Making Search Social

Are you tired of the same old boring search results, with nothing but a search engines mysterious algorithm to guide you? If you are give the StumbleUpon enhanced web search a try, your search results will be enhanced with information from StumbleUpon.

The image above shows a typical enhanced search result from Google. Clicking on the StumbleUpon icon, star(s) and thought bubble will take you to the review page for that web page. Next you can see who submitted the page to the StumbleUpon index. Beside that you will also see the main tag that has been assigned to that web page.

In the last couple weeks that I have been using the StumbleUpon enhanced search I find my eyes are drawn to the StumbleUpon ratings and not just the web page titles and descriptions. Seeing a website that has four or five stars beside it makes me more interested in visiting. StumbleUpon has done what the search engines can not do. Provide human feedback about a website without altering the actual search. How long before we start to see Digg, Reddit and other enhanced search add ons for web browsers?

Switch to Yahoo Update, BOTW and the Five Dollar Wiki

I am happy to say that the last few days have gone well to the the Google off my back as far as search is concerned. I switch the default search engine in Firefox to Yahoo on the 22nd and I have been pleased with how well Yahoo search is performing. I was working on my latest WordPress theme and found Yahoo search to return very good results from WordPress regarding template tags. Saved me a great deal of time.

About my post titled “Directories are Dead” I have done some more looking at the Best of the Web directory. I took some time to go through the categories and visit some of the sites listed. They don’t approach Yahoo type numbers as far as traffic goes, but they are not to bad. I had some extra cash in my PayPal account so I even listed my Free Favicons website in the directory. I have not gotten great amounts of traffic from it, but some is better than nothing I suppose. It will be interesting to see how it does as time goes on.

I got my pages from the Five Dollar Wiki. I have not done much with them yet. I started adding some content to my Making Money Online. It is not anywhere near complete but a good start.blank1.gif

The Google Craving!

blank1.gifIt has been roughly 34 hours since I switched my default Firefox search engine from Google to Yahoo and I have been surprised about a couple of things:

  1. Change is Hard – Things look different and it is not what I am expecting. Even though the search results are not that different there are differences. I expect change, it is the one thing that does not seen to change, yet that has been the hardest part of switching the default search engine to Yahoo.
  2. New Results – Yahoo’s results are different and as a result I find new and interesting things that I have not found on Google. They have also been very relevant. In fact I was pleasantly surprised at how relevant the search results have been. I maybe should have been keeping track, but I have usually found what I was looking for or a good answer to a search in the first two pages.
  3. The Google Craving – I was on site at a clients today and I needed to find a quick answer to a technical problem. I opened the web browser and instantly typed in in the address bar. Ah it got me. For some reason a great quote from one of my favourite movies “So I Married an Axe Murderer came to mind.
    Charlie Mackenzie: Dad, how can you hate “The Colonel”?
    Stuart Mackenzie: Because he puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes ya crave it fortnightly, smartass!
    The only way to beat an addiction is to do it one day at a time. Today the Google craving got me, but there is always tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.

Overall I have to say I have been impressed with Yahoo Search as my default search engine in Firefox. I have found the information I needed and had it quickly. I would even go so far to say that there were less spammy results in the Yahoo results, but I did not do any kind of comparison with Google, so it is strictly an off the top observation.

Google Censorship – Time to Try Yahoo Search

Like a lot of people that use Firefox I tend to just use the default search box in the top right of Firefox to search the web. The default search engine is set to Google, and I have not really had any problems with that, until recently.

While I am not a huge fan or reader of John Chow, I do occasionally like to pop in on his site to see what he is being paid to write about. Of course doing a search in Google for John Chow is useless because Google has declared that John Chow’s blog should no longer be in the index.

Yahoo SearchWhy does any of this matter? Well, I don’t like the idea of Google censoring search results. How many other searches are they hand editing and censoring because they don’t like how the webmaster monetizes their website? How long before they censor sites that question them, like Aaron Wall’s SEOBook blog?

As a user I have choices. I can choose to use Google or not use Google, so for the next couple of weeks I have switched my default search engine in Firefox to Yahoo Search. In the little searching I have already done today, I can say that I have found the information I was looking for, including John Chow’s blog.

What do others think of the way Google treats their search results? Do people find Yahoo’s search results relevant for the searches you perform?

