The Mender

Metamend's Search Engine Optimization Newsletter
Issue 45
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Advice and techniques for the promotion of your web site plus Search Engine Optimization News and valuable resources for the serious on-line marketer.

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Welcome to "The Mender" Issue 45



SEARCH ENGINES AND RELATED INDUSTRY NEWS

<!-- SEARCH ENGINE NEWS -->

Google IPO Central
Unofficial Site for Latest Investing and Stock Offering News

Single Post Wins Google Contest
By Daniel Terdiman, Wired News

<!-- WEB SITE MARKETING -->

Double Listings At Google
By David Leonhardt
Contributing Writer, SearchNewz

The 9 Most Powerful Leverage Points To Turn Website Visitors Into Customers
By James Rosenquist
Contributing Writer, PromoteNews

<!-- WEB SITE CONTENT -->

Native XML database and search engine to power your content management solution.
Ixiasoft

Metamend's Insider's Tip
-- NOW For only $19.95!
-- The #1 site for "link directory" in Google!
CannyLink



WHAT'S NEW @ METAMEND

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Whether you have a small guest house or own a large chain of accommodation properties, this is the site for you. Know someone in the hospitality industry? Tell them about it or check it out for yourself. A special portal for all accommodation facilities.
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New Back to School Promotion: Free DVD Player
Hey! Now until Labour Day, sign up for a "Webmaster's Analysis Report" from Metamend and we'll give you your choice of $100 off the price or a Free DVD player. We'll even pay the shipping and handling fees!

Our Webmaster's Analysis Report contains a complete analysis of all aspects of your web site from the point of 'search engine friendliness.' It points out all potential barriers your site may have but more importantly explains how to fix them them all. This invaluable and very detailed report can be up to twenty pages in length. It's the very first step you should be taking on the road to proper search engine optimization and successful online marketing. You won't be disappointed! Remember this is a limited time offer. Call or write our sales department today for all the information.

Email [email protected]
or call toll free: 1.866.381.6382

SEARCH ENGINE OBSERVATIONS: Google Holes, Yahoo Gaps & Black Holes
by Richard Zwicky

So, what are they? Well, Black holes are at the center of every known galaxy and are like the eye of a storm. Their center seems calm and undisturbed, but at the edges of the eye, huge forces of nature are being exerted, ripping everything it contacts to shreds. Black holes are immense gravitational wells from which nothing can escape, or at least that's the theory, amended in part by Dr. Hawking a few weeks ago.

Google might like to be thought of as a 'black hole of Internet search engines,' consuming all the information that falls within their gravitational reach. The difference being, the information does escape and the web is not really ripped apart at the seams. Oh well, so much for that analogy.

But there really are holes in Google, Yahoo! and all other search engines that have nothing to do with the forces of nature. These holes have serious implications for the quality of search engine results, and therefore require the attention of your optimization efforts.

We shall begin the analysis with Google - The current technology leader in the search engine field. When a user visits the Google search engine and runs a search, they often enter in complete phrases. This tendency is likely to become more common as text to speech comes to reality. How Google treats these phrases demonstrates a fault within their algorithms, and a hole in the accuracy of their search results. When you include a common word in a phrase within the Google search box, it gives you the following message above the search results:

"for" is a very common word and was not included in your search." [details]

If you click for details, you get the following explanation:

"Google ignores common words and characters such as "where" and "how", as well as certain single digits and single letters, because they tend to slow down your search without improving the results. Google will indicate if a common word has been excluded by displaying details on the results page below the search box. If a common word is essential to getting the results you want, you can include it by putting a "+" sign in front of it. (Be sure to include a space before the "+" sign.)"

But, here's where Google falls down. Visit Google right now. Open up 4 windows and in each window's search box type the following queries:

  • Hotels New York
  • Hotels in New York
  • Hotels for New York
  • Hotels about New York
The words in' for' and about' all get the standard, "This is a very common word and was not included in your search," message. Yet all four display entirely different results?

What is Google doing? I considered the possibility that I was pulling results from different data centers, so I ensured this was not the case. I then tried a variation on this search query, using the term "search engine optimization X hotels" the 'X'' representing a blank space, or one of the words, in' for' or about. In this test, only where the X' represented a blank space did I get varying results. Still, by rights they ought to have all been identical.

