Tag Archives: Search

Smart Search on Windows 8.1 Gets Smarter

On April 30, Microsoft’s Bing Relevance Team announced on the Search Blog some of the updates they are making to Smart Search in Windows 8.1.

In essence, Smart Search is getting smarter. Today, Smart Search is called so because it searches everything and not just one domain like the computer’s file system or the web. Searching for something via the Search Charm enables search across files, emails, apps, web, etc.

Now, with the power of Bing, one can enter natural language queries as shown below (from the blog post), and get relevant suggestions for things like PC settings. This may seem like a small and obvious update but it is actually quite nifty that customers don’t need to know which exact setting to look for, to change screen brightness, for example. Settings like the Control Panel have always been confusing and to most customers, intimidating. Making it easy to “get things done” as opposed to finding the right place to change settings, will help in reducing the confusion.

Smart Search Printer
Smart Search Printer
Smart Search Brightness
Smart Search Brightness
Smart Search Store
Smart Search Store
Smart Search Uninstall
Smart Search Uninstall

As the blog post goes on to say, the beauty of these updates is that because it is powered by Bing, all the benefits gained by Bing across all the end points can be funneled back as features into all other end points. Hence, Bing has stopped being a “search engine” a long time ago and for Microsoft, it is a machine learning platform.

This update will be rolling out this week, so it does not look like it needs an OS or app update. Happy searching!

McAfee Reveals 2012’s Most Dangerous Celebrity

Emma Watson
2005 Fan Photo of Emma Watson (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

McAfee has posted its annual “Most Dangerous Celebrities List” for 2012 and has revealed a surprising result. The darling Emma Watson has bumped off previous winner, Heidi Klum, to capture the title of “Most Dangerous Celebrity” to search for on the Internet. Miss Watson is best known for her role as Hermione in the blockbuster Harry Potter films. A screenshot of McAfee’s webpage can be seen below. I believe they may have been a little surprised to see the sweetheart top this list, then again, they have probably seen a lot of crazy stuff researching Internet security.

Emma Watson Banner
Screenshot of McAfee’s Webpage

This is the sixth year that McAfee has undergone the task of researching pop culture icons on the web and assessing the risk they pose to web surfers. Cybercriminals seem to know who the hottest targets are on the web and they exploit celebrities’ popularity to seek dishonest gain. Emma was not the only dangerous search. There seemed to be some patterns. For instance, searching for female celebrities proved to be more dangerous. Only one man showed up in the top 20 of the list and that was Jimmy Kimmel. Latinas were also particularly hot search topics.

“In today’s celebrity culture, consumers expect to be able to go online to catch up with the latest photos, videos, tweets, and stories about their favorite celebrities. Due to the richness of the data and the high interaction, often times consumers forget the risks that they are taking by clicking on the links,” said Paula Greve, director of web security research at McAfee. “As the sophistication and expectations of consumers with respect to their online experience has increased, so has the level and ability to deliver malware either by malvertising, exploiting the user’s browser without their awareness, or masking malicious URLs behind shortened URLs.”

The web can be a dangerous place folks and it should never be assumed otherwise. For more information about the Top 10 Most Dangerous Celebrities, visit McAfee’s website at http://home.mcafee.com/root/landingpage.aspx?lpname=MDCeleb_SA&affid=0&culture=en-us&cid=81617.

Bing Bar Gets An Update; Adds Facebook Chat, Better Entertainment and News

After the neat refresh of Bing Bar 7.0 with useful app buttons, the Bing team has released Bing Bar 7.1 with a slew of new features that provides richer access to your social network, more entertainment options, and updates to the popular Bing Bar apps.

Bing Bar

Apart from several improvement under the hood regarding notifications, configurability, and performance, following are the benefits that the latest update offers you:

  • Facebook Chat: Bing Bar now allows you to chat with your Facebook friends without having Facebook opened in your browser.
  • Slacker Radio: The latest update brings Slacker Radio to the bar. It allows you to listen to music, sports, news, comedy and more without interrupting your web browsing.
  • Updated News App: The existing Bing Bar news app has been updated to be more visual now and includes more sources. While you can focus on the topics that interest you, the app notifies you in case of a breaking news within the Bing Bar.
  • Search Suggestions: The Bing Bar provides suggested search terms as you browse. The Bing team has been working on expanding the sites and the methods to suggest searches making it more effective and easier for you.

