Natural Search Blog


“MSN Bombing” shows Microsoft’s a follower

Guess who’s #1 in MSN’s new, not-yet-finished search engine for “miserable failure.” Yep, it’s Dubbya. Specifically, his biography page on Whitehouse.gov. (In case you’re curious, there’s no mention of “miserable” or “failure” anywhere on his page). Gee, that’s just like Google. Good job, Microsoft… not!

With all the talk about “Google bombing” being bad for the Web and how Google seems to be working to stamp out the effect of blogs, here comes another me-too engine blindly going down the same silly path, letting link text on its own, mainly from blogs, and without any contributing “on-page factors,” dominate the ranking algorithm.

Last year I wrote about how Microsoft is gunning for Google, and they may have a shot at it. Well, after test-driving Redmond’s latest incarnation of the MSN search preview, I have serious doubts they’ll be able to pull it off.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on Microsoft. After all, Yahoo!, Wisenut, and the new engine Snap all rank George W. #1 for “miserable failure”. Teoma ranks him #3. So all the major engines take link text into account — BIG TIME. Hmm… I wonder why we don’t ever hear talk about “Yahoo bombing”?

Personally, I don’t think Hillary Rodham Clinton deserved to be #2, but there’s no point arguing with a behemoth.

miserable failure search on MSN

Inconsistencies in the Google user interface

While we all love Google, I’ve found a couple mildly irritating usability issues that have, surprisingly, been overlooked.

First off, from the Google home page, if you type your query into the search box and then hit one of the tabs, say “Images”, you won’t actually end up with search results for that search term within Google Images. You will simply end up on the Google Images home page with that search query already keyed in for you. It would make a lot more sense if you were taken directly to Google Images search results. Lo and behold, that is exactly what happens if you operate the interface in the same way — BUT from a Google SEARCH RESULTS page. What’s up with that? Is this inconsistency in functionality done on purpose or inadvertently?

My second usability gripe is specific to the Google Directory. For some bizarre reason, users are not allowed to search the full contents of the Google Directory from category pages, only from search results pages. So, if you head to the Google Directory home page, type in a search query, then click on a category name listed in the search results, your ability to conduct another search of the Directory goes away! You’re only allowed from that point on to search within that particular category, or to search the entire Web via Google.com. If you want to do another Google Directory search, you have to use your BACK BUTTON. Yuch! Doesn’t it seem kind of silly that you wouldn’t be able to search within all the Google Directory once you are within the umpteen number of Google Directory’s category pages?

Attention, Google employees: I humbly request that you get these minor annoyances fixed. Other than that, kudos on the fantastic search engine!

Idealab unveils a new search engine

Snap, a new search engine from Idealab was unveiled last week at the Web 2.0 conference by the inimitable Bill Gross himself. Snap’s technology is founded on three core principles:

Google using the largest database of clustering in the world

Peter Norvig, Google’s Director of Search Quality, was quoted as saying at the Web 2.0 conference last week that Google is using the largest database of clustering in the world. Norvig also went on to say that:

the problem with web search is that an entered keyword could be associated with different meanings, but the results displayed may not be the meaning you want. This is why Google is working on the largest bayesian database of clusters to determine the most likely meaning for any given search request.

Read Andy Beal’s account of Norvig’s exclusive demonstration of Google’s clustering technology at Web 2.0.

Google Store makeover still not wooing the spiders

You may recall my observation a few months ago that the Google Store is not all that friendly to search engine spiders, including Googlebot. Now that the site has had a makeover, and the session IDs have been eliminated from the URLs, the many tens of thousands of duplicate pages have dropped to a mere 144. This is a good thing, since there’s only a small number of products for sale on the site. Unfortunately, a big chunk of those hundred-and-some search results lead to error pages. So even after a site rebuild, Google’s own store STILL isn’t spider friendly. And if you’re curious what the old site looked like, don’t bother checking the Wayback Machine for it. Unfortunately, the Wayback Machine’s bot has choked on the site since 2002, so all you’ll find for the past several years are “redirect errors”.

What Google searchers are looking for

Google exec David Scacco (Director, Vertical Markets Group) had some interesting things to say about Google usage this week at the channeladvisor Strategy Summit 2004:

Kudos to Andy Beal of Search Engine Lowdown for documenting David’s comments to the channeladvisor audience.

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