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Posts tagged with: search

Yahoo Image Search Now Shows Points of Interest

If you are a frequent traveler then you would appreciate this brand new feature of Yahoo image search that lets you refine your image search results by points of interest whenever you search for a particular travel destination or location.

For example, if you search for Rome, Yahoo Image search will automatically show up a special column containing categories of a whole bunch of ‘places’ from rome that you are likely to be interested in. Clicking on any of the categories will show an overlay of images so that you can virtually take a tour of the image results without leaving the original search results page.

yahoo-image-search-travel-queries

To test it’s usefulness & accuracy, I searched for Kuala Lumpur, and Yahoo did manage to give me a pretty decent list of places that most tourists would like to go.

Try it and let me know what do you think about this cool new feature of Yahoo Image Search!


Yahoo New Homepage – More Personalized

yahoo-logo

Yahoo has recently updated their home with a brand new design and has included some social & personalization features to spice things up a little bit.

yahoo-new-home

Well personally, I don’t feel that the changes that yahoo made will give them much boost, in terms of getting new users to use their search engine. Probably some of the features may be useful to people who likes to have a ‘start page’ on their browser and are already using Yahoo as their default page.

However for someone like me, who never goes to the Yahoo homepage won’t really feel any difference. What is Yahoo anyway? Is it a search engine? Well to me yahoo just looks like a tabloid, which is cluttered with articles, links and ads. And 8 out of 10 times, those featured articles on the home page are mostly celebrity gossips. If Yahoo really wants to improve their business on search and online advertising, they need to really find out their core objective and purpose of existence and focus on the important areas rather than tapping into everything.

Yahoo is not small by any means, Yahoo is still the world’s most visited website. However they for some reason can’t capitalize on that and slowly slipping away from the real game.

What New in Yahoo’s Homepage?

Nothing ground breaking or earth shattering! It now lets users to add their favorite sites to the left side of the page. This includes popular social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter. Once the new search page is up and running, a user’s favorite applications will also show up on the search page itself. You can also add in your own favorite sites on that list. Once you click on any of the links, it sort of opens the page under a frame within the yahoo page along with a huge banner ad. (Well, I’m not sure whether users would appreciate the ad on that position).

Yahoo now shows the top 10 most searched queries on their home page, which is pretty cool. I guess showing that information on the home page would tempt people to find out more about those topics via Yahoo search.

And thats pretty much it! They have tried to strip down some of the unnecessary stuffs, and made the home page a bit lighter and more organized. However, to me it still looks like an online tabloid and not a “Search Engine”. I don’t think adding these features will actually encourage people to search at yahoo.

I think people will start using Yahoo Search more, if http://search.yahoo.com was their homepage. I have always been a fan of Yahoo Search as they were always the 2nd best in Search after Google. In fact in many cases, when Google failed to give what I was looking for, Yahoo saved me! Now that Bing.com is here, Yahoo’s chances in Search is almost gone – unless they agree to merge with Microsoft. (Personally I think it would be the best thing to do for both the companies).

See the Yahoo Design in Action

Yahoo is slowly rolling out the new design in different regions/countries all over the world. It is already live in US, and most parts of Asia (Malaysia, Singapore — at least) are now seeing a notification on their Yahoo page that sort of asks you to try the new design by clicking on a link. You can try it now by visiting: http://m.www.yahoo.com/

Bonus: Yahoo Easter Egg

Yahoo has still kept their hidden Easter egg on their new home page. Try clicking on the “!” exclamation mark on their logo and see what happens! [You will need to keep your speakers/headphones on…]


BingTweets – Real Time Twitter + Bing Search

Bing along with Federated Media has developed quite a nifty service called BingTweets, which basically allows you to keep an eye on the twitter trending topic in a more detailed and real-time manner. Twitter trending topic by itself is not exactly very useful as it doesn’t really give you a context of what is happening. Moreover even though twitter’s built in search is ‘real-time’ but users always need to click a ‘button’ when new results are added.

bingtweets

BingTweets does a really good job of bring real-time conversations about the trending topics and at the same time bringing up the web search of that particular query on the same screen. Thus users will get a context of what these trending topics are and at the same time get more real insights on some of these topics. Because the fact is 140 characters isn’t enough to convey a full news to someone, however if people starts talking about “X” and it becomes a trending topic, then clicking on that will not only show you the conversation that is happening about X but at the same time give us some real insights from the Bing search results for that particular query.

One of the neat thing about BingTweets is, it pulls in trends from Twitter and automatically filters into categories such as “Popular Now,” “People,” “Places” and “Products” enabling easier navigation of the ever changing trends on the Web. You can also fire off a search on any topic of your choosing to see the related search results from Bing and Twitter discussion.

Whitney Burk, Director of Bing Search writes:

…when Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince comes out tomorrow, you may want to scan the official reviews, local theater listing, AND the latest Tweets on the movie to help you decide whether to rush to see it. With BingTweets, you can cover all that ground in one place.

