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A Look Under Google’s Hood

Read between the Google lines in this NYTimes piece. I mean, really read between what the lines of what they are saying. Here are some quotes that you should pay attention to from the piece.

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That’s why Amit Singhal and hundreds of other Google engineers are constantly tweaking the company’s search engine in an elusive quest to close the gap between often and always. Mr. Singhal is the master of what Google calls its “ranking algorithm” — the formulas that decide which Web pages best answer each user’s question.

Why do people come to Google? To answer questions. Are you writing content that answers questions?

Some complaints involve simple flaws that need to be fixed right away. Recently, a search for “French Revolution” returned too many sites about the recent French presidential election campaign — in which candidates opined on various policy revolutions — rather than the ouster of King Louis XVI. A search-engine tweak gave more weight to pages with phrases like “French Revolution” rather than pages that simply had both words.

At other times, complaints highlight more complex problems. In 2005, Bill Brougher, a Google product manager, complained that typing the phrase “teak patio Palo Alto” didn’t return a local store called the Teak Patio.

So Mr. Singhal fired up one of Google’s prized and closely guarded internal programs, called Debug, which shows how its computers evaluate each query and each Web page. He discovered that Theteakpatio.com did not show up because Google’s formulas were not giving enough importance to links from other sites about Palo Alto.

Believe it. Real people do in fact look at search results and Google does tweak it by hand. It’s not all robots.

Mr. Singhal introduced the freshness problem, explaining that simply changing formulas to display more new pages results in lower-quality searches much of the time. He then unveiled his team’s solution: a mathematical model that tries to determine when users want new information and when they don’t. (And yes, like all Google initiatives, it had a name: QDF, for “query deserves freshness.”)

Mr. Manber’s group questioned QDF’s formula and how it could be deployed. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Singhal said he expected to begin testing it on Google users in one of the company’s data centers within two weeks. An engineer wondered whether that was too ambitious.

THE QDF solution revolves around determining whether a topic is “hot.” If news sites or blog posts are actively writing about a topic, the model figures that it is one for which users are more likely to want current information. The model also examines Google’s own stream of billions of search queries, which Mr. Singhal believes is an even better monitor of global enthusiasm about a particular subject.

Updated your content lately? Can someone say “blogs”?

Google Crackdown Part II, JohnChow.com Freefall Begins

gg-google-philosophy.jpgI’m not sure what John Chow and his crew aren’t understanding? It’s pretty darn obvious to me, and something I’ve been warning about for a long time now.

Read my lips. Google doesn’t like when you try to manipulate them. Especially when you flaunt it in public.

John has been doing wrong in Google’s eyes, and the backlash is just starting to come about from the Google Gods. I don’t guess this… I know this. I’m not making this up. I’ve talked to people at high levels at Google. Listen to me… or don’t.

DO NOT TRY TO MANIPULATE GOOGLE. DO NOT SELL LINKS FOR PR. DO NOT DO ANYTHING EXCEPT WRITE HIGH-QUALITY, HELPFUL ORIGINAL CONTENT.

Anything else you do against that mission statement is a mistake, and your site/blog will falter long-term once they catch on to you, and they will catch on, sooner than you think. A massive clean-up is underway, and the crackdowns are beginning to come fast and furious.

From John’s post today…

I can only assume the changes are designed to discount all the waves of review for linkback, technorati trains, alexa trains, etc.

Don’t assume. It’s 100% true. Read above.

With the algorithm change, I’ve decided to put a stop to my review for linkback promotion. All reviews received to date will be posted, but I will no longer accept new reviews. I may bring the promotion back at a later date with some changes. However, I’m going to take a wait and see for now.

chow_feature.pngWhy stop now? Why not keep selling (insert sarcasm here) highly relevant links on your blog like you do about “Free male enhancement” and “Creditcheck”.

Don’t you get it? Google does not like that you are selling links to not relevant sites, and you are/am being punished for it. This has always been my problem with John Chow. I have nothing, nada, zip against him. I’m sure he’s a great person. I simply question his tactics and more specifically, his preaching of the absolutely wrong long-term “tips and tricks” to aspiring Internet marketers and bloggers.

