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The past year saw immense growth in the search sector. Search is bigger today than it was twelve months ago in every respect. With the Internet becoming a larger part of people’s lives and broadband access becoming the norm around the world, 2004 was the year that big business fully recognized the full impact of search. Read more…

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Wednesday, December 15th, 2004

2004 – A Year of Search in Review

This is the last edition of the StepForth Weekly News for 2004, making this the perfect time to write a retrospective before moving into the new year. The past year will be remembered as the most interesting year in the history of search, that is until this time next year. 2004 witnessed the end of the search engine cold-war and the beginning of what is likely to be an intense rivalry between Google and MSN. It also showed a clear demarcation between who’s hot and who’s not in the business of search. Read more…

What would you do if you were tasked with designing a new search engine?

You have all the resources the world can offer and the certain knowledge that your project is so important to your employer that mountains, molehills, companies, code and really comfy office chairs will be moved, built or acquired to meet your needs, no questions asked. Your boss demands a product that is better than best and, having failed to notice how overwhelmingly essential search would become back when he came to dominate everything else, appears ready to back your project with missionary zeal and Machiavellian maneuvering. The cold hard truth is, the future of one of the largest corporations in the world, owned incidentally by the world’s wealthiest man, may well rest on your shoulders. In this scenario, there are no obstacles, only the challenge of beating Google at Google’s best game. Whoa…. Read more…

Innovation in the world of search seems to come in waves with the major search engine firms appearing to follow each other’s lead in the development of new products, tools and services. Witness today’s introduction of a desktop search/toolbar by MSN. Search engines are standardizing their services around the basic business model of contextual ad delivery and introducing new products and features designed to win the loyalty of new users and retain the loyalty of old ones. The past year has been one of the most expansive and interesting in the world of search since day one. Two major trends, personalization and localization, combined with the competitive necessity to gain users and advertisers provided the foundation for development of desktop search applications and the immense number of toolbars available now. The goal of all major search firms is to offer results that are relevant to an individual searchers’ profile in the least steps possible. User adoption of toolbars and desktop search are major steps in accomplishing that goal. Read more…

Google “…is big. Really Big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is.” (excerpt from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

Google is the most powerful information resource humans have ever constructed. The power of any major search tool boggles the mind but considering the vastness of Google’s complex simplicity can truly hurt one’s brain. With over 8-billion references in its rapidly growing, organically generated index, Google sets the standards other search engines follow. Benefiting from a three year reign as the undisputed leader of search, Google has had a very good year and looks poised to make 2005 an even better year. Read more…

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Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

Yahoo's Spider Slurp

How to write for Slurp the spider

As the world’s second most popular search tool, Yahoo moves a tremendous amount of traffic and is a very credible alternative to Google. Yahoo receives over 2.76 billion page views per day from hundreds of millions of unique users. It boasts over 157 million registered users enjoying mail, shopping and discussion groups and an increasingly personalized search and news services. For the past two years, Yahoo, Google and MSN have been embroiled in a hard-fought battle for the loyalty of search engine users forcing all three firms into the hyper-evolution we are witnessing today. Over the next three Wednesdays we are going to examine how the Big-3 spiders work, what they look for and how to best prepare your sites for multiple visits from the bots that rank them. Today, we are starting with Yahoo’s bot, SLURP. Read more…

It has been a full year since the infamous Florida Update rewrote Google’s rankings with a massive pre-Christmas purge of previously well placed sites. The update, which caught virtually everyone by surprise is assumed by most to be the introduction of semantic contextualization software added to a variation of the Hilltop Expert Document Algorithm. It took Google about six to eight weeks to re-establish stable listings and they took a savage beating in the SEO press during that period. For a short time it looked like the shift was a failure with spammy sites and “big-box” stores dominating the Top listings but after a while Google’s listings began to make sense again. Read more…

I love New York City. More than any other city on the planet, New York is exciting, expansive and always interesting. As Earth’s unofficial capital city New York is home to many of the world’s largest entities, some even bigger than Donald Trump’s ego. No other city has captured the world’s imagination or harnessed its wealth to the degree of NYC. New York is also the home of over8-million people. As one of the most multicultural cities, every cultural group in the world is represented within its 301 square mile area. New Yorkers aren’t just city-folk, they define what is hip in urban living in the early part of this century. Unlike their counterparts in cities like LA, Rome or Tokyo, New Yorkers don’t fall for fads, set trends, or get giddy over the next new thing, ever. They are one of the most jaded and cynical populations and in their East Coast way, take great pride in their worldliness. That’s what makes them the perfect test market for Yahoo’s local-search engine. Read more…

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Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

Algo Update? Don't Panic

There has been a great deal of speculation about a shift coming in Google’s ranking algorithms over the past few weeks. Several recent pieces of evidence point to a coming shift however it is very difficult to predict what, if anything will happen. It’s pretty much a given that there will be some form of update to the way Google reads and ranks sites. Google actually makes minor adjustments on a regular basis. There are rare occasions however when major changes are introduced. I suspect this is one of those times. Read more…

Internet advertising has evolved significantly over the years. In the beginning pop-ups were just that – pop-ups. When they open, you close them and move on. The original pop-ups are still there, but they have also evolved into interstitial ads – you know, those annoying versions that require some level of interaction to make them go away. Some times it’s a video, sometimes a static ad, but it’s always right in your face.

When PPC ads started appearing in search engines they were simple text ads separated by the non-paid listings – they were non-intrusive and un-offending to the searcher. Over the years they have significantly evolved, but to the searcher they, for the most part, remained the same. Most of the changes have been in the realm of the advertiser in terms of ad management and specific targeting abilities, in particular local targeting.

Google has its Local Targeting Options and Overture has its Local Match. A variety of other pay per click engines are offering Geo Targeting based on country, and soon, will likely offer very targeted city and precise searching by radius.

Now both Google and Overture offer the ability to target very specific locations, within 20 miles from a specific point by using the physical address or longitude and latitude. This precise method of targeted PPC advertising is still quite new, but will likely shift over to the second tier engines in time if it proves to be beneficial to both advertisers and searchers.

Such local targeting gives localized business the chances to advertise online with the chance of receiving qualified business. A small craft shop in Vancouver that does not offer online sales, can now place an ad online that will be directed to only local qualified traffic – no more wasted leads from searchers in Toronto.

Hacking The Locals

In Many cases, creating a successful Ad Campaign requires a look at the competitor’s ads. If you are targeting specific countries outside of your own, in many cases it is either near impossible, or extremely difficult to view the competition – until now.

If you are an advertiser in the US and also place ads targeting the UK, it is difficult to see your direct competition unless you are located in the UK. Although it may have been around for a long time, today I just learned of a Google hack that gets you around this.

After you perform your search in Google, go up to the address bar and at the end of the URL add the text ‘gl=uk’; (or instead of uk, any applicable country code), hit enter and you will now see a listing of AdWords ads that are targeted towards the UK.

FeedBack

Have you have an experience with Local Targeting for any of your PPC campaigns? I would love to hear about your positive and negative experiences! Email me at scott@StepForth.com.