So check out BingTweets and let me know if you find it any useful!

Read what other says about BingTweet:

Federated Media Teams With Bing For BingTweets. It’s Exactly What It Sounds Like – Techcrunch.

BingTweets: Bing + Twitter Search Results Side-by-Side – Mashable

BingTweets Integrates Twitter and Bing Search, Literally – Search Engine Journal


Government Intervention in Search Won’t Save Your Business

google-evil

Techcrunch (one of my personal favorite tech blog), posted an article today about Search Marketing. The title (“The Time Has Come To Regulate Search Engine Marketing And SEO”) really caught my attention, but later I realized that the article is not from the usual in-house Techcrunch editors but from an “Anonymous” writer, who is the supposedly a well known executive of one of the largest sites on the Internet. Techcrunch writes: “The author wants to remain anonymous – because of the backlash he would receive from the SEO industry and possibly Google itself…” [Yeah you bet..]

Anyway so whats the deal? The author goes on and rants about how “search ranking” is not fair in general. He writes –

Through an uncontrolled set of factors search engines determine which listings appear at the top and bottom of any individual query. In addition, consumer behavior dictates the top three results on any search page are all that matter. If you happen to own an online business, unless you exist within those top three, the amount of individual traffic you will obtain from organic listings is very, very low.

Its funny that even though search has been there for over 10 years, many people still don’t get search! The author says that unless you are in the top three of an individual keyword you get very low traffic — I just find this statement completely ridicules. What he is trying to imply here is, if you sell cars and you don’t rank in the top 3 for the key phrase “car”, you are done!

But if any of you have done Organic or Paid search for a while then you would probably agree with me that ranking for the phrase “cars” might not give you the best ROI, when compared to ranking for some other terms related to cars. Search is no longer a ‘keyword game’ like it used to be in the early days. Many people still live in 90s and looks at search as a Yellow page or Web directory (which it is certainly not!).

A Search engine is not a place where people comes and just throws in a generic word and find a bunch of address to buy stuff. Yes, that was search when Yahoo was “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” and Google did not even existed. But now search involves more than just a bunch of keywords. Search engine is a place where people does their online research. It is like a huge digital library of anything and everything on the web. Search was never intended for ‘advertising’, but Google sort of found a way to make search more useful by showing relevant ads (of products/services) that you search for. The model became successful and thats why Google is in its current position and has so much money that they could really afford to continuously evolve search by making it better and doing new things with it. If they couldn’t make any money out of search then this industry wouldn’t have come this far!

Continue Reading


Google Updates Location Based Search Results

If you like traveling and rely heavily on a search engine like Google for your travel related research then you would probably appreciate Google’s recent efforts in location based search.

For over two years, google is displaying maps of location via Google Universal search directly in the search results page when a user is searching for location based keywords. (e.g. New York, Melbourne).

But now Google has taken this one step further and started displaying pictures alongside the map which gives users a sense of what the place is like in real.

I searched for Kuala Lumpur (the capital of Malaysia) and I was presented with a map of Kuala Lumpur alongside some of the pictures from the city. Clicking on the image took me directly to the google maps page and sort of graphically placed each of the pictures on the map.

Kuala Lumpur - Google location based search

Kuala Lumpur Google Maps

Bing Cries Out Loud at Google

Little Background: Bing was down for over 36 hours which is why Google sort of indexed their “Error” page for one of their domains – Bing Travel. Many days has passed, but it seems like Google hasn’t updated the search snippet. Matt Cutts replied in Techcruch with a screen shot saying the problem has been fixed — But apparently the issue is something else. Read on…

bing-tweet

This morning when I was reading this story on Techcrunch, I initially thought of blogging about it, but as i scrolled down I saw Matt Cutts’s responses in the story where he pretty much cleared the air stating that this was just a fluke and certainly not intentional (well these were not his exact words, but I think I sort of made it up). But anyway that’s not the point. The point is he actually showed everyone a screen shot (http://www.mattcutts.com/images/bing-travel-snippet.png) where the problem seemed fixed:

bing-travel-snippet

matt-cutts-reply-techcrunch

Based on Matt’s screen shot I did a search for “bing travel” in Google and found the snippet to be back to normal. I noticed that the last date of cache was indeed 9th July, just like what Matt said. But many people were still complaining that they can’t see the ‘updated snippet’ and at that time I thought that this may be a DC issue (Google has many data centers and they take time to propagate).

However after 6 hours or so, I noticed that Andy Beal is covering the story in Marketing Pilgrim. So I became a bit curious and tried the search again this time only with the key phrase “bing and to my surprise I got the same old snippet –

bing-temporarily-unavailable

Then I looked up the cache of both pages and it seems like Google has two version of Bing Travel page indexed –

Version 1: http://www.bing.com/travel
Last Cache Date: 4th July

bing-travel-cache-old

Version 2: http://www.bing.com/travel/ [This one basically has a forwarding slash at the end of the URL]
Last Cache Date: 9th July

bing-travel-cache-new

Hopefully this is temporary and both Google and Bing looks into it rather than playing the blame game.


