of our ‘lists’, as new products and services crop up, while others fall by the wayside. Innovation is occurring at a blistering rate and no-one can remain at the top forever.