Guest Speaking at the University of Delaware

I had the chance to give presentations on Seach Engine Optimization today to a couple of classes at the University of Delaware.

The class, BUAD477: Information Technology Applications in Marketing (pdf) is one of the more advanced internet marketing classes I’ve seen offered on the University level, based upon the syllabus and the quality of course materials.

I had an email conversation with Professor Alex Brown, who teaches the classes, earlier this year, and he had suggested that I appear as a guest speaker, but it appeared that I wouldn’t get a chance. I received a surprise call from him a little before noon, and he asked me if I might be willing to come in this afternoon, and speak to his classes.

I received some great questions, and some memories came back of my days as a U of D student.

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Google Base Patent Applications: Searching, Labeling, and Ranking User Generated Data

When Google Base first came out, it didn’t have the friendliest looking interface, and its use and purpose wasn’t very clear. A couple of new patent applications provide some more information about the ideas behind Google Base.

The name, Google Base, is a play off the phrase “data base.” At the simplest level, it’s a way of letting people upload information (user generated content) to the Web in a structured format, with attributes and values associated with that information. Want to upload information about jobs, or products for sale, or library holdings? Google Base lets you do that.

The uses for Google Base can be purely informational, such as a collection of information about journals: title, author, publication, article. Google Base can also contain commercial information, such as products for sale and information about those products.

Because the information is entered in a structured format, it should be easy to search for items contained within the many Google Base entries, and when people enter that information, they can also attach labels to it. The Google Base Help Center does a nice job of explaining what Google Base is, and how it can be used.

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Exploring Click and Pay to Call (CPTC) Google Phone Ads

What role does Google envision for telephone calls in Web based ads?

A recent Google patent application explores some of the topics involved. It doesn’t discuss Google’s search by phone system, but it does explain how Google may attempt to avoid some of the issues and limitations of Pay-Per-Call (PPC) and Click-to-Call (CTC) ads.

Why phone numbers instead of landing pages?

Some advertisers may prefer to have users contact them by telephone:

  1. They may not have a Website
  2. They might not have a sophisticated ad landing page
  3. They may feel that a phone call could generate more sales, or higher margin sales than a visit to their website
  4. Some users may just be more comfortable on the phone, or are using a device making it hard to see Web pages, or to input information necessary to make an order.

The patent application discusses click-to-call and pay-per-call, and some of the limitations to those approaches.

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Yahoo to Use Query Histories to Improve Search Results?

If a large percentage of people searching for “NY travel” in a search engine choose a result titled “Airfare to New York City”, should the search engine start defining “NY” and “New York” to be synonyms?

Can a search engine learn from results that it provides to searchers? Can it make inferences about the relationships between different queries based upon the similarity of results that it returns, and the choices that people make when faced with those results?

How could a search engine be set up so that it can take advantage of the histories of different queries that return similar results, and yield similar choices from the searchers who enter those queries? A new Yahoo patent application explores a method for approaching that result.

Using matrix representations of search engine operations to make inferences about documents in a search engine corpus
Invented by Shyam Kapur
Assigned to Yahoo!
US Patent Application 20070094250
Published April 26, 2007
Filed: October 20, 2005

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Google Local OneBox Midpage Results?

Last Week, Chris Sherman noted that Google News results are going to start appearing in the midst of search results integrated with other results, rather than above the organic Web results in Google To Integrate News With Web Search Results.

It appears that News might not be the only area that Google is experimenting with. My friend Keri Morgret sent me a screenshot of a local search results page that she received yesterday when checking a nearby beach:

Google Local Search Results Midpage

It looks like it’s a personalized Web search with Google Desktop installed. Is that a difference that makes a difference?

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Queryless Recommendations at Google, Stumbleupon, and eBay

Last week, Google announced a Web page recommendation service that works with the Google toolbar and Google Web History to allow people to do some Searching without a query

While searching around the US Patent Applications database, looking at user recommendations programs tied to toolbars, I happened across a patent application that describes some of the nuances of how Stumbleupon works.

If you use Stumbleupon, you already have a working knowledge of how stumbleupon does what it does. If you want to dig a little deeper under the hood, the patent filing provides a more detailed view.

Method and system for single-action personalized recommendation and display of internet content
Invented by Eric Boyd,Justin LaFrance, Geoff Smith,and Garrett Camp
US Patent Application 20030195884
Published October 16, 2003
Filed: April 11, 2003

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Google, Paid Links, and the FTC Staff Letter On WOM

On April 14th, Matt Cutts wrote about hidden links on his blog, and he also discussed a best practice to disclose paid links towards the end of his post:

The other best practice I’d advise is to provide human readable disclosure that a link/review/article is paid. You could put a badge on your site to disclose that some links, posts, or reviews are paid, but including the disclosure on a per-post level would better. Even something as simple as “This is a paid review” fulfills the human-readable aspect of disclosing a paid article. Google’s quality guidelines are more concerned with the machine-readable aspect of disclosing paid links/posts, but the Federal Trade Commission has said that human-readable disclosure is important too:

The link Matt included in that paragraph points to a December 12, 2006, Washington Post article titled FTC Moves to Unmask Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Endorser Must Disclose Link to Seller.

The word “Link” in that title is a little misfortunate in that it isn’t talking about hyperlinks but rather relationships of one type or another. Unfortunately, the Washington Post article didn’t link to the FTC Opinion letter that they wrote about, but after searching around, I do believe that I was able to find a copy of the Commercial Alert FTC Staff Opinion Letter.

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Integrating Online and Offline Shopping: Buying at the Babies “R” Us

Ecommerce has come a long way, especially when stores let you browse online, and then make your offline shopping easier. My latest shopping experience merging the online and offline world came pretty close to being a very good one, but had some usability problems.

Unfamiliar Turf

I was pretty much out of my comfort zone when it came this shopping mission. I can navigate pretty well around sporting goods, hardware and car repair items, books, and groceries. But surround me with cribs and strollers, diapers and pacifiers, and I have no sense of the intuitive layout of the Big Box store I found myself in last week.

I browsed the Babies”R”Us web site, and used the baby registry card I had received with an invitation for my Niece’s baby shower to find her gift registry. It was a good idea to include a Babies “R” Us card with the invitation, and made it easy for me to find the right part of the website, and the registry.

There were a few things listed in the registry that were only available in one of the stores, so I decided to visit in person since there is a Babies “R” Us nearby.

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