Download and install manually, or if you’re already a user of Bing Bar 7.0, you’ll get the upgrade automatically delivered to you over the next few months. While the Bing Bar is available in different languages and for different geographies, some of the features of the latest version are not yet available in all markets. The Bing Bar is available for Internet Explorer 7 or later on Windows XP with Service Pack 3, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.

Google Search Gets its Most Significant Update Ever, Becomes More Personal

When Google launched Plus, it made it pretty clear that Plus itself was just one facet of Google’s social plans. Now, it is ready to unveil the other major component. Google Plus will soon become an integral part of Google Search – the core product on which Google built its empire.

Amit Singhal, the person who has shaped Google Search for more than a decade, wrote, “We’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships”. Google has been experimenting with Social Search for over two years. However, empowered by its own social network, Google is now going to go where it couldn’t or wouldn’t go earlier. It is dubbing the new experience as “Search, plus Your World”. It centers around three crucial features.

Personal Results: Just as the name suggests, Google will tap into your Google Plus circles to fetch content created and shared by your friends. Looking for a place to party on a Friday night? Google can pull up places your friends have visited along with their comments. The objective is to add more context to information so that the search results do a better job at answering your queries.

Google-Personalized-Search-Results

Profiles Search: Google is adding profile autocomplete that will scan your circles to suggest friends, in addition to celebrities and other public personalities. “So when I search for [ben smith], I now find my dear friend Ben every time, instead of the hundreds of other Ben Smiths out there”, explained Singhal. The results themselves will also have tight integration with Google Plus. The results will be hyperlinked to Google Plus profiles, and you will be able to add people to your circles directly from the search results page.

People and Pages: The new Google search results page will have a little sidebar called “People and Pages on Google+” that will highlight personalities and communities related to your search term. For example, if you search for music you will see profiles of popular singers and musicians like Britney Spears and Alicia Keys.

Google-People-and-Pages-on-Plus

“Search, plus Your World” is possibly the most radical update to Google Search ever. Make no mistake about it, as it begins rolling out to the millions of Google users across the world, ramifications are going to be felt. Most people resist change, and even the smallest of them often triggers vociferous protests. Google’s new personalized search dramatically alters search results, and often pushes Google Plus in your face. While there are plenty of cases where a personalized result will be more relevant, there are plenty of occasions where they will in fact be detrimental. Personalized search often creates a myopic world where new and useful information is buried beneath the familiar and old. So it’s no wonder that some people are going to hate “Search, plus World”. In fact, lots of people are going to hate the new Google Search. Fortunately, Google also realizes this. For the first time ever, it will be really easy to opt out of personalized and social search. With the click of a button you will be able to toggle between global results and your personal results, on a query to query basis. You will be able to see and judge the pros and cons of personalized search for yourself.

Yahoo Reveals Top Search Queries of 2011

iPhoneYahoo has revealed the most searched queries of 2011, and the list is as pointless as ever. Big news stories such as revolutions in the Middle East and floods in Thailand and US failed to find a place in the top ten, while celebrities continued to dominate public interest. As many as five out of the top ten queries were celebrities. However, somewhat surprisingly, iPhone managed to edge out everyone and land at the top of the table. This is the first time since 2002, when PlayStation 2 had topped the list, that a gadget managed to climb to the top.

The iPhone is followed by Casey Anthony, whose trial was extensively covered by the US media. Casey Anthony was accused of murdering her two year old child Caylee Anthony, and was found not guilty of murder or manslaughter. The entertainment industry occupied positions three through eight with Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, Lindsay Lohan, American Idol, and Jennifer Aniston.

The Japan Earthquake and Osama Bin Laden, which were only two major news related queries to make the cut, form the bottom of the list. The Fukushima Earthquake that had a magnitude of magnitude of 6.6 on the Richter scale, caused a Tsunami and threatened to trigger a major Nuclear meltdown, while Osama Bin Laden’s death concluded a ten year old hunt for the world’s most notorious terrorist.

Bing for Mobile Browse ‘Likes’ Facebook

Bing has introduced a new set of features that enhances Bing for Mobile Browse  experience for the mobile browsers at m.bing.com with the help of Facebook integration and some new additions. Earlier this year, Bing rolled out Liked Results’ to the desktop site which allowed you to instantly see which stories, content, and sites your Facebook friends have liked’. bing-for-mobile

 

A thumbs up from your friends definitely makes a particular news story, article, or blog post more relevant to you. The latest update has brought the same feature to the mobile browser. Bing shows faces of up to three of your friends that like a search result, offering a visual and virtual seal of approval from your trusted social network. To enable this feature, you need to authenticate and connect your Facebook account to Bing on the Settings page.

