Facebook introduces ‘Graphic Search’

Tons of people love Facebook, but most will agree that the search function sucks. It’s pretty surprising that new developments have taken so long for Facebook in this area, but today’s big announcement reveals a pretty impressive evolution in the whole search concept.

Graph Search, which is initially launching as a beta product for U.S. audiences only, will allow users to uncover social connections between other members of the site and quickly identify which friends have been to certain places, “liked” specific topics or appeared in certain photos.

Friends, places, interests and photos will be the foundation for queries when the search engine launches, Facebook said. For example, Facebook explained how Graph Search could be used to find “My friends who live in Palo Alto who like Game of Thrones,” “Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India” or “Photos of my friends taken in Paris.” Singles looking to meet people could search “Friends of friends who are single men in San Francisco.” Someone trying to remember a person she’d met at a friend’s party evening before could query, “People named Drew who are friends of Peter and went to Harvard.”

We’ll see if the actual service lives up to the hype, but the potential seems significant.

Google shares plunge on earnings miss

Google shares got rocked today when poor earnings numbers were prematurely released. Trading had to be halted but the bloodbath would have happened regardless, though many investors were caught off guard of course.

I have no idea why Google missed earnings numbers, but I can say that they need a serious lesson in customer service. Google has treated its Adsense partners with contempt, and if Microsoft wasn’t incompetent, Google would be losing even more business.

Online services have to be part of your search

The Internet has become a part of our daily lives, and social media has only enhanced the importance of the web. Yet it’s still amazing how many people don’t take full advantage of the tools that are available online or through their smartphone. Of course that’s changing, particularly with the exploding popularity of phones. Now you can check directions or the weather with a quick tap on your phone. You don’t need to sit down and boot up your computer or tablet.

Still, web searching is much easier on a laptop or desktop if you’re doing real research, and if you want to take full advantage of the web, you should make the time to do research for all sorts of things. This is true in your personal life along with your business life. For example, would you really do work on your home without researching potential contractors online? If so you’re being foolish. If you’re looking for online printing services, you should compare various options like UPrinting brochure printing against your local printers. If you’re shopping for anything, you should always check places like Amazon first or even while you’re at the store.

The bottom line is that you’ll get lower prices and better quality if your spend the time doing common sense research.

Google keeps getting worse

Has Google Search been going downhill? That’s the argument in this article on TPM.

Google embraces porn in search results

We’ve noticed over the past several months that Google seems to be giving even more weight to porn sites over mainstream sites when tame search terms like “Hot Babes” or “Hot Blondes” are used. Instead of featuring mainstream sites that have bikini and lingerie models like Maxim, you end up with hard core porn sites.

What’s going on here? Google has outsmarted itself, and now the search results are a complete mess.

Google’s flaws lead to Huffington’s huge payday and Demand Media’s IPO

The Huffington Post sold for $315 to AOL this week, and Demand Media recently completed an IPO. In many ways, these events validate the strategy of gaming the system. Google is a beast that can be gamed, and both these operations did it very well.

HuffPo is notorious for hysterical headlines and their lefty slant, but they were also very well organized and filled a void in the marketplace. In many ways they deserve their success. But, a big part of their success has to do with gaming Google’s search results. Their editors find interesting stories, do a post on it with a link back, but HuffPo usually gets all the search traffic. The other sites usually don’t complain, because links from HuffPo provide really good traffic as well.

Demand Media also fills a void, as they use their own algorithm to find potential search results that need to be filled with content. Then they pay know-nothing writers (well, I guess some of them know what they are writing about) to create a short article covering the topic. AOL is even trying to copy the strategy. Many now refer to sites like Demand Media as content mills, and Google might be addressing the issue, but Demand Media has already scored their IPO and Google’s search results are littered with lame content at the top.

Gaming the system pays.

Google and the content farms

A recent blog post from Google discusses renewed efforts to take on spam in the search results, but also goes on to say that Google will try to address the issue of content farms.

As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. In 2010, we launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites. Nonetheless, we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content. We take pride in Google search and strive to make each and every search perfect. The fact is that we’re not perfect, and combined with users’ skyrocketing expectations of Google, these imperfections get magnified in perception. However, we can and should do better.

The issue of content farms has been in the news even more lately as Demand Media expands its growth and tries to complete an IPO. There are scores of articles covering the strategy, and you can start with this article on TechCrunch from Ashkan Karbasfrooshan from WatchMojo.com as he addresses the quality and cost issues of online content. We also addressed the issue back in 2009 when we addressed AOL’s strategy to emulate Demand Media.

Hopefully, Google is serious about this. There’s no reason a short article on a subject written by an unknown teenager for $10 should be #1 in Google ranking just because it’s posted on a URL owned by AOL or Demand Media.

Google vs. Facebook

The battle between Google and Facebook is heating up. Google is working on “Google Me” – a social network alternative to Facebook. This article explains some of the perceived threats. It really boils down to a battle between two of the biggest titans on the web, and the decisions of these two companies will have huge implications on how we use it going forward.

Google has already had a dud with Google Buzz, and it seems clear that they don’t understand the concept of social networking. They understand math and algorithms, but they seem to have little understanding of how humans interact with one another. They seem to avoid human input at all costs, always trying to solve problems with an algorithm.

We’ve seen this with some of the heavy-handed tactics used by Google with users of services like Google Adsense. If Google perceives a problem with an account, that account is shut down automatically, and the user is forced to endure a bureaucratic as they implore Google to restore their account.

If Google wants to compete in the social network space, they will need a team that understands this very different environment.

Meanwhile, Facebook is reportedly on “lockdown” as Zuckerberg rallies his team to deal with the coming threat.

Google search tips

I found some good tips on this list. Get more Google search tips here and here.

Twitter search results on Bing

This is a cool development. Bing will now have a search function for Twitter. It’s set up in a way that’s much easier to navigate than Twitter itself (no surprise). You can quickly see all the popular subjects like you see on Twitter, but the page lays out the latest tweets for each popular topic. If you click the topic, you see the recent tweets, along with links to the actual stories that are being sent around.

It’s very handy, and it’s nice coup for Bing over Google.

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