Category Archives: search

Google Updates Search App for iOS

A couple of months ago Google released a new Search app for iOS devices.  Now, today, they are releasing an update to that app based on user feedback they have received.  The new version is touted as faster and easier to use.

Google claims that search is now 20% faster as you type in your queries.  They have also turned off the “Just Talk” app by default claiming that it was a part of the slower performance that users were experiencing.  Just Talk allowed users to search via voice by bringing the phone up to their ear and speaking, rather than tapping ,the microphone icon.  It can be re-enable by users by visiting the Settings > Voice Search menu.

Google has also increased the size of the font that appears in search results, making it easier to read on a small screen.  They have also made the entire result “tappable” as opposed to just the actual link.

Both of these improvements should enhance the usability for all iOS device owners.  Google, in mobile especially, needs to continue moving forward with improvements given that Bing is suddenly emerging.  While Bing has a great mobile service, I wouldn’t go so far as to call them a competitor yet, but they are at least the little dog that nips at ankles.

Google vs Demand Media: The Ongoing Battle

If you are at all interested in search or Google you have no doubt noticed the on going battle between Google and Demand Media. The fight is over search ranking, the higher in search your site are the more likely people will go to your site, which for companies like Demand Media means more money. Many people complain that companies like Demand Media are simply content farms and that they are gaming Google search to the detriment of better sites. First what are content farms. Content farms are defined by most people as companies that use a large number of authors to crank out post. The posts are optimized for search by the use of keywords. The idea is to get as many hits to the web site they can. Demand Media is considered to be one of the biggest content farms by most critic. Below is a great visual guide to how Demand Media Works.

[Image Source:]

Demand Media Breaking the Bank
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You will notice if you scan down toward the bottom of the image that Demand Media is at this time very successful financially. They are successful because they have figured out how the Google search algorithm works and they send users to their sites which means money thru the ads that Demand Media owns. Wall Street likes Demand Media’s business model and traffic growth. In January 2011 when Demand Media went public its stock was priced at $17 per share, the stock has not gone below $18 a share and has gone as high $26. Despite Wall Streets love affair with Demand Media many user and Google are not fans of Demand Media or other content farms. Articles written for these sites are often of low quality and are written by people who have little knowledge or interest in the subject they are writing about. Unfortunately because they are optimized for search, they tend to push more relevant and higher quality articles down the search results. In February 2011 Google made an update in their search algorithm. Prior to that Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer for Google wrote a post on Google’s Blog, acknowledging that content farms had become a significant problem for Google. Although Google has never verified that the changes in their search algorithm were targeting sites like Demand Media all paths point in that direction.

It is too early to tell if Google’s changes have had any effect on sites like Demand Media. In fact Demand Media’s EVP of Media and Operations, Larry Fitzgibbon, stated a week after the changes were made that they had seen little effects on the number of hits to their sites and for now the numbers seem to be bearing them out. In fact Googles changes maybe having more effect on sites that are not content farms such as Your Tango.

Clearly, this is not an easy problem to solve after all many articles written on sites like eHow, which is own by Demand Media are basic but good post and maybe exactly what the user is looking for. Also changes to the search algorithm effect not only content farms they also can have bad effects on legitimate sites such as Your Tango. The one change or addition that Google made around the same time as their algorithm changes is they added the ability for users to block sites from their individual search results. If users take advantage of this option then that will at least improve search for that user and hopefully over time for everyone. Unfortunately, Google can only do so much, as long as users click on these sites in Google Search they will continue to rise to the top of the search results, or as the cartoon Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”.

Dealing with Content Farms

If you follow the news about Google or search you know that what some people call content farms have become a big issue. First what are content farms, Wikipedia defines content farms as Web sites that employ a large number of freelance writers to generate large amounts of articles that are written to be search engine friendly. The main goal is to increase ad revenue. Critics of these sites say the content is often of low quality and many of the articles often just copy information directly from other sites. Proponents say they are just reacting to market demand and are doing nothing wrong. The problem I have with content farms is they tend to push higher quality articles down the search page. The more popular a search is the more likely this is to happen. They also tend to be simplistic and leave out important details.

