Web Search without the Social

Frederic Lardinois says Good Riddance To Social Search Techcrunch (Dec 28) – and I agree. By social search he means the practice by Google and Bing to intermix the “likes” of online connections with Web search results. Remember the side panel in Bing.com with supposedly relevant postings by Facebook friends? The results might have been amusing but were rarely (if ever) relevant. This kind of social search has disappeared from Google and Bing.

As Lardinois says:

“I think one of the reasons social search failed is because our social media “friendships” don’t actually represent our real-life tastes all that well. Just because we follow people on Twitter or are friends with old high school classmates on Facebook doesn’t mean we like the same restaurants they do or share the politics they do.”

The concept of having what colleagues found valuable influence the search results you receive on some topic of common interest had some merit but it would take incredible effort to create exactly the right community. Such communities may exist in specialized  social networking groups, but not in the casual relationships of Facebook or Google Plus.

The Growing Importance of Mobile

Google gives sites that are mobile friendly a ranking boost in search results.

Google Is Experimenting With Special Ranking For Mobile-Friendly Sites, Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land (Nov 18)

Google already penalizes sites that provide a bad experience to mobile searchers. Now the company has confirmed that it’s testing with what seems like a boost for those providing a great experience.

This is good, but it is also part of the trend that makes mobile access to the web more important than desktop. Wall Street Journal has noted that The Web Is Dying; Apps Are Killing It by Phil Foster (Nov 17)

Mountains of data tell us that, in aggregate, we are spending time in apps that we once spent surfing the Web. We’re in love with apps, and they’ve taken over. On phones, 86% of our time is spent in apps, and just 14% is spent on the Web, according to mobile-analytics company Flurry.

Conversational search when travelling

Use Google app on your smart phone or tablet to find restaurants and bars nearby. Great for dinner reservations.  Works in Toronto. Just say – show restaurants near my home – and presto, Google gives map, names, and addresses.

Google Upgrades Conversational Search On Its Mobile Apps, Matt McGee, Search Engine Land (Oct 9)

Basically, the app is smarter about knowing where you are (at a hotel, for example), letting you complete actions by voice (i.e., making reservations via OpenTable), getting directions as part of the ongoing conversation you’re having with the app and getting reminders.

Getting away from ads

Google tools are easy to use and very effective, but collect a lot of information about us. How much should we reveal about ourselves? This article has alternatives: DuckDuckGo for search, Firefox rather than Chrome for browsing, Zoho docs instead of Google docs, and Fastmail instead of Gmail – if you have to use a webmail service.

How to ditch Google for more privacy and fewer ads, Derek Walter, PCWorld (Sept 9)

If you’ve decided that keeping all your eggs in one online basket is unwise, there are viable alternatives. Some are arguably not as full-featured as what Google has. But using your email without ads or knowing that performing a web search won’t result in a ton of related advertisements may be enough to encourage you to go on a Google-free diet.

Google Authorship vs Author Rank

Google Authorship always seemed arcane to me. Danny Sullivan describes it as “Google’s way to allow the authors of content to identify themselves for display purposes” and it was done through markup code. Well – no more – but Google is keeping “Author Rank”

Google Authorship and Author Rank aren’t the same thing. Here’s why Google Authorship can die yet Author Rank lives on., Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land (AUg 29)

How can all this be, when Google has also said that it’s ignoring authorship markup?

The answer is that Google has other ways to determine who it believes to be the author of a story, if it wants. In particular, Google is likely to look for visible bylines that often appear on news stories. These existed before Google Authorship, and they aren’t going away.

Google’s Knowledge Vault

Google’s Knowledge Graph excels at displaying structured information on entities. Google is developing the next generation of this called Knowledge Vault.

Google “Knowledge Vault” To Power Future Of Search by Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land (Aug 25)

Sensationally characterized as “the largest store of knowledge in human history,” Knowledge Vault is being assembled from content across the internet without human editorial involvement. “Knowledge Vault autonomously gathers and merges information from across the web into a single base of facts about the world, and the people and objects in it,” says New Scientist.