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The search engine war between Google and MSN is generating some nasty tactics reminiscent of the Microsoft vs. Netscape battle of the mid ’90’s. Those who remember that battle will recall the almost surgical methods used by Microsoft to all but destroy Netscape. Today, Netscape is a shell of its former self, kept in a dull corner of the Time Warner empire and denied the attention or funding it needs to reemerge as a viable entity in the browser market. Many will also remember the tactics used by Microsoft to destroy Netscape generated years of anti-trust litigation and almost led to the break-up of the world’s richest corporation and largest software maker. At the end of the day of course, Microsoft got off with a wrist slap and the knowledge that the US Government will not kill a goose that lays golden eggs (and whose products run much of the national infrastructure). Microsoft is obviously feeling free to resort to some its old tricks and the search engine wars are about to go mainstream, possibly becoming public entertainment. Remember the film, Pirates of Silicone Valley? This script promises to be even more interesting.
According to yesterday’s New York Times, Microsoft has officially turned its great eye on Google and is specifically targeting Google and its employees. Microsoft recruiters are said to be calling Google staff at home, telling them that MSN’s new search tool will bury Google and that they had better defect north to Redmond Washington as soon as possible before their jobs and soon to be stock options are worthless. Executives from both companies were seen watching each other like hawks at last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. Wherever a Google representative went, a MSN exec was steps behind, and vica versa. Meanwhile, back in the United States, Microsoft employees are examining Google patents looking for potential weaknesses to exploit. Microsoft is obviously playing for keeps and appears to be preparing to head off the inevitable legal battles that will stem from the introduction of Microsoft’s new operating system, Longhorn, currently in development and scheduled for release early next year.
Longhorn and Search
Longhorn is the code-name for the new operating system from Microsoft. When it is released early next year, Longhorn is expected to change the way we relate to searching for information by integrating the function of search directly into the operating system itself. According to the hype, systems running Longhorn will treat any information ever viewed by machine-specific users as a searchable document. For example, if you receive an email regarding Blue Widgets, research Blue Widgets and write a review of Blue Widget products, you would have three documents consisting of 1 email, 1 website, and 1 Word doc. Two of the three information sources are stored on your hard-drive and one is stored on the web. All three are likely to be found through Longhorn’s search function. By changing the parameters of search technology, Microsoft is laying heavy money on the safe bet that users will quickly become dependent on Longhorn’s search tool. This is basically the same tactic used against Netscape when Internet Explorer was bundled into Windows95(v2.0) in 1996.
“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.” Sam Levenson (1911 – 1980)
Lessons for Google
Netscape was floored by the sudden switch of alliance in browser users and failed to adapt quickly enough. After being purchased at the height of the chúng tôi bubble by AOL, Netscape released it’s infamous (and doomed) version 6.0 which was full of bugs and did not even approach the versatility of Internet Explorer. The rest is pretty much history for Netscape and opportunity for Microsoft. IE now holds over 92% of the browser market with Netscape scraping less than 4%. The same phenomena may happen with Google, especially after the the recent Florida algorithm update in November and the recent Austin update seen in late January. While Google watchers continue to speculate on the what’s, where’s and whys of Google’s recent update, we all agree on at least one basic thing, Google is trying to create a better search tool in order to compete with MSN and Yahoo. Unfortunately for Google, the effect of the recent updates is highly reminiscent of Netscape v6.0, an obvious attempt to build a better mouse-trap that produced a product inferior to its predecessor.
“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience.” George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)
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Desktop Search Is the New Search Engine Battlefield
Yesterday, in a teleconference planned for the same day as the Chicago Search Engine Strategies conference, Microsoft announced their new Toolbar Suite, a Desktop Search tool which is loosely based on the Look Out technology purchased by Microsoft last year. After Google, AOL, Copernic and others had capitalized on the absense of a useful Microsoft file searching tool in the Windows Operating System, Microsoft intertwined their new search tool suite with MSN, introducing the tool to both Windows users and fans of the MSN network.
MSN Desktop Search/Toolbar Suite – Microsoft has finally released a beta of their Desktop Search software. It is integrated with their Browser Toolbar set and is now labeled MSN Toolbar Suite Beta.
