Category Archives: Google

People Search

Today I was searching for the name of a person who is at the Executive level at a small software company. The first two pages were filled with a few web pages related to this person, but many more were filled with web pages related to another person with the same name and talking about some lawsuit that person was engaged in.

Then I thought that there should be a better way to provide searching by people’s name. Here is my idea.

1) First and foremost, the search engine should recognize that the search is about a person’s name.
2) The search engine should have the capability to distinguish two webpages containing the same name but different persons. This is not as easy, but context should help a lot.
3) But more importantly, at the time of presenting the results, each search result should be associated to an image, some kind of gravatar. This would help people searching to distinguish between the search results of one person vs the other. In some cases, just reading the surrounding text should help, but may not always be the case. However, if the search engine could detect which of the two people XYZ are being referred to in the webpage, then even if just the name is used to do the search, the results could still be visually presented indicating which page is about which of the two people (or more).

Now, which large company wants to do this? Google? Yahoo? Bing? Don’t patent your stuff though, because I just made it public. He he he.

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Filed under Bing, Google, Yahoo!

Google’s Final April Fool Prank

Last year, I woke up on April 1st and went to the office and tried my best to fool people around. No one got fooled. I was quiet surprised why that was the case. At the end of the day, after talking to a few colleagues who are also pranksters like me, they said they had a similar experience. That no one got fooled. So, we all got together and brainstormed the reason behind it.

Apparently, most people do a Google search within the first 5 minutes of their sitting in front of the computer at work. So, everyone who visited Google’s homepage got Fooled or reminded that it’s the day of making fools. So, the surprise element that many pranksters count on to make friends and colleagues fools has been deprived by Google due to it’s monopoly.

After realizing this, a bunch of us sent an email to Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt telling him of how we are no longer able to make the best out of April 1st. Recognizing our problem, Eric Schmidt promised that he would like to pull off one last prank for 2010 and then stop it. I am hoping that he and Google would stick to their promise.

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Don’t Be Evil, Locally, The New Google Motto

This article says that Google is reversing it’s self imposed policy of not allowing gambling related ads in the UK. The article says

[Google has been reviewing its gambling advertising policy “to ensure it is as consistent as possible with local business practices”, said James Cashmore, industry leader, entertainment and media, at the company. “We hope this change will enhance the search experience for users and help advertisers connect with interested consumers.”]

There are many local businesses that are illegal in most parts of the world. But, hae, if there are millions of dollars at stake, why not? So, the “Don’t be evil” all of a sudden got qualified with geography.

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Text Link Ads & Google

My SEO knowledge is limited, yet I could notice an important factor with Google. Google seems to give importance to the content that’s most recent. Infact, the recency seems to have a bit more weightage than the page rank. For example, when a fresh page is created that is optimized for a given keyword, a website (home page rank) that has a pagerank of 3 easily beat those that are as high as with pagerank 6 and 7. But as time passes, the page keeps getting demoted eventually returning to it’s right place considering the pagerank only effect.

So, essentially, Google’s search results seem to be based on

Freshness(page) + PR(page)

For the fresh pages for which I have seen this correlation, I had also had a Pagerank 4 based blog discuss it. So, it’s not clear if the Freshness is of the page in itself or if it’s related to the freshness of the link to the page. If it’s the later, then it’s important to realize that, since Google takes time to find your new page, index it, gradually promote it from it’s sandbox to the main search servers, there is a lag. That means, if you advertise a text link ad on a website, the result of it could be felt 10 to 30 days later.

Also, it’s unclear on the adverse impact of the page’s score if an inlink is removed. That is, I am not familiar if Google would take note of drop in the inlinks and immediately propagate it to the main index or if it waits for a while. If it drops immediately, then it’s better to extend the text link ad service beyond the one month. Essentially, in that case, set a side budget for 2 months and expect good results for only 50 to 30 days. So, even though the text link ads prove to be twice as much expensive, if it’s helping the site, then it’s worth it. I see that a lot of affiliates can benefit from this type of behavior of Google.

BTW, I recently read that Google no longer gives credit to domain names that contain ‘-‘ in them that are created specifically for SEO. I wonder if using an ‘_’ and in the url, for example, cordless power tools gets any extra credit or not.

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Filed under Google, text link ads

Google Search Privacy

If you are a web master, you know that Google tells you “top search queries” and also “top search query clicks” and the corresponding “average top position” for each of those queries. As a web master, I am sure you would love this information. But if you are the end user doing those queries?

Let’s take a pause and see, what these two types of information are. One gives the position of your web page for the searches that are conducted while the other gives the position of your web page when the user actually clicked on your web page in the search results. The first piece of information is simple and straightforward. However, how it possible to get the second piece? The only ways it’s possible is by tracking the clicks by the users.

Recently, Google’s search results also has “View and manage your web history” link on the top of the page. I personally can’t understand why people want to keep track of what they have searched in the past. No one really wants that, especially if they are concerned about privacy.

