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Monday, December 14, 2009

Google Personalized Search Uses Negative Marketing Strategy

As some of you may already know, I am not a huge fan of Google and their business practices. Far too often the company will tell us one thing while secretly doing another. Take last June for example, during the SMX Advanced show in Seattle Matt Cutts stunned the attendees by informing us that Google now picks and chooses how it deals with the NoFollow tag.

While it is completely OK for the company to react to that or any other tags for that matter, what is not OK in a lot of people’s minds, is how long it took them to inform us about this change. I suppose they never really had to disclose this information but seeing as Google requested that webmasters adopt this tag in an effort to help them clean up link spam, they really should've been up front about their changing views regarding this tag, so we could make informed decisions on how to move forward with the NoFollows on our sites. So typically, webmasters were treated to another huge helping of “don’t do as we do; do as we say” from Google.

Now we find out that Google is once again up to some more shenanigans, this time regarding Personalized Search. PS has been around since about 2005 as an “opt in” service. As long as you were signed in to a Google account (in most cases from a Gmail or YouTube account) your search data and history was collected, then fed back to you in your future search results. To avoid this from happening, it was a simple matter of signing out of your Google account. That is no longer the case any more.

Recently, Google adopted a negative marketing strategy, whereby it forced personalized search results on every single user. Granted they do give us the option of “opting out” of the personalization search results, but seeing as most people are unaware that they are being force fed these types of results, why would they think they needed to “opt out” of anything. Negative marketing techniques don’t usually last very long, mainly because this tactic pisses people off, case in point Microsoft.

The Google Personalization works like this: if you do regular keyword searches for a specific topic that result in you frequently visiting the same site, that site quite possibly will now show at the top of your results. Now this may be fine for some people; however, for power users such as myself -- it blows. I don’t want to be force-fed results based upon a bunch of stranger’s social activities; I want some diversity in my results. But most importantly, I want to make my own decisions on the sites I visit based upon my mood at that moment, not what it was yesterday and or the day before.

Personalized Search is going to force some of the relevant results to page 2 and beyond. When you couple this with the so called “Universal Search," which is comprised of other Google products, one really has to wonder what the search giant’s true motives are here. To provide an unbiased service based upon relevancy -- or a service that forces us to see the Internet through Google-colored glasses.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Google Dance – But Who Pays the Fiddler?

November comes around and once again we all get our annual unwanted invitation to the Major Google Dance. It doesn’t matter if you had intended to join in the festivities or not as for all indexed websites; attendance is mandatory

The term Google Dance refers to a period of time when the algorithms are fine tuned in an effort to allegedly give a better result to searchers. As of late I am not so certain that this is the reason behind the updating. Prior to this last major GD the previous one brought us something Google likes to term “Universal Search”.

Universal Search, this was supposed to be something that was going to improve the quality of the results as it brought more options to the results such as Maps, Books, Video and the like. Interesting thing though is that all of these so called enhancements were nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to force feed us more of Google’s products instead of actually giving us results that we were looking for. Sure these things are all good and fine if you are actually looking for News, Books, Videos or Maps when you started your search but if you weren’t then these things are just in the way of you finding what you want.

Anyway, this latest Google Dance seems to be concerned with visible Page Rank. There are a lot of theories as to what the point is behind the down grading of the PR. Some folks think that it has to do with devaluing paid links in an attempt to quash the link economy while others think that this move was geared towards transferring Page Rank into something called Trust Rank.

Seeing as sites can easily influence search rankings through links the whole PR model is kind of useless so the theory is they changed it over to Trust Rank. Sell or buy links and guess what, you loose your trust rank. If you loose your trust rank well then you can’t affect other sites with your links. Problem is, how do you filter out the links on a website as paid links; who makes that decision and what if that person is wrong? The whole theory smacks of censorship to me

Regardless of the theory that you are following these days it seems that Google is up to something once again and as usual, we are supposed to accept it and for the most part it seems most of us do.

Over the years I have watched many a Google Dance unfold and as the dance continued to drone on, I would often go into the posting forums to read the threads concerning lost rank and SERPs. As I read the posts I always sat and marvelled at the fact that while Google was pounding out the tempo for their dances; it never was Google’s algorithms that were dancing, it has always been the webmasters who were the ones actually doing the dancing as they tried to stay in rhythm to Google’s cacophonic beat.

The only real question is how long are webmasters going to let this massive corporate entity rule their businesses? Google doesn’t care about your business short of wringing out as much money as they can prior to bleeding them dry. If Google was concerned about what actual people were searching for they wouldn’t force their products upon us with their Universal Search, they would let us look for what we want on our own instead of telling us what we want.

