How Google improves its search algorithm

Google’s been tight-lipped about the intricate, intertwined algorithms that make their search machine tick and we can only speculate how they rank web pages beyond the commonly known guidelines for web developers. A whole cottage industry is thriving out there, built on the presumption that one can reverse-engineer parts of the Google code so to affect search results and ensure the best possible placement. While Googlers aren’t about to spill the beans on the industry’s most closely-kept secret, they did reveal a couple of tidbits in a video published over at the official Google blog.

“While an improvement to the algorithm may start with a creative idea, it always goes through a process of rigorous scientific testing”, the company wrote in the post. “Simply put”, Google explains, “if the data from our experiments doesn’t show that we’re helping users, we won’t launch the change”. For example, did you know that the Google search algorithm is made up of several hundred different “signals” that collectively determine the results? Surprisingly, just last year Google perfected its search engine with more than five hundred algorithm changes, most of them rolled out quietly. More tidbits in that YouTube video, embedded above.

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Koreans talking about smartphones

Google is anything but the dominant force in Asia, where local search engine Baidu is number one. Also, Asia, the world’s largest and most populous continent with the population of 3.88 billion people, is just beginning to discover Android, but the continent is poised to become the next gold mine for Google as smartphones become more affordable to the mass consumer. One exemption that proves the rule: Korea, a poster child for the latest tech.

People wield the latest gadgets there and use them more often and in ways that put to shame their counterparts from the Western world. Google’s mobile ad team went out into the streets of Seoul to ask smartphone users how they use their devices. The professionally produced footage is, of course, yet another showcase of the numerous ongoing marketing activities meant to convince people to stay under the Google fold.

In this case, Google wants potential advertisers to place adverts on web sites and inject them inside mobile apps using their technology. By the way, notice a bunch of Galaxy S phones everywhere (to our Apple readers: iPhone 4 spotting on mark 1:15).

But who could blame the Internet’s #1 search company for promoting the use of smartphones? With a whopping 97 percent of Google’s revenues coming from advertising, no wonder they did not spare any expense producing this testimonial. Still, worth your time so sit back, relax and enjoy the three and a half minute ride. Also, go past the fold for interesting takeaways from a Google survey in collaboration with Ipsos of over a thousand South Korean smartphone users…

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Google recruiting spam busters

In its never-ending battle against annoying spammers who pollute our search results, the Dublin, Ireland arm of the Internet search giant published job openings for spam fighters who are fluent speakers of Arabic, German, Russian and Spanish, indicating the rising spam threat in those markets. The job listing requires would-be candidates to have BA/BS degree, “preferred with a strong academic record”, excellent web research and analytical skills and experience with HTML and working for an Internet company.

If terms such as ‘WHOIS’ or ‘DNS’ mean nothing, don’t even apply as understanding of firewalls, IP addresses and name servers is a must as you’ll be directly impacting the quality of Google’s search results through search quality evaluation. Here’s from Google:

You will be working on the cutting edge of search and the forefront of the web ensuring quality information is provided to millions of internet users, and you will be expected to keep pace with constant change in a fast-paced work environment, bringing innovative ideas to improve access to relevant information on the web. You are a web-savvy individual who is a take-charge team player, as well as a quick learner and strongly interested in providing a better search experience for Google users.

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Google partners with ESPN to incorporate sports stats into Search

Google and ESPN have announced they are now offering sports scores, presented through microdata, straight into Google Search results. For now, Google and ESPN will only be offering Baseball, but more sports will be following very soon. A simple search of “Baseball Scores” returned the following results.

Besides making the obvious search, you can also search specifically for teams, players, and scores. The results include up-to-date game scores and statistics, and link off to content on ESPN. Read more

Give Google Search’s new uncluttered design a try

Google has been on a role rolling out new designs across all of their products, including Google Search. Techno-Net (via Google Operating System) has discovered that with a small cookie change you can try the latest version of Search. The new version features a less uncluttered look, but we’ve read it isn’t as fast as the version you know and love. Head on past the break to see how it’s done.

