Problems with Portals: Yahoo on Keeping Visitors Around

When you run a large portal site that provides updated information on a regular basis, one of the goals you have is keeping people on your site so that they can see your content and your advertising.

When you run a search engine, one of your goals is helping visitors find what they want quickly, showing them relevant advertising while they use your service to find other pages.

Yahoo is in the interesting position of being both portal and search engine, and that may provide some interesting challenges to what they have to offer.

A recent post at the Yahoo corporate blog (Yodel Anecdotal), Making new Yahoo! homepages your own, reflects a number of ways that Yahoo will likely use in the future, including a “My Favorites” section where you can place links to your favorite pages regardless of whether they are on Yahoo or not, a number of new applications, and new ways of looking at older applications such as your email. Local personalization will also be a feature of the home page, where you can see news and applications that are geared towards your location. The post tells us:

For example, the new homepage in India will include a Cricket app and a whole host of others that are India-centric, while the UK site will include apps such as underground alerts, news from the BBC, and more.

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Writing Content for Small Businesses Online

There are creative ways that a small business may use to help visitors find them online, engage those visitors and customers, and keep them coming back. The Small Business Administration has a article that describes some ways that many businesses can use to promote their business in 15 Foolproof Ideas for Promoting Your Company. The article offers ideas like holding contests, or publishing a newsletter, offering demonstrations and seminars and more. Many of those ideas can work well in an online setting.

When you create content for an ecommerce site, it also can help to think about more than just how you may present the products or goods that you offer on your pages. Many ecommerce sites on the web simply break products own into categories, and provide very little beyond a listing of those products and brief descriptions about them.

Understanding how people may search for what you have to offer can be really important, especially if you hope to have visitors find you through search engines. It can be a key to finding creative ways to bring people to your site who might be interested in what you have to offer.

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Boosting Brands, Businesses, and Other Entities: How a Search Engine Might Assume a Query Implies a Site Search

Google has a number of special search operators that you can use in a search to specialize your searches.

One of those special search operators is the “site” operator, which allows you to restrict your searches to a specific domain or website if you use a special “site” command (or operator).

Example “site search” queries:

site:www.seobythesea.com google patents
site:www.espn.go.com Derek Jeter

A newly granted patent from Google may assume that a searcher would like to see results from search of a specific site as well as search results from other pages on the Web. The patent attempts to make up for typical searchers who may fail to use the “site” operator in their searches. As the patent tells us:

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How a Search Engine Might Determine Whether a Search Involves a Geographical Intent

Many web sites involve businesses or organizations that provide goods or services or information relevant to people at a specific location, like the location of a hotel or a dentist’s office in a certain city, or building regulations for a specific town. Many searchers use search queries that may not include geographic information in a way that makes it easy for a search engine to help those searchers find those web sites.

If a search engine can understand whether a search involves a specific geographical location from a searcher’s query, it can provide a richer set of results that include information about that location.

This is true regardless of whether or not the location was even part of the query. For example, if I search for “pizza,” there’s a decent chance that I’m looking for a pizza place nearby.

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Google’s Paid Search Human Evaluators

A newly granted patent from Google provides details on how advertising from Google may be evaluated by human evaluators…

Last September, Scott Huffman, leader of Google’s Search Evaluation Team, told us about some of the efforts behind the scenes to measure and improve the quality of Google’s search results in a post at the Official Google Blog titled Search evaluation at Google. As one part of the review process that they perform, the search engine may use human reviewers:

Human evaluators. Google makes use of evaluators in many countries and languages. These evaluators are carefully trained and are asked to evaluate the quality of search results in several different ways. We sometimes show evaluators whole result sets by themselves or “side by side” with alternatives; in other cases, we show evaluators a single result at a time for a query and ask them to rate its quality along various dimensions.

Google also uses human evaluators to look at the quality of paid advertising shown through Google’s advertising programs. Here’s a snippet from a classified that Google is presently running for a temporary Ads Quality Rater:

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Predictive Search Query Suggestions

When you start typing a query into a search box at many search engines, you may see a dropdown appear under the search box which offers selectable suggestions for query terms even before you may have finished typing. The suggestions may also provide alternative URLs for web pages if you are typing the address of a web page into the search box.

We’ve seen a few patent filings in the past that describe this kind of behavior, but they haven’t gone into a lot of detail about how those specific suggestions might have been chosen.

A patent application published by Google this week gives us a little more insight into the search suggestions that it offers. Interestingly, it’s possible that the query suggestions that I see might be different than the ones that you may be offered, based upon things such as whether or not either of us:

  • Is using a mobile device to connect to the search engine or a desktop computer
  • Might be identifiable as a member of a group profile interested in certain topics or categories of sites
  • Has a search history that the search engine can use to bias those suggestions towards something we are interested in
  • Are viewing a specific page which has a specific profile attached to it, and are using a search toolbar for our search
  • May be connecting to the Web at different connection speeds, or are using different connection types
  • Could have set our browsing preferences differently in our browser or through the search engine for things such as preferred language
  • Others

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Measuring Google TV Advertising and Privacy

Google’s advertising model goes beyond the Web to places like televison. Yesterday, the Official Google Blog ran a post on TV advertising through Google, Tuning in to TV data, which told us that they are gauging interest in ads shown on TV by whether or not viewers change channels during commercials. A video featuring Google’s Dan Zigmond discusses how television ads might retain audiences:

I wonder about the approach, personally. When you’re watching TV and a commercial comes on, do you change the channel to see what else is on? Do you get up and grab a snack, or run a brief errand? Or, do you pay as much attention to the commercials as you do the show that surrounds them? If you do stay in front of the screen and pay attention to the advertising, do you change the channel if you don’t like an ad, or do you suffer through it knowing that it will be gone very soon?

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Should Search Engines Refer Searchers to Other Search Engines?

Do you have a favorite search engine? Is there a particular reason why you use the search engine that you do?

Do you use more than one search engine regularly? Have you switched from using one search engine regularly to another one?

If you ran a search engine, you would probably want to understand why people shift from one search engine to another, either temporarily or permanently. And you might be interested in seeing if you can identify why and when these shifts take place, and a way to predict when such a changeover might happen.

Microsoft has been exploring why people switch search engines, and have filed for a patent on predicting when someone might switch from one search engine to another. It seems like an odd subject for a patent application, and they even tell us that one behavior might indicate such a switch might be when someone submits a query for “Google” in Microsoft’s Live Search.

The patent filing describes studies that Microsoft has conducted where they collected information about searchers switching to different search engines, and provides some details on how the ability to make such a prediction can be used by a search engine in a number of ways…

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