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March 2010 Archives

March 17, 2010

Google UI changes?

Haven't seen this discussed anywhere else, but I've been noticing some small but significant tweaks in how Google's presenting its search results. (It's true that Google is always fixing this and changing that, but these are particularly interesting, have persisted for several days, and show signs of sticking.)

As part of its Universal Search, Google has been pushing at its users all sorts of content -- video, shopping, review snippets, blogs, "real-time" feeds - to the point that cracking the top page was becoming all but impossible. For some terms, the "top 10" had become the "top 3," with most of them below the fold. SERP pages had become pretty chaotic and less than useful.

But over the last week or so, Google has been going back to SERPs that look more like they did 10 years ago: overwhelmingly textual. (The font size is bigger, too.) If you want to see the other stuff, you still can; just navigate in the left margin.

The tradeoff is that it's harder than ever to get a "pure" search without personalization. Even if you're logged off and your detailed search history is unavailable, Google will try its hardest to customize the search by your IP address, location or cookies previously set in your browser. That all makes a search professional's job that much harder; too many of us try to justify our existence by providing clients with SERP position, as if that position proved much of anything. Worse, there's no really clear way to be sure that positions pulled using tools like AWR or WebCEO are "pure," because Google could be finding ways to "customize" those results.

Best answer is as it always has been: judge results not on SERP position but on traffic. And if you're really hardcore (which you should be), judge your results not just on traffic, but on traffic that converts. Of course, that requires clients to understand what a valid conversion is, but no one said this job was going to be easy....

March 19, 2010

Visualizing Tufte

I spent the day yesterday in a ballroom listening to data visualization guru Edward Tufte. Given my increasingly hummingbird-like attention span, a full day of concentrated focus was as welcome as it was unusual. A good time, and well worth the money.

Perhaps the coolest things of the day were when he produced a copy of the first English translation of Euclid's Elements -- the book where he laid out the basics of geometry -- dating from 1582. And the other was his showing a first edition first printing of Galileo's 1610 observations of the moons of Jupiter and sunspots (and, oh by the way, the heliocentric model of the solar system).

But what I found most provocative...

Continue reading "Visualizing Tufte" »

March 22, 2010


Film crews are not uncommon in my neighborhood. "Gossip Girl," in particular, has been coming around a few times a year. But this week, the nabe's parking will be disrupted for two productions: the CBS drama "The Good Wife" (which is set in, ummm, Chicago) and the FX show "Damages."

Kawasaki on Management

I've been around the Macintosh world since about 1985, so I'm real familiar with Guy Kawasaki. Guy was the software evangelist for the Mac -- the guy who went around persuading software developers to write for this unusual and innovative computer. In the intervening years, he wrote a couple of books about what became known as guerrilla marketing; those books are still on my shelves. In certain circles, he was (and is) quite famous. In certain circles, he became sort of yesterday's news. Now, he runs a venture company and a news aggregator Alltop.com.

But there's an excellent interview with him in this past Friday's NYTimes, where he dispenses some pretty insightful advice about careers and marketing:

Sales is everything. As long as you’re making sales, you’re still in the game....

They should teach students how to communicate in five-sentence e-mails and with 10-slide PowerPoint presentations. If they just taught every student that, American business would be much better off... Because no one wants to read “War and Peace” e-mails. Who has the time? Ditto with 60 PowerPoint slides for a one-hour meeting. What you learn in school is the opposite of what happens in the real world. In school, you’re always worried about minimums. You have to reach 20 pages or you have to have so many slides or whatever. Then you get out in the real world and you think, “I have to have a minimum of 20 pages and 50 slides.”

...In the end, success in business comes from the willingness to grind it out. It’s not because of the brilliant idea. It’s because you are willing to work hard.

Most people who graduate from college think they have to make a perfect choice.... They think that their first job is going to determine their career, if not their life. Looking back, that’s absolutely incorrect. By definition you cannot make a mistake in your first job... Let’s say you join a start-up, and it implodes. You would learn more about leadership inside a company that crashes than you would inside the next Google. Specifically, you will learn what not to do. You can’t make a mistake as a college graduate.
Jobs for college graduates should make them gain knowledge in at least one of these three areas: how to make something, how to sell something or how to support something.

It's a quick read. Worth the time.

March 26, 2010

New Bing Coming

Microsoft's Bing search engine will be rolling out UI changes starting in the next few days. Since its launch about a year ago, Bing has been innovating mostly on its interface, and these changes continue that mission. The emphasis for the update will be on providing more context -- including real-time feeds -- and visual information.

What's worrisome about Bing, from a content provider's perspective, is that the search engine will provide so much context that a click-through to the originating site becomes unnecessary. (This, of course, allows Bing and not the publisher to monetize the publisher's content.) Microsoft doesn't see that as much of an issue. From Redmond Channel Partner:

One attendee of the keynote asked [Yusef] Mehdi [Microsoft's SVP of online audience business] if Microsoft’s efforts to render more contextual data within Bing would result in fewer click-throughs to sites. Mehdi responded that he doesn't see cause for concern. "What we have found is there are more click-throughs when you add richer captions," he said.

There's a interesting data point, if he'd be willing to share his numbers. It would also be interesting to discover if rich-content clickthroughs convert on a publisher's site better than clicks based on less-rich content. In other words, do people who click on high-context links bounce more or less than referrals from low-context links? Or are high-context links killing the geese with the golden eggs?

About March 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Over the Edge in March 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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