AOL Desktop Search – America Online on last month confirmed that it is testing a new search engine that scans for files on a PC’s hard drive, mirroring a similar product unveiled this week by Google. AOL’s desktop search was not developed in-house but is powered by a third-party’s technology, according to a source familiar with the plans. While the source would not reveal AOL’s desktop search partner, this person said it was not Google. The desktop search tool is currently being offered as a feature within a test version of a standalone Web browser that AOL is developing, the source said.
AOL spokeswoman Anne Bentley confirmed that the desktop search tool is being tested alongside the AOL Browser but declined to elaborate further. She said the AOL Browser will launch as early as November. Apparently AOL’s desktop search solution will be powered by Copernic, which pretty much assures that an agreement is in place between the two companies. This is a boost for the AOL Desktop since Copernic has been in desktop search for years. But with Mamma acquiring Copernic (or wanting to) what does this mean for the AOL/Copernic Desktop?
Ask Jeeves Desktop Search – Ask Jeeves introduced a beta desktop search application today, the Ask Jeeves Desktop Search. Upon installation of the small (750K) application, Ask Jeeves Desktop Search creates an index of the information stored on a person’s computer. This process enables users to search by file name, as well as by file content. The application currently supports a wide range of file types, including Microsoft Office files (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), simple text files, Microsoft Outlook email messages, and image, music, and video files. Ask Jeeves Desktop Search constantly monitors the computer (with minimal impact on system resources) for new and deleted files and email messages
Google Desktop Search – After months of speculation, Google’s Desktop Search was released to a crowd of pleased Google users. Google Desktop comes as a 450 KB download file and installs locally on the system. It places a system tray icon, which runs consecutively in the background indexing files on the system. The background-running crawlers monitor the files and internet/chat sessions and keep the index up-to-date by indexing the system when the system is not busy. The processes were eating up quiet some system memory on my personal test system at around 15 megs, but then with the current processing powers and system memory… Most users out there will not find it to be much. Google itself recommend at least 128 MB RAM and a 400 MHz+ system processor. So, if you have a decent computer, running Google Desktop background client won’t tax your system much. Most of the crawling is done when the system is idle.
Yahoo x1 Powered Desktop Search – Yahoo! will be releasing their version of the desktop search tool in January. Unlike Google, they have preferred to stay away from the browser to show the results. The interesting bit is that they are not doing it by reinventing the wheel. They are licensing the technology from a startup known as X1 Technologies.
Toolbar Alternative – Speaking of toolbars, for those site owners who do not have the technology to develop their own toolbars, Effective Brand is offering its customized toolbar development solution for any site owner or web user who wants to make their own toolbar with custom search functionality and RSS aggregation.
Many website owners put the cart before the horse- anxious for search engine traffic and rankings, the first thing they do once their site is complete is buy a “submit to 1,000 search engines for $29” service. Unfortunately, what they receive is a tenfold increase in e-mail spam but no increase in search engine traffic.
Do-it-yourself SEO is a great way to go- if you’ve got the time to put in, anyone can effectively optimize a website. However, it makes sense to hire a professional when your time is better spent doing what you do best; running your business.
Where to start? Selecting an internet marketer can be a daunting task. There are a wide range of fee levels as well as different attitudes, strategies and experience levels.
A few pros and cons can help you in your search:
Con: Submit your site to 25,000 Engines
There are professionals who will prepare and submit your listing request to the major directories as well as industry-specific portals. This is a valuable service– a well-written description as well as a carefully chosen directory category can improve your chances of getting listed quickly and accurately.
Directory listings are valuable links that add to your link popularity and can send traffic in their own right. Many directories are still free but several have paid options that can speed your review. Directories such as Yahoo and chúng tôi are paid listings only. Directory submission specialists can let you know what options and fees are available.
Con: We Won’t Change a Thing on Your Site
Companies that do their optimization “off-site” by building a mini-network of sites or pages on their own site that point to yours aren’t really optimizing your site. They may send you traffic, but when you stop paying, the traffic goes away. You can do that yourself with PPC listings!
search engine algorithms. The key is that they are only for search engine spiders to see; not humans. They may work for a short while (if at all.) The problem is that these pages have no links pointing to them and aren’t very important in the eyes of the search engines, therefore they are not very effective.
The most dangerous companies will tell you that you won’t “see” any of their changes- they add hidden links, hidden text, and other tricky techniques designed to fool search engine spiders. Some create different pages that are shown to spiders than to people- this is referred to as cloaking. These techniques can and will eventually get your site penalized or banned.
