free html hit counter The Last Name Test - John Battelle's Search Blog

The Last Name Test

By - April 03, 2006


Folks who have a blog blessed with lots of link love enjoy the ego boost that comes with entering their own name into Google – in most cases, the result will be that person’s blog at the top of the list. Scoble noticed my post about Ask and did the last name test, and found that Ask failed it, at least for Scoble (mainly because it listed his old blog first, rather than his new one). He also found that MSN did a better job than Google. But this only proves one thing – that it fails it for one person – Scoble. It doesn’t fail for my name, or probably a lot of others. Every name is going to be different. But I think the last name test is flawed – Ask’s ranking is not leveraged as heavily over pure link love. It uses an authority model, along with click pattern technology, to identify the most relevant results. Turns out, for my name, there is arguably a more relevant result – a well known research and development company bearing the same name. It may not be more relevant for *me* – but web search, at present, is still a brute force application. The question is not whether it’s relevant for me alone (though it should be…), the question, at present, is whether it’s most relevant for the *most* people. Thanks to how Ask works, what I’ve learned is that for the query “Battelle,” more people find the institute relevant than my blog. And somehow, that feels just about right.

Update: a minor skirmish is forming.Anonymous combatants are circling this post from all side, I fear for my inbox. Note how Ask manages to find (or not!) a product like Google Finance! Yahoo does a better job! But wait, Ask’s not so great, sez Marissa. Hold on, the feature she bashes gets a lot of usage, an anonymouse Jeeves insider tells me.

I say we put all these folks in a room at Web 2 and have a smackdown. Who’s in?

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14 thoughts on “The Last Name Test

  1. ryan harvey says:

    I tried searching Google and Ask for the name of my employer, R.V. Kuhns & Associates, as a query for “RV Kuhns.” Without question, there is one correct top result — that for my employer’s website. Google placed it first. As for ask, it didn’t show up on the first page of links at all.

  2. Oh, I think there’s a bit more to it than link love. How much of that love do you figure it’d take to get me ranked #1 in Google for my last name, for example. πŸ˜‰

  3. Here is some good news about the Domain “Battellemedia”

    in doing a search with this Tool – – ranking the most “linked to” Blog Sites – – you are in the top 200 out of 1.2 million of the most popular blogs Ranked

  4. Mike says:

    I’d pay good money to watch that smackdown. In a cage match.

  5. Greg says:

    I look at search like any other tool. It would be nice to have Google be the Swiss Army Knife of search, but for now it’s just another screw driver. Different tools for different needs. I use Google to find a needle in a hay stack, but for a quick answer to a specific, non-obscure question, Ask organizes its information better. I posted here about a sample test.

  6. Matt McGee says:

    Two quickies:

    1) I live in an area where Battelle is a big employer. That may bias me, but I’d suggest for sure that more Average Joes know Battelle the company more than Battelle the search guru. πŸ™‚

    2) Re: Marissa’s comments — I love listening to experts talk about what the user wants and doesn’t want. How does Marissa — or anyone else — know that, when the user himself doesn’t know what he wants?

  7. I’m glad I have a first name with an unusual German spelling… I own it on πŸ™‚

  8. changbaishan says:

    In terms of features and functionalities. Google, Yahoo, MSN, ask etc. are copying each other with very small differences. Google finance does not seem to lead like google map. And other guys are happy where they are.

  9. I have the same issue as Ryan. When I search on my employer’s name – “Imaging Solutions, Inc.”, our website shows up as # 1 in Google, MSN and Yahoo. With Ask, it ranks # 24.

  10. I’m glad I have a first name with an unusual Turkish spelling… I own it on πŸ™‚

  11. jasmine says:

    i havent got the clue wat im on i just came on it lol i like writing messages so people can read it πŸ˜‰

  12. I haven’t been up to much lately. I’ve basically been doing nothing , but it’s not important. I can’t be bothered with anything recently. I’ve just been letting everything happen without me lately.

  13. I’ve more or less been doing nothing worth mentioning, but eh. My life’s been really bland today. I don’t care. I’ve just been letting everything happen without me these days. That’s how it is.

  14. I’d pay good money to watch that smackdown. In a cage match.