Google Retains Opt-Out Option

February 15, 2018

While the desire by most organizations to land at the top of relevant Internet search results was strong enough to spawn the entire SEO profession, some entities are not so eager for traffic. Now we learn Google will continue to let sites opt out of its search results, even though the legal requirement to do so has expired.  Ubergizmo reports, “Google Will Let Websites Opt Out of Surfacing in Search Results.” Writer Adnan Farooqui writes:

Google settled an antitrust investigation by the FTC back in 2012 by promising to change its behavior in several areas. The commitments it made included removing AdWords restrictions that made it harder for advertisers to run multi-platform campaigns and giving websites the option to opt out of being displayed in search results and having their content crawled. Both commitments that Google made to the FTC back in 2012 have expired as of December 27th, 201[7]. It’s under no obligation to continue honoring them but Google has said in a letter to the FTC that it will honor them. ‘We believe that these policies provide additional flexibility for developers and websites, and we will continue them as policies after the commitments expire,’ Google confirmed in the letter.

So, fear not— if you’d prefer your site not be found by drive-by Google traffic, the search engine will continue to have your back.

Cynthia Murrell, February 15, 2018

SEO Relevance Killer: Semantic Search

January 22, 2018

I am not sure if this Forbes’ write up is “real” journalism or just a pay-to-play story. Either way, it makes clear that the trajectory of search has been to destroy the once useful methods for determining precision and recall as part of an effort to explain or define relevance.

The write up which made me reach for my bottle of Tum’s is “Why And How Semantic Search Transformed SEO For The Better.”

Here’s a passage I highlighted in bilious yellow:

instead of finding exact matches for keywords, Google looks at the language used by a searcher and analyzes the searcher’s intent. It then uses that intent to find the most relevant search results for that user’s intent. It’s a subtle distinction, but one that demanded a new approach to SEO; rather than focusing on specific, exact-match keywords, you had to start creating content that addressed a user’s needs, using more semantic phrases and synonyms for your primary targets.

So what’s this mean in actual practice.

Navigate to Google and run this query with zero quotes and no additional words or phrases: 4iq Madrid.

Now look at the results:

image

The information is about the firm’s US office. The company was founded in Madrid and has some R&D facilities in the high-tech section of that city across from what used to be a hunting preserve for a former government leader. No address is Las Rozas, no LinkedIn listings of staff in Madrid, zip.

The world of search as described in the Forbes’ flag waving prose is great for expanding a user’s query. The purpose is not relevance, providing answers, or delivering on point results.

The purpose is to make it possible to broaden a query so more and usually less relevant ads can be displayed.

If you want relevance in search, you have to work very hard.

For example, to get the Spanish information related to 4iq, you set up a proxy in Spain. Google no longer makes it easy to query its index for content in a language different from the one Google decides you speak based on where you are in the world the moment you run your query. Then you enter the query and peruse the Spanish Google index results.

Yeah, that’s something the average eighth grader will do when writing an essay about Madrid. I know lots of adults who cannot perform this workaround.

The Forbes’ essay states:

The SEO community is better off focusing on semantic search optimization, rather than keyword-specific optimization. It’s forcing content producers to produce better, more user-serving content, and relieving some of the pressure of keyword research (which at times is downright annoying).

Why even bother providing results even marginally related to the user’s query. Do what the NFL Sirius Radio Network does. Run ads all the time. Football is a bit of distraction to the real business of pay-to-play information.

Ads, ads, ads.

Stephen E Arnold, January 22, 2018

What Is Wrong with Web Search? Question Answered

January 15, 2018

I read “How People Search: Classifying & Understanding User Intent.” The article is an extract I believe from a new book oriented to those interested in search engine optimization. I will confess. I am not a fan of search engine optimization.

The write up is important, however. The author makes clear why today’s search returns off point, irrelevant, and ad-related content more often than not.

Quick example: I was running a query for information about a company founded in Madrid, Spain. The company has an unusual name consisting of a single digit and two letters. I assumed that the company name would be unique; otherwise, why would a firm choose a sequence of letters and a number which generated false hits. I also theorized that the company’s location in Madrid, Spain, would narrow the result set.