Pro: We Can Optimize Your Site
A professional SEO is likely to work with you on keyword research, change your tags, your copy, possibly your links and other code on the page. They will optimize the page- making it friendly to users and search engines while making it relevant to the terms you have agreed upon.
Con: We Guarantee #1 Listings in the Editorial Results
No one can guarantee you a #1 listing in the search engines’ algorithmically determined results for a specific term. The engines do not have special agreements with anyone that allows them to choose where your site will appear!
Read the fine print- often the guaranteed terms are “guinea pig” terms- words no one is searching or optimizing for that even a guinea pig could get you #1 rankings for! Remember that a guarantee doesn’t mean they have to achieve the results- simply that they’ll give you your money back if they don’t.
Other companies guarantee rankings on PPC terms. That’s easy enough, you just have to have a big enough wallet to be #1.
Pro: We Guarantee Improved Results
A good search engine marketing firm should be able to guarantee that they will improve the performance of your site in the search engines- you shouldn’t be worse off than when they started. Really good companies should be able to improve your conversions, not just your traffic and rankings. Isn’t that the ultimate goal?
Don’t be surprised if, after a search engine marketer works on your site, your traffic figures decrease. Don’t worry- traffic doesn’t pay your bills; in fact it actually costs you bandwidth. The quality of the traffic you continue to receive should be improved- more sales or conversions in relation to the number of visitors.
The ideal situation is achieved when you narrow your search visitors to people who are interested in your site and they are easily able to find the information they want. This is more likely to occur when you stop focusing on unqualified but high traffic keyword phrases and start focusing on terms that really relate to your site.
Go with Your Instincts
Don’t let a search marketer change your pages for the worse-slapping keywords on the page here and there may improve your rankings but decrease sales. Optimization techniques should complement and improve your site and good SEO copywriting will improve the focus of the page without losing the marketing edge.
plan to do to your site to drive more traffic, you may have a mess to clean up later.
Vivisimo Launches New Clusty Search Engine
Clusty offers several different categories of search; initial search categories include News, Web, Images, and Gossip (Gossip? No, not ‘blogs; news stuff like Rolling Stone.) A Customize! tab gives you the option to add eBay, Slashdot, or Blogs search tabs — why not just list all that stuff by default? You can also create your own search tabs (which didn’t work in Opera but worked okay in Mozilla); you’re given a list of available search engines and you can check which ones you want to include in your custom tab. Nice to see resources like Gigablast and Librarian’s Index to the Internet included here.
I did a Web search for roses. Sponsored results are at the top, while regular results are underneath. Clustered topics are on the left — in this case the topics included flowers, pictures, reviews, and antiques. In the case where the query is relevant (in this case it is) there’s also a list of shopping topics. Each search result has an option to group into a cluster, open the result in a new page, or preview the result in a window underneath the listing.
The news search has topic clusters at the top of the page, but it’s not clear that they’re related to your search results. (there are still a list of clustered topics on the left of the page.) Beneath the clustered news stories are ungrouped stories.
I find Clusty pretty good. A little slow, but pretty good. I don’t like the ‘blog search aspect. For me, most of the usefulness of ‘blog search or RSS feed search is that you can get the results in order of publication. You’re not getting that that I can see in a Clusty search, which makes it less than useful. I’d also like to see more unusual sources ala Vivisimo, like the ClusterMed offering.
Tara Calishain is writer and editor at ResearchBuzz and author of the new book Web Search Garage
“A great search experience is about more than just offering users relevant and comprehensive Web search results. It’s also about creating an experience where we can quickly and easily provide users the answers they are seeking, whether it’s the best Italian restaurant in their neighborhood or the nearest museums while traveling,” said Jeff Weiner, senior vice president of Yahoo! Search and Marketplace. “This beta launch marks just the beginning of what we are capable of achieving with local and will continue to leverage our world-class search technology and content to provide the most valuable category-specific search solutions for our users.”
“As part of Yahoo!’s commitment to providing the best search experience on the Web, consumers now have a more powerful way to find local information,” said Paul Levine, general manager, Yahoo! Local. “Building on the debut of our innovative SmartView(TM) maps feature earlier this year, the beta release of Yahoo! Local reinforces our commitment to improving the way people find local content online.”
New Benefits of Yahoo! Local
Available today, the Yahoo! Local beta provides users with improved:
— Precision: When looking for local information, consumers have indicated that precision is paramount. Yahoo! is the first to develop a local service from the ground up with precision in mind. Users can now pinpoint businesses and services around an address or zip code – letting the user define their exact location. Yahoo! Local also features unique narrowing tools that allow users to quickly refine local searches – by distance, rating, category, and more.