The question is what to do about content farms. There are a couple of solutions that have become available lately. The first is to use a search engine called Blekko. Blekko allows you mark sites as spam and then that url is removed from your search database. It works really well, however for it to work you have to use Blekko. This is not realistic for most people who equate search with Google. The second option is a Google created solution which can be found in the Google App Store called Personal Blocklist by Google. Once you install the extension when you do a search if a site comes up that you consider to be spam, you simply click on Block this Site and that site is again removed from your search database. There are a couple of problems with Personal Blocklist that prevent it from being the ultimate solution at this time. First it is available in Google Chrome only and it doesn’t sync across computers. However if you live in Google Chrome and have a single computer this is a great option. A third option is an independent tool called PersonalBlock through Kynetx which is an Appbuilder site. Personal Block works on Google Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. It will works whether you search through Google, Yahoo or Bing. When you do a search and you find a site you consider spam you click Block x Web site and like the Google extension those sites are now blocked from your searches. With Personal Block if you decide you want to see the site if you scroll to the bottom of the search page there is an option to show the site. If you use this method then Google doesn’t get the information. if you use the Google created solution, then Google can aggregate the information and hopefully better search for everyone. I do like the fact that all these solutions leave the choice up to the user.  I am not sure I want Google or Bing or Yahoo to make that decision for me.

Are Smartphone Apps Really Practical?

Today’s smartphones are amazing devices and can do some pretty cool things. Some of the apps can be quite remarkable, but do they offer real-world functionality?

Yesterday was another 104 degree day. Get used to it – there are days like this every year.

I was in my bedroom yesterday afternoon and suddenly the lights went out. To spare you the details, the problem ended up being an aging 60 amp breaker that had weakened to the point where it couldn’t handle my dishwasher and washing machine running simultaneously.

So here I was standing there in front of the breaker box with a magnifying glass trying to make out the tiny numbers printed on the breaker in question and writing them down on a piece of paper. After a few minutes, I realized there was a barcode sticker located on the top of the breaker. Unfortunately, it was located in a position where there was no way that I could see the numbers on it.

Barcode… barcode… BARCODE!!! I have multiple barcode apps on my HTC Evo smartphone. “I wonder if I can possibly scan that barcode with my phone?” I thought to myself. I got the phone, started the Amazon Barcode app, and held the phone up a rather awkward, non-ideal position, trying to hold the phone as still as possible. Success!! The barcode suddenly scanned. I was able to click on the button to look the number up in Google and to my delight it popped right up with the product description and the actual model number of the electrical breaker.

A quick trip to the nearest Lowe’s store and $10 dollars later, I had the exact replacement breaker model that I needed.

It turns out that the Amazon Barcode app ended up being very useful in a way that I could have never imagined.


Microsoft has recently come out with its latest attempt at a search engine to counter Google. The result in called Bing. Microsoft insist that it is not a search engine, but a decision engine. It is unclear what the difference is and the name itself leaves a lot to be desire. That being said, Bing is worth a look at and I have add it to my search engine list.  If you are on Firefox there is an add on which will adds Bing to your search engine list. 

Yesterday I did a news search for the Air France airbus crash and when I searched by time and Bing searches were in order with the most recent one first. Google search by time was slightly out of order. Also on some searches Bing seems to be picking them up faster. On the same API story, Bing had it about 10 minutes ahead of Google. For most people this probably is not that in important. However the closer it gets to real time, the better it is. 

    Bing image search appears to use Light box or something like it, when you mouse over an image it pops out and gives you the url for the picture.  If you click on the image it takes you to the original url and shows related images on the side. You can limit your search by size, black or white or color, whether its a photo or illustration and finally by shape.     If you are searching for a person in image search you can easily limit the search to face only or by face and shoulder or everything.  

The video search engine is also intriquing. The video are playable simply by mousing over the video.  You can also limit the video by length, screen size and resolution.  If you only want to search a certain source you can do that to also as long as the source is listed on left hand side.  Hopefully, as time goes on they will add more video sources such as Vimeo and Quik, but it is not a bad start.  You can also browse for top videos including clips from TV shows, news and music videos . The only thing I have not figured out is how to stop the video once its starts playing. It is a little weak when it comes to maps. The map and the directions themselves are fine. The one thing that Goolge has that makes it better is that it integrates images along with the map. Bing does not do this. The shopping search seems to emphasis the sites which participate in a Cash Back Program, which is not something I am necessarily interested in.