I ran the query on Bing, Google, and Yandex. None of these systems returned the information I wanted. Bing pointed to some biographies in LinkedIn, Google expanded the query to intelligence quotient or IQ, and Yandex just didn’t have much of anything. I don’t fool with metasearch engines; these just send queries to Web indexes with which they are in cahoots.

What to do?

The solution was not easy.

First, I set up a Spain proxy so I could run my query in Spanish against Google’s index for Spain. One can no longer point to a country’s Google search system. A bit of effort is, therefore, required. Who would want to search outside the United States. Stupid, no?

Second, I turned to my directory of specialist search engines. The one which delivered useful results was iseek.com. I know you probably use this system everyday, gentle reader.

As a result, I was able to obtain the information I needed.

The reason I had to go to such lengths was that the information revealed in the SEO oriented article makes clear that search means delivering what most people want.

You want Minnesota Vikings? Well, you are going to get sports. Forget an easy path to those brave warriors who made life miserable to my relatives in the UK.

Here are some highlights from the article which help explain why advertising and appealing to what the author of Democracy in America pointed out as a path toward mediocrity:

  1. Engineers look at data and shape the system to match the numbers
  2. Quality is conformance to what sells ads and keeps most users happy
  3. Disambiguation is resolved by looking at what numbers suggest is the “correct” or “intended” meaning
  4. You really want to buy something; therefore, pizza is a slam dunk when running a query from a mobile device
  5. Voice search means “I want information”.

If these observations ring your chimes, you are one of the helpful people who have contributed to the death of relevance, the increasing difficulty of locating on points research, and using tools to obtain specific, on point, highly relevant information. Good job.

Stephen E Arnold, January 15, 2018

Traveling Content: What? No Border Control?

November 25, 2017

I read “Understanding the Content Journey.” Frankly I was left with a cold fish on my keyboard. I shoved the dead thing aside after I learned:

The next major disruption for marketers will be in the form of embedded machine learning capabilities that augment and automate the content journey — making content more intelligent.

Okay, marketers, how are you going to make content smarter, more intelligent. Indexing, manual tags, plugging into the IBM Watson smart thing, or following the precepts of search engine optimization.

Intelligent content comes from intelligent people. Machines can and do write about sports scores, financial reports, and other information which lends itself to relatively error free parsing.

None of these issues struck me as germane to the “content journey.” What I learned was that intelligent content has several facets; for instance:

  1. Content ideation and search. What is content ideation? Search is a buzzword which is less clear than words like “mother” and “semantics.” (At least for “mother”, everyone has one. For semantics, I am not sure marketers have the answer.
  2. Content creation. I think this means writing. Most writing is just okay. Most college students once received average grades. Today, everyone gets a blue ribbon. Unfortunately writing remains difficult for many. I assume that content creation is different and, therefore, easier. One needs “content ideation” and Bing or Google.
  3. Content management. Frankly I have zero idea what content management means. The organizations with which I am familiar often have one or maybe multiple content management systems. In my experience, these are expensive beasties, and they, like enterprise search, generate considerable user hostility. The idea is to slap a slice and dice system on top of whatever marketers “write” and reuse that content for many purposes. Each purpose requires less and less of the “writing” function I believe.
  4. Content personalization. Ah, ha. Now I think I understand. A person needs an answer. A customer facing online support system will answer the person’s questions with no humans involved. That’s a close cousin to Facebook and Google keeping track of what a user does and then using that behavior to deliver “more like that.” Yes, that’s true “content ideation.” Reduce costs and reinforce what the user believes is accurate.
  5. Content delivery. That’s easy for me to understand. One uses social media or search engines to get the fruits of “content ideation” to a user. The only hitch is that free mechanisms are not reliable. The solution, from my perspective, is to buy ads. Facebook, Google, and other online ad mechanisms match the words from the “content ideation” with what the systems perceive is the user’s information need. Yep, that works well for research, fact checking, and analyzing a particular issue.
  6. Content performance. Now we come to metrics, which means either clicks or sales. At this point we are quite far from “content ideation” because the main point of this write up is that one only writes what produces clicks or sales. Tough luck, Nietzsche.

Net net: I am not sure if this write up would have received a passing grade from my first English 101 professor, a wacky crank named Dr. Pearce. For me, “content ideation” is more than making up a listicle of buzzwords.