Bing Webmaster Center

bing-webmaster-centerYesterday I wrote a review about Bing and how this new search engine from Microsoft really impressed me.

Today I’ll be reviewing the new Bing Webmaster Center – www.bing.com/webmaster which is sort of like an all-in-one dashboard of the webmasters for the Bing Search Engine. Previously a similar version of the Webmaster Center was known as Windows Live Webmaster Center. Google and Yahoo both has similar dashboard – Google Webmaster Central & Yahoo Site Explorer.

What is Bing Webmaster Center?

Just like any other Webmaster dashboard, Bing webmaster center has many tools targeted towards the webmaster community that anyone can use to access his own website’s information & other useful details as recorded by Bing.

So if you are a webmaster and want to know how Bing is looking at your website, how its ranking your pages, which pages are more valued than others, what are your inbound & outbound links then this dashboard is a must have.

Why should you Signup for Bing Webmaster Center?

Previously most of the people never really bothered to optimize their pages for MSN/Live Search (which is now Bing). Due to the very small market share, Microsoft Search was never popular among the webmasters. However according to the Stat Counter’s global stat of search market share, Bing’s popularity seems to be growing exponentially as it has already overtaken Yahoo’s usual number #2 spot after Google.

stat-counter-stats-bing

Now you may say that this is probably because of the initial ‘hype’ and their expensive media advertisements, however if you read my Bing Review where I concluded that Bing is a pretty good alternative to Google, then you may think otherwise.

The main advantage of Bing would be its Mass reach to the general population. Do you know what is the very first thing people do when they buy a new computer? I remember reading an article where they had a huge list — Installing Anti Virus, Installing IM, Installing Firefox and somewhere in the middle of the list I remember reading “Changing the default search engine of IE back to Google!”. That didn’t strike me as odd even for a second, in fact if I were to make my own list, I think It would be ranked between #1 – 3.

Microsoft has a OS market share of over 90%, which all comes with Internet Explorer as their default browser. And when it comes to Browser market share, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has a market share close to 70%.

So you can imagine, if Microsoft’s new search engine Bing sucks even a bit less compared to their previous search versions – Live/MSN, many people may not bother to switch to Google or any other search provider for that matter. My first impression of Bing is – its going to stick, and Google is going to see a bit of competition after many years of market dominance.

So before everyone starts to realize that getting your site up in the Bing Search Engine has a lot of value for your business, you should start to look at some of the very basic things that you can do to make sure that bing is crawling and indexing your site properly and certainly there is no better way to monitor it than using their very own tool that they have provided to the community – Bing Webmaster Center.

How to Signup for Bing Webmaster Center?

Signing up with Bing Webmaster Center is very easy and FREE. The only thing that you will need is a Windows Live ID. Typically if you have a @hotmail.com, its already good enough. However, if you want you can also use @gmail.com or any other email address for that matter and make it a Windows Live ID.

Step 1: Go to http://www.bing.com/webmaster and Sign-in with your Windows Live ID

Step 2: Once you are inside the dashboard, you will need to add in your website. You will need to provide a web url (www.domain.com), your sitemap address (www.domain.com/sitemap.xml) and the webmaster’s email address for communication purpose.

Step 3: Once site has been successfully added, you will need to verify the ownership of their site by following any of the following verification method – Meta Tag Authentication ior XML file Authentication. Both the authentication is pretty simple and straight forward.

Step 4: After successful verification, you should be able to see your website listed in your dashboard.

What can Bing Webmaster Center do?

Currently, Bing Webmaster Center contains the following tools and features to support webmasters to access data and manage their websites on Bing:

1. Robot.txt Validation – This tool allows webmasters to check their robots.txt file for any incompatibilities with MSNBot that may affect how their site is indexed on Bing. Read more on Robot.txt Validation on bing.

2. HTTP Verifier – This tool basically lets you check whether your webserver has HTTP compression and conditional GET enabled to reduce bandwidth uses with browsers that support these technology. Read more about these features before you decide to play with them.

3. Site Summery – Bing Webmaster Center, also shows a nice site summary for each of your sites which includes – Last crawl date, total number of indexed pages, domain score, top 5 pages of your domain along with their page score crawl date and so on.

bing-webmaster-center-site-summary

In case you are wondering what domain score is, its basically just a measurement of how authoritative Bing views your domain to be, with five green boxes being the highest rating and five empty boxes being the lowest. Similarly Page score is the same thing but instead of the domain level the measurement is done on the page level.

