Tag Archives: search

Facebook engineers did not build a better version of Google

This effort from some engineers at Facebook, Twitter and MySpace has gotten some attention lately. This article from Business Insider gives a quick intro for the unfamiliar:

Earlier this month, Google launched an optional feature called “Search plus your world.” It integrates personalized content from social networks into Google search results.

Only, search plus your world doesn’t include any content from Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace – the biggest social networks out there.

It does, however, include lots of content from Google’s social network, Google Plus.

Some engineers at Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace think this is unfair to users – and to demonstrate why, they’ve created a modified version of Google, which you can access on a site called Focusontheuser.org.

– “Facebook Engineers Built A Way Better Version Of Google

Except that’s completely misleading. They didn’t build a better version of Google. They built a Javascript bookmarklet that takes Google’s own SERPs and modifies them to swap in somewhat different (and hopefully more relevant) results than Google serves by default.

That may be a semantic difference, but it’s an important distinction. They didn’t create a brand new search engine, they created a way to take Google’s own inconsistent search behavior and combine them into a better end result, assuming that you the user choose to drag their bookmarklet into place and then remember to use it once you’ve already done a Google search.

Maybe no one is actually confused by this difference, but it seems irresponsible for news sites to be reporting it this way.

Notes from the September mkeUX meetup: Search

Last night’s mkeUX was all about search – both SEO and paid search. Ross Monaghan and Jordon Meyer were great presenters and obviously have the background to back up their claims (and, after having a drink with the guys beforehand, not such bad guys in general). Twitter is a pretty good place to follow the action — search the hashtag #mkeUX — but I took some notes along the way, presented here for your amusement.

Ross Monaghan — “SEO & UX. WTF?”

Accessibility! There are already search engine optimization standards established by companies and groups like Google and the W3C. They’re designed to help you make sure your content is accessible. So… use them!

Search engines are essentially heavily disabled users. They have extremely limited ability to process Javascript, they can’t see your images, they won’t watch your Flash, and they won’t listen to your audio. If you don’t provide alternate means of consuming this content, it’s essentially invisible to search. The same goes for things that require user interaction – dropdown forms, etc. Search engines won’t jump through the hoops that human users may be willing to tolerate.

Keep it clean!

Keeping your URLs clean and human-friendly, and making good use of canonical URLs, will go a long way toward improving your search engine performance. Excessive use of querystring parameters, or extensive tagging without proper compensating techniques like using robots.txt to exclude “tag overview” pages, will inevitably start to dilute the value of the other links throughout your site. So be careful how you implement those “features.”

If I can read your page and immediately tell you what keywords you’re targeting, you’re doing it wrong.

Architecture. Sometimes you have to take a step back and ask yourself (or your client), “Why the hell are we building this website to begin with?” If there’s no clear answer, STOP. If there is a clear answer, then… great! Now what? You need to ensure a consistent and reliable strategy — taxonomies, structure, labeling, and organizational themes.

Jordon Meyer — “Paid Search Usability”

Paid search gets a bad rap.

— Jordan

In 2009, Google got $23 billion in revenue selling paid search ads and had 37 billion clicks on those ads. However, only around 2% of those clicks ever turned into an actual conversion. 98% of the ads ended up meaning absolutely nothing. Why? (Possible answer: people just distrust paid search results?)

Five opportunities to lose customers:

  • Irrelevant keywords – buying every conceivable keyword just in hopes of getting someone to click? Bad!
  • Misleading copy – “office chairs under $50!” when none of your office chairs are under $100
  • Generic keywords
  • Poor choice of destination – don’t send every click to your homepage! Take into account what the user is searching for, why they clicked, and where they expect to land.
  • Low quality of destination – if you have no calls to action, too much (or not enough) copy, high load times, etc… people will leave. And they may not come back.

You got the click to your site, now do something with it! Standards exist and evolve for a reason. Use them to your advantage.

Magnifying Glass for “Search”?

How did a magnifying glass become the default icon for “search” on websites and in applications? Many visual UI metaphors today are starting to get a little stretched and outdated (think of “files” and “folders”), but this one doesn’t tie back to… well… anything that I can think of.

I’ve never used an actual magnifying glass to find anything, ever. Where did this metaphor come from?