The latest update also brings together millions of videos from across the web: from Hulu, MSN, YouTube, and a slew of other sources. For sports fans, there are special tabs for MLB, NBA, and NHL. To make movie watching decisions easier, the update allows you to quickly review user and critic ratings while you browse the list of currently playing movies, watch trailers, and find show times. You can even ask your Facebook friends what they thought of a movie, or if they want to join you, all from within Bing.

Looks Like Bing and Twitter are Renewing the Search Deal

So, this one’s fresh off the Web’s water-cooler that is Twitter. Bing and Twitter did a Twitter conversation that hints at a renewed search deal between the two, or at least some announcement around the same.

(Read from bottom up to the top)image

While this is also a dig at Google who lost the search deal, it could just pave way for a fresh announcement around Bing-Twitter deal. While Bing has made good strides in several search verticals like travel, it struck a fine deal with Twitter two years ago that allows it to use Twitter data for its real time search queries. Twitter’s search, for all it’s worth, is far from being useful allowing searching only past few tweets. Bing had earlier also integrated social information from Facebook within the search results making them more relevant.

image

While this conversation was on, Stefan Weitz, Director of Bing at Microsoft added fuel to the fire by posting a message to Jessica Verrili who handles Business & Corporate Development at Twitter.

While Twitter and Bing do the harmless flirting in the preview, I’ll grab some popcorn and wait for the show reel.

Bing Webmaster Tools Integrate Yahoo Data

The Bing Webmaster team has announced the integration of Yahoo traffic data into Bing Webmaster Tools reports. Bing Webmaster Tools will now be showing integrated data from Yahoo within certain areas and reports. At this time the data will be combined, not selectable. The transition happens in August, although September will be the first full month of combined data.
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Bing Webmaster Tools help site owners to drive more visitors to their site using Bing data on search queries, crawling, and search traffic.   They can see their site as Bing does, optimize for search, share site information with Bing, and view a comprehensive list of sites that are linking to their site.

In Bing Webmaster Tools, the Traffic summary report and Page Traffic reports will be impacted, although no actual rankings will be affected by the combining of data within Bing webmaster Tools. On these pages, both Bing and Yahoo! logos will appear above the graphs.

  1. Impressions will go up based on combined data numbers across both search engines
  2. Clicks will go up based on combined data numbers
  3. Click Through Rates (CTR) as appropriate for above (change only due to the mathematics involved in the first two items)

Better Search for WordPress Admin Backend Posts

I have always been in awe of WordPress and have come to love it since I started using it few years back. However, one of the biggest problems I have had with WordPress is their search; both in the frontend as well as in the backend.

wordpress_logo

While you can always improve your frontend search and add relevancy to it by either using Google Custom Search or a plugin like Better Search, there are not many options for the backend, or at-least my searches led me to few or none.

My dislike for the WordPress backend search grew more when I wanted to search for some articles which had a particular title but could never see them in the results for my queries. However, I did find a really good alternative after spending a decent amount of time searching for it on Google.

WordPress Admin Advanced Search

The extension called Search Regex is quite a life saver and is definitely better than the default WordPress backend search for posts. The plugin allows you to search only titles, within posts and comments, post meta values, post excerpts, post URLs and more.

One of the first things I noticed with the plugin was that it works really well and does it’s job. However, as always humans are usually never satisfied with what they get and so was I. I would have loved the plugin to integrate and replace the default backend search in WordPress and would like to have it on the WordPress Edit posts page itself. The reason for this is that, the way the plugin currently works, you can only edit a single post at a time.

On the other hand, WordPress backend search allows users to edit multiple posts at once. Other than this, the plugin also allows you to Search and Replace text within your posts. This can come in very handy if you want to update a link or text in a post. Best of all, the plugin supports regex (Regular Expression). However, I would avoid using that because it could really create problems if something goes wrong or you use a bad regex, in-fact the plugin itself advices you about it.

Rest assured, Search Regex is an excellent plugin to address the annoyance called "WordPress Search". Go ahead and download it from here, you won’t be disappointed at all.

Google’s Spam Report Page Gets A Healthy Makeover

For 10 years, Google never bothered to update their webspam report page by either refreshing the design or adding more functionality to it. Meanwhile, the web, changed dramatically.

Following the launch of Google’s recent algorithmic updates, the web search scenario has taken a steep turn. Webmasters and content producers, who earlier never paid attention over scrapers, have grown more serious these days. DMCA complaints, copyright infringement and web spam reports are being filed in bulk because often times, scrapers and imposters beat the original source in search results.

