Non-Google search news

This post has a snarkiness level of 6 out of 10. If your body can’t handle me being snarky on rare occasions, you should leave now. ;) Because I noticed a few interesting non-Google tidbits in search news this week.

Barry found a claim that if you participate in Yahoo’s premium pay-for-inclusion program (say that five times fast), you get to submit your choice of “Quick Links” for your site’s listing in Yahoo’s organic search results. I haven’t seen an official confirmation from Yahoo about whether this is true.

Meanwhile, John Battelle uncovered a Microsoft offer for companies to install a browser helper object (BHO) on company computers to measure search usage, and Microsoft will offer service credits for deployment and training services from Microsoft:

Moderate and high promotions include “In-house training session on ‘how to get the most from web search’ using Windows Live Search,” “Remove all existing toolbars,” “Set Homepage to Live Search,” and “Email message of encouragement from CEO.” IE 7 is mandatory for the program, as one might expect.

The program has been confirmed by Microsoft.

What else? I feel the need to include something about Ask. Ah, here’s something. Ask funded an “information revolution” campaign. The site was advertised in the London Tube, for example, but going to information-revolution.org didn’t initially reveal who was behind the site. Well, a few people dug into it and the site was quickly tied to Ask in a variety of ways. The company behind the site wasn’t that big of a secret, because going to the UK version of Ask and searching for Google would show you a link to the information-revolution.org site, complete with a man on puppet strings, before a searcher would get any information or links about Google:

Information Revolution site from Ask on a search for Google

(That done-by-hand widget in Ask’s search results is called a Smart Answer. Ask appears to have pulled their “puppet” Smart Answer, so I’m using the image from Danny’s write-up.)

I can guess what a few people are saying: “Matt, why would this surprise me? I mean, the previous Ask ad campaign called me a monkey for not using them, right? So this seems like an improvement. Is there some additional, ironic twist that would make this more compelling?”

Okay, I’ve been waiting for someone else to notice this, but it’s been several days now, so I guess I’ll have to be the snarky one. The whole point of information-revolution.org is to remind people to try out other search engines, right? Well, I decided to see how well Ask had indexed its own ad campaign site. First, let’s see how Google did:

Google has many pages from the Ask information-revolution.org site

19 results. The domain only has a few pages, so that looks about right to me. Ask keeps pressing everyone to try them, so let’s try the same search on Ask:

Ask has no pages from the information-revolution.org site compared to Google

Doh! Ask doesn’t have even a single page from its own ad campaign site, and Google indexes the “information revolution” much better than Ask does. :) So this entire advertising campaign puts Ask in an awkward position:
- If Ask crawls the domain now, it’s open to questions of search favoritism, e.g. “Did Ask do any special crawling for information-revolution.org that other webmasters don’t get?”
- If Ask doesn’t crawl the domain, the whole campaign may collapse in self-referential irony. Every time you see a TV commercial urging “search sleepers” to wake up or posters advertising the revolution, people may instead chat about how Ask did worse than most competitors on the domain that it created (Yahoo had three results when I checked today and Live had zero results).

Personally, I’m just thankful that Ask dropped its “you are a puppet” Smart Answer when you search on Ask for Google. :)

P.S. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone, including my colleagues at the Dublin office in Ireland. You get to experience the day in the right place. I hear that the best cure for snarkiness is some green beer. :)

Update: It turns out that Ask doesn’t support using the “site:” command just by itself — you have to add at least one additional word. I learn something new every day. :) Doing the search [site:information-revolution.org information] shows that Ask has one page from the site, but with kind of a weird snippet. Hmm. Uh oh. In fact, it looks like Ask has an older copy of the information-revolution.org root page, and there’s some pretty strange stuff in that copy. Here’s one snippet:

Snippet #1 from Ask

And another:

Another snippet from Ask

And another:

Another snippet from Ask

Jim or Gary, I think you’re going to want to ask about the first version of the site that the agency put up. The first version of the site looks pretty interesting, judging from the snippets above.

56 Responses to Non-Google search news (Leave a comment)

  1. Ask do appear to have shot themselves in the foot there I have to say.

    My own site is struggling to get listed on Ask despite there being 70 different pages being listed in google and about 24 in Yahoo. Google crawls at least one or two pages from my site every day and Ask generally comes about once every 10 days but only ever hits the robots.txt file and the home page. I just thought they were being snotty and very selective but now I guess its because their actually not that good at this search lark.