— Usefulness: With SmartView, a new visual search tool, consumers can use a dynamic map to see where businesses or points of interest are located in relation to each other. For example, one can find a day spa to visit, and plot nearby ATM machines and restaurants on the same map. For some categories such as hotels and restaurants, consumers can even take the next step by making reservations directly through Yahoo! Local.
— Community Voice: Users can now rate and review almost every business in the country – from dry cleaners and dentists to florists and fine dining establishments. Consumers can also use the “email a friend” feature to share their favorite businesses or services with others who are in – or are planning to visit – their neighborhood.
— Personalization: Yahoo! Local provides users the opportunity to save their most frequently used locations or view most recently used locations and quickly and easily access that information each time they do a new search.
SEO Tips for Basic Search Engine Optimization
Sharon says that “In order to perform well, a website must have traffic. Decent traffic will result if a website ranks well in search engines, that is why strong placement in search engines for critical keywords and phrases is essential. When struggling with search engine optimization just go back to the basics. What do search engines want? Search engines want to return search results, that are relevant and useful to the searcher.”
Here are 8 essential SEO tips:
1. CSS – Cascading Style Sheets. Use header tags and cascading style sheets in your website design. Many search engines value H1 and H2 tags more than others. The assumption is that header tags are used to highlight the most important items or themes that appear on a page. By using header tags, webmasters can bullet those keywords or phrases they deem to be most important. The CSS file will help your site load quickly and provide a consistent look and feel throughout the website.
2. Titles. A website is the collection of webpages under a single domain. A webpage refers to a specific page within a website. Unique page titles throughout a website is important. Websites typically contain many webpages and using unique titles on webpages will help highlight different key phrases while uniting all the website content in a single theme.
3. Related Links. Links from related or relevant sites are more important than generic links from unrelated websites. Links are seen as “votes” of quality content. Search engines weigh links from websites that contain related or similar content more importantly, than links from unrelated websites. Work to obtain relevant quality links from related or authority websites.
4. Anchor Text. Vary anchor text. Use a variety of phrases to link to a site. Using different anchor text to link to a website is seen by search engines as “natural” linking. Search engines use the anchor text of a websites incoming link as part of their algorithm to determine a websites theme.
5. Copy. A minimum of 200 words of copy is suggested for each web page. In order to spider a site a search engine must have sufficient copy to spider. Less does not necessarily mean more, when it comes to search engine ranking. In general try to keep copy “above the fold”, so that visitors don’t have to scroll. Copy above the fold is usually sufficient to determine the context of the webpage.
6. Fresh. Keep it fresh. Search engines take notice of how frequently content is updated or added. Search engines spider websites that update content on a frequent basis at regular intervals. Add new content or webpages daily or weekly to increase a search engine spider’s frequency.
7. Consistent. Provide quality, consistent, fresh content. Consistent related content is critical to encouraging both visitors and search engines to return. Providing consistent quality content encourages links which will increase a websites popularity.
8. Themed. Relate the contents of a website by a single theme. Uniting content using contextual words will help websites rank well for less critical but very targeted related keywords and phrases.
And for those who are looking for shortcuts into the search engine results which may only last for the short term but get your site booted after 6 months or so, Sharon lists these questionable techniques to stay away from:
1. Keyword Stuffing. Don’t stuff web pages with keywords that is similar to or the same as the webpages background color. Most search engines have ways to detect keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing will likely result in a search engine ban.
2. Cloaking. Cloaking is when the website identifies the IP address of a search engine spider and feeds the spider content that it is not really on the page. Essentially the search engine sees optimized content that is not currently on the web page that it is spidered. It is difficult for search engines to detect cloaking, but if a site is banned or cloaking it is very difficult to convince a search engine to relist the content.
3. Don’t Sacrifice Quality Don’t sacrifice quality for optimization. While search engine optimization is important, it is equally important that the content on a webpage should make sense. Placing well in search engines at the expense of a quality professional image with decent web copy, will not usually result in sales. It is a matter of striking a balance.
4. Spam. Not much to be said about this one, don’t spam. Don’t spam search engines, don’t conduct email spam campaigns, and don’t spam forums. Being labeled a spammer is a hard reputation to shed.
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