Natural Search Blog


Bill Gates Predicts Demise of Yellow Pages

Last week at the Microsoft Strategic Account Summit 2007, Bill Gates interacted with Microsoft’s Corporate VP and Chief Media Officer, Joanne Bradford in an interview/Q&A session, and he predicted that among those under 50, yellow pages usage would drop down to zero within five years!

Anti-Yellow-Pages

Now, he was apparently speaking solely about the print yellow pages, but the statement still seemed a tad bit bearish, considering that Microsoft is partnered closely with my former company, Idearc Superpages.com, one of the largest yellow pages companies (print or otherwise) in the world, to license the yellow pages data and service for use in Microsoft’s Live Local Search, and for the MSN Yellow Pages.

Now, Gates isn’t alone in predicting the demise of printed directories, since many others have also foreseen their eventual extinction, including me. But I think that other analysts out there have stated terms more in the ten-year range. Even if the numbers of some directories are declining, I still note that usage and sales are still very strong, so I’d be inclined to expect that print YP will likely go on for longer than five years.

It could be even longer, if there’s some more revolutionary tech introduced, such as I earlier suggested in “Could Nanotechnology Save Print Yellow Pages?

UPDATE: Don Dodge, Director of Business Development for Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team, also posted on his blog about the Summit, and he quoted a Seattle Times report which gave a further quote from Bill Gates about the yellow pages:

The traditional Yellow Pages are doomed as voice-activated Internet searches combined with on-screen interfaces on smart mobile devices get better and proliferate, Gates said. The company’s recent acquisition of voice-technology provider TellMe is accelerating the trend.

Dodge further states:

Microsoft’s recent acquisitions of MotionBridge and Screentonic, coupled with the acquisition of TellMe will support Gates vision of search and advertising on smart phones.

       

Google, Yahoo & MicroSoft to Cooperate on Sitemaps

I was delighted today that the Google and Yahoo search engines announced at PubCon that they would jointly support and collaborate upon one protocol for webmasters to use for submitting their site URLs for potential inclusion. View the video of the announcement here. MicroSoft has also apparently agreed to use the same protocol as well.

To support this initiative, they will jointly support sitemaps.org. If you recall, “sitemaps” was the product name that Google had been using, and which became deprecated just a few months ago in favor of “Google Webmaster Tools”. Obviously, the wheels had already begun turning to repurpose the “Sitemaps” brand name into a jointly-operated service.

Now when Sitemaps are generated to follow the common protocol, webmasters will still need to submit the link feeds to each of the SEs via their existing managment tools such as in Google Webmaster Tools and in Yahoo! Site Explorer.

If you recall, I was one of a number of webmasters out there who had requested that they collaborate on a common protocol, such as in a blog post I wrote back in September:

“Hopefully each of the major search engines will try to employ identical or compatible formats for site URLs, because it will be a hassle to have to keep up with multiple formats. This is an area where the SEs really ought to cooperate with one another for “pro bono publicoâ€? – for the common good. Currently, Yahoo seems to be just defensively immitating Google in this arena, and no one’s showing signs of collaborating.”

Kudos to Google and Yahoo for overcoming traditional corporate competitiveness to do something that mutually benefits website owners as well as the search engines!

 

Nouveau Meta Tags for SEO

Back in the earliest days of search optimization, meta tags were a great channel for placing keywords for the search engines to associate with your pages. A meta tag does just what it sounds like — they are the html tags built to hold metadata (or, “data describing the data”) about pages. In terms of SEO, the main meta tags people refer to are the Keywords and Description meta tags. Meta tags are not visible to endusers looking at the page, but the meta tag content would be collected by search engines and used to rank a page — it was really convenient if you wanted to pass synonyms, misspellings, and various term stems along with the specific keywords.

Classic Meta Tags - people used to pack keywords into metatags

Immediately after people realized that meta tags could allow a page to be found more relevant in the major search engines, unscrupulous people began abusing the tags by passing keywords that had little or nothing to do with the content of their sites, and the search engines began to reduce using that content for a keyword association ranking factor because it couldn’t be trusted. Eventually, search engines pretty well dropped using them for ranking altogether and newer search engines didn’t bother to use them at all, leading Danny Sullivan to declare the death of the metatags in 2002.

Fast forward to 2006, and the situation has changed yet again. Your meta tag content can once again directly affect your pages’ rankings in the SERPs!

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