His approach is wrong. Period. Long-term, and now shorter-term, you will fail using his approach.

Listen to me. Stop trying to “game” Google. Stop trying to make money off of passing page rank and non-related content. Just stop.

Start writing good content. Start solving problems. Start thinking about how to help a Google user.

Or do what John does. I’ve said my peace.

Google Killed Journalism? The Decline of News?

John Battelle talks about how Google is killing journalism? Based on this story.

The Chronicle’s announcement earlier this month that 100 newsroom jobs will be slashed in the coming weeks in the face of mounting financial woes represents just the latest chapter in a tragic story of traditional journalism’s decline.

Reportedly losing an estimated $1 million a week, the paper’s owner, the Hearst Corp., concluded it had no recourse but to trim costs by laying off reporters, editors and other skilled professionals, or offering buyouts to the most seasoned journalists in order to induce them to leave. The cuts reportedly will amount to a quarter of The Chronicle’s editorial staff…

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This quote from a commenter on his site.

The rise of the Internet has produced sharp declines in traditional advertising revenues in the printed press. Free online advertising competitors such as Craigslist.com have sharply undermined classified advertising as a traditional source of revenue. While many newspapers have attempted mightily to forge a presence on the Web — including The Chronicle, whose terrific sfgate.com is among the top 10 most trafficked news sites in America — revenue from online advertising is paltry compared to that from traditional print sources. As a result, newspapers such as The Chronicle must make staff cuts to survive — and increasingly it is highly skilled professional journalists committed to seeking the truth and reporting it, independently and without fear or favor, who must go.

The commenter goes on to write:

I see a world where corporations such as Google and Yahoo continue to enrich themselves with little returning to journalistic enterprises, all this ultimately at the expense of legions of professional reporters across America, now out of work because their employers in “old” media could not afford to pay them…..

….the time has come for corporations such as Google to accept more responsibility for the future of American journalism, in recognition of the threat “computer science” poses to journalism’s place in a democratic society.

It is no longer acceptable for Google corporate executives to say that they don’t practice journalism, they only work to provide links to “content providers.” Journalism is not just a matter of jobs, and dollars and cents lost. It is a public trust vital to a free society. It stands to reason that Google and corporations like it, who indirectly benefit so enormously from the expensive labor of journalists, should begin to take on greater civic responsibility for journalism’s plight. Is it possible for Google to somehow engage and support the traditional news industry and important local newspapers more fully, for example, to become a vital part of possible solutions to this crisis instead of a part of the problem?

Interesting to say the least. Scott Karp is right though, “Google Didn’t Destroy The Newspaper Business, The Web Did“.

But let’s be clear — the New York Times can’t monetize that search-driven readership with the same monopoly pricing that it enjoyed in print. But that’s not Google’s fault. That’s the free market.

The newspaper business is based on monopoly control over the distribution of news and information in a given region. The Web destroyed those regional monopolies by making it cheap and easy to distribute any information anywhere in the world instantaneously. The car killed the horse and buggy industry. Digital cameras killed the film industry. Technology happens — but technology itself isn’t destroying journalism. It’s simply destroying the business that subsidized journalism.

Mathew Ingram has more.

MFA (Made for Adsense) D-Day Is June 1st, I Told You So

noahsark.jpgThis is only the first step. The free ride is over. I told you so.

Some online publishers may get an unwelcome jolt on June 1st. Google, which provides thousands of ads to websites through it’s AdSense program, will shut off adds to certain websites beginning Friday.

Sites which are heavy in ads but light in content may be bumped from Google’s AdSense program. Several so-called online publishers who have ads with little content have already received emails saying their websites will be dropped from the AdSense program. Google says these sites influence search results, not necessarily for the good of users, by pointing users searching for specific products to these sites. Once they click through, the user may get the information they are looking for but they also may only find an ad or picture related to that product.

The change is scheduled for June 1. Google says, the clean up will affect the Internet, primarily by cleaning up search results so that users don’t click through to a site filled with ads but with no content to support the ads.

Read full report at Bizreport.com.