Website Disaster Recovery

I got a phone call yesterday from someone who was in an interesting predicament. Their web host had a hard drive failure and lost their website, the backups were corrupt, their web developer that had created their website was no where to be found, they didn’t think they had any of the files for the site, and they needed to get the site back up as soon as possible. After a short conversation I found out that their website was not very large. Mainly a brochure style website with about 10 pages and some pdf files available for download. They also did not have a great deal of images. Only a logo and some photographs. The photographs they had the original copies of, so they could be replaced, or new ones added.

To help this organization out I talked them through how to use the Google site command and cache to help them recover their website. The process was pretty straight forward, go to Google and type in and you are given all the pages from your website that Google has indexed and cached. You can then view the source code for the page and save it to your hard drive and before you know it you can have a new copy of your website to upload again to your web host.

You can do a similar search with Yahoo Site Explorer and MSN as well. Yahoo Site Explorer is very easy to use, simply type in your url and you will be able to view all the pages that are indexed and view the cached versions. View the source and copy and paste to a new file on your computer. MSN uses the site command so the process is identical to Google.

This organization and person were lucky. They only had a static website, with only a few pages. They were able to recreate the pages from the cached versions, got a copy of their logo, pictures and pdfs from others in their organization and they should be back up on the Internet today. This would be very painful for large websites that are generated with databases and use php or other scripting. All the more reason to make sure you do regular backups of your website. Don’t rely on your host for your backups, you never know what could happen.

Create Your Own Search Engine

Want to create your own custom search engine? Now you can, with with a little help from Google Co-op. Create your own custom search engine that is unique to you and your users interests.

You can create a custom search engine in as little as five minutes, depending on how many options you set and sites you include in your search. Some of the options you have include specifying the sites that you want to include in the results, adding refinements to searches, customizing the look and feel of the results, have others collaborate with you to add sites and make refinements and perhaps the best feature, you can connect it to your Google Adsense account making it possible for you to make money off the ads that appear in the results pages.

Perhaps the best way to show off the Google Co-op is to show you a quick example. I created a Webmaster Forum Search that searches the most popular webmaster forums. Take a look at the results for Adsense Tips. Because the search is limited to just the six webmaster forums you get some of the best posts and tips from the forums in the results. Try searching on any one of the forums individually using the forums search feature and the results are not as useful.

There is great potential for webmasters to use Google Co-op to create specialized search engines for their own websites and niche. Educators could use it to narrow results to only the sites they want, health sites could provide custom search results that only come from trusted sources, the list is endless. If you need more ideas take a look at the featured examples list and you will get some great ideas how you can use Google Co-op.

If you have examples of some of Google Co-op’s custom search engines that you find useful please post them in a comment. I would be interested in seeing the ones that you find most useful.

In case you were wondering, I created the logo for the Webmaster Forum Search at Google Font.

Web Page Titles, Keywords and Descriptions

I had a potential new client contact me today to talk about some changes for their website. They had their site designed and created by a large and trusted web developer. Their website was a very nice looking with clean graphics and easy to use menu, that is what the average web user would see. I browsed through several pages and noticed something odd. The titles were all the same on all the pages I visited. I little surprised by this I took a look at the html code for four of five pages and sure enough the titles were identical for all the pages. Not only were the titles the same all the pages were missing the meta tags for description and keywords. I was a little surprised, this client had paid a rather large sum of money for a website from a large web developer that has done hundreds if not thousands of websites and they made the titles all the same and left out the meta descriptions and keywords.

Why is this important? Well the title tag not only tells the visitor what the title of the page is, but it is also used by search engines in the indexing of the page. The meta descriptions and keywords tags, while many agree are not that important anymore, are also used by the search engines to help index the page and hopefully rank it for certain keywords. So if the site was about persian cats one of the main keywords would probably be “persian cats” and hopefully the site would show up when there is a search for that keyword. I checked this sites indexing with Google and sure enough of the 25 pages indexed, 24 were in the supplemental index. While some would say it is not a big deal to be in the supplemental results, I still suspect that it is better to not be there and one of the easiest ways of trying to get out of “supplemental hell” is to make sure that each page has a unique title and meta tag descriptions.

What has been your experiences with “supplemental hell” and have unique title and meta descriptions and keywords helped to bring you out of the supplemental index?