Google BlogSearch Is Broken

Lisa Barone writing in the Bruce Clay Blog was kind enough to mention a thread I started over at the Cre8asite Forums suggesting that the Ask.com Blog Search was filling a Google vacuum. She asked, “Who Has the Better Blog Search: Google or Ask?” Her answer ran as follows:

Personally, I think both blog searches need some work. If I had to commit myself to using one and only one, I’d probably go with Ask, but I’m not exactly jumping up and down on the couch over how fabulous they are.
..
Google is top dog when it comes to indexing speed but their index is chock full of spam. Ask takes a little longer to get things appearing in the index, but when the content is there, it’s relevant and better and smelling like roses.

She apparently still uses both. I used to be one of the strongest proponents for Google Blogsearch. However for some time I have been despairing of its quality. As she said it’s ‘chock full of spam’. In addition whatever algorithm it is using does not produce relevant blog posts for the searches I do.

It is not difficult to produce examples to show how broken it is. I wrote a blog post three days ago where relevant keywords were Customer Service, Bell, Rogers, Telus. Given the frustration that many feel over customer service from the telecoms, it’s a topic that is often discussed on the blogosphere. As of today, the Ask Blog Search has the blog post at #1 for that keyword search. Even IceRocket, another blogsearch engine that sometimes works at glacial speed, has the post at #3.

The surprise is that Google Blogsearch does not include the post in the top 100. That top 100 includes quite a slug of the spam posts that Lisa referred to. However the blog itself for a regular Google keyword Web search appears at #20 for these key words. Google has been boasting that it now includes blogs within the regular web search. That’s an improvement. Yet at the same time such posts no longer appear in the Google Blogsearch. That’s not at all logical.

I am not the only one to suggest that Google Blogsearch is broken. Philipp Lenssen raised this although for different reasons. It’s beginning to look as though it’s dropped off the Google corporate radar. That’s a pity. It used to be so impressive.

Related:
Google BlogSearch for Hot News Items
Google BlogSearch, The Neglected Orphan
Google Blog Search Doesn’t Find Many Links
How can I help you? Is that Bell, Rogers or Telus?

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ASK TV Ads Grow Online Traffic

 
Offline TV Ads Can Boost Online Visits

There always seems to be something paradoxical about using offline media to bring more traffic to online websites. Yet, as the ASK blog tells us, they really can be very effective:

Have you seen the latest Ask.com TV commercials? They’ve been in rotation since September and have been getting great response. If you haven’t seen them yet, here’s your chance. Just click the link below to watch them.
ASK TV ads

Perhaps that’s part of the explanation why ASK is not suffering the same traffic losses as Yahoo! and MSN/Live are experiencing under the Google onslaught.

Related: ASK Away

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ASK Away

 
Ask And We Shall Answer…

Children are brought up on the heartwarming tale of The Little Engine That Could. In this Internet age, many people hearing engine would assume we’re talking search engines. … and perhaps it really is about to happen in real life.

The engine we are referring to is ASK. It’s the perfect domain for something that will provide answers to your question. The only contender might be answer.com, and that inexplicably is not used at all. Perhaps the strength of the choice is best illustrated by the Public Library Services of the National Library Board Singapore. They’ve decided to use the name ASK! for their Advisory & Enquiry service for Children, Teens & Adults. It’s unlikely that ‘!’ will work as well for them as it has done for Yahoo! Yahoo! had no real competition from the Yahoo barbecue sauce, which they bought eventually. However my guess is that the ASK! service will find many of their clients mis-type and end up at ASK. .. and that’s OK.

This particular little engine has always had one of the best search technologies around. Thankfully it’s been focusing and that should improve its performance. First it got rid of Jeeves, who probably helped little with the US market. Now IAC, the parent, has hived off some confusing search cousins (tip of the hat to Andy Beal) and ASK is the single focus now. Google has been grabbing more and more search share, which has affected Yahoo and MSN/Live. However ASK has managed to hold the big guy at bay.

Gordon Hotchkiss has noted that Ask is finally making a move.

Their “share of search” has moved up from 3.49% of executed searches in August to 4.32% of searches in October, a bump of 23.7%. That’s huge. .. I suspect it has a lot more to do with a great interface and some user generated buzz that’s beginning to catch some ears. But I don’t think Ask is going to stop there. Within 6 months, you’re going to be reading stories all over the web about how Ask bumped Microsoft out of the #3 spot. It will be David vs Goliath, or in this case, Barry (Diller) vs Bill (Gates).

Ask’s strategy has always been to be your first second choice. They don’t ever expect to knock Google out of the lead, but what they want to do is be the place you turn when you find Google just isn’t cutting it. So their move to 3D made a lot of sense. ..

In fact, Marissa Mayer at Google paid the ultimate compliment when she mentioned the likelihood of Google moving to more of a portal, encyclopedia type format sometime in the future. So..that would make Google more like..Ask!

Given that Google is alienating some of its staunchest allies, how all this plays out is going to be highly interesting.

Related:
Ask And We Shall Answer… – the chocolate lover’s version

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Make Your Website Search Engine Robot-Friendly

 
Search Engine Robots Read Site Maps Too

In November 2006, all the major search engines for once agreed on new Sitemap standards. Sitemaps.org set out the rules for sitemap files that all the major search engines would follow.

If you use a program such as GSiteCrawler, you can produce a full listing of all the web pages on your website in an XML file: the standard name for this file is sitemap.xml. The search engines do prefer a G-zipped version of this file, usually named sitemap.xml.gz. The GSiteCrawler program produces both versions. Although even Microsoft’s MSN/Live subscribed to this standard, as yet they have not indicated how they wish to implement the standard. The other majors have been more helpful.

A good way to start is via the website for Google’s Webmaster Tools. Once you have loaded your sitemap file to your domain, you can submit this to Google. An advantage of this approach is that Google will then in due course evaluate the sitemap file and indicate any errors therein.

The real news came up last week when Google, Yahoo! and Ask indicated that another route to inform them of the sitemap file is to include a reference to the precise URL for the sitemap file in the robots.txt file. Every domain should have a robots.txt file, even if it is an empty file. Search engine robots (or spiders) will sometimes visit a domain and check only the robots.txt file. This confirms that the domain is live. Without such a file, an error is recorded. Now you can add anywhere in the file, say at the bottom, an additional line that reads as follows:
Sitemap: http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.gz

The robots.txt file is normally checked often by search engine spiders. By doing the above, you should quickly get the new file picked up. Ask, Google and Yahoo! are all using this robots.txt file approach.

If you have just loaded up a sitemaps file and want to be sure that the sitemap file is picked up ASAP, you can ping the search engines directly. The following hyperlinks are the appropriate way to do this.

Ask:
http://submissions.ask.com/ping? sitemap=http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.gz
Google:
http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/ping? sitemap=http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.gz
Yahoo:
http://search.yahooapis.com/SiteExplorerService/V1/ping? sitemap=http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.gz

NOTE: The space after ping? should be removed. It is included here to improve the formatting of the blog post.

This should provide all the information you need on the sitemap file and how to alert the search engine robots that you have one. If there are additional points, hopefully someone will add them in the comments.

Related:
What’s new with Sitemaps.org? – Official Google Webmaster Central Blog
Use Your Robots.txt To Publish Your Sitemaps Xml File – Cre8asite Forums Discussion

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