4. Crawl Issues – This section allows webmasters to find out about any issues Bing discovered while crawling and indexing your site. This information can really help you track down missing or bad links, find pages blocked from our index by your robots.txt file, identify URLs that may be too long, and isolate page with content-types that are not supported by Bing. You can read more on the crawl issues here.

5. Backlinks – This is definitely a very neat and useful tool. Since Google takes quite a while to update the backlinks, most of the webmasters depends quite a lot on Yahoo Site Explorer to check for inbound links. I found Bing’s Back link checker pretty handy and accurate. You can use this tool to find out which webpages (including your own) are linking to your site. This information can help you identify who is talking about your site, useful information for learning more about your potential audience or customer base. They also have a filtering option where you can exclude results from a domain or show only results from a single domain. You can also specify a domain (microsoft.com), a sub-domain (technet.microsoft.com), or a top-level domain (.com).

6. Outbound links – Just like the backlinks page, Outbound links page gives you information about web pages your site is linking to.

7. Keywords – Bing has a Keywords tool which basically shows you how your website performs against searches for a specific keyword or key phrase. This tool is useful for understanding how users (who often choose websites based on keywords searches) might find your website. You can use this keywords tool to e the Keywords tool to also get webpage scores for a keyword or key phrase. This tool enables you to evaluate the webpage score for a given keyword or key phrase for the webpages in your website. The webpage score is a measure of how often a webpage is returned when a user is searching based on that keyword or key phrase. You can easily review webpage scores for a given keyword or key phrase, type the keyword or key phrase in the Keywords box, and then click Search.

8. Sitemaps – You can use sitemaps to give Bing a list of URLs to index for your site. Simply enter the sitemap URL and click submit to send your sitemap to Bing. Bing also has a sitemap ping service which allows you to nudge bing whenever your site updates. To notify MSNBot when you change an existing sitemap or add a new one, enter the following in your browser:

http://www.bing.com/webmaster/ping.aspx?siteMap=[your sitemap web address]

And thats pretty much it! So what you waiting for? Sign up with Bing Webmaster Center now!

Don’t forget to check out Bing Webmaster Community and the Bing Webmaster blog for more news & Updates.


Microsoft’s Bing.com Search Engine

bing-search-logoFinally the past speculations became a reality – Microsoft has re-branded their live search and came up with a completely new and innovative engine called Bing, which can be accessed at bing.com.

The reason I call it innovative and new is because, this is the first time I’m seeing something positive from Microsoft. At least now they are trying to look straight instead of trying to eat out other companies.

They did a complete re-brand of their Live Search which was previously known as MSN and sometime last year there was a rumor that they wanted to call it Kumo (which probably would have been a complete branding disaster in my opinion).

But luckily they came to their senses and named their revamped Search Engine -> Bing. Now couldn’t they just work on their existing brand “Live” instead of creating a whole new brand “Bing”? Well probably they could, but i really don’t wish to go into any debate on which would have been better and such. They have re-branded their search to Bing already and that’s how it is (and hopefully that’s how its going to stay..).

My only advice to Microsoft would be to stick to a brand and give more emphasize on the core of the product/service that they are providing. If people are not using their search engine, definitely there is a reason behind it and changing names and creating fancy TV ads doesn’t make the problem go away. After a while people eventually figures out that this new hyped brand is actually the same shitty MSN search.

Now this post is becoming a bit ‘anti-microsoft’ … so let me change my approach for a bit and say what I feel about Bing.

Bing Search is Awesome!

Yes I said it! I never thought I’d complement a search engine that is not Google. But I guess I just did. The reason I’m probably the last one to report this Bing story in the Blogosphere is because while everyone was busy writing about Bing on their blogs, I was doing some extensive testing with Bing. I have played with the engine day and night, making it exhausted and taking it to a level that my ip was probably blocked out from Bing for a while.

And after comparing all the data, I can say that Bing is awesome and It is a pretty good alternative for Google & Yahoo Search. But is it perfect? – Hell no! There are tons of issues with bing, that I’d definitely address in my blog (which is why i even created a new category here called “bing”, where all my bing related posts will go).

My Take on Bing.com

bing-search-engine-home

There are many things that I like about Bing. None of them is probably original, majority of the features that I’ll highlight here are probably already implemented inside Google & Yahoo. But I don’t think for a user its important to know who has implemented what first and so on. As long as the search engine is user friendly and has everything that a user needs – he will be happy to use it. These are some of the things which bing has really impressed me with:

1. Speed: Bing.com is pretty fast, the home page has a high quality image which takes a bit of time to load on slow connections. However, when you put in a search query and click search the result page comes almost instantly – just like Google. Previously with both Msn & Live search speed was a major issue. People loves Google because of its lightning speed. Well certainly Bing is almost catching up with Google on that regard. Since Bing is still new I believe they can still do a lot more tweaks and make the engine even faster in future.