Bing is not a bad search engine. However, other then the video and image special capabilities that I like a lot, there is nothing that will make the average person use it over Google.   I also found a couple of glitches while doing some searches.  I did a search for Lancaster Central Market.  The general search and images all hit the mark.   However when I did the same search under video  I got videos  for a house credit story and several others which had absolutely nothing to do with the Lancaster Central market.   Another glitch that was pointed out by the Leo Laporte on Macbreak Weekly  is if you do a search for the Palm Pre  under related search you get Palm tree items.  These are  glitches that need to be fixed, but they are to be expected in a beta release.

Google’s Trying to Help with NetNeutrality

“We’re trying to develop tools, software tools…that allow people to detect what’s happening with their broadband connections, so they can let [ISPs] know that they’re not happy with what they’re getting — that they think certain services are being tampered with,”

This came from Google senior policy director Richard Whitt the other day. Google seems to have taken a firm stance on what ISP’s are proposing to monitor. And why wouldn’t they? In the end, Google would be the one that takes the hit.

People “Google” over any other search site. If you use Firefox, Opera or Safari, you have the Google search right at the top. For IE users, it’s just a “Change Default” away. If you run a website with Google Adsense, chances are you are using the Google search engine to bring in a little revenue.

If ISP’s start looking at what you do online, then people will stop searching for stuff. Other search sites might pop up to counter the ISP trafficking – masking information so it looks like your searching for flowers when it’s really the Hulk movie. Google will loose it’s 60-70 percent stature in all internet searches.

Now we all know that you should not download software, music or movies. It gets drilled in our heads on a daily basis. While Google is not trying to promote this, they know that if people need something and don’t know where to get it, they will search first. Even if you do know where it is, you still will search for it.

“Feeling Lucky” is Googles’ way of getting you to go through their webpage. According to, there are an average 91,201,253 visits per day. If people stop searching on a popular topic, imagine how that number would drop. If they feel they cannot safely go to the site, they will stop going to the site.

I am not saying this is what drives Google to help with Net Neutrality. However, if I was in the search engine market, I would definitely have a project team watching over these items. Any type of policing like this can really hurt on those who’s life is online.

I don’t torrent nor go to content that could raise a red flag for ISPs. Therefore I would continue to use Google on a constant basis. Even in writing this article I searched on Google about 10 to 12 times. It’s really just a way of life on the internet for me. Before Google (and this dates myself), I was Metacrawling and Dog Piling.

So this brings up the question: Would your internet usage drop if you knew people were watching where you were going?

Google in China

I’m sure most readers remember the furore that erupted when Google agreed to the censorship demands of the Chinese government when it launched its chinese portal. Their reasoning for doing so was that it was the only way they could get into China and compete in the growing Internet space there. From the market share data that is coming out of China this move has not really allowed them to take over that market, and observational evidence seems to show why.

I am in Singapore at the moment for a company training seminar with colleagues from all over Asia including quite a large Chinese contingent. Sitting at the back of the room I have had a good view of everyones laptop, and the image I keep seeing coming up all the time is

This is what gets displayed when you go to the landing page of the leading Chinese run search engine Baidu. Like Google it is more than just a search engine with other community sites and even an encyclopedia. The company started off as an MP3 search engine, predominantly focused on Chinese artists, and have grown to dominate the Chinese search and ad based search market with around 60% of the market.

My Chinese colleagues (a tech savvy and very geeky crowd) have been occasionally using Google as well, so I had a chat with some of them over drinks last night on what determines which they use. The feeling was that Baidu was simply a better search engine when they wanted to search for something in Mandarin (and in Cantonese as well according to the HK boys) it just understands their search terms better. If they are searching for a term in English though, or some things like image search, Google works better so they use that.

DIfferent languages don’t just have different words, they often have vastly different grammer and sentence structure, I would presume that the issue Google is having is that they are not capturing some of the nuances of the language giving poorer results. The difference in market share is probably partially due to this.

Google Roll your own Search

GoogcoopIt seems like the phone will not quit ringing and when I finally get a chance to look at what has happened in tech in the past 18 hours I about flip out when I see this new service Google has launched.

This new service allows you to include the sites you want included in searches (Awesome) you can place a search result box and search results on your website. It can be branded to look like your own site. And you can make money with revelant ads in your search results.

This thing is gonna change the dynamics of search in a big way. [Google Co-op]