Google Adsense Video Ads Explained

Google is smart, we all know this. Looks like the video ads are about to come fast and furious. The Inside Adsense blog put out a clarification about how they will work and look.

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New Sizes…

This week marked the one-year anniversary of the launch of click-to-play video ads. To that end, we thought it’d be fitting to introduce three new members of our click-to-play video ads family: the 728×90 Leaderboard, the 120×600 Skyscraper, and the 160×600 Wide Skyscraper. Previously, video ads were only enabled for the 300×250 Medium Rectangle, the 336×280 Large Rectangle, the 200×200 Small Square, and the 250×250 Square.

But how can I be sure I’ll make money with these video ads?

Generating earnings with videos ads in these new formats will also remain the same. If the advertiser has chosen to display the click-to-play video ad as a cost-per-thousand impression (CPM) ad, you will be paid for every valid impression of the static image, regardless of plays or clicks to the advertiser’s site.

If the click-to-play video ad is a cost-per-click (CPC) ad, you’ll generate earnings from valid clicks to the advertiser’s site rather than clicks on the play button. In either case, you and your site visitors are free to watch the video as frequently as you like. Please keep in mind that you’ll need to be opted into image ads in order to receive video ads, but we aren’t able to guarantee that video ads will always be available for your content.

Pretty nifty.

Say “Google” Really Fast – Video

One of the best things about doing online video is that you can have a lot of fun with it. I just directed, shot and edited this short little video called “Say Google Really Fast.”

While it’s no George Lucas production, it was fun to do, and really proves that you can do entertaining and engaging video if you just think creatively. Enjoy the show.

Search Engine Marketing Just Got A Bit More Complicated Thanks To Google

It is happening sooner than I expected, and on a bigger scale, but I was right.

Google universal search is here, and that means that video is going to start ranking in the regular search results.

After years of people ignoring tabs and links designed to get them to do specialized searches, Google is taking the plunge to push the right buttons behind the scenes and make specialized or vertical search results part of the “normal” experience.

Check out Danny Sullivan’s extensive coverage.

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What could this mean for your business?

It means that search optimization just got bigger. No longer will you need to worry about optimizing your web pages, you’re going to have to worry about videos and everything else. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that all of this “new” stuff is new, so it’s going to be like 2000 all over again. There simply isn’t a ton of content out there that is optimized, so the people who do it now will reap the rewards and get higher “rankings” sooner.

Still don’t want to mess with video yet? Not sure how much more I can convince you?

More good links on the matter.

Aaron Wall says publishing video is easy money, he’s right.

Scott Karp says Google is an even bigger gatekeeper now.

The official Google blog coverage.

What If You Blocked Google From Your Life?

James at Centernetworks.com recently tried it. The result?

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I’m not going to lie, life without Google has been hell online.

Pretty interesting story. I liken it to when the water is out in your house. You keep walking up to the faucet and turning it on, forgetting that it’s not working. You’re just so used to it “being there”.

That’s a huge brand advantage that Google has. We all just expect it. Like we expect our Tivo (dvr) to be there now, etc…

Do your customers expect your brand to be there for them? What are you doing to make sure they need you?

Are Roles Reversing? Is Google Turning Into Microsoft?

Robert Scoble cranks off a good rip about the ‘Fear of Google‘.

Yesterday, during his speech at the Forbes shindig I attended, Geoff Ramsey, CEO of eMarketer’s funniest remark was when he told us that the “Fear of Google” was so prevelent that it even had a three-letter acronymn: FOG.

Anyway, I’ve been hearing more and more about FOG all weekend as I talk with advertising and marketing executives from some of the world’s biggest companies.

It’s interesting to watch how this will play out from a branding perspective. In the recent years, Google has been the cool, fun, useful golden-child that the world thinks can do no wrong.

You know, like Microsoft used to be and isn’t anymore?

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But wait, are roles reversing? Is Google becoming the big, bad evil empire? And is Microsoft quietly and slowly becoming the underdog?

It could happen. If I was Google, I’d be worried about that momentum/brand perception switch. It could take only one bad public relations situation to trigger this into action.

People love rooting for the underdog, even if it is Bill Gates.