2. Auto Suggestion: Bing automatically suggests search queries as you type in the search box (very similar to what Google does now). Its a very neat feature which saves a lot of time when you are searching for something very obvious but unsure of its spelling and how to phrase it properly and so on.

bing-auto-suggest

3. Look and Feel: Many people complained about the design of Microsoft’s previous search engines. But personally this time I have found Bing’s design very soothing and consistent throughout their site. The high quality picture on the home page does make it look very cool compared to Google’s simplistic design (However Ask.com has been doing this for a long time already and they even let users to choose their own background).

4. Best Match: Microsoft calls this feature of Bing – “Best Match”, which basically refers to the ability to get relevant information instantly without leaving the search results page. Google has been doing this for a long time for many queries like time (e.g. Time Tokyo), currency conversion (e.g. 1000 USD = ? EUR) and also flight and package tracking of different providers.

Apparently Bing.com also has couple of neat best match queries to get relevant information quickly. Best Match results include customer service numbers for retail sites, the ability to track a package right from the search page, deep links to common pages within the site and much more.

bing-best-match

5. Site Preview: This neat feature of Bing allows you to hover over a search result to see a preview of the site’s content, which helps you determine whether the site is likely to contain the information you’re looking for — before you make that click. Well this is definitely useful, however the hovering feature only works when I move the mouse towards the end of the the listing which is pretty annoying! Moreover, I figured the preview is very small so it doesn’t really tell you much about the website anyway. A small snapshot of the page would be nice, something like what snap.com is already doing. But again this is a feature that not everyone may like, so keeping all these additional things ‘optional’ may be a good idea.

6. Instant Answers: Bing also provides near instant answers to many queries. For example, entering a flight number will return the most recent flight information and display it prominently in the results, saving the hassle of going to a separate page. Other Instant Answers on Bing include stock prices, local weather, sports scores and more. This feature is also not new as both Google & Yahoo have been doing it for a long time. But its really good to see that Bing has really caught up with most of the useful features of both Google & Yahoo.

7. Related Searches: Bing does show some good related searches when you search for a term. This definitely helps to refine a search query and also come across other useful and related terms.

bing-related-search

8. Image Search: Bing has a pretty awesome image search. Occassionally images do appear within the web search results for certain queries, just like Google’s Universal Search. However their dedicated Image search page is also pretty neat and has a very handy left hand sidebar to refine the search by size, layout, colour, size etc.

bing-image-search

9. Travel Search- Bing has a very cool search interface for travel related searches. You can just enter your travel particulars and bing automatically searches different travel portals and shows you hotel prices, air fares and so on.

10. Shopping Search – Bing also have a dedicated interface to deal with the shopping queries. It sort of promotes the previous Microsoft Cashback program. Try doing a search for any product and you will get a pretty good idea of what it does. (E.g. Nokia E63)

Bing Product Tour Video

Bing vs. Google – Search Result Quality

To me, the quality of the search result is the most important factor that leads me to decide which provider stays as my default search in my browser (currently its Google in all my 3 browsers – Google’s Chrome, Firefox & IE 8).

Bing provides a nice way to do a head on head comparison of Bing & Google, they named the feature – Bing Search Challenge. Basically it opens both Bing & Google on the same browser window and let you perform a search on both on them and match the results. [This isn’t new as well, it was done by Hakia way back..]

But its a good way to convince people who are thinking about making a switch that the engine that they are about to switch to is indeed better and provides better results. I have tried a number of queries in both Bing & Google to perform a side by side comparison. In most cases I noticed that Bing did pretty well compared to the old Live.com results. However still in most cases I find that Google can interpret the natural language way better than bing. However for many queries Bing actually performed better than Google! I’ll try to do a separate post with all my test search phrases and the result comparison. But for now you can take a look at Greg’s post in Search Engine Land.

There are lots of other things about bing that I would still like to mention, but due to a bit of time constraint I’m ending this post here. If you want to learn further on bing you can head over to their PressPass page, which contains a lot of information on each of the bing’s features.

Also if you are a twitter user you can follow the bing team on Twitter – (@bing).

So have you tried bing.com? Whats your feedback? Please share in comments!

Update: Are you a Webmaster? Try Bing Webmaster Center today!

What others are saying about Bing?

Bing Off to a Good Start: Takes #2 Spot Ahead of Yahoo – Read Write Web

Microsoft’s Bing Vs Google: Head To Head Search Results – Search Engine Land

Microsoft Bing: Much better than expected – Cnet News

Microsoft’s Bing Search Arrives Early, and Impresses – FastCompany

Bing off to solid start, but not that good – CNet News

Bing Opens Up. Is It Good? It’s Too Early To Tell – Mashable

Bing Goes Live—Here’s What You Can Do With It – Lifehacker

Bing.com; Is it Worth Switching from Google? – Marketing Pilgrim

Bing: How Useful Is Microsoft’s New Search Offering? – CNN

Microsoft vs Google: Bing It On – Sitepoint

Live Search : The sound of found: Bing! – MSDN Blog


People Search Engine in Europe

people-search-europe

123people.com is a wonderful People search engine which is built upon the Yahoo Boss platform. It has recently launched many local sites in Europe which makes it the first multinational people search tool. It is now available in seven countries including; France, UK, US, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Austria, in six languages.

