Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Google Loses Tabs In New Look, Gains Web Alerts & Personalized Search Results

The first newsletter comments re changed layout & results...

Google Loses Tabs In New Look, Gains Web Alerts & Personalized Search Results: "Google has unveiled a new look that involves dropping its famed search tabs, along with debuting a web alerts service and a personalized search results option."

Google Local Search, rolled out earlier this month, does not appear as a search link on the home page - froogle does...

"Previously found via its own tab, the Google Directory has been demoted to the More Searches page.
'We analyzed what people were using, and that had become less popular over time. As the web grows, directory structures get harder to use,' Norvig said. 'It didn't seem to be worth the real estate on the home page.'
Demoting the directory may also be a way for Google to eventually distance itself from from the Open Directory Project, which powers it."

Changes To Ad Format
On Google's search results page, the sidebar boxes that contained sponsored links are now gone. Instead, a vertical line separates sponsored links from paid results. These all come under a "Sponsored Links" heading and remain on the right-hand side of the page, as before. Other sponsored listings that appeared at the top of unpaid results in boxes appear to have been retained.

"We wanted a page that looked cleaner," Norvig said, about losing the boxes. "People are still very much clear on what's an ad and what's not."

Invisible Tabs / One Box Results
To see one box results in action, here are some specifics:

News headlines: search for iraq, and these appear alongside a newspaper icon.
Shopping search: search for canon powershot, and these appear alongside a shopping bag icon. These were added in added in December
Local search: search for san francisco dentist, and these appear alongside a compass icon. These were added earlier this month

Web Alert Service Introduced
Site owners and others have long wanted the ability to be alerted to changes in Google's web search results. In fact, the third-party Google Alert service has grown popular because of this.

A new Google Web Alerts service now allows monitoring of a number of terms on a daily or weekly basis. The first 20 results are monitored and emailed to you. A similar Google News Alerts service was introduced last August.

Neither Google Alert or the new Google Web Alerts service provide enough functionality for those interested in rank checking purposes, however. Tools like WebPosition have long been used to do this and still continue to be popular despite Google's warnings against automated rank checking.

Google has banned some users of these tools from being able to access Google's results, though it has never actually banned pages themselves from being listed that Search Engine Watch knows of, just because someone used a rank checking tool.

Personalized Search Debuts
All the major search engines have said recently that they see personalized search results as a key way to advance relevancy. Now Google is the first among them to provide a real personalized service for users to play with for web page search refinement.Google Personalized Web Search is a beta service that allows users to refine results based on their interests. You can set up a profile of your interests, then use a "slider" bar that appears above web results to see the results reshaped toward what you may like.

For example, use the profile page to tell Google that you like video games, then do a search for cars. Push the slider to "Max," and the results change so that sites generally about cars, such as Cars.com and Jaguar, get pushed below personalized selections such as pages from computer game sites GameSpy.com or GameSpot.com. Small Google "colored balls" appear next to any personalized results.

How does Google know what to deliver as personalized content. The company is categorizing pages across the web, understanding what's relevant to topics such as "video games" or "movies," Norvig said. When someone does a search, Google looks through pages associated with their interest to find matches...What's happening is that Google's system can't tell exactly which (of my) interests to target. It sees pages that are relevant to cars with various different topic areas, but it doesn't know which topic I'm most interested in.

"That's part of the reason it's on Labs," Norvig said, referring to personalized search's status as a Google Labs project. "You're right, that's one of the issues. You can certainly go back and forth and change your profile, but that's a little clunky.

Personalization Technology
Google says it does not record a personal data on its end. Instead, it remembers your general personal preferences and records these in your Google cookie. The use of cookie data by any company often raises privacy concerns...Google also is not using any type of clickthrough measurements or user feedback to associate personal preferences with pages

Google is using a blend of technology acquired during its purchase of Applied Semantics last year and its own native technology to classify pages, which is has long used to deliver AdSense contextual ads.

Not using Kaltix, Outride or Orkut

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