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Yahoo Analyst Day Roundup

By - May 18, 2006

I’m interviewing Jeff Weiner, who runs Yahoo Search & Marketplace, tomorrow in Detroit. So Yahoo’s analyst day this week is of keen interest. Here are some thoughts from across the web:

Cnet: Focuses on the new ad system, covered here earlier. “Yahoo’s new ad system is designed to let marketers target prospective consumers not only by the search terms the people use, but also by their demographics, location and what they do on other areas of the Yahoo network, executives said.

The system, scheduled to launch in the U.S. in the third quarter, offers enhanced ease of use, advanced testing features, geo-targeting and automated analytics, Tim Cadogan, vice president of search, said during the company’s analyst day in San Francisco on Wednesday. ”

Paid Content:
A round up as well, starting with Llyod Braun’s pushing user generated content.

SEW rounded it all up, here’s their coverage of Jeff’s talk. Jeff’s all about social search, Answers, etc. Innaresting.

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On The Road

By - May 17, 2006

I’m traveling for the balance of the week. We’ll try to keep the updates coming…

Qwest: Capitalizing on NSA Backlash

By - May 16, 2006

This news, from TechDirt, reminds me of the positive brand burnish Google got by standing up to the DOJ. Well done, Qwest.

One of the interesting items to emerge from the growing NSA data-monitoring scandal is that the telecoms weren’t compelled to go along with the government and that one company, Qwest, refused to participate. Now the company, which had been a laggard and on the receiving end of many customer complaints, is experiencing a surge in customer appreciation from those opposed to the NSA program.

Yahoo Redesigns Homepage

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New Yahoo

ReadWrite has the write up. In short: It’s very driven by search, at the top, and content, in the center, with loads o ajax-y goodness.

AdWords Update #3: Inactive Keywords Puzzle

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InactiveI logged in today to find that a bunch of my keywords were “inactive” due to low bids. Google helpfully suggested new bid levels at 30- to 3,000-percent higher bids so as to re-activate my now derelict keywords.

I noticed that some of the inactive keywords were the ones that were doing the best for me – at least, they are important to be associated with the FM brand, were getting a fair number of impressions, and a decent clickthrough rate. They included the names of some of my most popular blogs in the FM network. Hmmm, I wondered. Competition for these site’s keywords must be heating up, and my (admittedly) lowball bid must be getting bumped off the list.

So I fired up Google and entered the keywords to see who was bumping me off – I wondered if perhaps FM’s competition was doing it.

Guess what? In several cases (including Dooce and Metafilter), no one else is bidding for the term. In many others (including the name of this blog), only one was bidding, or in some cases two – but by no means was the term “full up” with ads.

This is very odd to me. No one is competing for the Adwords I want to buy, but yet Google was telling me to raise my bid as much as 15 times my original price – a price that was working fine just a day or so ago.

Can anyone enlighten me as to why? Am I missing something obvious? It sure feels, well, off. Is someone gaming me? Is Google? Or is this the way the company gets you to pay the equivalent of a phantom CPM – for getting a lot of impressions, but not getting a high enough click through rate? Innaresting….

Update: Google has pointed me to this post

Melanie's RoundUp

By - May 15, 2006

AdWords on Google Base

The Google Base Blog announced that users can now use AdWords ads to drive traffic to their Base listings, automatically geo-targeted with the keywords targeting based on the ad copy (screenshots, via SEW).


SELowdown opines, “So let me get this straight: Give us content to index through Base. Pay us to advertise this Base content in Google searches. Well I guess that’s not THAT different from Google’s current model…”

Conversely happy with the new union, VoidStar recommends eBay join Words-Base to rectify its own keyword targeting. Coincidentally, Forbes today reports about Google “increasingly infringing on eBay’s territory and limiting the online auctioneer’s growth potential, at least in the near term, according to Cowen & Co. analyst Jim Friedland.”

The article continues:

While the new Google Base service, a free database of product listings, has not become a significant driver of sales for e-commerce companies as of yet, 50% of the conference attendees said they have started to list products on the database. Advertisers that use Google keywords benefit from a 70% click-through rate, versus Yahoo!’s 18% and Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT – news – people ) MSN’s 8%, according to Friedland…Friedland also found that more and more small- and medium-sized businesses’ market resources are being directed away from eBay to Google AdWords and Google Base.

Google, Nokia Team-up for Mobile Search

A formal announcement is expected Tuesday of Google search powering the new Nokia, reports the WSJ (via CIO Tech Informer). The forthcoming 770 Internet Tablet allows simultaneous voice or IM alongside web surfing. It will be Google’s first foray into mobile telephone deals, which Google has made clear is the new territory its staking out. Connecting through the interenet rather than cellular signals, the Tablet provides Google Talk wherever there is wifi–making service spottier but cheaper, SeattlePI notes.

The WSJ: Because it’s based on short-range Wi-Fi technology, the device is not a cell phone…It’s a bit larger than the average PDA, and it features a high-resolution screen designed specifically for browsing the Internet.

Vista Cleared by DOJ

Despite Google’s accusation that Visa’s default to MSN Search (in absense of pre-set preferences) is unfair, the DOJ determined Friday MS has done no harm. CNet: As part of its status report on Microsoft’s antitrust compliance, the Justice Department said that it had reviewed the search box and concluded that Microsoft’s implementation “respects users’ and (computer makers’) default choices and is easily changed.”