What does 123people.com do?

123people is a real time people search engine that looks into nearly every corner of the Web. You can find comprehensive and centralized people related information consisting of their social networking profiles, images, videos, phone numbers, emails, blog posting and documents and much more.

They currently gets over 16 million unique visitors per month. Designed to fundamentally improve the quality of people search on the web, the site retrieves people information from globally accessible databases and social networks on the web and also searches country-specific websites, local business services and news sources to provide fast and comprehensive results.

What is most amazing to me is the fact that the guys behind 123people.com are able to run such a popular & powerful engine by using Yahoo Search Boss. However, the big question is, If an external company can come and use Yahoo’s Search index to make something really cool, why can’t yahoo just update their own people search engine and maybe make it a little more effective?

But anyway, the only problem that 123people.com probably has is their scalability issues – because i noticed that their site is often down (because of too much traffic maybe??), who knows!

You might ask, why do we need a people search engine when we have the all-in-all of search engine like the big G! Well the best part about having a niche search engine only for finding people is that you don’t end up getting millions of results for that person name which are irrelevant and probably not even accurate. A niche engines like 123people is intelligent enough to understand where to look for people, for instance today if I want to look up specific information about someone , I usually do the following:

1. I do a search at Facebook with the person’s First, Last Name and email address.
2. I do a Twitter advanced search to see if that person has an account.
3. If I have seen the person before, I do a Google Image Search to see if I can spot him in the first page.
4. and lastly I’d do a search of his email Id, directly in Google.

Now all these gives me more than enough information to find the person that I’m looking for, however searching these different engines takes up time and if there is one engine which can do all these, I’m all in for it and you should be too!

Now, 123people is not the only search engine that is covering this particular niche. There are lots of other players that do a pretty decent job in people search as well. I personally like one of them and I think it really deserves a mention.

Pipl – Pipl is a very comprehensive people search on the web. Pipl query-engine finds very high-quality results and displays them on a single page. They look at online personal profiles, phone listings, court records and scientific publications.

pipl-search-engine1

Update: Apparently, Yasni.com is another cool people search engine that I didn’t know about. It also lists all the information about a person from different social networks and search engines on one single page.

yasni

So the next time you are searching for a person online, you know where to look!


Wolfram Alpha Search Engine Review

There seem be a lot of buzz going around about the new search engine Wolfram Alpha. In case you don’t know what it is, it is basically an answer-engine developed by Wolfram Research.

Wolfram Alpha is almost like plugging into a vast electronic brain. It provides very sophisticated and and thorough answers to a wide range of questions asked in many different ways, and it computes answers, it doesn’t merely look them up in a big search index. So its very much smarter than (and different from) Google. Google simply retrieves documents based on keyword searches. Google doesn’t understand the question or the answer, and doesn’t compute answers based on models of various fields of human knowledge. So its look like we are almost reaching a Web 4.0 stage, when a search engine is smart enough to understand what a search query really means.

But obviously its knowledge is very limited at this stage, but the engines does look promising and may eventually be taken over by Google. (Google loves to eat up anything that has any potential in their field). Below I have a simple screen shot of how the interface looks like:

wolframalpha-search

How does it work?

Well, Wolfram basically gathers important data based on your search terms and presents you with the answers in a pre-formatted structure, using a lot of charts, graphs and other visual aids. For instance, if you want to compare stats about different cities, you type in their names and find out that, say, Delhi has several thousand more people than New York.

How is Wolfram Alpha useful?

If you are doing research about very specific subjects then this could be a great resource, once Wolfram Research beefs up its informational sources. It lays out the data in easy-to-read, well-formatted pages that include a variety of charts and graphs. For example, if you try typing “Hubble,” it will first ask you whether you mean ‘a unit’ or the ‘telescope’. So if you select telescope it will bring up a lot of interesting facts about the Hubble Space Telescope, including its current position and original launch date etc. So basically the engine is intelligent enough to understand what the search term means and how it is related to other words.

Nova Spivack who is the current CEO of Radar Networks has shared some useful insights as to how the Wolfram’s search engine works:

Wolfram Alpha is a system for computing the answers to questions. To accomplish this it uses built-in models of fields of knowledge, complete with data and algorithms, that represent real-world knowledge. For example, it contains formal models of much of what we know about science — massive amounts of data about various physical laws and properties, as well as data about the physical world. Based on this you can ask it scientific questions and it can compute the answers for you. Even if it has not been programmed explicity to answer each question you might ask it. But science is just one of the domains it knows about–it also knows about technology, geography, weather, cooking, business, travel, people, music, and more. It also has a natural language interface for asking it questions. This interface allows you to ask questions in plain language, or even in various forms of abbreviated notation, and then provides detailed answers. The vision seems to be to create a system which can do for formal knowledge (all the formally definable systems, heuristics, algorithms, rules, methods, theorems, and facts in the world) what search engines have done for informal knowledge (all the text and documents in various forms of media).