This might be one of the reasons why Google has redesigned their web spam report page, which now contains more clear and concise instructions on how should webmasters proceed with a  web spam  report.

Here is how the new webspam report page of Google looks like:

google-new-webspam

The web address remains same as earlier, you will need a Google webmaster tools account to file a spam report here – https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/spamreport?pli=1

The new webspam page is neatly categorized into different sections and unlike the older form, now you have separate forms for reporting phishing sites, duplicate content or sites that sell paid links. This will make life easy for newbie webmasters who want to file a spam report in a specific category. The earlier page had all the options mixed up into a single form, which is now replaced with different forms and links to informative tutorials by Google employees.

You might know that Google is very serious regarding PageRank sculpting and according to Google, selling or buying links is a clear violation of webmaster quality guidelines. Hence, Google has added a new option under the paid links category where a webmaster can report which site is selling links and which site is buying them. Here is how the form looks like:

Report Paid links

Spam pages try to get better placement in Google’s search results by using various tricks such as hidden text, doorway pages, cloaking, or sneaky redirects. These techniques attempt to compromise the quality of Google search results and degrade the search experience for everyone.

If you find a particular spammy website ranking ahead of you for your own content, you should go ahead and file an appropriate spam report. The more data and information you pass to Google engineers, the better they will be able to understand the pattern and improve their methods to fight web spam.

Thanks Matt Cutts.

Move over, Yahoo Yodel. In Europe, it’s Time to Bing.

As part of the Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance, from August 3, Yahoo! search results in Europe will be powered by Bing. Yahoo! will be migrating organic search results for its European properties to the Bing search index.

Yahoo - Microsoft Search Alliance

Organic (also referred to as algorithmic) search results are the non-paid listings found on the main body of the Yahoo! search page. This transition will happen for Yahoo UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. At this time, Yahoo! is not transitioning paid search results to Microsoft Advertising adCenter and companies can continue using their Yahoo! Search Marketing accounts.

In August 2010, a similar transition happened for Yahoo.com. After the transition, there were no changes in the branding or search experience, except a Powered by BingTM‘ text in the footer of the search page.

If you are a webmaster and organic search results bring traffic to your site, you are advised to compare your organic search rankings on Yahoo! Search and Bing for the keywords that drive your business and check for any potential impact to your website traffic. You might also want to check if you need to modify your paid search campaigns. Also, if you are not using the Bing webmaster tools, it is a good idea to do that now to ensure your site is prominently listed in both Yahoo! and Bing organic search results.

Google Testing A Single Column Search Layout?

Digital Inspiration is reporting that Google is testing a brand new one column layout on search result pages. Both the left and right columns have been dropped while the search options appear between the search box and the search results, as seen in the following screenshot:

google-one-column-design

Just like the previous design change of Google, there is plenty of whitespace between the results and font sizes have been reduced slightly. Here is another screenshot of regular Google search, notice that the links to view cached copies and instant previews are nowhere to be found:

google-one-column-design-layout

From the past couple of months, Google has been heavily experimenting with the design and overall look and feel of their search result pages. Prior to the release of Google Plus and the infamous black navigation menu bar, they removed the classic I am feeling luckybutton and added support for author thumbnails next to specific results. Google claims that the series of redesign is part of their strategy to provide more focus to users, so that they can quickly find the content they are looking for.

Some users have reported that this one column search layout of Google is only visible on tablet devices e.g iPad. Its possible that Google wants to test the usability of this layout on tablet devices first and then push a global  roll out  for everyone in coming days.

And not just the layout or columns, there is another report that Google might make the navigation bar sticky. That’s right, the black menu bar will get stuck at the top of the page while search results will be plastered within an infinite scrolling section in the middle. Here is the video:

Reverse Engineering Google’s Panda Slap, Hubpages Seeing Improvements After Offloading Content To Subdomains

It has been over four months since Google’s famous Panda algorithmic update, also known as Farmer update went live globally. This Panda update is one of the most devastating algorithmic changes ever, crippling site traffic of thousands of sites in a flash. There are so many forum threads where webmasters   have said that their site has just disappeared from Google search. Publishing platforms, article directories, content sites, blogs, forums or any other web property which has a lot of content were most affected by this algorithmic change.

Why this new algorithm? Because Google has been under attack from content farms and spam aggregators and they had to do something about it.