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Google testing infinite scrolling in Google Search

To go along with their new expanded sitelinks, Google is testing infinite scrolling in Google Search. This new feature will allow you to view all of your search results on one page, but you do have to click a “more results” button. Google has already announced this feature in Images, so there is a chance this could stick around in Search. Google told Search Engine Land, “Google is constantly experimenting with new features.” (Waebo via The Next Web)

Google brings expanded sitelinks to Search

Today on their Search Blog, Google announced a new layout for sitelinks under Search results. The new update brings an expanded look for sitelinks — showing the title, URL, and a snippet of text from the site. Instead of eight sitelink results, a site can now have twelve.

Sitelinks will now be full-size links with a URL and one line of snippet text—similar to regular results—making it even easier to find the section of the site you want. We’re also increasing the maximum number of sitelinks per query from eight to 12.

Sitelinks will also be using a similar algorithm to regular search results, to provide a higher-quality list of links. The update will be rolling out to users over the next couple of days.

More informative showtimes in Google’s OneBox spotted

The Google Operating System blog spotted a revamped interface over at Google’s OneBox that provides a better way to browse movie showtimes. For those uninitiated, OneBox is a way to display information at the top of search results for queries that can be answered instantly or through a direct link, such as weather, stocks and more. You can now click the Show More Movies link to reveal more information and compare movies. Clicking the links takes you to the Google Movies site that provides more in-depth meta data about your selection, including brief description and links to movie reviews, photographs and quotes from sites such as IMDb.

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Google News introduces new “Editors’ Picks” feature with human recommendations

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Google News just launched a new Editors’ Picks feature that provides a personal, human touch, straying from the “generated entirely by computer algorithms without human editors” approach of the past.

The new feature won’t exactly have Google employees suggesting their favorite articles, but rather aggregate content that publications have highlighted as being their “most engaging content”. Editors’ Picks will be available initially in the right column of the U.S. Google News page and display content from nearly two dozen publications Google has selected to participate. The feeds you will see in the new feature will depend on your news preferences.

Publications and news organizations can head over to the News Help Center to learn more.
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Google Related is the evolution of the Toolbar

Google today released a new bottom-floating toolbar for Internet Explorer and Chrome users (no Firefox?) called Google Related.  They explain it like this:

Google Related is a browsing assistant that offers interesting and useful content while you are browsing the web. For instance, if you’re browsing a page about a restaurant in San Francisco, Google Related will assist you by displaying useful information about this restaurant such as the location of the restaurant on a map, user reviews, related restaurants in the area, and other webpages related to San Francisco restaurants — all in one place.

Whenever you’re navigating to a new page, Google Related will look for interesting related content and, if available, display it in a bar at the bottom of your page. Google Related can display categories such as videos, news articles, maps, reviews, images, web sites and more. To preview a listed item or see additional items, just use your mouse to hover over different categories in the bar. For example, when you hover over a video link, the video pops up in a preview box and you can play the video directly on the page.

This is an interesting move that will likely get a lot more clicks through Google…if it catches on. Read more

Google unveils new search UI on tablets: Bigger buttons, continuous scrolling of image results


The new search layout on the Motorola Xoom. Web (left) and image (right) results. Click for larger.

Google last month announced a bunch of enhancements to its search engine and today the company confirmed via a blog post an overhauled layout on tablets, which the blog Digital Inspirations leaked two days ago. From now, searching on your tablet by visiting the main Google search takes you to an overhauled search results page. It’s surprising it took Google so much time to optimize the search experience on slates, really. You can tell the new layout is easier on the eyes and we are love in love with the bigger buttons. Now you can finally hit the controls on smaller tablets without having to sand down your finger first.

Our favorite: The big, unobtrusive buttons right below the search box for quick access to specific search silos, such as web, images, news and so forth. Also noteworthy, the image search results page now appears way more attractive due to larger previews and continuous scroll – just go to the bottom and a new batch of images loads automatically. The new layout will be available on iPad and Android Honeycomb 3.1 tablets and in 36 languages “in the coming days”, everyone’s favorite search monster noted.

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