Google Says ...

An unofficial, unaffiliated source of comment and opinion on statements from Google, Google employees, and Google representatives. In no way is this site owned by, operated by, or representative of Google, Google's point of view, policies, or statements.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Interviewed by Sootle...

The Sootle Web Directory has been publishing a series of interviews with SEOs. They asked me for an interview and I am officially SEO Interview Part Five.

Thanks to Darren at Sootle Web for the interest. Other interviewees so far have beedn Bill Slawski (number four), Michael Grey (number three), Dave Davies (Beanstalk - number two), and Joe Balestrino (number one).

Each interviewee is asked six SEO questions.

Great series, Darren! (And not just because I'm included -- you have some top-notch names in the list.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The uneveness of Google blogging

It's tough when you put all your eggs into one basket. I've occasionally wondered if I should not have called this blog "The Search Engines Say..." because Google doesn't always say anything noteworthy from my point of view. I don't want to do a roundup of every announcement that Google makes, either officially or unofficially. But Google being Google, it seems worthwhile to me to say something about their ponderances and pronouncements on occasion.

I have, however, noticed a pattern that demonstrates just how large and cumbersome Google is becoming. Some of their blogs are updated frequently and some of them are updated about every time a remake of "King Kong" is produced.

The main Google blog sometimes carries posts that don't seem very relevant to me. Such as today's Congratulations, Luis von Ahn post. Alan Estace, Google's VP of Engineering, claims that Google has built upon von Ahn's work, and they extend worthwhile recognition to him. But one does not get a full sense of how much people at Google feel they owe to von Ahn.

Maybe I should say I don't get that sense because I'm so used to reading gushing fan site copy that when someone sings a simple verse of praise, I react with a jaded, "That's it?" It's a worthy note, but doesn't shed much light on Google's mysterious ways to an algorithm chaser like me.

Nonetheless, at least the official blog gets updated on a frequent basis. That's important. It keeps many people coming back. There are other Google blogs that don't update very frequently. Surprisingly, one of those infrequently updated blogs is Blogger Buzz. Their last post as of this writing is September 11's Flickr Support for Blogger in Beta. Seems to me they could find something more to say for Blogger users. I'm not very good about digging into manuals and FAQs any more. I'd rather read about all the cool stuff I should be doing with my blog in contemporary posts.

The Google Analytics blog posts an update about once a week. That's almost enough to keep me coming back, but I have to admit that there are weeks where I forget to do that. So, I did see last week's Spotlight on: How to read the ROI column but I didn't really get excited. I actually liked the Tip: Tracking 404 Pages post more because I do have a lot of 404 issues and I should be paying closer attention to them. Analytics might be a better tool for that than sifting through my error log.

Google Base is not as consistent as Google Analytics in updating their blog. The Open House tip they shared yesterday is actually very intriguing. Can the highly competitive real estate industry benefit that much from Google Base? I may have to go out and recruit a few real estate sites just to test it. contact me if you want help promoting a real estate site. I'll give it some thought.

Normally, I shy away from real estate, as do so many other people. It's a tough, tough field. I do better with promoting insurance Web sites. But I digress. Google Base's blog offers helpful tips on how business site operaors can maximize their visibility in Google, and I wish they offered just a little more frequent information. 2 posts a week would be good for me, even if some of them repeat previous topics or just recap information from the past 3 months.

In fact, I think a quarterly recap of topics would be a good idea for all the Google blogs.

Pacing is a real issue for these blogs. For example, Google Checkout had a flurry of posts last week but has been dry ever since. That's not a good thing.

Google Code updates its blog quite often, but it took me a while to realize they did because their home page looks more like an information portal. Did you know that they have posted a Summer of Code update? BTW guys -- your permalink page layout doesn't look so good in my browser. The solution is not to tell me to switch browsers. Still, one of the great things about this post is that they point you to Drupal's project list, where you can download and test new software.

Speaking of coding, there is now a Google Data APIs blog. Leslie, I hope you and your team see what I am getting at here. Consistency is more important for building a readership than waiting for that whambang product release or update that absolutely has to be mentioned. Pace yourselves with the new blog. I would aim for 1-2 posts per week.

Google Enterprise does a good job of posting to their blog frequently. New version of Google Search Appliance! is one of those whambang product release announcements I referred to in the previous paragraph. But they posted about the Xythos OneBox and Webinar on Sunday and did a post on Friday, and so on. They keep the information flowing and I look forward to seeing what comes next from that blog.

The Google Maps blog is another of their 1-2 times a month updaters. How many people noticed that they posted an announcement about New Satellite Imagery and Performance on Friday, September 15? This post will give that post its first Permalink. Their last post occurred on September 6. Rip Van Winkle would not be likely to check in on a blog so seldom updated.

I have pretty much given up on Google Reader's blog. It hasn't had a post since August 3. Is that all there is to say? No tips on great feeds to find, or ways to find feeds, or how to manage your feeds? Come on, guys, surely you use your own tool, right? Share something.

Same for you, Google Scholar Blog. I'm tired of seeing the N-Gram headline. The joke was funny the first time I read it on August 3 and cute the next time I read it. Now I want more.

I don't understand the Google Video Blog, so I don't even read it -- oh, wait. You can't read it. That's the issue.

Google Web Toolkit blog almost had a September update. Only 11 more blogging days left in the months, folks.

I'm not sure I want to link to Google AdSense blog's September 19 post because I think I'm going to do this. It just sounds too cool to pass up. But it will depend on how complicated it really becomes in the implementation.