But what about the journey? Well, that trope was abandoned because silliness rarely gets from Point A to Point B.

Pretty remarkable analysis even in our era of fake news, made up facts, specious analysis, and lax border controls.

Stephen E Arnold, November 25, 2017

The Power of Search: Forget Precision, Recall, and Accuracy of the Items in the Results List

November 3, 2017

Thank you, search engine optimization. I now have incontrovertible proof that search which is useful to the user is irrelevant. Maybe dead? Maybe buried?

Navigate to “70 SEO Statistics That Prove the Power of Search.” Prepare to be amazed. If you actually know about precision and recall, you will find that those methods for evaluating the efficacy of a search system belong in the grave.

The “power of search” is measured by statistics presented without silliness like sample size, date, confidence level, etc. Who needs these artifacts from Statistics 101?

Let’s look at four of the 70 statistics. Please, consult the original for the full listing which proves the power of search. I like that “proves” angle too.

First, users don’t do much research. Here’s the statistic which proves the assertion “Online users just take what the system serves up”:

75% of users never click past the first page of search results.

So if you, your product, your company, or your “fake news” item does not appear at the top of a search result list or an output determined by a black box algorithm, you, your product, your company, or your “fake news” item does not exist. How’s that grab you?

Second, users are not too swift when it comes to figuring out what’s content and what’s an ad. Amazing assertion, right?

55% of searchers don’t know which links in the Search Engine Results pages are PPC ads, according to a new survey. And up to 50% of users shown a Search engine Results page screenshot could not identify paid ads.

If one can’t figure out what’s an ad, how many users can figure out if a statistic, like those which prove search is powerful, can differentiate accurate information from hogwash?

Third, search results mean trust. Sound crazy to you? No. Well, it sure does to me. Here’s the statistic that proves search eats Wheaties:

88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.

I believe everything I read on the Internet, don’t you?

Third, if you blog, prepare to be inundated with sales calls and maybe money. Here’s the statistics which prove that search has power:

Companies who blog have 434% more indexed pages than those who don’t. That means more leads!

I would suggest that if you company engages in hate speech, certain product sales, or violates terms of use—you will have to chase customers on the Dark Web or via i2p. By the way, I think a company is a thing, so “which” not “who” seems more appropriate. Don’t y’all agree?

Fourth, using pictures is a good thing. Hey, who has time to read? This statistic conflicts with “longer articles are better” but I get the picture:

The Backlinko study also reported that using a single image within content will increase search engine rankings.

Here’s a picture to make this write up more compelling:

image

Search has power. Really?

Stephen E Arnold, November 3, 2017

Ask Me Anything by Google

August 7, 2017

In a recently released report by Google, the search engine giant says that out of billions of queries searched by its users, around 15% are unique or new queries.

Quartz in an article titled However Strange Your Search, Chances Are Google Has Seen It Before says:

His research shows that people turn to Google to learn about things prohibited by social norms: racist memes, self-induced abortions, and sexual fetishes of all kinds. In India, for example, the most popular query beginning “my husband wants…” is “…me to breastfeed him.

Google has become synonymous with the search for any kind of information, service or product all over the planet. Websites that can cater to audience demand for information thus have an opportunity to capitalize on this opportunity and monetize their websites.

A recent report suggests that SEO, the core of digital marketing is a $90 billion industry and soon will surpass $150 billion in revenues by 2020. It’s thus an excellent opportunity for anyone with niche audience to monetize the idea.

Vishal Ingole, August 7, 2017

A Wonky Analysis of Search Today: The SEO Wizard View

July 24, 2017

I read what one of my goslings described as a “wonky” discussion of search. You will have to judge for yourself, gentle reader. In an era of fake news, I am not sure what to make of a semi factual, incomplete write up with the title “How Search Reveals the World.” Search does not reveal “the world”; search provides some — note the word “some” — useful information about the behaviors of individuals who run queries or make use of systems like the oh, so friendly Amazon Alexa.

