Google Indentifies Navigation Bars for Small Screens, Snippets, and Indexing

More and more people are using smaller devices to look at web pages, and even the search engines are looking at ways to serve pages that can be easily seen by someone using a handheld device.

A patent granted to Google this past week takes a look at navigation bars, and tries to understand how to rewrite some navigation bars without any significant loss in understanding by a visitor to a site.

While this is something that Google can use on their own pages, why might Google be concerned about navigation bars appearing on sites that they have no direct control over?

For one thing, we are told early on in the patent that being able to identify a navigation bar may be helpful when they try to decide which text to index and to display in a “snippet search result.” Another is that through an interface like the one that Google uses for its WAP Proxy (more below), you can visit sites on a handheld that aren’t designed for smaller screens.

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Goodbye SES San Jose

I’m packing my bags, to prepare for a flight tonight back to the east coast, after an enjoyable and educational week in San Jose at the Search Engine Strategies Conference.

The crew at Search Engine Roundtable, Barry, Ben, Lee, and Chris, have done a great job of providing information about the many sessions held over the four days of the conference, including a write up of the session I participated within.

I had a chance to talk with a good number of people during the conference, and really had a great time meeting folks, talking about some future plans of working together in one way or another in some instances, and sharing ideas about search and search engines, marketing, and the industry as a whole.

The sessions I attended were informative and inspirational, and I’m having difficulties deciding which I enjoyed the most. I did get a chance to go to some of the parties held in San Jose, including the Google Dance and Webmaster Radio’s SearchBlast.

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Google as a Recommendation System

I’ll be presenting later today at the Search Engine Strategies at San Jose, and the session I’m talking at involves Search Algorithms and the patents and whitepapers that describe them.

My presentation will focus upon Google as a recommendation system. With some fortunate timing, Google had a new patent granted today, which describes how Google could be used as a recommendation system when it comes to ecommerce.

Interface and system for providing persistent contextual relevance for commerce activities in a networked environment

Invented by Donald R. Turnbull and Hinrich Schuetze
Assigned to Google
United States Patent 7,089,237
Granted August 8, 2006
Filed: January 26, 2001

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Attending Wordcamp 2006 and SES San Jose 2006

One of the things that I don’t get to do on the east coast of the United States is to go to some of the more spontaneous events happening in the world of the Internet and web development.

But, after a red-eye flight to the west coast ending yesterday at the San Francisco Airport around noon, I find myself with the luxury of signing up for WordCamp 2006. This is a day long conference for users and developers of wordpress software, which happens tomorrow, Saturday – August 5th, 2006, from 9 AM – 6 PM, with a 8:30 PM after-party. The location is the Swedish American Hall, San Francisco CA. The conference is free, and it could be fun to have the ability to provide some input into the future growth of wordpress. There’s a big list of suggested sessions, and it should be fun to discuss many of those topics with people who are passionate on the subect.

I’ll be in San Jose next week at the Search Engine Strategies Conference, speaking on Tuesday afternoon alongside Rand Fishkin of Seomoz and Jon Glick of become.com, in a presentation on Search Algorithm Research.

My part of the presentation will be focusing upon how the analysis of queries from users is playing a stronger role in what the search engines serve, how they collect information from users, and how they could expand their personalization efforts by looking at information outside of the interaction they have with their users.

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AOL Open Research Information Retrieval Wiki

I received an email on Sunday night from Dr. Abdur Chowdhury of AOL, who asked me if I would take a look at a new site that the folks at AOL have put together. I haven’t had much of a chance to look at the site, but what I’ve seen so far, I like very much.

I’m hoping that I can get some comments here, about these new wiki pages from AOL, if you have some time. The site is still in alpha, but they are welcoming comments there, too.

‘http://research.aol.com/pmwiki/” (Note: this research was removed after controversy over the release of data contained there.)

There’s some great information there, like 500K user queries, collected over a three month span. There’s also a nice set of publications, including more than a couple co-authored by Dr. Chowdhury.

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Playing Games and Answering Questions

One of the most common activities on the web is searching for answers to questions, and search engines are one way to find some answers. But they aren’t the only means available on the web and people have been turning to places like forums, through usenet, and in many different sites that provide people the chance to interact.

Microsoft has a new patent application for a Game-powered search engine (US Patent Application 20060167874) that looks at some of those means as the groundwork for this invention of theirs.

The listed inventors are Luis A. von Ahn Arellano, Eric D. Brill, John C. Platt, and Josh Benaloh, and it was filed on January 24, 2005 and published July 27, 2006. Here’s the abstract:

The subject invention provides a unique system and method that facilitates an interactive game-powered search engine that serve the purposes of both users who may be looking for information as well as game participants who may desire to earn some reward or level of enjoyment by playing the game. More specifically, the system and method provides feedback to a user based on the user’s input string or a string derived therefrom. The feedback can be a response or answer to the user’s input in the form of text, an image, audio or sound, video, and/or a URL that is provided by one or more game participants when there is some degree of consistency or agreement between the responses or when individual players have demonstrated good reliability in their responses.

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Which Newark is the Dominant Newark? Classification of Ambiguous Geographical References in Local Search

A local search engine works by attempting to return relevant web pages associated with a specific geographical region or location. When the search engines index web pages, it can be helpful to attempt to automatically associate thoses pages, or sections of them with specific places or regions.

Ideally, for example, a web page about a restaurant in New York City should be associated with New York City. This connection can be easier to create if there is clearly a postal address or other geographical information on the page associated with that location and restuarant. But sometimes, a page will only contain a partial address or information that makes it difficult to to draw that connection between page and place.

Another issue that comes up in local search is which geographical region should the search engine show results from when there may be more than one location or region with the same name, or a similar name. For instance, If I want to order a pizza from one of the local pizzerias, I might search for Pizza Newark, but I probably won’t be happy with the Google local results which show Newark, New Jersey, pizza places, instead of Newark, Delaware.

Yes, I can add a zip code, or state name, and that will solve the problem. But I want to know why the local search chooses New Jersey. Is Newark New Jersey, the most important Newark in the world, or is there some other reason?

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Pizza at the Center of New York: Relevancy, Google Local, and Local Results in Organic Searches

When I search for Pizza in New York in Google Local, I’m told that there are about 79,400 results. The top result I see is Lombardi’s Pizza, which is “0.8 mi NE” of the green arrow on the map that points to New York.

Exactly what is that green arrow pointing to, and why does Lombardi’s Pizza show up number one?

To rephrase that question, how does a site to become the “authority” for a region, for a business type, rather than an authority for a specific location and business name?

In Authority Documents for Google’s Local Search, I wrote about a patent application that described how a specific site would show up first when searching for a specific business name and location. The author of that patent filing, Daniel Egnor, was the named inventor on a number of others on local search that came out the same week. This post is about one of those other ones, which is the only one I can recall from Google that talks about identifying specific regions, and tying them to queries about business types:

Indexing documents according to geographical relevance
US Patent Application 20060149774

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