September, 2009

  • The Search Blog

    Google showing rich results from forums

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    Google recently announced enhanced snippet functionality which enables you to jump to content you are looking for faster (perhaps on the back of Bing which also provides sophisticated page summaries and in page links).

    It seems that they have added some really nice functionality for searching sites which have integrated forums.  e.g. in the following search. . .

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    . . .you can see that the first match is a question/answer from http://social.answers.microsoft.com (Microsoft’s online forum), but what is clever is that Google also shows 3 other related questions from the site, along with the number of posts each has associated with it. . .

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    Multiple sites

    Think about that for a second – this is not data which is own by Google, instead they have intelligently extracted it from the page and exposed it directly in the search results as ‘Number of posts’ and ‘Date of post’ fields.  This means that they can generate similar fields from other forum based websites and also show posts from those sites in your search results. . .

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    Search using date range

    Many people use an on site search (such as that on social.answers.microsoft.com) to perform advanced searches using data fields which are not normally available to search engines.  e.g. if you want to search for forum posts within a defined date range. Since Google has extracted date information from the page, it is now capable of offering similar functionality from within the advanced search page. . .

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    . . . so you can instantly search all related forums for questions posted within the desired date/time range.  Pretty cool stuff :-)

    Custom developed ‘on site’ search becoming redundant?

    Many companies invest in on site search solutions, which in my opinion rarely do as good a job of determining relevance and popularity as search engines do.  I have for a long time thought that the focus of web site owners should be in helping the search engines understand which content is most relevant (through good SEO), and then let them innovate with algorithm improvements, search interface enhancements and other exciting new features to make searching easier.  Whilst Google holds the worldwide search engine market share, fierce competition from Bing and other search engines is accelerating innovation within the world of search – why bother trying to develop you own custom on site solution when you can take advantage of state of the art search technology coming out of the giants?

    Many web sites provide custom search solutions to enable their customers to perform advanced searches (like filtering results based on date), but as the search engines start to extract this information from web pages and provide that functionality to their users, will ‘on site’ search become redundant?  Or at least powered by the external search engines? 

  • The Search Blog

    SEO tips-Video interview with the Bing Webmaster team

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    I met with Rand from SEOMOZ during a presentation to another MS group a few months ago in Redmond.  He is a very lively guy, very smart and very knowledgeable in SEO.  He recently visited our headquarters in Redmond to interview the Bing webmaster team.  The topics included the Yahoo deal, SEO tips for Bing, Bing webmaster tools and some other probing questions valuable to anyone interested in SEO.  Check out the video below…

    SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday - Interview: The Bing Team from Scott Willoughby on Vimeo.

  • The Search Blog

    Google Sidewiki

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    Google recently announced an interesting new addition to the Google Toolbar, the Google Sidewiki.  The Sidewiki allows you to comment on websites you are viewing, and read comments from other users. . .

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    You must install the Google toolbar to use the Sidewiki, which may alienate some people, although at the same time potentially provide easy access to the existing large toolbar install base.

    Anyone can comment on any website

    Anyone who has installed and is signed in to the Google toolbar can comment on a website using Sidewiki, although Google have implemented a ranking mechanism which orders comments based on various factors including the language used (offensive comments will be filtered out) and the user’s reputation (based on their Google.com profile).  Danny Sullivan’s post on Search Engine Land provides more details.

    I just submitted a post to my travel blog and it appears straight away, although with a caveat that the post may be ‘less useful’ (presumably because I do not have a good reputation in Google’s eyes). . .

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    Add links to comments!

    It interesting that Google also allow you to add links to the comments. . .

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    I am very curious to see whether adding links here will impact traffic to those pages.  I will be running some tests on some Microsoft websites to find out.  I would be keen to hear from anyone else who is doing something similar.  I am also very curious to see how Google will manage spam posts within the comments.

    Site owner comments

    Google has also implemented a function which allows site owners (those validated in Google Webmaster tools) to provide ‘official’ comments on their own sites.  When submitting a comment from a validated Google account, you will need to check the box in the green section shown below for the comment to be published as a ‘site owner’ comment. . .

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    Interestingly, on the BBC website (which already has a number of user comments), the ‘less useful’ comments appear above other comments. . .

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    . . .even though the person at the top doesn’t seem to have been a particularly active commenter.  Perhaps this is due to the infancy of the system?  Perhaps it is a bug?  Perhaps they are still tweaking the algorithm?  Perhaps it is a deliberate way of injecting ‘latest’ comments in to the list for a period of time?  Either way, it will be interesting to see how the displayed comments evolve as (or if) the system becomes more popular.  If Sidewiki does become popular, is this ANOTHER data set which web site managers need to analyse to make their sites successful?  Will Google provide analytics tools to help?  Will current analytics tools be able to access to the data? 

    Will Sidewiki be successful?  Will enough people click the toolbar icon regularly after the novelty has worn off?  I am not sure if I would if I wasn’t interested in it from an SEO perspective.  Wouldn’t people rather use Digg to comment pages they are browsing?

    Plenty more questions to be answered, but Sidewiki is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

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