Archives for "Google: 2004"

Finding Keyphrases

One of the most important aspects of search engine optimization is keyphrase research. That is, before you try to get your site to show up highly in Google, you have to decide which phrases you'd like it to show up highly for.

In my book, I describe lots of different ways, and different tools, to conduct this research.

One such tool is JRK Design's Scout, which is an enhanced version of the Overture keyword tool.

When you enter a phrase into Scout, it returns a list of similar phrases that were recently entered into the Overture search engine. Scout also lets you export these phrase lists to an Excel spreadsheet -- the feature that makes it most useful.

While Overture isn't a very widely used search engine, its search queries are nonetheless representative of those entered into other, larger, engines, such as Google.

Google & The World's Biggest Computer speculates on why Google launched Gmail. The post is fairly technical but the basic idea is that, in building the world's most powerful search engine, the guys at Google have created what is perhaps the world's largest proprietary, general-purpose computer, so it is inevitable that they should try to find other uses for it: "Google is a company that has built a single very large, custom computer ... They make their big computer even bigger and faster each month ... It's looking more like a general purpose platform than a cluster optimized for a single application. ... This computer is running the world's top search engine, a social networking service, a shopping price comparison engine, a new email service, and a local search/yellow pages engine. What will they do next with the world's biggest computer and most advanced operating system?" As to the latter question, Paul Ford has written a fictitious, speculative "short feature from a business magazine published in 2009," which examines how Google got to its postion of being the "world's single largest marketplace."

Google Rules Out Video Search

Update 21 Jan 2005: Contrary to the Brin's remarks reported below, Google has just launched a video search feature. I guess he was lying... Speaking at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Google co-founder Sergey Brin explained why the search engine does not intend to offer users a video search feature. Brin cited problems with standards and compatibility in the video software industry, as well as a lack of content, as reasons why he remains uninterested in developing an AltaVista-style video search. As reported in the Always-On Network (the report is split into part one and part two), Brin made several other interesting points at the press conference about the future of the company. His statements focused on what Google wouldn’t be doing:
  • Google Image Search will be improved, but will continue to be text-based (i.e. the company does not plan to introduce any recognition software).
  • Google will not introduce any “speech search” feature or voice recognition software, as, despite recent interest from Wall Street, it does not believe there is a demand for such a service.
  • Unlike Yahoo, Google has no plans to introduce any portal features, and is not concerned about creating a capacity to “lock in” visitors.
Also of note in the conference was Brin’s response to a question about how it regards its responsibility towards Mom ‘n’ Pop businesses: Q: The discussion that Google made companies' Web sites "exist" or not exist by listing them or not listing them—do you have an opinion on that? Brin: We do. We really think about what's the right thing for us to do. One kind of complaint that you were alluding to is the situation where somebody has the top results say for donuts or croissants. Then the next month, we change algorithm a little bit, and they drop out. Things sort of fluctuate, but we don't like [Web programmers] to manipulate our rankings. Probably a lot of you have had that experience where you do a search on Google, and some of your commercial interests have really shown up on top for one search that's not relevant. In other cases, there might be 20 different croissant sites that are all hopefully in the results, and it so happens that the one that used to be number 1 is now number 11, and they, of course, get very unhappy. I point out first of all that at the same time, there are 10 other sites that all got listed and bumped up, and as a result, are getting more traffic and are happier. They are not the ones screaming for change. Furthermore, the biggest issue is that we decided it's more important for us to generate the best possible results for our users rather than preserve the stability of the businesses that evolve the search results. I hope you agree with that.

New Google, Same Old Problem

I've said it before, but they always go and do something to make me say it again: the guys at Google are great at search, but they suck at web design.

The original Google homepage was unharmed by design ineptitude because it was spartan -- to reduce the page download time. Certain deep pages added recently have looked bad, but the Google "designers" rarely tampered with the results page ... until now.

Google is experimenting with a new look that I don't like at all. Judge for yourself with the following bookmarklet, a hack created by Jesse Ruderman that makes a slight alteration the Google cookie on your machine, so that it displays the new skin:

toggle google look

Drag the above link to your bookmarks/favorites, where it will stick. Then visit, and click on the bookmark.