I learned that there are three types of search, and I have to tell you that these points were not particularly original. Here they are:

  • Navigational search queries. Don’t think about Endeca’s “guided navigation.” Think about Google Maps, which is going to morph into a publishing platform, a fact not included in the write up which triggered ruffled gosling feathers
  • Information search queries. Ah, now we’re talking. A human types 2.4 words in a search box and feels lucky or just looks at the first few hits on the first search page. Could these hits be ads unrelated or loosely related to the user’s query? Sure, absolutely.
  • Transactional search queries. I am not sure what this phrase “transactional search queries” means, but that’s not too surprising. The confusion rests with me when I think of looking for a product like a USB C plug on Amazon versus navigating to my bank’s fine, fine Web site and using a fine, fine interface to move money from Point A to Point B. Close enough for horseshoes.

image

Skimming the surface is good for seaplanes but not a plus for an analysis of search and retrieval.

But the most egregious argument in the write up is that search becomes little more than a rather clumsy manipulative tool for “marketers, advertisers, and business owners.” Why clumsy? The write up is happily silent about Facebook’s alleged gaming of its system for various purposes. Filtering hate speech, for example, seems admirable until someone has to define “hate speech.” Filtering live streaming of a suicide or crime in progress is a bit more problematic. But search is a sissy compared with the alleged Facebook methods. With marketers looking to make a buck, Facebook seems to slip the pager mâché noose of the write up’s argument.

But there is a far larger omission. One of the most important types of search is “pervasive, predictive search.” The idea is a nifty one. Using various “signals” a system presents information automatically to a user who is online and looking at an output. No specific action on the part of the user is required. The user sees what he or she presumably wants. Search without search! The marketer’s Holy Grail.

There are some important components of this type of search.

Perhaps an SEO expert will explain them instead of recycling old information and failing to define 33 percent of the bedrock statements. But that may be a bridge to far for those who would try to manipulate the systems and methods of some of the providers of free, ad supported search systems. The longest journey begins with a single step. Didn’t an SEO expert say that too?

Stephen E Arnold, July 24, 2017

Scadarlia Refines Internet Search Results

June 27, 2017

You can add a touch of arts-and-crafts to your online searches with a third-party preview-and-notation app—“Scadarlia: New Approach to Search Engines Using.” The promo page includes a video and is full of illustrative screenshots. What interests us is the way Scadarlia evaluates the relevance of each result. The Softpedia download page goes into the tech behind the folksy-looking add-on:

The program prompts you with a main window that is split into two sections, which should reinterpret your approach to search engines. While the left section is dedicated to keywords as well as the list of results the search engine considers suitable for your inquiry, the right panel shows the URL you want to analyze in detail. While this may look like a program packing ordinary browser-like capability, it is not. In fact, the application differentiates itself through its ability to follow a series of rules when displaying the results of a Google or Bing search. It can analyze the position of your keywords within your page, making sure that they are as close to one another as possible, since this is what makes them more representative for what you have in mind.

Other features include the color-coding sites by usefulness and the abilities to blacklist sites and to create stop words. The full version can be downloaded for $9.95 from its Softpedia page.

Cynthia Murrell, June 27, 2017

Decoding SEO and Traffic Generation

June 12, 2017

Businesses are desperately trying to get noticed online. However, most businesses focus on generating traffic while sidelining the ultimate motive of generating sales.

According to an article published on Business 2 Community titled The Ugly Truth: Why SEO Isn’t Driving Better Website Sales, the author states:

Driving traffic to your website with SEO is only half the battle. It’s also important to make sure your website is designed in a way that converts those leads into sales. When you have a website that has a solid conversion rate, it ensures the investment you make in SEO will result in a guaranteed boost in sales.

What business owners fail to understand is that traffic is just one part of the equation in generating sales online. You need to keep your potential customers engaged, develop trust among them, and offer them incentives among many other things. With millions of websites being launched every day, these are some of the key factors that can set you apart from the herd. Focus on generating sales and not just driving traffic, or resort to Google AdWords Campaigns.

Vishal Ingole, June 12, 2017

Which Beyond Search? Text Processing or Meet Market?

April 3, 2017

In Madrid last week, a person showed me a link to Beyond Search. Nope, not this Beyond Search but to an executive recruitment firm based in London. This outfit owns the url beyondsearch.net and had the good sense to piggyback on the semantic value created by my Kentucky thoughts about search, content processing, text analytics and related subjects.