    Just on another tack I’m surprised that more of my pages are listed in Google than Yahoo as I though the trend was usually the other way around.

  2. Let’s face it, Ask has been going downhill since Matt killed Jeeves, stole his skin, and used it for his Hallowe’en costume. You guys think it’s a coincidence that Matt was Zombie Jeeves? Yeah, there was a conspiracy afoot the whole time and still is, Matt.

    The question I have is: if Matt shows up as Zombie Zawodny of The Ghost of Gates for Hallowe’en, does this mean he’s stepping up his efforts?

  3. DerbyMark, Google generally does pretty well on depth/coverage/comprehensiveness, or whatever you want to call it.

    Of course, it’s always possible to find a search where one engine does better or worse than another. I was just gently having some fun with Ask; they know how to joke around, so I figure they don’t mind that much.

  4. Side question: Matt…where’s the snark? You promised snark and we haven’t yet had any delivered. Come on, dude.

    Here…open this up and then start posting.

    http://geoffhutchison.net/gallery/running/can_whoop.jpg.html

  5. M.W.A., maybe it wasn’t that much, but it was a little snarkier than I would normally do. Glad it wasn’t too much in your eyes. :)

  6. There’s nothing wrong with snark Matt.

    I’ve found that on my blog, the snarkier I am, the more people actually read and respond.

    of course, I work for a company that nobody’s ever heard of, and you work for Google… so I’m sure it’s a bit different.

  7. Dovi

    BTW Matt, you don’t have to dig into the site so much to see whose behind it, Ask’s logo is at the bottom right of the hompage… (or maybe it’s new? Google’s and Yahoo’s cache show it, but Google’s is quite new. maybe you know better…)

  8. My turn to be Snarky…

    Why does Google use a 302 redirect, to go from:
    google.com – to – http://www.google.com when everything that comes out of Google says to use a 301?

    This is causing a problem for me because the fact that Google uses a 302 is used as leverage for why the extra effort to change redirects to a 301 is unnecessary.

    “See… Even Google uses 302 redirects”
    The counter argument of using Google as a roll model is hard to dismiss.

  9. Ask’s site: operator is broken. Try searching for “information revolution” (without quotes). It will be the first result.

    It does the same thing for our domain too. “site:urltrends.com” (no quotes) does not return any results, but “UrlTrends” (no quotes) will return our homepage as the first result.

    I think that they use a separate database for the site: operator, and that database is not quite up to date.

    According to their “more” results, “urltrends site:www.urltrends.com” would be the proper command to see all pages from a site.

  10. Sasha

    Sorry, but the snark isn’t quite as justified as one might think. It looks like ask.com doesn’t really support searches of the form “site:www.foo.com”. Compare the results of

    john site:www.slate.com

    and

    site:www.slate.com

    For that matter, compare the results of “information site:www.information-revolution.org” and “site:information-revolution.org” (without quotes, of course).

    Now, you could argue that this is a much larger bug with their search engine as a whole, but that’s debatable. It’s not particularly debatable that they don’t index information-revolution.org, though.

  11. I am working on official confirmation from Yahoo on Quick Links. Hope to have a nice write up on it sooner than later.

  12. Bryn

    Ask seems to return that same result for every site: search without keywords. Search for “information revolution” puts them at the top in circumstances that I would consider evidence in line the point you made. Seems like you should have just made it instead of being “snarky.”

  13. Dovi, I believe the Ask logo was a recent addition. I think it didn’t have the logo before. In fact, it used to look like… uh oh. That’s not good.

    Hawaii SEO, I asked someone to check into it a while ago. Feel free to point out that “www.guugle.org” does a 301 redirect.

    Barry, thanks for the update; I’d be curious to hear more when you find it out.

    Joel Strellner and others, thanks for making the point about Ask’s site: operator.

  14. Hey, first time poster, but love your blog. I have a few friends over at google and all I can say is keep up the awesomeness.

  15. I pressed the “leave now” button because I want to remember Matt as extremely political correct, but what I saw there was horrible. My hat turned white after seeing such horror.

