Tag Archives | Search

Google Place Search is No Yelp Killer (But Maybe That’s Not the Point)

Google Places is getting a kick in the pants with more information delivered automatically in search results.

The newly-announced Place Search will be part of standard Google search. When the engine thinks you’re looking for local information, it returns mostly local businesses as results. Google already does this to some extent, but only in a small bubble of listings next to a local map. The new results have longer descriptions and review snippets, and when you scroll down the page, the little map follows along in your browser window. (Place Search is rolling out over the next few days, but you can see a preview here.)

Google is also adding a “Places” link in the left sidebar, should you want to see only local results. This comes in handy when searching for a specific menu item or attraction, like “foosball,” which might not trigger Place Search on its own.

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Yahoo’s New Search: Good Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Yahoo LogoOn Monday, Yahoo unveiled significant revisions to its search engine, as detailed in this blog post. I like the new stuff–especially the embedded YouTube videos (despite owning YouTube, Google doesn’t embed it in search results) and the overall performance (as Yahoo claims, the new engine feels fast). But given Yahoo’s plans to turn its search infrastructure over to Microsoft’s Bing, feeling good about Yahoo search paradoxically leaves me kinda uneasy.  It’s still not clear whether Yahoo touches like the Search Pad research tool will survive the Bing takeover. On the other hand, it’s also not completely clear that the feds will approve the Microsoft deal.

This I do know: Yahoo search is still stuck in an odd limbo. If it’s going to be Binged, I hope it happens expeditiously. But as a mere user of Yahoo rather than an investor, I’m not so sure that I wouldn’t prefer to have Yahoo and Microsoft continue to duke it out with each other as well as with Google to build the best possible search engine.


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Bing Shows Signs of Life in the US

Bing LogoYou might have noticed that Microsoft’s ads for its Bing search engine have become much more frequent on our pages as of late. I’ve noticed elsewhere a marked increase in advertisements for the service, which seems to imply that Microsoft may be staging another offensive in the war over search.

Data from StatCounter shows that Bing had an fairly impressive 13.2 percent share on Tuesday, its highest point in over two months — which was shortly after launch — and continuing a marked uptrend that began on Monday. It appears that Bing’s new-found traffic is generally coming from Google, as Yahoo has generally maintained its share throughout Bing’s rises and falls.

(That said, Google still dominates about 75 percent of the search market in the US, with Yahoo around 10 percent as of Tuesday.)

What remains to be seen is whether Microsoft can hold onto these gains. Given its past history, it probably won’t, although it seems that its wild swings are beginning to smooth out over the past few weeks. This is probably a result of more web consumers settling into using Bing on a regular basis rather than flipping back and forth between its competitors.

Microsoft may also be noticing this stabilization, and may see it as a good time to attempt to pry more eyes away from Google, thus the increase in Bing ads once again.

In any case, the service still has a far way to go before it can be considered relevant in the search engine space. With Google so dominant, especially worldwide, Microsoft has a lot of work to do.

Note that worldwide Google has 88.6 percent of the market, dwarfing Bing and Yahoo’s shares which are roughly tied at 4.7 percent each.


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Report: Microsoft Days Away from Yahoo Search Deal

A cadre of Microsoft executives is in Silicon Valley to iron a search and online advertising deal with Yahoo, All Things Digital’s Kara Swisher is reporting.

The executives include senior vice president of the company’s Online Audience Business Group Yusuf Mehdi, Online Services Group president Qi Lu, and Online Services senior vice president Satya Nadella, according the report. The terms of the deal allegedly involve Microsoft paying Yahoo billions of dollars upfront to run its search advertising business; Yahoo will receive certain guaranteed payments.

Some sticking points have involved who will have control over data, and traffic acquisition cost rates, the report says. However, I thinkthat Yahoo will take the deal: Despite its new technology initiatives, its market share is slowly decaying.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Bing search engine has been received favorably, and it has managed to steal some market share away from Google and Yahoo. It is still too soon to tell whether a trend if developing (it launched last month), but Microsoft’s $90 million advertising campaign won’t hurt its chances at popularity.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is like a pit bull–he never lets go after he sets his jaws around something. There has been a persistent campaign to strike a deal with Yahoo. All Things Digital says that it could happen as soon as next week. Now we wait.


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Interesting Changes for Twitter Search

Cnet’s Rafe Needleman has a scoop on ambitious tweaks that Twitter plans to make to its search feature:

…Twitter Search, which currently searches only the text of Twitter posts, will soon begin to crawl the links included in tweets and begin to index the content of those pages…Twitter Search will also get a reputation ranking system soon, Jayaram told me. When you do a search on a “trending” topic (a topic that is so big it gets its own link in the Twitter.com sidebar), Twitter will take into account the reputation of the person who wrote each tweet and rank search results in part based on that.

That’s ambitious stuff, epecially for a service that didn’t do search at all for much of its history and only rolled it out to the bulk of its user base a few days ago. I’m not ready to get all wild-eyed and declare Twitter to be a Google killer, but the better it gets at helping Twitterers find information in something close to real time, the more it becomes a resource that does fascinating and useful things that Google doesn’t. Already, I’m turning to Twitter to get answers to some questions I would have Googled for in the past, such as “Which Windows IM client looks and works the most like OS X’s iChat?”


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Yahoo Share to Likely Shrink in 2009

YahooDefinitely not good news for the world’s second biggest search provider. Yahoo is set to lose a chunk of market share over the next year or so, experts say.