It occurred to me that perhaps Google was using different algorithms when it identified a place name in the search query by trying to understand the context of the query. That would be a logical move. I'm very familiar with software that comprehends the context of textual content. Could it be that Google is trying to apply some contextual filtering to their results? I then proceeded to try a garbage search. A search phrase with common words which really have no direct relevance, and therefore words which would never appear together logically:

"room hotel tapestry highway lagoon"

Interestingly, Google had 1720 entries which matched this query, and the results varied depending on which of the X terms I inserted between any two of the words. Search results also varied if I moved the placement of the ignored word within the query. But is this context? A further test would be required. I put together 3 queries using the same terms, but with a common or ignored word inserted as follows:
  • Filing tax return(s)
  • Filing a tax return(s)
  • Filing of tax return(s)
In this case, I tried singular and pluralized searches, to ensure that poor grammar was not affecting the results. Results varied for each search. That's not to say they were all entirely different, just that they varied. I tried a few other searches and received similar results. Most importantly, the results I received were all equally contextually correct, which was a relief.

Some people have written to newsgroups and discussion boards that when Google comes across an 'ignore' word, it substitutes a wild card. However, if that were true, the various ignore words, would all return the same results and this is not the case. Therefore, it can be surmised that Google does not in fact ignore words at all! It is more likely that Google is using some measure of context algorithm. This is logical. The technology exists and Google is known to have bought a UK firm last year which was developing such a technology. Our own firm uses software which uses contextual analysis in its algorithms.

Taking the analysis a step further, which other engines seem to have a grasp on context? Obviously, the places to look first were Google's competitors: Yahoo! Microsoft, and AskJeeves.

Askjeeves sprang immediately to mind, as it had originated the concept of "phrase a question" type searching, thus it should logically have some context filtering in place. In fact, when I ran the 'tax return' query through the engine, I still receives varying results. Very different results than Google, I might add. When multiple 'ignore' words were added to a query, results did not vary, which may indicate very limited filtering.

I then tried an alternate query. "diapers for baby" and "diapers on baby" This should logically return different results. One recommending diapers, and one about how to put them on, or keep them on or how they should look, etc. Surprisingly, I received identical results to my queries. Context was not being properly filtered by the very search engine which first introduced the concept! I tried the same search on Google. While results were jumbled a bit, the top web sites were the same for both queries, just in varying order. With over 550,000 results to choose from, this would indicate Google too, has a long way to go to fulfilling the promise of contextually correct responses.

Next, I turned my attention to Yahoo! I was somewhat surprised to discover that Yahoo! does not seem to have -any- filtering in place. Results did not vary at all for the test searches run when the "ignore" words were inserted or removed. Yahoo! also did not identify these terms as being ignore terms in their results, but the fact that results were unchanged when the terms were added or deleted would indicate that they were omitted and Yahoo! does not have the necessary algorithms to allow it to comprehend the context of a search query.

Is context an area where Yahoo! seriously lags behind Google and others? If true, this points to a widening gap between the search engines in the future. Google is already positioning for speech to text devices, can intonation be far behind? Yahoo! has not demonstrated any evidence of making strides in either of these areas.

Lastly I looked at the new Microsoft engine. No contextual filtering in place. Since this search engine is still in beta, I cannot in all fairness comment on it being behind in a race where we have not yet seen the final product. Still, it's something to keep in mind for the future.

Implications for SEO

The implication of contextual search on how your web site performs in the search engines is immense. It means that the nuances of how people search have to be better taken into account by all SEO firms.

In our firm we recognized that as the world moved to speech to text and as the web grew in size, context would be the next big differentiator in search results. This means that context is already recognized and taken into account both by our technicians and our technology when analyzing a web site, and optimizing it for search engines.

Working to improve your web site's performance in the search engines now requires a comprehension of how people are actually phrasing search queries and using that knowledge to properly position the content on your site, to account for the idioms used by your target audience.

Ensure that you are using phrases in the way you hear people asking questions. Ensure you cover all the bases and get all possible variations. Get outside help if you need it, but don't miss out on your opportunity to take advantage of the Black Holes out there.



