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Power Search – Know your results

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Search engines are indispensable for finding information quickly.  Most of the time you’ll find the answer you need immediately, but sometimes you have to delve a little deeper.

Learn the techniques you need to become a power search ninja in this occasional series.


Is Google running scared of Bing?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

UPDATEIt appears that the rotating backgrounds are here for one day only, to promote the ability to change your Google home page background – read this blog entry for more details.

Having used Google throughout today, I’m certainly glad it won’t be like this tomorrow – it’s extremely irritating!

Google is rolling out personalised backgrounds to its home page following Microsoft’s redesign of its re-branded search engine, Bing.

Traditionally Google’s website has been simple and sparse – is the search giant running scared of Bing?

Google's new home page, complete with background image

Part of Google’s appeal has been the simplicity of its home page.  Presented with a just a logo, search box and a couple of buttons, it was a triumph of utilitarian design – we weren’t bombarded with unnecessary choice or distraction.

Over the last year or so, Google has been experimenting with its user interface.  Additional navigation to its vertical search properties – images, videos, maps and so on – have been added, as have pointers to additional services such as GMail and iGoogle.

Recently, Google sought to maintain the perceived simplicity of its home page by only showing this navigation when the user moved the mouse – extra features are “faded in”.

The new background images are an interesting development.  The reason for the backgrounds are unclear; they certainly do not add any functionality.  Indeed, the page looks busier, is less focused on the search box and the text – despite the text shadow effect – is difficult to read.

The Microsoft Way

Bing - background images done well

Microsoft has implemented background images in a much better way.  Using a soft focus and darker colours in areas behind text, text is more readable. They’ve even added a translucent dark black background to the navigation in the “Explore” area to add clarity.  There is a sense of organised layout – compare the tight left navigation and the footer signposting to Google’s increasingly cluttered, unorganised links.

Google – a shrewd move or losing its way?

Google may be gambling that users will like the background images.  They may also be looking for ways to entice users to upgrade from the antiquated Internet Explorer 6 software to a modern browser (ideally Google’s own Chrome, of course!) – this feature is not available to IE6 users.

Donning a paranoia hat, Google may be banking on users not liking the background images.  The only (non-technical) way to change the image is to create a Google account, log in and change your preferences.  Of course, you’ll need to stay logged in for the background image to remain changed, allowing Google to track your searches more closely.

(Conspiracy theorists may also think that the “fade in” navigation and busier layout are intended to draw attention away from the fact that you may still be logged in).

Alternatively, Google may be aware that Microsoft has built a good search product with Bing, and do not want to lose market share.  Bing’s background image is the biggest visible difference between the two – by homogenising the search market, perhaps Google is expecting that users will stick with what they know.

And finally…

Google has reduced the readability of text, its home page is increasingly cluttered and general usability has taken a hit.

To find out how you can improve your Web site’s usability, call Fish.Net’s Web team on 01457 819600.

Google introduces Real Time Search

Friday, December 11th, 2009

real-time-searchJust days after we reported on Google bringing its dictionary results in-house, the search behemoth has continued to roll out new features with its much-vaunted real time search results.

We have an insatiable demand for instant access for the latest news.  Search engines have not traditionally provided this – it has previously taken days, if not weeks, for search engines to catch up with what Web sites are publishing.

Rolling 24-hour news coverage provides journalistic real-time coverage.  Services such as Twitter and the now established network of blogs has led to a constant commentary about emerging trends and current affairs.  Indeed, it is that content be published so quickly by anyone that makes the Web so unique.

Search engines have taken tentative steps into meeting our demand for as-it-happens content with News and Blog search services.  Google has taken this further with its new Real Time Search results, which amalgamates news, blog and even Twitter tweets related to a search in an automatically updated ticker box.

As I write, the Copenhagen Climate Summit is big news.  A search for ‘copenhagen’ returns not just the usual mash of Wikipedia and News results, but also this scrolling box within the search results:

An example of Google's Real Time Search results

Real time search and your company

Google will evolve the way real-time search works over time – if it’s a hit with its users, it’s likely to become more prominent within search result pages.  The consequences of this could be far-reaching for brands.

Real time search means a higher profile for social network and news content.  Whilst brands could get away with scant monitoring of user-generated content in the past by simply dismissing it as a trend or insignificant, all of a sudden content about YOUR brand which you have little or no control over could now be broadcast on Google.

Monitoring and responding to social media content will become more important.  How you do this – reactively when content appears, or proactively by engaging in social media – will depend on your target audience and the culture within your company.  Fish.Net can advise on the most appropriate method for you – contact us to find out more.

Engaging in social media activity will become more attractive as a marketing option.  Many companies filed social media under “one to watch” as they found it difficult to justify the time cost and with a lack of clear success indicators.  By creating social media buzz, you will be able to generate and somewhat influence content others are posting about you.

Ensuring you publish time-sensitive content not just on your own Web site but also on Web sites seeding the real time search results is also important.  You may be able do this with your existing site content such as a blog or news section – contact Fish.Net to find out how you can maximise the visibility of this content.