Well definitely its not a “google-killer” and I bet wolfram is not even interested to go into any competition with Google. They are just filling up a vacuum in the search industry. I wonder what will be Google’s next move – Buy Wolfram!Alpha.. or improve their own engine?

Share your thoughts!


Kumo: Microsoft’s Test Search Engine

Microsoft employees have began testing Microsoft’s new search engine – Kumo, which may or may not replace their official brand – Live.com.

Microsoft writes:

There has also been a fair amount of speculation around the use of the Kumo brand and URL, and whether this means that we are rebranding Live Search. We’re using the Kumo brand and URL for this test experience to make sure employees understand they’re in a test experience. We believe this will encourage more active feedback. As for rebranding, it’s something we’re still considering.

Mike Nichols who is is General Manager of Live Search also writes that Kumo is solely a prototype of their ‘new search engine’ that they have decided to open to their employees only. This sort of internal testing is pretty common at Microsoft before they release a product publicly.

microsoft-kumo-search-engine

As you can see in the screen shot above, the new engine does look a bit different from Live search and has a few new features like – Images withing results, Related search queries in the sidebar, history. grouping of search results etc.

I can’t wait to test out this engine myself! Hopefully Live search will open Kumo for public beta testing soon.


Listen To Free Music Online

free-music-online-just-hear-it

Do you Love Music? If you do, then you will love this new Music Search Engine – Just Hear It!. Justhereit.com lets you search for any song that you want to listen to and plays it directly on your browser. It also have a built-in playlist functionality that lets you add a number of songs to be played one after another.

They have a pretty sleek, flash interface that makes it very easy to search for songs – with auto spelling correction, add them & play them in your playlist.

search-for-music

Justhereit.com is completely legal (according to their website). It pays for music licenses from all major performing-rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC). which then pay the publishers and writers in proportion to the number of plays they get and is protected under Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1996.

Their member features is currently disabled and you would require an invite to become a member. But you can still search for any song, play it and make a playlist without having to register with them.

Try Justhereit.com today and you will love it!


Google Timeline View in Action

Google Timeline View which is among one of the Google experiments has been seen in action in the main Google Search results page.

google-timeline-view

Well I’m pretty surprised that this experiment has made its way to the real search results. But Its a cool feature if you are searching for things that can be visualized over time.

So try searching for thomas jefferson or albert einstein and you should be able to see the Google timeline view.

It may not work for everyone, but if you are really interested to see what it looks like try adding “view:timeline” at the end of your search query. So search for albert einstein view:timeline in Google and you should be able to see how it looks like.

Do you find Google Timeline useful? Why? Share in comments!


Credibility is more Important than On-Page Optimization

Trust - A Key factor of Search Ranking This morning when I saw an article submitted by QualityGal at Sphinn which made to the Front Page. I wanted to write a comment on it, but as my comment became big I thought maybe I should just post it in my blog so that everyone can read.

So long story short – Ragan Communications, a PR & Marketing firm recently covered a presentation done by John Spagnuolo about “SEO” in general. The reason the I’m linking to a cached page of Google, is because the actual article has been ‘moved’ and has been added under Ragan Select (Where readers need to pay a Membership of $279/year to read the content). This is what I hate about PR companies, they just can’t deal with a criticism can they? Instead of any ‘protest’ or ‘debate’ they just prefer to ‘hide’ under the table.

But anyway, If you think I’m going to bash Ragan just like how Jack Leblond did on his article, questioning the credibility of the company — then you are wrong.

Let me start by saying that with all due respect, I completely disagree with Jack Leblond on this one. I think whatever advice John gave away on the article were all valid and the reporter Michael Sebastian also did a good job in covering it.

Regan is not a SEO Company. As far as I can tell they don’t provide any “seo services”, they are just a marketing/PR firm. So I don’t think it is wise to question their credibility here, because the article that they delivered for their readers were accurate and its indeed some of the best practices that any new website show follow. Now whether or not they follow those ‘mentioned steps’ on their own website certainly should not involve their ‘credibility’.

Code Bloat

Many of the on page factors that Jack highlighted has very less or ‘no’ importance in search ranking today. For instance, Jack mentioned ‘code bloat’ and how Regan has so many javascripts, internal css codes above the content. But Google along with other search engines at 2008 are very smart and can distinguish between javascript, css, flash, video and the text content. And since Regan are ranking OK for their pages, why should they even bother changing that ? Have you ever looked at CNN or Dell? They also have a lot of so called code bloat, but aren’t they ranking well in the SERP?