So, how is it possible to track the clicks? If you actually see the search result links, they have the standard href=link syntax. So, the link itself is directly pointing to the website itself and so when you place the cursor on top of the link, you do get the link in the status bar. However, there is also the onmousedown event that actually routes the click through a function that hijacks the original link and replaces it with a redirect through Google. That’s how Google knows about the click.

So, if you are over cautious about privacy, what would you do? I have searched for any GreaseMonkey’s user scripts that fix this issue. One seemed to fix the issue, but the way it did it was to register an additional event listener that sets the link back to the original. The reason why that author had to do it that way is perhaps, from within GreaseMonkey scripts, it’s not possible to directly alter the events. Instead, one has to use the addEventListener to register an additional listener. So, it’s not possible to prevent the listener set by the original content.

While the above way of resetting the link back to the original link is fine, the way I addressed this problem is with a oneliner. It is

unsafeWindow.clk = function() { };

That’s it. What this does it, it replaces the window.clk function of the results document that’s called from the onmousedown event listener with a different function that does nothing. Ofcourse, this is specific to Google and the earlier idea of resetting the link may work as a generic case.

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Filed under Google, Google Search Privacy

Thoughts On Net Neutrality

I am thinking more about Net Neutrality these days. These are only some of the thoughts like a devil’s advocate and not finalized opinions.

I see two types of proponents of Net Neutrality. Those that don’t want either the content providers to pay nor the consumers to pay additional fee to the ISPs. And, those that don’t want content providers to pay to ISPs, but agree to ISPs providing tiered pricing to consumers. I frankly don’t understand the first category, since I don’t think installing and operating a network is not free and some one has to pay for that work. So, I want to explore if the second type of proponents are correct.

Now, take YouTube for example, which generates a lot of bandwidth requirement due it’s video streaming. It’s free for end users and the service makes money through ads. Any good service can never be free and some one got to pay for it. A different model for YouTube would be to charge the consumers a minimal fee and not have ads at all. However, YouTube wouldn’t want to do this because, they know that it’s possible to make far more money by making the advertisers bid for their ad space than charging a flat-rate to consumers.

Basically, everyone knows it’s usually much more profitable and have higher margins in a B2B model than in a B2C model. So, these very Net Neutrality proponents who justify that the ISPs should make their additional money to operate additional network bandwidth by charging the consumers based on their usage and hence essentially suggesting a B2C model, themselves want to go with a B2C model.

Think about it, Google could have chosen to make search as a subscription based service to consumers and let the various businesses to put their ads in the search results for free instead of making them to bid for their position.

If content providers have the desire to make their content reach the end user without having to pay to the ISPs, even by bandwidth alone and let alone by bidding to that bandwidth, wouldn’t every website have the same desire to reach the consumers through the search engine?

In the above analogy,

Content Provider = Website
ISP = Search Engine
Consumer = Consumer
ISP Subscription = Search Service Subscription (note, the price of ISP need not be same as Search Service price).

If the search service providers (SSPs) don’t want the websites to have a free ride of their precious page-view bandwidth, why would an ISP want content providers to get a free ride of their network bandwidth?

Let me know how the above thinking is flawed or can be reinforced with tweaks.

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Filed under AdWords, Google, ISP, MSN, Net Neutrality, SSP, Yahoo!, YouTube

Why Google acquired Grand Central?

I don’t know the real answer. I like to pen down the main reason I can think of.

Let me first digress a bit. If you use LinkedIn, you would know that it’s possible for LinkedIn to create a profile of you based on the people you are connected to. This is in addition to all the personal details you provide about yourself. However, personal information like school and work will not completely distinguish two people. As the saying goes, “A Man is known by the Company he Keeps”, in addition to the personal information, the LinkedIn connections will give more information about a person.

The more accurate profile any company has about a person, the more it can target it’s services. For Google, that’s typically advertisement. With a service like Grand Central, Google will be able to amass the people relationships using the phone calls (A calls B). Currently, LinkedIn has no way to give weightage to a relationship. When two childhood buddies connect on LinkedIn that’s no different from when a recruiter hooks up with a person. Given that beyond that initial connection, the actual email communication happens outside LinkedIn, there is no better way for LinkedIn to establish additional weightage to each relationship.

On the other hand, the services offered by Grand Central allows it to track who is calling you all the time. The more calls you receive from a number, the more weightage can be given to that connection.

In addition, say you are trying to buy a house (well, now is not the right time to do so in many parts of the US at present, but say you are one of those who is still thinking of buying one). Now, if Grand Central figures out that you are working with some local real estate agent based on the calls you have been constantly receiving, Google can start showing you mortgage related ads, real estate ads etc. Ofcourse, they can do that based on what you are searching as well. But based on what it knows about that particular realtor, it can target even more.

Infact, Google has already been doing this with email. While Yahoo & Hotmail choose to not put any email address that you send an email into your address book by default, GMail does the opposite. It’s essentially cataloging all your network and the more you keep using Gmail, the more it can learn about you! By acquiring Grand Central, it not only knows your email network, it also knows about your phone network!

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Filed under Google, Grand Central, linkedin