  16. Microsoft credits for using their search engine sound fine.

    Google’s attempt to promote usage via the Google toolbar, snaffles data about all your website visits, and in exchange gives you a search box on the browser (and a few other tools) which you would have got anyway (or could get as extensions) if you’d used Firefox.

    Now why doesn’t Google offer an open search plug-in on the Google home page so that IE-7 users can add Google in a couple of key strokes?

  17. Simon, I believe that we do try to offer ways for IE7 users to switch to Google, sometimes even when people visit the Google home page.

  18. Matt these are legitimate points and critcisms of ASK. However I’m a lot more interested in your view on whether Google’s near-monopoly on search results is a favorable condition or not, and what you see as the best long-term strategy to improve search for users. Google’s results are good but they are not yet great, and one could make a strong case that the best way to spur even more innovation is a far more competitive search landscape. Does Google have any role to play in spurring outsider innovation?
    (No is an acceptable answer – we are mostly capitalistic and competive after all).

  19. Buddy, given the size and scope of your systems, which are befitting of the world’s largest media company, I think it’s safe to say that freshness is one of those factors where you’ll “beat” us at times. This wasn’t one of those times, however. If you’d just done the query “information revolution”, you would have gotten it.

    I understand your snarkiness if you’ve read some blog posts on our UK campaign. Just four days in, some people are misunderstanding it. You’ll see as it plays out, it’s not anti-Google, but rather anti-closed mindedness.

    Effectiveness takes many forms, from search to search, and Ask’s feature set can be more effective than Google’s many times as well. You should admit, though, that many people aren’t thinking about alternatives, even as compliments to their use of your engine. It’s just not entering their minds. That’s what the “revolution” is for in the UK, where the market isn’t as diverse as the US, and Google is beyond dominant. The campaign is not meant as a serious revolt (how could it be? we’re talking about free services that you choose to use), but a tongue-in-cheek way of breaking through in a market that stopped listening. I think Ask should have a legitimate place in the landscape over there, especially as we continue to innovate and improve.

    ‘m rooting for Kentucky today, by the way. Don’t want Kansas to get through to play my Bruins.

  20. Joe, one tab that’s open in my browser right now is
    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/03/three-summers-of-open-source.html
    in which we’re sponsoring students to participate in open source development in hundreds of different projects. Several students have even gotten full-time positions working on open source. Open Source has provided some really interesting stuff (I like the Beagle search project, for example), and sponsoring open-source increases innovation across the board outside of Google. Custom Search Engines also foster more people to be thinking and working on search outside of Google.

    My personal opinion is that the marketplace has many strong competitors right now, and that’s a good thing for users. Competition keeps everyone on their toes and keeps everyone working hard to deliver the best search experience, which is a huge benefit to users. That’s just my take on it, though; thanks for asking that.

  21. Thanks for that thoughtful answer Matt!

  22. is it a google pagerank update is on its way now, i have just notice changes in many different websites page ranks!

  23. Matt,
    You might be interested in these comments about Ask.com

    http://blog.skygle.com/73/askcom-treasure-hunters-and-googlecom/

    Paul

  24. George S.

    FEAR my friend…

    Powerset is coming! Also freebase…

    Google killers will be out there ANY minute….

    LOL… I feel sorry for ask and all the others… I live in europe in
    a country where English is not our mother language. It’s a complete
    joke to try to use anything else, other than google to search (and expect
    to see results! :) .

    I also feel sorry for me too. G knows everything about me.

    My only hope would be to have a (or some)… real google killer(s).

    …but this is even a BIGGER joke, when everyone misses the point about
    why G is better than all the others and it is where it is today. “Natural
    language processing” (powerset) and “better sorting of results” (ask) would
    be great… IF they had any results to display!

  25. Paul Avery, I hadn’t seen that post–thanks for the pointer..

  26. The main problem is that Google is broken. It is highly unstable for commercial keywords, moving sites from top positions to end of results periodically. Advanced search by date has been broken for a year or more. The visible part of the search result page for commercial keywords is dominated, often more than 60%, by AdWords sponsored links.

  27. Snarky?

    Did you take my 101 class, Matt?