To this day, most of the webmasters have no idea what is the exact problem which led to the penalization of their site(s). Here are some case scenarios:

  • Is it just the content on the site which is considered thin and shallow in nature?
  • Or the incoming links have lost their weight post panda?   Because the sites linking to you have lost their value (assumption).
  • Were the pages been knocked off because of competition?
  • Duplicate content or canonical issues within the source code?
  • Scraper sites outranking the source for the content they have written?
  • Too many advertisements on the site   or the Ad to content ratio is way above the line.
  • A large volume of user generated content which was hastily produced and don’t serve any value.

Many possibilities.

Since no one has yet recovered from Google’s Panda slap, it makes sense to conclude it’s not just one factor.

Bing Introduces Lasso Feature in iPad app

While one division at Microsoft aspires to rival Apple iPad in more ways than one, another division has always adopted the iOS platform progressively. The pragmatism of Bing team has had them release a slick Bing for iPhone app in the past, and a Bing for iPad app in April 2011 as the first official iPad app from Microsoft. The app has been very well received and in the first three months, it has had more than 5,000 ratings in the App Store and an average score of 4.7 stars (out of five stars).

bing

The Bing for iPad app goes beyond the traditional search experience and offers a unique and visually rich way to search the Web. It allows you to quickly browse news, movies, Bing homepage images, local business listings and much more. The v1.1 of the app introduces a new feature called Lasso. Designed for the touch-friendly iPad, Lasso is a new way to search and copy/paste with the touch of a finger. You can simply press the Lasso icon in the upper right of the app and circle any word or phrase. Lasso will then create a Bing search and return search results based on the word or phrase selected.

Bing for iPad

Lasso moves Bing beyond the search box and streamlines the process of conducting online searches on the touch-screen device. It simplifies the painful process of copying and pasting pieces of text from a webpage while reading something to a search box to search the Web for that text string. Although this feature is only available in Bing for iPad at the moment, the Bing team could take it further to different devices or platforms.

Also, apart from several quality and performance improvements, the latest release also includes an improved movie experience that lets you view multiple showtime days and theatres, and gives you  the ability to swipe through the last six Bing homepage images.

You can view a video showing the Lasso tool in action and download the updated app in the App Store.

Google Wonder Wheel And Google Real Time Search Goes Missing

Google has silently taken down it’s real time search page and another very useful search tool Google wonder wheel.

That’s right, Google real time search is presently not reachable and you will get a 404 page while trying to access Google.com/realtime.

gogle-realtime-search-missing

It has been just three days since Google Plus was launched on a field trial basis and it appears that Google has bigger plans with their real time search feature. Previously, Google real time search used only Twitter results as the source but since Google Plus has now been launched, I guess they have future plans to integrate it with real time Google Plus results.

Question is, will the upcoming version of Google real time search contain results only from Google Plus? Will Google provide exclusive results only from Google circles and ignore micro blogging sites like Twitter? I hope not but since Google is on an overhaul spree, you never know.

On another note, Google real time search was not a very exclusive service, considering the fact that the results were showed only from Twitter.com. Let’s take an example:

realtime-search

The above screenshot was taken when a major earthquake hit the northern parts of India and Pakistan on January 18th, 2011.

Notice that each and every result is from Twitter.com only and Google never shows any other source on it’s real time search result page. Minutes after the earthquake, major news channels and media publications covered the story. But instead of showing their updates on real time search page, Google restricted the results to Twitter updates only.

My point is that anyone can get the same updates from Twitter advanced search. If you’re showing results from another site without any added features, there is no reason why users will use your site instead of using the source. I agree a lot of users did, but Google never offered anything exclusive on it’s real time search page.

Now after they re-launch Google real time search again, it would be interesting to see whether Google provides a feature to filter real time results from your circles. I guess, users might get an option to see real time results from their Google Plus circles, apart from searching the whole web for some keyword or topic of their choice.

google-wonder-wheel-closedNow where is this Google Wonder wheel and why did they dropped it?

No one has any clue why Google took down the wonder wheel feature. Wonder Wheel was a very useful tool for bloggers, webmasters and anyone who needed a way to find similar topics and phrases that generate a lot of user interest. This should not be confused with Google suggest, which merely shows which queries are popular among users searching for a specific keyword or topic.

There is a speculation among webmasters that Google wonder wheel was removed because SEO’s used it to generate content only for search engines. Well, in that case, Google should also drop Google suggest, related searches and the public nature of Google Adword keyword tool.

What surprises me even more is that Google never closes a feature without giving prior notice to users. This is highly unusual, we will have to wait for some time until Google releases an official explanation or re-launches the service again.