There is another rumour floating around out there regarding this latest dance, it has to do with how Google actually has to resort to hand editing the PR of sites that they suspect of engaging in the link economy. If this rumour is true then it should go a long way to discredit their so called “better search engine”. Strange how this better search engine can easily be manipulated through linking and the only way to fix it is by hand editing the results to weed out the paid linking dance crashers.

I don’t know about you guys but to me it seems that the Emperor is having a garage sale and we are all buying his “Used” New Clothes.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Google Web Alerts – Is anybody maintaining this product?

I don’t know how many of you out there use Google Alerts or how many of you actually try to get your stuff published using this system. If you are like me you may use this system to stay up to date on the topics that matter most to you.

As a content producer I have tried several times to get my reporters stories included within the Google Alert system only to be rejected time and again. I know that for their system it is all about how the information is delivered and the number of writers can also make a difference. Knowing this hasn’t made it any easier to get included.

With that said I can’t help but wonder if it is so hard to get included into the Google Alert system, why do I keep getting alerts that redirect to pages that have nothing to do with the original alerted story? How about a little quality control on the sites that are currently in the system and kick the offenders out to make room for new, quality feeds?

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Google VS. Hakia

Over the past few years we have been hearing more and more regarding Semantic search. As more and more companies try to break this barrier we will undoubtedly see a lot of new beta testing site pop up. For example one of the most recent ones I have heard of, and tried out, is http://www.hakia.com/.

Hakia has released their beta version of “Meaning Based” search engine that is based upon proprietary semantic software. “Meaning based” search, an interesting concept and one that needed checking out so I went over to their site and performed some gambling industry related searches like sportsbook, sports betting and casino. What I received didn’t exactly thrill me.

The things I noticed right off of the bat were the results tended to be based upon having the search queries within the domain name and within the page titles. Also, I noticed a lot of low quality affiliate sites pop up which in my opinion is a step backwards in search.

Using single search phrases or queries was giving fairly standard results so I thought I would type my query in the form of a question so I asked, minus the quotation marks of course, “Which is the best sportsbook?” and again, the results were less than stellar. I received a whole host of sportsbook directory listings and gambling portal sportsbook pages. Seems to me that offering me a bunch of portal site’s opinions on what they think are the best sportsbooks falls a little short of offering me any kind of meaning. Granted, the same search on Google gives me similar results but at least I could find the occasional actual sportsbook within their results.

Bottom line here is that semantic search has a long way to go before it will threaten Google’s share of the search market. I am a firm believer in that the next evolution of search will be in the form of Semantic Search and that when this type of search is perfected it will be closely followed by a break through in true artificial intelligence.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Google + DoubleClick X Performics = Evil

When Google’s purchase of DoubleClick is finalized will Google do the right thing and close down or sell off the DoubleClick division of Performics? Myself I highly doubt it.

Will Google pass on insider information to their newly acquired SEO firm and give their client base an unfair advantage? Perhaps but I doubt it simply because it would be too easy for the new employees to distribute those secrets.

Does becoming a part of the Google family of services mean that Performics will be getting more opportunities with the larger SEO contracts? Probably… from a salesman’s perspective I would think this would be a great selling feature.

So does the purchase of an SEO company by a search engine constitute evil? Does anybody else smell brimstone?

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Online News VS. Search Engines

Billionaire investor Sam Zell recently bought Tribune Corp. for 8.2 billion. Sorry – let’s give that number the respect it deserves – 8.2 Billion dollars. Seems like a lot of money to be spending on a medium that seems to allegedly lose money with every edition. Mr. Zell claims that the newspaper business is hemorrhaging money, in part, due to the bad deals newspapers negotiated with search engines.

At a speech at Stanford Law School Mr. Zell suggested that if Google wasn’t allowed to “steal” the newspaper’s content for nothing, Google wouldn’t be nearly as profitable. Now I can’t say anything about how much money Google makes off of freely distributed news content but from my perspective, I don’t go to Google to find my news and I suspect that might be the case for others too.

Google does offer a News Alert service that emails snippets of stories to people and those snippets contain links to the full stories. Most webmasters I know go out of their way to get included in the Google Alert system as it can be profitable in terms of traffic. Does this mean that Mr. Sam Zell wants to remove their websites from the Google Alert system? If he does then I can’t see how that would be helpful to the newspaper’s website’s bottom line. Further to that point I guess it is true… you can’t teach an old dog new tricks Mr. Zell and I hope that the 8.2 Billion you dropped on this venture wasn’t your last 8.2 Billion!

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