WEB SITE MARKETING: The "Who's on First" Syndrome
A primer for corporate communication skills.
by Robert K. McCourty

I call this the "Who's on First" Syndrome. Here's how it plays out. One sales person from your organization meets one from mine. They decide to do business together and pass along the good news to the higher-ups within the company structure. The executive folks in turn, do lunch with their counterparts and all is rosy in business land. A deal has been signed. Wahoo! Now what?
The deal is then passed back down the chain of command for actual implementation of the partnership, So... Who gets the job to get the deal going? Suddenly e-mails are coming in from the marketing, design and tech departments because they've heard a rumor that we may have a new partner. What's the deal? Who's the contact person? Anyone know their URL? Do we have anything signed? Are we sharing any joint marketing? Is the accounting system all set up for this? Who's the project manager on this one? Who's the head of their Tech Team? When is the rollout? Where are the pricing structures?
Starting to get the picture? Any of this sound like a familiar scenario around your company? I hope you said yes, because most businesses go through it. Fear not however, as I've discovered the cure for the 'Who's on First" Syndrome. It's called 'communication!' Yup that's right, good old underestimated, communication.

It's really quite ironic considering all the technology we have out there these days. You would think that communicating with each other would be much easier. In part it is easier. You can email, digital photo, cell phone each other until you're blue in the face, and still not get the point across, because technology can only transmit what you send through it.

The problem is not the technology. The problem is in the individual's ability to accurately convey the essence of the message and supply the necessary details. Most people have a habit of storing volumes of information on the subject in question within their heads. They inherently may know many specific details and background information dealing with the subject, yet refuse, or probably better stated, choose to eliminate them, from the conversation. Thus the recipients of the message are left with puzzle pieces and unanswered questions. They might get the gist of what is being conveyed but not everyone's brain is wired the same way. Some people are not good at puzzles. Others refuse to assemble them as they consider them a waste of time. Still others simply dismiss the entire conversation, hoping someone else will explain it to them later on.

When you are explaining something to someone, it only takes a few seconds longer to fill them in on the background details. Explain why the topic is important and how it affects them. That's what people want to know. "Why do I need to know this?" "What do you want me to do about it?" When you eliminate these strategic points from the message, the essence of the communication begins to immediately break down.

In a corporate setting these small breakdowns can grow exponentially, especially between divisions or separate areas of responsibility. So, the sales team now knows what's going on. Great! Has anyone explained the same scenario to marketing and tech and accounting and distribution and etc., etc.? Is everyone on the same page? Are you sure? Do they have ALL the details they need to proceed to the next level? Have you followed up the conversation in writing with all the important information detailed out? Have you had a department or staff meeting on the subject? No! Then don't be surprised when you find out that nothing is moving forward or loose ends are unraveling all over the place. After all, you started the conversation, didn't you?

Once a communication breakdown escalates, it can have much more serious effects. Customer relationships may become unstable. Customers pick up signals very quickly. They can smell uncertainty over the phone. It tends to plant seeds of mistrust in their brains. Once a customer or potential customers, start to sense confusion from within an organization, it's a sure bet they'll be a much tougher sell.

It's doubly important to ensure all personnel who are responsible for customer service (or have access to a phone) are right on top of the newest company plans, thoroughly understand the concept and have all the answers they need to allay any questions prior to implementation. you can't expect them to read minds. When someone contacts your company and asks for a price, they better have it in front of them.

Morale in the workplace also may rear its head if communication is lacking. Staff morale may begin to sag because of the frustration levels it creates. There is nothing more detrimental to a 'team' approach then one person forging boldly ahead in their own direction while the rest of the workplace wonders where they are headed... and why?

They may follow along blindly for a while but sooner or later they are going to stop and ask where they are going and you're going to have to go all the way back to square one and explain the whole thing again right from the beginning. The way it should have been explained in the first place. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.

So if you find your company or know someone in your company experiencing the "Who's on First" Syndrome. Put this article in front of them and have them repeat the following line over and over, until it sinks in. Have I given everyone ALL the details!



METAMEND CLIENT OF THE MONTH: Enterprise Project Management Ltd.

Not just another consulting and training company talking about project management, team work, leadership or communication. They are different. EPM are the experts in developing projected organization structures, processes and toolkits, and they help teams learn to work together in the project environment. Here's what they had to say about Metamend's optimization services:

"In May 2004 we awarded the search engine optimization work for our website to Metamend. Our competition in the search engines is Microsoft, Pangaea, Systemcorp and others and we were nowhere to be found. Six weeks later we're # 1 in Yahoo, # 6 in MSN and we've been swamped with new business and inquiries. Metamend's search engine optimization service delivered far more than anyone could have expected! It's worth every penny many times over!"
Leonard Trisko, Vice President,
Enterprise Project Management Ltd.



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