Query Suggestion Strategies that Search Engines May Use

With billions of pages on the Web, trying to find the right words to use when you want to search for something can often be hard, especially when you’re looking for information on a topic that you don’t know too much about.

As a designer or site owner, coming up with the words on your pages that searchers expect to see, and may use to search for what you have to offer can also be difficult.

Search engines often act as a middle man between searcher and site owner, helping to bring people to pages that may help them satisfy some kind of informational need, or accomplish some task. Again, that can be difficult, trying to get some idea of what people are looking for with two or three words, and showing a list of web pages that might be helpful to those searchers.

Search engines will often offer search suggestions based upon the words that a searcher types into a search box, to try to make it easier for those searchers. Knowing more about how search engines find those suggestions may be helpful to searchers and to site owners.

You might see these query suggestions above or below the search results that you are shown when you search, or appearing in a dropdown under the search box as you type. They often are displayed with terms like the following showing up in front of them:

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Keywords and Content and Search Suggestions from Time-Related Queries

If you look up when the last five movies from Jim Carrey were released, and were able to sneak a peek at Google’s query logs, you’d see that searches for Jim Carrey spiked on those dates.

Same with Ben Stiller, Edward Norton, Leonardo Dicaprio, and Tom Hanks.

We know this from a footnote in a recently published paper from researchers at Google.

The authors of Gazpacho and summer rash: lexical relationships from temporal patterns of web search queries checked to see if there was some kind of time-based relationship between searches for those movies’ names (and release dates) and the names of those actors.

It sounds obvious that there would be, but it’s interesting to see actual data from Google that explores relationships like that.

Relationships between Queries Based upon Time

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How Search Engines May Mine SEO Forums to Find Web Spam

Post your URL in an SEO forum, and get labeled as a Web Spammer? Maybe.

There are some site owners and internet marketers who attempt to increase how well their web sites rank in search engines by buying links to their sites, or exchanging links with others. Those kinds of activities are frowned upon by the major search engines because that kind of manipulation can impact which pages show up in search results. As Google notes on one of their help pages on link schemes:

Your site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to you. The quantity, quality, and relevance of links count towards your rating. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity. However, some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results.

Likewise, there are forums where people publicly discuss the exchange of links to manipulate search results.

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Google Acquisition of On2 Technologies for Video Technology, and for Hantro Mobile Technology, Too

Google announced on the Official Google Blog this morning that they have signed a deal to acquire On2Technologies:

Because we spend a lot of time working to make the overall web experience better for users, we think that video compression technology should be a part of the web platform.

To that end, we’re happy to announce today that we’ve signed a deal to acquire On2 Technologies, a leading creator of high-quality video compression technology.

A Google Press Release, Google to Acquire On2 Technologies provides more details of the deal.

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Opinion Summaries in Google Maps Reviews

You buy a new phone, and it doesn’t work as advertised, and customer service is even worse. Many people in your shoes would go online, and write a negative review somewhere.

You go on a vacation, and stay at an inexpensive and charming bed and breakfast. You have a wonderful time, in no small part to the thoughtfulness and suggestions of your hosts, and their incredible hospitality. Chances are, you write a glowing review about the experience on the Web.

The number of reviews and review sites on the Web has been growing over the past few years. Google’s recent “review” search option is one attempt to help people find both positive and negative reviews.

Google also presents reviews in Google Maps results. If you search for businesses and organizations in Google Maps, you’ll see under each listing a link to “write a review” for each business listed. If you click upon the “more info” link for a listed business, you’ll see a “review” tab in the box that appears in the middle of the map for that business. The results that show reviews are summaries, which often contain some level of sentiment about the businesses listed.

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Does Page Load Time influence SEO?

Does the amount of time it takes for a page to load in a browser influence search engine rankings for pages? Should it?

If it did, might sites that were all text show up higher in search results than sites that included pictures and different applications? Or, might a search engine find a way to account for different types of sites, and the amount of time it might take them to render in a browser, based upon actual user data in addition to the amount of time it takes a site to render in a browser?

A recent patent application from Yahoo explores ways that a search engine might consider the amount of time it takes different types of pages to render and other issues involving how quickly pages respond to a visits in ranking, classifying and crawling those pages.


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Search Engines Evaluating Snippets in SERPS

Meta descriptions for web pages likely don’t influence the rankings of your web pages in search results. But if your meta descriptions include keywords that your pages might be found for, they may be displayed in search results with links to those pages. If those meta descriptions are interesting and engaging, and provide the right information, they may influence people who view them and are interested in what you offer to visit your pages.

When someone searches at a search engine, they are usually presented with a list of search results, often referred to as SERPS – search engine result pages, that can include page titles, abstracts or snippets from those pages, and URLs from the pages. The abstracts or snippets may sometimes be part or all of the meta descriptions for the pages, if the meta descriptions contain the keyword or keywords used by searchers in their queries.

But, a seach engine might just as easily take that snippet from somewhere else on the page returned in search results.

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My Favorite Travel Site

My favorite travel site doesn’t have a database filled with thousands of hotels or cruises or flights. My favorite travel site doesn’t use words like “amenities,” and it doesn’t change prices on me depending upon the time of day, day of week, week of month, or month of year.

There’s no fancy content management system, live support chat, keyword stuffing of page titles or headings or content, and the word “cheap” doesn’t appear in that title the way that it does in most of the pages that you’ll see if you search for “travel” in one of the major search engines.

The word “sale” doesn’t show up once on my favorite travel site, and I’m not bombarded with information about how much of a percentage I’ll save on my journeys. There’s no inexplicable lawn gnome, or standard stock image of an operator with a headset, or Canadian celebrity, or “top deals” or “packages” on its pages.

If you visit my favorite travel site, you may find yourself imagining that you can smell the salt air wafting through your windows. You may find yourself hearing people enjoying shops and cafes and life, echoing through roads empty of cars, filled with laughter and joy much like they were centuries ago. You may not feel like a tourist at all.

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Getting Information about Search and SEO Directly from the Search Engines