  28. Hi Matt,
    Yep, you found that annoying fact that ASK doesn’t allow the “site” command without a word included!

    For your future snarking needs, you can use “inurl” and “intitle” on ASK without an additional word. (see the URL linked with my name above for Handy Search Shortcuts and links)

    Gradiva Couzin

  29. Gradiva Couzin, good to know. I was going to settle for [site:domain.com domain] from now on..

  30. Old copy (google cache) of information-revolution.org home page ;) :

    http://telendro.com.es/information-revolution-cache/

  31. Michel, very nice! I don’t suppose you still have the source code too? Maybe in your browser cache? I’m starting to suspect that the agency was using CSS to hide most of that text as well.

  32. Side note: does anyone else here find it somewhat ironic that a site promoting a revolution uses the old Commodore 64 font (whatever it’s called) for graphic text?

    For those who may want a free shirt and that live in Canada, don’t bother filling out the form. Apparently, they either don’t ship there or don’t recognize a Canadian postal code (tried 3).

  33. This is a lot of hoopla for a site that lists too many paid results for every search…regardless, i appreciate all of the insight to Ask.com. I learn a lot from you and your readers/commenters…thanks all

  34. Jim, thanks for stopping by to chime in with some of the ideas behind the campaign. I appreciate it.

  35. This is a fascinating discussion – so thanks Matt for kicking it off.

    Not too sure about the intent of the Ask campaign, but I am all for diversity in search, so I applaud them for making a campaign that attempts to address “options” and choice in information sources.

    Far and away though – Google is still everyone’s trusted friend – UK in particular. For some reason (perhaps usability and relevance? hint, hint…) other engines are lagging and will continue to lag.

    Beyond this – It’s laughable to see traditional ad campaigns for Ask. I think I’ve seen them on the train and such. ;-0 Ad campaigns are not going to do it at this point.

  36. JLH

    If ask were better, they’d advertise that, since it isn’t they resort to these cute little games and play on the fact that it’s different. When they’ve got something to offer other than outdated search results maybe then we’ll see some creativeness.

  37. The main problem is that Google is broken. It is highly unstable for commercial keywords, moving sites from top positions to end of results periodically. Advanced search by date has been broken for a year or more. The visible part of the search result page for commercial keywords is dominated, often more than 60%, by AdWords sponsored links.

    Matt, I stand thoroughly corrected on the “snark” issue. This guy brought his A-game.

    I have a serious question, though, for people who think this: if Google is broken, what isn’t? What should we all be using as an alternative?

    (Now that’s a firestorm topic if you ever want one that will end up with 750 replies.)

  38. Dave (Original)

    “Google is broken” often = my site pages aren’t where I want them to be.

  39. And by often, you mean always, right Dave?

    I’m 100% serious when I ask this question. What is a search engine that is so flawless that big G should be taking notice of it?

  40. STILL BROKEN
    “There is a laughable quote in the piece from Matt Cutts (who I think is one of the good guys by the way) who says ‘We have more engineers working on core search technology than ever before’. Right…. if that’s the case, why is limit by date STILL broken?”
    Phil Bradley, UK search expert, October 05, 2006
    http://philbradley.typepad.com/phil_bradleys_weblog/2006/10/a_gaggle_of_goo.html

  41. * sighs *

    Jim, posting a link from someone else claiming the same thing you do doesn’t constitute proof or evidence of a viewpoint. It’s just a supporting opinion.

    Now…how about you stop ranting and answer the question, Jim? If Google’s broken, what isn’t?

  42. Maybe Ask should spend more time researching on Google…

  43. ADAM, IT IS TRIVIAL TO CHECK AND PROOF, THAT SEARCH BY DATE IS BROKEN!
    Personalized Results 1 – 100 of about 1,550,000 over the past 3 months for matt-cutts. (0.10 seconds)
    Personalized Results 1 – 100 of about 1,550,000 over the past 6 months for matt-cutts. (0.12 seconds)
    Personalized Results 1 – 100 of about 1,550,000 over the past year for matt-cutts. (0.22 seconds)
    Personalized Results 1 – 100 of about 1,550,000 for matt-cutts. (0.24 seconds) (any time)
    The link to Bradley illustrates that the problem was known October 05, 2006!

  44. That’s your proof?!?!?!? Dude, that’s not Google being broken or search by date being broken. That approximation is pretty well meaningless…if anything’s “broken”, it’s the approximation.

    Besides, who cares whether the number changes (by the way, it does vary depending on which DCs you hit)? The link to Bradley only illustrates that he doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “approximation”, and apparently neither do you.