I took a quick look at the company’s Web site, which looks quite a bit like one of those Squarespace instant sites with sliders, large type, and zippy images. There were a couple of points I noted. Permit me to focus on the staff and the partners of the London-based “get you a new job, pal” store front.

First, the list of partners includes a link to a Brazilian executive recruitment company named Grupo Selpe. I used to live in Campinas, and I did a quick check of this company. The connection between Grupo Selpe and Beyond Search seems to be one of Beyond Search’s “directors.” There’s not much information about the executive directors, but we will continue to monitor the named entities. There was one link related to Grupo Selpe and Beyond Search, and it was dated 2005. Odd that in 12 years, there’s only one modest reference to the London shot house type company.

Second, we noted that the founder of Beyond Search is a person allegedly named James Davies. He too exists in a bit of an information vacuum. His LinkedIn page reports that he is a graduate of Keele University, and he has been the founder of two interesting Google-scale operations; specifically:

  • ScaleUp Works, a conference designed to raise investment funds
  • Walker Davies, an outfit described as “the UK’s pre-eminent startup and scale up hiring specialists”.

Walker Davies is interesting because it is listed as one of the “partners” of the Beyond Search recruitment outfit. It strikes me that Walker Davies and Beyond Search are in the same business: Headhunting, a colloquial terms popular in the US for moving a person to a new job.

image

Headhunting refers to the practice of some indigenous people. Beyond Search, despite its aboriginal origins, consumes only geese. Beyond Search in London may consume the careers of certain individuals. Beyond Search is enjoyed by certain individuals familiar with our approach and work for certain government entities engaged in law enforcement. Beyond Search in London is familiar to the pay-to-play aspect of executive recruitment; for instance, this company, Not Actively Looking.

Third, one of the partners of the recruitment outfit is the Financial Times. It apparently had a Non Executive Directors’ Club. I clicked on the link to the Financial Times, a publication which I view as one which tries not to get embroiled in illegal, underhanded, and deceptive practices. (I could be incorrect of course.) What happens when I follow the link? I get a 404 error.

image

This snippet from the headhunting Web site says that Beyond Search is proud to be partners with the Financial times Non Executive Director’s Club. Please, note the typographical error introduced between the logo and the executive placement service’s rendering of the identical text. Careless? No, just a bad link. I saw this when I clicked on the logo:

image

It seems that the Financial Times does not want to be captured in the headhunters’ pot of boiling oil or the Beyond Search headhunting outfit does not have the ability to get details right. If that is indeed the case, I am not sure I would entrust my Beyond Search goose’s job search to those who might plop the dear bird into a pot and sit back and wait for goose with sauerkraut. “Sour” right?

Fourth, The OwenJames’s link is not active. But it seems to be given pride of place on the Beyond Search LinkedIn page. I find that interesting because even my LinkedIn page includes slightly more timely information. Compare the two entries and decide for yourself: The Arnold LinkedIn page vs. the James Davies’ page.

Beyond Search BeyondSearch
image image

Fifth, the Beyond Search partner Paradox is in the coaching business. No, not football in the Roman Abramovich school of management. (See “Ruthless Sacking Is the Hallmark of Roman Abramovich Empire.” The Paradox service strikes me as somewhat vague. As a former Booz, Allen & Hamilton lackey, I understand the value of vagueness. I did enjoy the quote from Niels Bohr: The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement.” But is that what Paradox is about? False statements. I know that folks in Harrod’s Creek are not as sharp as those from more sophisticated cities like London, but the paradox is that I don’t understand how paradox is the heart of leadership.

An outfit with the same name as this beloved blog may have some good qualities. Granted, the punctuation errors, Financial Times’s link which isn’t, and the fascinating grab bag of partners suggests that the headhunter outfit is an interesting operation.

Rah, rah, to any company which wishes to hang on the webbed feet of the flying goose. Remember. When the Beyond Search goose lands, it can lay golden eggs. Sometimes, however, it can leave a deposit which can discolor paint with poo burn like this:

image

The opposite of the truth is what again? Ah, right. The Beyond Search operation in the UK. Recruit on, I say.

Stephen E Arnold, April 3, 2017

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