Analysis of Google and its search offerings, both on the Web and for enterprises. Related subjects include:

March 31, 2009

Google in an ethical screw-up

Google has a screwed-up UI that causes people to buy PPC ads they don’t want to buy. But Google doesn’t refund all the money wasted this way. Bad Google.

March 7, 2009

Yet more NoFollow whining

Andy Beal has a blog post up to the effect that NoFollow is a bad thing. (Edit: Andy points out in the comment thread that his opposition to NoFollow isn’t as absolute as I was suggesting.) Other SEO types are promoting this is if it were some kind of important cause. I think that’s nuts, and NoFollow is a huge spam-reducer.

The weakness of Andy’s argument is illustrated by the one and only scenario he posits in support of his crusade:

The result is that a blog post added to a brand new site may well have just broken the story about the capture of Bin Laden (we wish!)–and a link to said post may have been Tweeted and re-tweeted–but Google won’t discover or index that post until it finds a “followed” link. Likely from a trusted site in Google’s index and likely hours, if not days, after it was first shared on Twitter.

Helloooo — if I post something here, it is indexed at least in Google blog search immediately. (As in, within a minute or so.) Ping, crawl, pop — there it is. The only remotely valid version of Andy’s complaint is that It might take some hours for Google’s main index to update — but even there there’s a News listing at the top. This simply is not a problem.

Now, I think it would be personally great for me if all the links to my sites from Wikipedia and Twitter and the comment threads of major blogs pointed back with “link juice.” On the other hand, even with NoFollow out there, my sites come up high in Google’s rankings for all sorts of keywords, driving a lot of their readership. I imagine the same is true for most other sites containing fairly unique content that people find interesting enough to link to.

So other than making it harder to engage in deceptive SEO, I fail to see what problems NoFollow is causing.

November 24, 2008

Google is reported to be cutting back

Google seems to be cutting back its workforce, or at least radically scaling back its growth plans. It’s tough to quickly assess details just based on the blogosphere, given all the Google hate out there. But WebGuild Silicon Valley offers a post claiming that Google’s 20,000 actual employees are paired with 10,000 more contractors, and the latter are being pared way back. Various other posts linked in the comment thread say similar things.

Before you get too excited about hiring opportunities, however — it’s not obvious how many victims are in the core search business in any capacity, and it’s certain not clear whether anybody is being let go in areas like search algorithm research.

November 16, 2008

The silly fuss over Obama’s use of YouTube

President-Elect Barack Obama is posting videos on YouTube. Clearly, his use of relatively cutting-edge communications technology is a Good Thing. It’s also unsurprising, giving the sophistication and importance of video in the recent presidential campaign.

However, various commentators — even ones as smart as Dan Farber — see something wrong with the use of YouTube for this purpose. I think that’s silly. Read more

November 11, 2008

The Google flu search story is pretty interesting

Google reports that it is tracking flu outbreaks via search. Actually, that’s a misnomer. Google is not tracking articles written about flu; HealthMap et al. do that. Rather, this Google project is tracking search queries about flu-related subjects. They have graphs suggesting a strong correlation between flu-related searches and actual cases of flu, notwithstanding that many searches on “flu” would be for, say “flu shot.” The key point is that Google tracks where searches come from, and hence detects which geographical areas are suffering flu outbreaks. And it does this 1-2 weeks faster than the alternative method, which is physicians reporting to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).* Read more

October 28, 2008

Google and the Author’s Guild establish an ASCAP for books

Most of the coverage of the Google/Authors Guild settlement today seems to focus on Google’s side of things. But I think the authors’ side is much more important. This deal paves the way for traditional publishers to become quaint and useless — and not a moment too soon.

Below are some quotes — fair use!! 🙂 — from the Authors Guild official statement on the deal (emphasis mine): Read more

August 4, 2008

Google vs. Microsoft search, per Seth Grimes

Seth Grimes did a head-to-head comparison of Google and Microsoft Live Search results about the Microsoft/DATAllegro deal, 10 hours after it was announced. He found that Google had picked up a number of relevant results, while Live Search hadn’t. (And this was on the main search pages, not on News or Blogs.) He goes on to note that Yahoo’s “contextual” ads were badly irrelevant (Google didn’t have any at all).

What this boils down to, mainly, seems to be a major win in spidering speed for Google vs. Microsoft Live Search.

And yes Seth — I like you too. 🙂

July 20, 2008

Cat retirement homes, spam tortilla sandwiches, and the dubious relevancy of Gmail “contextual” ads

I’m a big fan of outsourcing one’s email to Google, and then continuing to use one’s favorite email client. (I’ve never switched away from Eudora.) Accordingly, I rarely use the actual Gmail interface – except when traveling and hence away from my desktop computer.

For the past week I have been on vacation, logging into Gmail a lot. And so I started noticing the contextual ads that appear above the lists of messages. Well, it turns out that – well, on the whole they’re not terribly contextual. Let me explain. Read more

July 9, 2008

Google Health spoof

FutureFeedForward is on a roll:

MOUNTAIN VIEW–Information search giant Google, Inc. announced Thursday the release of Google Body, a search service aiming to index the internal and external anatomy of every living creature on the planet. …

Early testers have remarked upon a fuzzy-logic “match my organ” feature, which helps users get in touch with the nearest, most suitable donor for multiple organ systems. …

Responding to criticism from privacy groups, Google’s Hind pointed to the program’s opt-out policy. “We are very concerned about user privacy, and that’s why we will not make publicly available any information about anybody who let’s us know they do not want to participate by wearing an Opt-Out headband when in public. Google archives information about those individuals, but does not make it searchable.” The yellow and black vinyl headbands can be requested free of charge by writing to the company at its Mountain View headquarters.

July 9, 2008

Fun with the Google External Keyword Tool

Google announced a major upgrade to the Google (External) Keyword Tool — it now gives actual numbers of searches, instead of vague logarithmic green bars. This now makes it very cool for figuring out what people actually search for. Estimated average monthly search volumes include: Read more

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