    Not only that, using Matt’s name to illustrate a point is silly at best. Matt is a name known in the SEO community. The SEO community generally knows that it’s good practice to keep pages updated and fresh and change content and all that good stuff. So it’s entirely possible that most, if not all, of the pages have changed in the past X number of months.

    And in all of that, you still haven’t answered the question. (Mostly because you know damn well you don’t have an answer.)

  45. It proved that ASK results is not even close to Yahoo, let alone Google!

  46. ASK must improve their Algo and adding several basic useful commands for websmasters to use.

  47. To convince a Google Worshipper that his God is no good is impossible. Especially with this limited space and with my own direct links not allowed.
    As a final example, I searched by date for “george w bush”:
    Results 1 – 100 of about 72,100,000 over the past 3 months for “george w bush”. (0.05 seconds)
    Results 1 – 100 of about 72,200,000 over the past 6 months for “george w bush”. (0.08 seconds)
    Results 1 – 100 of about 72,200,000 over the past year for “george w bush”. (0.07 seconds)
    Results 1 – 100 of about 61,900,000 for “george w bush”. (0.09 seconds) ANYTIME!
    Google works with approximations here and otherwise. Bad approximations and a seriously flawed algorithm resulting from a number of badly tested additions to the pagerank foundation. Use an alternative for example Windows Live instead.

  48. Quick update on the Google v Ask stats (with a bit of MSN and Yahoo thrown in for good measure) for my site since my first post:

    Google & Yahoo crawlers have been every day to my site, MSN nearly every day and Ask once. However my home page has now appeared in Asks results, but only the home page. Well at least thats a start.

    For the entire month of March to date and according to my site stats (AWstats) Google has been responsible for 84% of the search engine traffic to my site, MSN 3%, Yahoo 3%, Other 9% and Ask 0%.

    The above just goes to re-inforce my own personal belief as a user of search engines that I should continue to use Google as first choice. Google still has almost 3 times as many pages indexed v Yahoo and MSN. Why, I do not know but I’m wondering whats up with the other search engines and the whole time its adding to my perception that Google is better, Google is more efficient, Google must have bigger spiders (tarantulas maybe).

    Is a monopoly a good thing? Probably not, but whats the alternative, use a substandard search engine? Not likely. The solution – spend less time whinning you other search companies and spend more time developing better products that give us a proper reason not to just use Google.

  49. Why does the word ‘snarky’ always make my ears perk up and look to see who’s calling me?

  50. I wonder what the future relevance of Ask.com in the ever evolving search engine market is / will be.

  51. http://www.silverstall.com/images/nonstockphotos/vandalism.jpg

    is it fair or right for property to be vandalised in the name of corporate advertising? A marketing campaign which incites or encourages those less responsible members of society to vandalise is an extremely dangerous and ill-thought strategy.

  52. Has anyone noticed that with ie7 the google search facility (generally top right) only has searches through Google.com if Google are chosen as the search method? So if you’re in Canada, or the UK, the search results are sub-optimal? If this becomes the default search mechanism (as it is doing) users aren’t getting good results and will stray from Google – as will be welcomed from Microsoft, developers of ie7 (of course!).
    You can change to a ‘national’ Google as the choice – but man! You have to jump through some hoops – and even then I can’t get it to persist! 99% of users aren’t going to bother – they’ll just go to Yahoo or MSN instead.
    Regards
    Baron

  53. Saw the AD on a tube last Friday on my way to the Natural History Museum with the kids and was intrigued enough to have a look when I got home.

    What surprises me most is the huge number of comments on the site flaming it for what it is that have been published. Presumably moderating comments goes against what the site “claims” to be all about, but then, it isn’t what it claims to be about anyway. It’s a commercial exercise, not a “revolution”.

    Most ironic campaign I’ve seen in a while – doubtless ASk would like it to have never happened.

  54. I do hope that major search engines will unite some major commands like “site:” or “link:” etc. as well as share a commitment in providing the backlinks data, which MSN / Live currently doesn’t.

  55. Nancy

    I can tell you that users will develop, very quickly, a hate against ASK.COM when they go on like this. The same way they did against MS.
    Especially europeans want to have a CHOICE, and not being told where to look.
    Besides, Google is much customer friendly and considerably less annoying, if you ASK me!

    Let’s wait and see ……

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