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Friday, March 28th, 2008

Update at Microsoft Live Search

Search Engine Roundtable reported Tuesday that Microsoft Live Search, in an effort to “loosen up the spam filter”, has seen a major update. Over at WebmasterWorld however many are annoyed at the apparent level of poor results.

‘caveman’, one of the moderators at WebmasterWorld, made the comment “the net result has been more pages from iffy, third tier sites ranking than I have seen in long while”

If across the board results will continue to be of lower quality, it would not be surprising to see Microsoft roll back the update – either that or watch their market share dip even lower into the single digits; a loss they can’t afford to take.

In order to help curb the possibility of rioting, the Chinese government has blocked all access to both YouTube and Google News to prevent the viewing of news reports and video footage documenting riots and protests in Tibet. Other web properties blocked include giants Yahoo, CNN, and the BBC.

Cnet reported on the blockage over the weekend and many others such as the New York Times have also picked up the story.

Google has before been blocked by the Chinese government. Back in 2002 searches through the internet giant were blocked to the Chinese population leading into a Communist Party congress in November of that year.

In 2002 the Chinese government reported that an estimated 45.8 million Chinese were online. In July of 2007 this number had increased to approximately 137 million. Since then the total of those online has continued to skyrocket. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, and reported at the Register, the communist country, exceeded that of the US and reached an estimated 216 million online users by the end of 2007.

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Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Yahoo Open Search

How would you like to change the way your site rankings appear within the search engines? I am not talking about the ranking itself, but rather the listings appearance. This idea may soon become a reality, at least at Yahoo, with the introduction of Yahoo Open Search.

As noted in the Yahoo Search Blog Monday:

“..instead of a simple title, abstract and URL, for the first time users will see rich results that incorporate the massive amount of data buried in websites — ratings and reviews, images, deep links, and all kinds of other useful data — directly on the Yahoo! Search results page.”

Rafe Needleman at Cnet reported on the announcement made by Yahoo at SMX West Tuesday noting details on how exactly this program will work have not yet been released. It does appear that both new and small sites will continue to have their listings displayed as they currently are, with the new customized appearances being available to larger sites such as the New York Times.

A formal launch date has also yet to be announced but is expected within the next couple of months. With the ability to make your listing appear more attractive (and to encourage clicks) this is certainly a feature that will be welcomed by webmasters.

Over the past few days there seems to be a lot of action with Google and Mobile search. As the advancement in mobile technology continues, the major search engines are finding their place in this infant marketplace to seek out as many advertiser dollars as possible.

Google Searches Abundant on iPhones
On Wednesday, Google reported that it has seen more mobile searches by users using Apple iPhones by 50 times that of any other mobile handset, according to the Financial Times. This shows that the increasing use of mobile search will prove to be a significant source of revenue for Google and others involved in mobile search into the future, but the statistic had Google second guessing.

“‘We thought it was a mistake and made our engineers check the logs again,’ Vic Gundotra, head of Google’s mobile operations told the Financial Times at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.”

Gundotra went on to note that the number of mobile searches could outnumber that of fixed internet searches “within the next several years” if other manufactures improve the ease of web access as Apple has. Read more…

The policy at Google may not be changing regarding how they treat Display URL’s within AdWords accounts, but they are cracking down on those abusing the system. Effective April 1st of this year the display URL policy will be strictly enforced.

While the policy is relatively simple, some advertisers have found ways to abuse the system and in the light of some advertiser complaints, Google has decided to put its foot down in the act of fairness.

Barry Schwartz over at Search Engine Land has written on this in more detail and has given a few examples of acceptable and unacceptable Display URL’s, but in short, if your Display URL’s coincide with your landing page, you should have nothing to worry about.

Google local search has been integrated into the top of their results pages, for geographic specific searches, for some time now. However, Google recently made an adjustment expanding the number of results displayed in the OneBox / Universal Search results.

Previously when a local based search, such as “Seattle Hotels” was performed, Google would return the top 3 results, followed by the regular top 10 organic listings. With this update, now the top 10 Local results are returned to the searcher.

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Friday, February 8th, 2008

Google Introduces Social Graph API

Last week Google introduced the Google Social Graph API, a new application programming interface to allow wed developers to make better use of relationship data for social networking sites.

The new API will have a number of practical applications, with one possibility being the integration of a button to allow users to easily add friends.

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Friday, February 8th, 2008

Ask Expands Skin Ability

Ask LogoLast year Ask launched Ask3d, and with it came the ability to customize your Ask.com interface with a collection of skins. I personally have never customized a search engine interface using skins, but can certainly see the appeal it may bring to some web users.

Since it began allowing skins, Ask has received many requests for the ability to upload custom skins, and now they have included this feature.

Ask’s Official Blog has step by step instructions on how to customize your search using skins. I suspect that while this feature will appeal to many existing Ask users, it is probably unlikely to pull users from other engines to increase their market share. Nevertheless, it is nice to see a search engine that actually listens to its users.

The rumors have been flying around for some time now over whether or not Microsoft will put in an offer for search Giant Yahoo. Many have speculated over the past few months as to if Microsoft would try for an acquisition, and if so, how much was it worth to them.

This morning all speculation came to an end when Microsoft unexpectantly waved $44.6 Billion under Yahoo’s nose. Shortly after the announcement Yahoo Shares rose sharply by more than 50%, while Google shares took another 8% drop down to 515.90 by close of day Friday.

The latest acquisition attempt, and what would be one of the largest in history, would put Microsoft in a position to actually compete with distant leader Google.

In a conference call this morning Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer stated:

“This is a decision we have – and I have – thought long and hard about,” Ballmer said. “We are confident it’s the right path for Microsoft and Yahoo.”

Last year Microsoft purchased online ad service aQuantive for a stagger $6 Billion – petty cash compared the offer currently on the table for Yahoo.

Last year Microsoft was negotiating to purchase yahoo (see Microsoft Buy Yahoo? Yes Please!) And at that time the Wall Street Journal had estimated Yahoo’s value at around $50 Billion.

Will the deal go though this time? It would certainly stir things up and make life a little more interesting for us SEO folks – If the past is any indication of the future, then this deal may just fizzle out, but with Yahoos recent layoff announcement, and lower than expected fourth quarter earnings, this just may be there way out.

(on a completely “conspiracy theory” type level, perhaps Yahoo just paid off Microsoft under the table to stage a fake offer in order to drive Yahoo shares up? Do I believe this – well no, but I was recently reading about some famous historical publicity stunts, so this theory came to mind and I wanted to share it)

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Friday, February 1st, 2008

Yahoo Cuts 1000 Jobs

According to the New York Times, in an effort to invest in its future, Yahoo will cut 1000 jobs, making it the largest internet layoff since the big dot-com bust. They did not specify which departments will be cut back.

Yahoo’s fourth quarter (2007) net income fell to $206 million, down from $269 million for the same period in 2006. After the announcement Tuesday, Yahoos stock fell by nearly 10 percent in after-hours trading.

Yahoo currently has approximately 14,300 employees. The job cuts are expected to take place by mid February of this year.

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