Thursday, July 31, 2008

Search Engine Recap for July 2008

Here is a recap of search marketing industry news for July 2008:

Google and Yahoo! to Index Flash Files

During recent months, Google has been trying to extract text and content from Flash pages, but its m
ethods weren't perfect.

Now, Adobe provides a Flash reader technology that enables the search engines to "read" Flash files and extract text and links from it. (Note: Google has adapted to this technology, Yahoo has yet to implement the technology, and Adobe hasn’t made the technology available to MSN at this point.)

Though Adobe's press release talks about "dramatic" improvements in search results and more relevant listings for "millions of RIAs" (rich internet applications), consider these points for SEO:

  1. Most Flash content is made up of images, video, and animation. None of that content will be surfaced in the search results with this advancement, unless more text is added to it.
  2. Flash implementation should provide a unique URL for each set of content. Some Flash implementations dynamically load text as the user interacts with the application, but the URL remains the same. In this scenario, Googlebot can now follow those interactions (in a limited way) and if the URL doesn't change, then all content that is dynamically loaded as the interactions progress is associated with a single URL.
  3. Since the search engines don't execute most JavaScript, they won't crawl or index any Flash executed via JavaScript.
  4. Any external sources that the Flash file loads will be indexed separately, not as part of the Flash file.
Where can we see improvements then?

In particular, the snippets - the descriptions that display under search results will be improved. There's a lot of room for improvement in the way the snippets for Flash are shown, so this may indeed be big news for search.

Google Retires Pay-Per-Action Program

Google announced that they are retiring the pay-per-action program that was in beta for the past year. Google is launching a new affiliate network named Google Affiliate Network to replace Google's PPA/Referral program.

Google Adds New Feature to Keyword Tool

Google has added a new feature to its external keyword tool. The tool now reports the approximate search volume numbers for keywords.

  • The keyword tool now gives an approximate search frequency number based on the previous month, and an average number based on the past 12 months.
  • The related queries/synonyms of keywords that the tool lists will be very useful in doing keyword research.
  • For niche keywords that don’t have many searches, Wordtracker often returns zero results while the Google Keyword Tool gives some number for the 12-month-average (for the prior month, the Google tool reports insufficient data).
Though we see inflation in the number for some search queries, the search volumes are a very nice addition to the Google keyword tool.

Google Toolbar PageRank Update

Matt Cutts, a Google software engineer, announced on July 24th that new toolbar PageRank values should become visible over the next few days. Note that the PageRank that shows up in the toolbar has nothing to do with your actual site rank. Google uses an internal PageRank number for this purpose that it updates daily.

Yahoo! News Added to Search Results

Google changed its search results (in May 2007) to a “Universal Search” format to include results from Google News, video, books, etc. when applicable.

This announcement from Yahoo discusses how Yahoo now includes breaking news articles in its search results. It is a sign that Yahoo moving towards adopting “Universal Search” into its search results as well (albeit slowly).

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