Alas! My most favorite of Google Blogs, Inside Google Book Search, has not updated since September 12. What happened, guys? You had a great thing going! I hope you didn't get banned from Blogger or something. That would just be so unfair. Inside Google Book Search is the most innovative of the Google blogs. They actually show people how to use their product 9 different ways from Molly. It's a great propaganda tool for a controversial service because it really does show the value the service provides.

The Google Desktop Blog is another disappointment. No posts since September 5.

And just as I was about to complain that Webmaster Central's blog isn't updating enough, Amanda posted their very cool and informative Debugging Blocked URLs tips. Because of Webmaster Central's name, this blog has the potential to become the most closely read blog of the group, as far as search engine optimizers and Web site promoters are concerned. That's the power of branding. But the power of expectation will impel the Webmaster Central staff to be more active on the blog if they want to keep their audience happy.

The real reason for this roundup is that Google hasn't given me much to write about lately. Sure, Matt Cutts wrote about Changes in URL queries yesterday, but frankly I found that topic to be a little boring. It's not really controversial. We see Google make changes to its interface every day. Changing a query syntax once in a while is no big thing, and I can easily accept the reasoning Matt offers.

In fact, this recent change will probably make my URL reference research a little easier. Unlike some people in the SEO industry, I have sense enough not to expect Yahoo! to tell me which links Google has indexed.

That whole concept still scares me, because those people get paid to do research. That's like looking at the Democratic Party's mailing ilst to see who contributes to the Republican Party.

So, Google, here are your orders: Post more stuff on your blogs. Say something. Give me a purpose, because I really don't know how to change the name of this blog to "The Search Engines Say...".

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Using Google To Help Others

Google announced a United Negro College Fund scholarship program last week. I think our higher education system is way too expensive and am always happy to see more scholarships appear.

But in thinking about what other types of scholarship programs I could imagine Google funding (say, for Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, unwed mothers, orphans, and victims of drunk drivers -- not necessarily in that order), it occurred to me that there is one important segment of American society that never gets any attention: experienced workers whose skills are no longer required. I'm not just talking about unskiled laborers. I'm talking about college graduates.

Last year, Bill Gates whined about a shortage of skilled IT workers in the United States. Don't be fooled by the low percentages for unemployed IT workers mentioned in the article. In 2001, 500,000 American IT workers permanently lost their jobs. Estimates published since then indicate that as many as 400,000 of those workers have been unable to return to the IT field.

Many of those jobs went to India because the cost of hiring Indian programmers is considerably less than the cost of hiring American programmers. Now, I've been to India in a professional capacity and the programmers I met there struck me as being competent, capable programmers. Nonetheless, there is a growing backlash among Americans against the outsourcing of jobs to India. To his credit, Mr. Gates doesn't want to outsource jobs to India -- he wants to bring Indians to America on H1-B work visas and pay them American salaries.

In the meantime, approximately 400,000 former American tech workers find it very difficult to get jobs because they are "overqualified and will leave at the first good opportunity". Try submitting a resume that shows 25+ years' experience (including management positions) in the IT field to an unrelated industry and you'll see what the problem entails. There is a great deal of technical experience and skill languishing in this country because CEOs like Bill Gates are too cheap to invest in teaching skilled programmers how to work in a new language.

Google and other large corporations could give thought to tapping an immense resource of experienced talent that is currently not being exploited.

But enough about scholarships. Google AdWords' Blog has launched the first in a series of blog tips about how to create effective video ads. I don't think many companies have thought about what it would take to sell video ad space on their Web sites, but I've often wished I had the resources to put together some randomly available videos fo Xenite.Org. In about 3 years, these tips may look naive and misguided to experienced hands, but for now they are all that business advertisers have to work with in this emerging field.

If you operate a large multimedia site, think about how embedding cross-promotiona video ads in your own content can help you improve your on-site conversion ratios.

In August, Inside Booksearch published Finding Gems In Your Library. I have now seen this feature in action. I mainain a discussion group about Middle-earth and occasionally post news stories to the list. Tonight I shared a story about Amanda McKittrick Ros, an author whom J.R.R. Tolkien and his friends (the Inklings) read for amusement. I wanted to see if Google Books had any of her works (they don't, although they do have my first book Visualizing Middle-earth).

When I scroll down the first results page for Amanda McKittrick Ros, however, I see three searches of library catalogues. I shared that search with people on the Endor list and I think this marks the first time I have recommended Google Books to people. Don't assume I'm now wholly in favor of the service, but it would be crazy to pretend it is not there.

Google Enterprise says Xythos has developed a Google OneBox module without having to use a Google Search Appliance. If they share enough of their technology in their October 18 Webinar, other developers may be able to follow their lead.

And, finally, Google Webmaster Central reports that the login function for Public Search Service has been temporarily disabled. It's interesting that Google says they are not aware of any malicious exploits of the search function. But I have to wonder if this update was inspired by SEOMoz's 20 government links in 20 minutes post. There are Googlers who read SEOMoz. If they noticed that Public Search was being exploited, SEOMoz may have just helped Google close what could have become a serious loophole.

If you've never looked into what Google Webmaster Central offers, check out their resources. They make the SiteMaps Site Status tool available for free without requiring a login. Many people who don't trust the service may want to reconsider using this tool.

While it's true that Google most likely saves the queries, I doubt they use them to tag sites that are not compliant with Webmaster guidelines. They aready have filters to do that.