Yes, I agree that if content is first sourced it definitely helps the crawler to get all your content first before it see’s anything else. However having said that, for a mid-scale site like Ragan I don’t think this is a big issue.

Meta Keywords

Meta Keywords have been dead for a long time (R.I.P). It was not mentioned in the article. And the meta keywords that Jack referred to in Regan’s site are probably auto generated by their CMS. Since search engines became smarter and they dont’ really want you to tell them what keywords your page is related to, I don’t think putting anything in the meta keywords is an issue. Certainly those keywords are not helping them, but its not doing any harm too. What John suggests in the articles are all valid points – content is king, have your keywords in side your title/content etc.

Stuffing Keywords in Alt Tags

Alt Tag for Images are basically needed for two main reasons – 1) So that the search engines can find your image via the image search, 2) User Friendliness – Browsers which can’t display images should be able to display the text to the user.

Over-optimizing and stuffing keywords in ur images is not really going to help Ragan or anybody else :)

Page URL Structure

Search engines are getting better at crawling dynamic URLs. Ragan has over 4k+ pages indexed in Google so I don’t think they have any problem with that.

Many big websites are still doing well, even after having 8-12 parameters in their URL.

Page Title

I agree that Regan can probably do better in their titles. But I have seen a lot worse than that. Its all a matter of ‘personal’ preference. For example, some companies, prefer to have their “Brand Name” on every page title because of branding purpose. So not everything done ‘on the page’ are for SEO purpose.

What to take away from this article?

You need to really focus on building the trust of the search engines first. Once you have built that trust & credibility, you can climb your way up in the rankings and sort of ignore the ‘little things’ as long as it doesn’t give user any bad experience. None of the things that were highlighted by Jack has anything to do with User Experience. They were all meant and targeted for the search engines.

Once you site reaches a substantial level, it sort of the Search Engine’s Job to crawl you site properly. Google itself is nothing. What makes Google useful and valuable is their search results (relevant pages/sites). Now if they fail to actually crawl sites and give their users what they want, Its Google’s failure ultimately.

Suppose the top 100 News sites (on all topics) team up and decide that they will stop using “Title Tag” and use something else. Do you think Google will stop crawling or ranking those sites? Google will soon have to adapt to that change and the demand of the users.

So many websites doesn’t have “Meta Description” tags but still Google Manages to show the generated snippets of those site in their results page. Images without alt tags are still showed in Image Search based on the texts around the Image or the file name of the image.

What does this show? When ‘not enough’ people are following something, search engines always came out with an alternative way of handling it for their OWN Sake! Because without the search results they are not even worth a penny.

Best practices are ‘best practices’ for the mass market, but that doesn’t mean every single one has to follow those ‘best practices’ at every level. When it comes to Search Engine Optimization, the game has certainly changed over the years. Now we have Universal Search, Localized Search, Personalized Search blended inside the traditional 10 plain links. So companies needs more than just “On Page Optimization”. Ultimately Your site’s credibility and trust is the most important factor in today’s ranking.

Disclaimer: I have absolutely No affiliation with Ragan or the writer of the original article.


Top Google Search Phrases of 2008

For the first time, Google has released the top search queries of more than 30 countries via Google’s annual Year-End Zeitgeist.

So here are the Faster Rising Global Search queries of 2008:

  1. sarah palin – Even though Sarah Palin couldn’t win the US Election ’08 with Mccain, it seems like she was the hottest topic in Search.
  2. beijing 2008Beijing 2008 was the second hottest keyword due to the fact that it was the venue of this year’s olympic games.
  3. facebook loginFacebook, the popular social network seems to be very popular among searchers as well.
  4. tuenti – I honestly had no clue about this until I did a google search and figured that Tuenti is a popular social networking website that has been referred to as the “Spanish Facebook“.
  5. heath ledger – The legendary Actor who died in Jan 2008 was always very popular among the female audience. His last movie was a blockbuster hit- Batman: The Dark Knight.
  6. obama Barack Obama is the President-elect of the United States and the first African-American to be elected as a President.
  7. nasza klasaNasza Klasa is a very popular social networking platform for people in Poland.
  8. wer kennt wenwer kennt wen is a very popular social community in Denmark.
  9. euro 2008Euro 2008 is the UEFA European Football Championship, contested by all the European nations. This year it was hosted by Austria and Switzerland in June 2008.
  10. jonas brothers – The Jonas Brothers are an AMA-winning, Grammy-nominated American boy band.

Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Google’s Search Products & User Experience Writes:

It’s because of our inquisitive users that our annual Zeitgeist list is a true reflection of the times, with the billions of Google searches conducted every year lending us insight into our global society.

Zeitgeist is currently available for 30+ of the following countries, and can be accessed here.

My Two Cents

Its really interesting to see that localized / country specific social networking sites are doing really well even though the market often seem to be very saturated. More discussion at Techmeme.


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