Google Boosts the Importance of Local Search

I had the pleasure of talking with Anita Campbell a couple of weeks back, for an article published today on the Technology portal web pages of Inc. Magazine – Local Search — How Do I Use it for My Business? If you don’t know Anita, or her writings, I heartily recommend that you visit her Small Business Trends site, which is filled with useful and usable information about small businesses.

We didn’t know when we were discussing local search then that Google would make a change that would make local searches even more prominent, which they announced this morning.

You can find local search information on Google’s Local Search pages, but they also will sometimes show information in a regular Google Web search in a section above their Web search results about local businesses when they think that a search is intended to be a local search. See the post I made about Google OneBox Results at Search Engine Land if you want a technical explanation about how they might decide to show those results.

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Interviewed at Web Analytics World

Manoj Jasra of Web Analytics World and I talked last week, and he posted an audio version of the the interview this morning.

Among other topics, we discussed Social Media Optimization and Social Bookmarking, the possible impact of some new patents from Google, the approach competitors to Google might use in taking on the Mountain View search giant, how Microsoft might gain ground on Google by reallocating some of their internal resources, and the little I know about Danny Sullivan’s Search Marketing Expo.

Thank you, Manoj. It was a pleasure talking with you.

Some Social Networking Papers from 2006

If you run a business, there are benefits to being social, to getting involved in your community. Building friendships and business relationships with others not only means having a richer social life, but also becoming part of the whole community.

Getting involved in a local chamber of commerce or main street business association can provide networking opportunities, and also a chance to help strengthen and enrich your community, and improve the standard of living for the people around you.

The internet expands our ability to be social beyond the scope of our local communities. The Web is a social place, a medium which allows people to communicate and interact regardless of differences in distance or timezones.

There are a lot of folks who have written about different aspects of the social nature of the web. I thought it would be interesting to find some papers from the last year that take a closer look at social networking online.

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Mobile Patent Roundup 1-26-2007 – Reranking Searches by Language Used

This week’s granted patents and published patent applications sees an old patented system from Google with a new reranking feature, a mobile sports tv, a multimodal wireless device from Microsoft, a cancelled internet access service for air travel which provided a geographic search service, a context aware user interface, wireless vending machine auditing, mobile scanning, and a platform for mobile services.

Patent Applications

System and Methods for Perfoming Online Purchase of Delivery of Service to a Handheld Device
4121856 Canada Inc. (20070022438)

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Difficult Queries and Identifying Missing Content in Search Engines

There are times when you perform a search in a search engine, and the results just aren’t very relevant.

When you don’t get the results that you expect from a internet or intranet search engine, is it because the search engine isn’t very good, or is it because there isn’t much indexable information on the web or intranet document repository that contains content related to that search?

A new patent application discusses how the folks who run search engines might identify difficult queries where there may not be much content collected by the search engine on certain topics. The process in the patent filing provides search engines the chance to offer searchers suggestions for queries where they may find an answer to questions that they may be searching for, or to allow indexing efforts from the engines to work on filling those gaps.

The best introduction to the patent filing is probably a couple of pages from IBM which discuss the efforts of the researchers who came up with this process:

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Yahoo Games Search Engines

One of the objects of many ecommerce sites has been to find ways to keep people on their site, to explore what they have to offer. With a search engine, the approach has been to provide answers to questions, and help people find pages outside of the search engine. The better the service, the more likely that someone will return the next time they need to find something.

A recent Yahoo patent application shows a desire to keep visitors around longer:

The web pages provided by the search service providers via which a user can submit a query vary somewhat in layout, content, look-and-feel, etc. but generally include a text box for input of keywords for use in the query. Results of the search are provided in a results page with a list of links to results (i.e., pages found to have content matching the query) and possibly one or more advertisements.

This format results in a search process that is very structured and not particularly entertaining. So, once a user locates information relevant to his interest, the user typically leaves the search service provider’s web page quickly. Further, there is little or no incentive for the user to go back to the search service provider’s web page after the information desired has been located.

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Google OneBox and Measuring User Behavior

In addition to posting here, you may know that I also am also a correspondent for Search Engine Land, where I post about search related patents and research.

In a new post over there today, Google’s OneBox Patent Application, I explore a number of the details described in Determination of a desired repository, a patent application from earlier this month that appears to describe how OneBox results may be chosen to appear above (or sometimes below) organic results in a Google web search.

Some OneBox results, like those providing transportation (plane or train) information or definitions or weather reports probably don’t rely upon user behavior information the way that others might, such as news or images or products.

But the patent seems to point towards relying upon information collected in those narrower searches, about users and queries, to decide what kind of vertical search to display above organic searches. I list some of the user behavior information being looked at to make that determination over at Search Engine Land.