Web 2.0 Commencement

Tim O’Reilly, giving the commencement speech for the UC Berkeley School of Information this past Saturday (John gave it last year), talked about defining Web 2.0 The full transcript is on O’Reilly’s site, Geeking with Greg excerpts:

The internet as platform. What does that mean? …It’s as simple as this: the secret of success in the networked era is to create or leverage network effects… When we first began thinking about Web 2.0, we asked ourselves what distinguished the companies that survived the dotcom bust from those that failed. And we came up with the surprising observation that in one way or another, each of them was good at harnessing user contributions, applying some of the same insights to consumer applications that leading edge software developers have applied to open source software projects like Linux.

A true Web 2.0 application is one that gets better the more people use it. Google gets smarter every time someone makes a link on the web. Google gets smarter every time someone makes a search. It gets smarter every time someone clicks on an ad. And it immediately acts on that information to improve the experience for everyone else.

It’s for this reason that I argue that the real heart of Web 2.0 is harnessing collective intelligence. …The world of Web 2.0 *can* be one in which we share our knowledge and insights, filter the news for each other, find out obscure facts, and make each other smarter and more responsive. We can instrument the world so it becomes somethng like a giant, responsive organism.

GigaOm also recently posted some new thoughts on Web 2.0 as meme, mainstream misunderstanding, and an enterprise.

Does Google Desktop “improve search”?

Jeremy Zawodny doesn’t buy the message from Marrissa:

We’re told that Google Desktop 4 improves search, but that’s not backed up by any evidence at all. Instead, we’re presented with a non-sequitur about gadgets you can use to increase your day to day information overload.

A Googley Economist Article

The running gag in a new Economist article was whether Google has become the new Microsoft. Though an excellent article, most of it overviews Google’s growth and culture with which Seachblog readers are already familiar, so just a few the highlights here. Google recently sent its first lobbyists to Washington, DC. Its decision to build an “evil scale” to help it devise its China strategy was more unusual, but its hiring of Al Gore, a former American vice-president, to aid the process, was just the kind of thing that old-fashioned empire-building firms do all the time.

The closing graph:

Google thus finds itself at a defining moment. There are plenty of people within the company who want it to play the power game. “The folks who are closest to Larry and Sergey are very, very worried about Microsoft, as well they should be,” says John Battelle, the author of a blog and a book on Google. Yet the company’s founders themselves may not be prepared to drop their idealism and their faith in their own mathematical genius.

Quote of the article: “Google seems to use betas as dogs sprinkle trees—so that rivals know where it is.”

DOJ Moves to Close EFF Complaint

EFF writes: Early Saturday morning, in the darkest hours of the night, the Department of Justice made good its threat to file a motion to dismiss our class-action lawsuit against AT&T, contending that AT&T’s collaboration with the NSA’s massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans’ communications (which violates the law and the privacy of its customers)–despite being front page news throughout the United States and the subject of government press conferences and Congressional hearings–is a state secret. The motion was accompanied by declarations by Lieutenant General Keith B. Alexander, Director, National Security Agency and John D. Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence. We will vigorously oppose this motion. Donate to EFF and help stop the illegal spying!

Snap Rethinks Search

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Snap NewAs I’ve pointed out many times, Bill Gross, the man behind Snap (and Goto/Overture and about 25 other search related companies) is not one to take lightly. When Snap launched, I watched closely, and while many of its features were admirable (the transparency, for one, and later, the CPA model, for another), it never quite got enough lift under its wings, at least in its first year.

Today Snap is relaunching as a “broadband search engine.” That means, it’s heavy on Ajax features, clustering, and related results, among other things. It certainly is a new look. The results include large thumbnails of prospective pages, for example, and a suggested terms autocomplete feature (not unlike Google Suggest). In fact, there are tons of features that have been tried in various other places, but never have so many been implemented in one place at one time. It’s an attempt to fight one’s way out of the single search box interface, and whether it works or not, it’s worth a look. The theory is sound – which is usually the case with Gross’s companies – but often he’s ahead of the market.

My quick take is that I’m so used to Google’s dominant interface, I initially got lost using Snap. It takes some time to get the hang of it. One thing that I want to do is click through directly to the site, but instead, I’m in a window on the right. There’s much to think about here – it feels more like search inside a multi-column RSS reader like Shrook, oddly. You can ask Snap to show you a new window, which is good.

Snap is also rethinking relevance by licensing ISP clickstream data and feeding it back into its relevance engine. This to me is where the really interesting stuff lies. It’s a way to fight spam – folks tend not to spend a lot of time visiting spammy sites – and, in an ideal world, provides a potentially better set of results than simple link analysis.

The Snap model incorporates paid inclusion and pay per action, and I think this may be where it falls down. While this is certainly an innovation in the affiliate/adsense spam market, it’s also open to charges of blurring the lines, which was exactly the problem with Goto when it launched. We’ll see.

Snap is promoting its new engine and its launch on Searchblog, among many other sites. As part of that promotion, I’ve agreed to head over to Snap’s blog and include my own ideas in their “Other Way to Launch” contest. I’ll be doing that soon, and will add the link here so you can see what I wrote.