To toggle off the new look, simply click the bookmark again.

A friend has pointed out that the Google homepage doesn't look so different. I should have mentioned that it's the results page that has changed (for the worse). Just do a search to see what I mean.


The March 04 issue of Wired magazine is entitled "Googlemania" and features 10 articles about the number one search engine. Could this be the peak of Google's fame? Yahoo has already launched its new search algorithm, and Microsoft has threatened that it will do the same. A piece entitled Google vs. Gates discusses the battle with Microsoft. But my favourite essay of the bunch is How to Kill Google, if only because of its killer (ahem) opening: "Do you Yahoo!? Of course not -- you Google." These two short lines sum up Google's marketing coup. Yahoo spent millions on advertisements aimed at turning Yahoo into a verb. "Do you Yahoo!?" was the slogan it plugged throughout the dot com days. Then along comes Google and, with absolutely no marketing campaign but highly relevant search results that win converts through word-of-mouth, suddenly "to Google" has become a verb. Surely Google thinks "this is great"? Nope. It sends cease-and-desist orders to those who have verbalised its trademarked, copyrighted noun. Sheesh.

Google Brandy Update Rectifies Florida Damage

Over the weekend, Google once more tweaked its algorithm in what seasoned observers regard as a further concession on last November’s harsh Florida update. Florida saw massive changes to Google's search results and led to a torrent of complaints from irate webmasters, even in comments to Mediajunk. The chief complaint was that Google was unfairly penalizing legitimate sites, especially small “mom and pop” businesses, while letting some irrelevant and “spammy” results through. In 2004, Google has made two additional changes to its algorithm, though both are regarded as being “rollbacks” toward pre-Florida results. Google is believed to have taken one leap forward, followed by two modest steps back. On bulletin boards devoted to search engine watching, webmasters and site owners have expressed approval of what those two steps back. Many sites that disappeared from the listings in November are returning to their former positions, while spam and non-relevant sites are, for the most part, being kept out. In keeping with the tradition of naming Google's updates alphabetically, the 2004 changes have been dubbed Austin and Brandy respectively by the SEO community.

Degree in Googling?

The inevitable has happened: a university in the US is offering an undergraduate-level course in all things Google-related, according to the Seattle Times: “This is a graduate-level course (albeit only one credit) that explores Google as a cultural phenomenon, Google the business, the technology behind Google — and ‘Google the Ravager of Worlds.’" I’m not sure what “Ravager of Worlds” is all about … maybe they meant words? “But the professor — an expert in digital reference and the use of Internet technologies in librarianship — also fears that the quality of research is declining. Instead of going to the library and asking a librarian for help, people rely too much on Google and other Internet search engines that are incomplete, he said.” All the more reason for Google to index as many books as it can? Meantime, the popular search engine has won a prestigious “Brand of the Year” award for the second year running (Reuters). Last time Google won the award, I reported that “Consumers respect Google for respecting them.” Of course, the Florida Update showed us that even Google’s grip on customer loyalty is tenuous. Google must remain committed to improving its service if it is to continue to enhance its brand.

Google Update Austin

Webmasters may have noticed recent fluctuation in their rankings on Google and other search engines that use Google's search technology, such as Yahoo and AOL. The recent changes are being referred to as Update Austin in the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) community. It's a little early to see whether these changes will "stick" or whether Google is just experimenting. In any case, the update isn't as dramatic as its predecessor, Update Florida. One thing is for sure: being an SEO is becoming more difficult by the month. This is good news for those who are committed to professional web marketing. From now on, it will take time, talent and dedication for newcomers to build up skills in search-based marketing -- just as it does in offline marketing.

Mediajunk is No Longer Updated

Visit Michael Heraghty's current blog at User Journeys


Mediajunk was Michael Heraghty's blog from 2002 to 2010, with articles on usability, UX, SEO, web design, online marketing, etc. More »

follow me on Twitter