What if Google provided annotations for every link on the Web?

Imagine hovering over or right-clicking on links upon a page you’re browsing and seeing additional information about the pages behind those links.

A Google patent, originally filed in 2003, and granted this week, provides a way to see information about links for pages that you might be tempted to click upon before you actually click. Is this something that we might see from Google someday? Could it be the kind of thing that the Google Chrome browser might bring us?

Would you be interested in seeing some information about links on a page that you’re visiting before you click through those pages?

The kind of information that you might be shown could include:

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Proposed FTC Endorsement and Testimonial Ad Revisions Add Blogs, Message Boards, Street Teams

The FTC is considering their first new revisions involving endorsements and testimonials in advertising since 1980, adding blogs, message boards, and street teams to their coverage, as well as imposing stricter guidelines for disclosures in ads.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requested comments (pdf) and provided an analysis of changes and revisions to their Guidelines involving Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising on the Federal Register on November 28, 2008, and requested public comments by January 30, 2009. The period for public comments was extended into March, 2009.

These proposed guidelines from the FTC could affect the use of disclaimers in advertising, and directly address the use of advertising through blogs and message boards and street teams. The guidelines haven’t been amended since the 1980s, and the Web has introduced many changes in the ways that advertisers may attempt to introduce products and services to consumers.

It’s been a long time since the Guides Concerning the Use to Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (16 CFR Part 255) were updated, and I was curious about the changes, especially those involving the Web.

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Yahoo Site Links: Quicklinks for Navigational Queries

If you do a search in Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft Live Search, under some of the first search results that you see are extra sets of links to other pages on the same site. Google refers to these as site links and Yahoo calls them quicklinks. Microsoft has published at least one whitepaper that describes the kind of pages that show up in their site links as final destination pages. The site links that all three search engines show look very similar to each other. Can you identify which site links go with which search engine in the images below (hover over them to see which is from which search engine).

yahoo quicklinks for NASA

Google site links for NASA

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Google Study Shows Use of XML Sitemaps Helps Index Fresh Content Quicker

Search engines use programs to crawl the web, and identify new pages and newly updated pages to include in their index. These are often referred to as robots, or crawlers, or spiders. But there are other ways that the search engine gets information about pages that it might include in search results.

A whitepaper from Google, Sitemaps: Above and Beyond the Crawl of Duty (pdf), examines the effectiveness of XML sitemaps, which Google announced as an experiment called Google Sitemaps in 2005. The experiment seems to have been a success.

XML sitemaps are a way for web site owners to help the search engine index pages on their web sites, through the use of an xml Sitemap. Yahoo and Microsoft joined Google in adding support for XML sitemaps not long after, and a set of pages explaining the sitemaps protocol was launched.

The paper tells us that approximately 35 million websites publish XML sitemaps, as of October 2008, providing data for several billion URLs. While XML sitemaps have been adopted by a large number of sites, we haven’t had much information from any of the search engines on how helpful those sitemaps have been, how they might be used together with web crawling programs, and if they make a difference in how many pages get indexed, and how quickly.

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Is Game Playing the Future Ranking System for Search Results?

Many tasks are trivial for humans but continue to challenge even the most sophisticated computer programs. Traditional computational approaches to solving such problems focus on improving artificial intelligence algorithms. Here, we advocate a different approach: the constructive channeling of human brainpower through computer games. Toward this goal, we present general design principles for the development and evaluation of a class of games we call “games with a purpose,” or GWAPs, in which people, as a side effect of playing, perform tasks computers are unable to perform.

- Designing Games With A Purpose

A paper from Yahoo researchers, Thumbs-Up: A Game for Playing to Rank Search Results, describes a game that they developed and tested internally at Yahoo to allow participants to compete against each other in ranking how relevant pages are for specific search queries.

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Do Search Engines Look at Keywords in URLs?

Is there any value in using keywords in the URLs of web pages? Would a search engine look at keywords that you might include in the addresses of your pages, and associate those keywords with the content of your pages in the search engine’s index?

If so, how would a search engine go about looking at the web addresses indicated in the URLs to your pages, and break them down into meaningful parts to identify keywords?

Breaking URLs down into parts may also play a role in how the pages of a web site might be crawled by a search engine.

A newly published Yahoo patent application gives us some ideas on how it might extract keywords from the URLs of pages, and rank them, as well as using information uncovered in the process to determine which pages to crawl first from a web site.

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Google Patent Granted on Web Link Spam

When a search engine indexes pages and other documents on the web, hoping to provide meaningful and relevant results to searchers, it doesn’t just rely upon the content found on web pages, but also considers the quality and quantity of of links pointing to those pages.

examples of link farms and clique attacks

A search engine like Google might determine that a page is relevant to a specific query based upon the content found on that page, and the anchor text found in links pointing to the page.

It might also look at what it considers “relationships” between pages by looking at how pages are linked to each other. PageRank is one method of viewing those links that Google states that it uses, and assigning a measure of importance to pages that are linked to from other pages. This measure, or rank might be simplified as a probability that someone might arrive at a certain page if they are arbitrarily and randomly clicking on links on pages that they’ve surfed.

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How Searchers’ Queries Might Influence Customized Google Search Results

Why does Google customize some search results based upon a previous query that you’ve performed? Is there a special relationship between those query terms, and if so, how did Google define that relationship?

Imagine searching for “luxury car” at Google, and then performing another search for “infiniti.” On the second search, you find a page in the search results that looks like it will provide you with information that you are looking for, and you select a page.

Now imagine that a number of other people perform the same series of searches and select the same page.

It’s possible that Google might start considering the search for “luxury car” and the search for “infiniti” to be related queries. It’s also possible that the page selected in the second search for “infiniti” might start ranking more highly for the query “luxury car.”

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Getting Information about Search and SEO Directly from the Search Engines