This is due to the loss of two toolbar partners: HP, who signed up with Microsoft’s Live Search toolbar early last year; and Acer who silently switched its search provider to Google in October.

That failure could cost the search company about 15 percent of its market share, or about 3 percent in the overall rankings. While the company does admit that the termination of the deals will cause its share to shrink, it told the Wall Street Journal its own internal study showed less of a negative effect.

Losses wouldn’t be realized right away: instead, Yahoo’s share would likely shrink slowly as consumers replace their aging machines. The search provider could even be helped out by the deep recession in the meantime, which has slowed the replacement cycle even more.

Shrinking share could also have another effect: driving Yahoo’s search business into Microsoft’s open arms.  It’s becoming ever more clear that if Yahoo and Microsoft really want to compete with Google, they are going to have to join forces.


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Twitter Finally Integrates Search. For Me, at Least. And for You, I Hope.

twitterlogoOne of the great mysteries of Twitter–there are several of ’em–is how incredibly slow it’s been to take the obvious step of making search a key feature. (Without it, Twitter is like the world’s largest, noisiest party, not that that’s bad; with it, it starts to get far more useful.) The problem seemed to get solved last July when the company bought the excellent Summize Twitter search engine. But then it failed to integrate Summize –basically, it stuck it in as a link in the footer, as if you were no more likely to use it than you were to read the privacy policy.

Today, at last, I was greeted with real, truly integrated Twitter search (which Twitter had said it was working on) when I popped into the site to see if anyone had Tweeted me. (I’m @harrymccracken there, incidentally.) It’s reportedly not available to everybody yet, but this is surely a good sign.

It’s pretty straightforward, as search should be. The upper right-hand corner of the page now sports a Trends drop-down list (which shows you hot topics at the moment)  and a search box:

Twitter Search

Enter a search query, and results pop right in the Twitter look and feel (until now, they’ve still looked like Summize):

Twitter Search Query

Twitter search, like Twitter itself, is wonderfully real-time–in fact, if you do a search and then pause for a few moments, it may tell you that there are new relevant results since you performed your initial query:

Twitter Idol

None of this is revolutionary in the least, but it’s fabulous to see it front and center. I bet it’ll have a profound effect on how folks use Twitter, and will probably increase the quality of the conversation, since it’ll be so much easier to track down relevant chatter. I know I’ll be using it a lot more, at least–I knew about the old Summize search all along, but it was always just a teensy bit too much of a hassle to call it up.


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Ballmer Met With Yahoo Exec This Week

yahoologoSo Steve, tell us again that you aren’t interested in Yahoo (although lately yes you have been singing a different tune)? Microsoft’s chief executive has reportedly met with Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock, according to a report in the New York Times. This would be the second contact by Ballmer to Yahoo’s higher-ups: he also apparently had an informal conversation with incoming CEO Carol Bartz also this week.

This seems to confirm the reporting from Tuesday which indicated that Microsoft has proposals ready to present to the Yahoo board any time now. The speed at which this seems to be happening also leads me to believe Yahoo is truly attempting to have something ready to go by the time it announces its earnings less than two weeks from now.

What exactly has been said nobody knows, but it probably involves the two companies merging their search assets. Bartz is apparently a little reluctant to give up complete control of the search business, so whatever happens Yahoo will likely still have a hand in the final product.


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Here We Go Again – MicroHoo Search Deal Close?

Harry earlier today passed along the news that former Autodesk chief Carol Bartz is the new CEO of Yahoo. So how long did you think it would take before somebody revives the MicroHoo talk? Apparently about two hours.

Our good friend and colleague Kara Swisher over at AllThingsDigital is reporting that sources withing Microsoft are telling her that a search partnership is very close to being done. In fact, the proposal is all ready to go: all that needs to be done is the presentation to the Yahoo board.

Current talk pegs the signing as soon as January 27, which would be the company’s earnings announcement. What better way to boost your stock price than brag about a new CEO, hopefully decent earnings, and the completion of a deal that your investors have been asking for over a year?

It would also make a good first showing for the new CEO. She’d start out on the right foot and show that she’s in tune with the problems plaguing the beleagured search company.

Let the next round of speculation begin…


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Microsoft’s Black Friday Black Eye

cashbackIf Microsoft wants to become a serious Web competitor to Google it should stop tripping over its own feet. On Black Friday, it was offering more apologies than bargains after embarrassing technical glitches incapacitated the company’s Live Search Cashback, scuttling its initiative to gain a larger share of the search market by giving searchers discounts on products they find through Live Search.

Apparently, someone in Redmond neglected to remember that Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. The Cashback site was unable to cope with the heavy volume, and some customers–ones that were able to access the site at all, that is–were left with the wrong amount of cash back credited to their accounts.

One of the biggest snafus occurred when customers that were trying to take advantage of a generous 40 percent discount on HP products received as little as 3 percent cash back posted to their account, according to News.com, which also reported that Microsoft apoligized to shoppers who encountered Cashback glitches . A spokesperson told Technologizer that customers interested in following up on their Cashback rebate should contract Microsoft Live Search support to have their accounts credited.

The company’s initiative to compensate people for using its search engine began in May. Since that time, Microsoft’s share of the search business has fallen, according to multiple surveys. That’s not to say that the Live Search Cashback program is a bad idea–Microsoft is an underdog, and it needs to be creative and scrappy.

However, it had an opportunity to benefit from word of mouth had its Black Friday promotion gone well, and its failure to execute has left it at best no better off than it would have been on any given Friday.


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