SEO, PPC, and the US government

I was exploring the FirstGov web site from the US government, and their section on web content, and I wondered how much of our tax dollars are being spent on paid search. I remember seeing some paid ads by the DEA last summer, and the agency is still using Google Adwords.

On the webcontent.gov page about search engines, the webmasters provide information to help people working on US government sites add site searches, and they also give a window into future additions on the webcontent.gov site, including “Getting found on search engines (search engine optimization).”

I looked around to see if they had anything about paid advertising, and found some guidelines about advertising on government sites, but nothing about using paid search on search engines.

I’m tempted to volunteer some information and assistance on SEO, especially if it could help them to build a more balanced online advertising presence within Google and other search engines (and maybe reduce my tax bill).

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Dr. Qi Lu named Senior VP of Engineering for Search and Search Marketing for Yahoo!

(Added – June 20, 2008 – this post was orginally written on April 15, 2006, and describes the technical background of Dr. Lu as he became a Senior Vice President of Yahoo back then. Now, it might serve as an indication of some of the talent that Yahoo is losing after a number of executives, including Dr. Lu are leaving Yahoo )

A press release from Yahoo! earlier today noted that Dr. Qi Lu has been appointed as their new Senior Vice President of Engineering for Search and Search Marketing.

Dr. Lu has been active in a wide range of activities while at Yahoo!, including their search platform, and their social search activities. The press release notes that he has been involved in;

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Learning from Games: the play of user experience

I have a few friends who probably spend a little more time playing computer games every week than they should. I try to stay away, because I know how addictive those games can be (I’ll confess though, that I’ve been wanting to play spore for a while.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a web site that’s as addictive as one of those games?

Luke W, at Functioning Form, collected an excellent set of links to papers on Games & User Experience. There are some fun reads amongst those, and you might experience a “eureka” moment or two as you go through them.

A website isn’t a game, but there are aspects of games that can be incorporated into sites to make them more engaging, and interesting. That can lead to people bookmarketing pages, linking to them, and referring them to friends.

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Google micropayments patent application published

There’s been a lot of speculation that Google would launch some type of micropayment system soon, and a patent application issued today seems to bring that closer to us.

Micropayments inevitable

This isn’t the first patent application from Google that talks about micro-payments. One from a couple of years ago, Method for searching media , discusses the delivery of premium content from magazines and newspapers and books in exchange for very small payments.

And, with talk of Google Base, Google Wallet, and the ability to sell videos on Google Video search, it has seemed inevitable that some type of payment system would be in place soon.

Google Base already has methods in place for people to accept payments through Google, though those seem to be on a per-transaction basis. TechCrunch showed off some screenshots of a seller reputation page in the beginning of March. The new patent application includes the consolidation of payments to sellers, which would make micropayments more viable, and also a reputation management system.

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Yahoo! and Microsoft at the Patent Office

Yahoo!

A new patent from Yahoo! was granted this morning. Note that the classifications being talked about aren’t based upon relevance, but rather upon categories that documents being retrieved by the search engine might belong to, such as ones based upon language or region.

Associating documents with classifications and ranking documents based on classification weights
Inventors: Hongyuan Zha and Sean Suchter
Assigned to Yahoo! Inc.
US Patent 7,028,027
Granted April 11, 2006
Filed: September 30, 2002

Abstract

A method and apparatus for associating documents with classification values and ranking documents based on classification weights is provided.

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Google voice search patent granted

Google was granted a patent today on a voice interface for searches.

There are a number of potential issues with understanding speech when trying to perform searches by voice, which are described by the patent filing.

With most speech recognition technology, there can be high error rates when the vocabulary used is large, and the amount of dialogue used is small. Those applications often need to be trained to recognize unique vocal inflections from speakers. A search query is often limited to a handful of words or less.

Voice interfaces for search engines currently limit that problem by keeping the scope of communication small, asking the searcher to choose from a limited number of categories, and drilling down to smaller categories while providing limited sets of choices.

This can cause voice search to be slow, and limited to pre-chosen categories from the search engine.

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Adding more factors to Microsoft’s sliders

Ever use MSN’s sliders? Do you know about MSN’s sliders? If they changed, would you notice?

I’m not sure that I would.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about feature based rankings at MSN. Rather than describing how understanding feature based ranking (or fRank) might help when optimizing a site for an MSN search, I focused upon some of the different categories that those features might fall into.

While those might be used in the future, or may even be used to help rank pages in a normal search on MSN now, there’s possibly another use for them, too.

In the future, we might see some of those features and categories appear in a different context, where the person searching has some control over which of those are most important to him or her. Another new patent application from Microsoft describes how. We can see some of that context in a somewhat obscure part of MSN’s search.

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20 links on search and design

I compiled another quick list of links this week, but you might want to read them fast, because as Kid Mercury noted almost a week ago, On April 11, The Internet Gets Destroyed (No longer available)

OK, it might not be demolished, but it may just be broken in a number of places after Microsoft issues a new patch that treats some HTML tags involving embedded objects differently, instead of paying licensing fees for the technology.

Search Engines

Google Buys Search Algorithm Invented by Israeli Student
Ori Alon (or Allon), an Israeli student, who has been studying in at the University of New South Wales in Australia, appears to now be working in Google’s Mountain View offices. After a press release in September of last year, it appears that Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Google were all seeking this software, which finds links to related resources, based upon text found on a page from a query on a specific subject.

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Getting Information about Search, SEO, and the Semantic Web Directly from the Search Engines