MicroHoo-Ying Eyeing Global Reach, What About Ask?

There’s a report from Reuters this morning that Microsoft and Yahoo are considering expanding the scope of their search deal “outside the United States”:

Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said on Thursday the company could look to extend its search engine partnership with Yahoo outside the United States, if it gets regulatory approval.

Wasn’t that already the intention? I thought it was a global deal already. European regulators wouldn’t be considering it if it didn’t apply to their markets; they wouldn’t have jurisdiction. So I guess I’m a bit confused I guess.

Regardless, if either the EU or US Department of Justice disapproves the deal it will kill the whole thing globally in all likelihood. I would expect approval although it’s also possible that limitations and conditions could be attached by regulators.

Reportedly Barry Diller, CEO of IAC Corp., wants to sell Ask — perhaps feeling he’s ridden the wave as far as he can (with some disappointment). If so, the most likely buyer would be Microsoft according to widespread speculation. It would allow Microsoft to grab some incremental but meaningful share of the market. The question would be at what price?

Timing is huge here. If Ying/MicroHoo were to gain approval from regulators, or the appearance of forthcoming approval were strong, the value of Ask to Microsoft is less than if the Yahoo deal were not to go through. In the latter case Diller could exact a higher price than in the former. There could be other buyers out there for Ask (e.g., News Corp., Comcast?) but Microsoft is the one with more to gain from adding scale.

According to comScore, Ask maintains a small but meaningful core following:

That respresents 718 million queries in September, according to the metrics firm. However iCrossing recently said it has seen referrals to its clients’ sites from Ask drop “precipitously.”

Postscript: The following was a clarification that I received in email from a Microsoft spokesperson:

[T]he Microsoft-Yahoo! agreement does apply outside the United States. As it’s written, it must be approved by regulators in the U.S. and Europe in order to go into effect. As soon as those regulators give approval, the agreement goes into effect worldwide, although implementation in a specific country is postponed if regulatory approval is required there and it is not yet obtained. But that will not postpone implementation in other places.

Blocking And Tackling: 10 Fundamentals Of Local SEO

We’ve reached the midpoint of fantasy football season, and in our SEMpdx league, my team is hanging on to a playoff slot by a thread.  (Yes, I am “that guy” who roots for the Patriots to get into the red zone and then stall out, just so my fantasy kicker Stephen Gostkowski gets a chance at a few more field goals.)

One of my favorite halftime interview clichés from NFL coaches is “we’ve just got to do a better job of blocking and tackling.” While that’s sometimes a euphemism for “the other team is way better than us,” in other cases the coach means his superstar team is getting sloppy and ignoring its fundamentals,  costing them on the scoreboard.

Tying this analogy back to Local Search, is your business (or agency) losing rankings by getting sloppy with its Local SEO “blocking and tackling?”

A quick refresher on 10 Local fundamentals

1. Claim your business listing at the major search engines: Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local.

This is a total no-brainer. It’s a chance at free exposure and by just by claiming your listing, you’ll give the search engines more trust in your business and improve your chances at ranking (not to mention prevent someone else from hijacking your listing).

2. Submit your business to the major data providers: Localeze, infoUSA, and Acxiom—the latter via UniversalBusinessListing.org.

Most small business owners have heard of Google, Yahoo, and Bing—even with the recent name change. But a tiny percentage of them (and even a tiny percentage of search marketers) know about the “other” Big Three in Local Search—Localeze, infoUSA, and Acxiom. These guys each have their own databases which form the foundation of the search engines’ Local indexes and of a variety of second-tier portals as well. They’re basically the backbone of the entire local search ecosystem.

Acxiom is the only one of the three which doesn’t have an online submission area; the only way in that I’m currently aware of is via Universal Business Listing.

3. Put yourself in the right categories.

One of the main reasons to go through the steps above is to make sure that your business is listed in the right category—which plays a central role in your business’s ability to show up for your target searches.  Sometimes there’s been a mis-entered keystroke or an incorrect mapping from one of the data providers to one of the search engines, and claiming and updating your listing is your chance to correct it.

4. Make sure your business information is consistent.

Google especially likes to see business information match up across the web, because it increases their confidence that their algorithm is returning a relevant, accurate result. This means no keyword stuffing in your business title, either at Google or at the other data providers, and making sure that your phone number and address information matches up everywhere your business is mentioned—the main reason I advised against call-tracking numbers in last month’s column.

5. Get your contact information in hCard microformat or add a QR code on your website.

If you’re a small business owner, starting with this step, this is probably where you’re going to need the help of a developer or a Local SEO company to actually implement these recommendations.

It’s absolutely essential that the search engines are able to see your business’s Name, Address, and Phone number (a.k.a. “NAP”—a great acronym from Localeze’s Gib Olander) when they crawl your website. If that information is contained a fancy font or in a header image, they’re not going to be able to find it.  So make sure it’s in basic HTML, at the very least, and if you want a few brownie points, use the hCard microformat.

6. Create a KML file and upload it to Google Webmaster Central.

Most SEO companies are familiar with XML sitemaps.  Well, think of a KML file as a “location map.”  It’s a specialized file format that includes the latitude and longitude coordinates of the physical business locations listed on a particular website and gives them one more confidence boost in the location of a particular business. Dutch SEO Martijn Beijk has written an excellent KML tutorial to help those for whom this is a fresh concept.

7. Use your official business name in the title tag of your contact or location page.

This recommendation is kind of a new “blocking and tackling” technique that I’ve advised after reading some of Mike Blumenthal’s discussion of the Google Maps patent and hearing him present on it at SMX East last month.  Bill Slawski mentioned this as a Local Search strategy (way back in 2006!) but it took Mike’s presentation to hammer it home for me.

Essentially by doing this you make sure Google assigns your website as an “authority document” for Location Prominence.

8. Use geographic keywords in your title tags.

This is more of a generalized recommendation: make sure that you include your city and state in the title tag of your contact or location page, and if you’re in widget sales, use words like “CityName Widgets” or “Widgets in CityName” on assorted other title tags on your website.

9. Make sure you have Analytics installed on your website.

Think of analytics as equivalent to watching game film in football. If you want to know how your team is performing, you need to revisit how you’ve done in previous games. Analytics can give you great insight into which keywords are bringing traffic to your website, and what pages are engaging your users and leading to new business.

If you’re partial to Google Analytics, check out this excellent post series from SEOverflow on how to track clickthroughs from the 7-pack (i.e. the Maps results shown as part of Universal search).

10. Scout the opposition to see what your high-ranking competitors are up to.

Take a look at both the Organic AND the Local search results for some of your target phrases. What competitors are showing up? Use tools like Linkscape or Yahoo Site Explorer to see if there are particular websites linking to them and not you. Google is now displaying categories publicly as part of Place Pages.  See how they’re listing themselves and ask yourself if there’s anything you can learn from that. While you’re there, check out their “Web Pages” area, too, to see if there are any obvious citations you’re missing.  Are they accumulating user reviews on certain portals where your company isn’t as active?

While these fundamentals might not be as sexy as Twitter or as inspirational as linkbait, they’re tried-and-true methods that are sure to help your business rank better in the search engines and ultimately bring in more business.

All right, team, bring it in. Let’s go get ‘em—”Local Search” on three!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Yahoo Helps Music Lovers Find Videos More Easily

Yahoo has added a set of refinements to its video search engine that will help music lovers find videos more quickly.

A video search for [U2] shows the new refinements in action: On the left side of the screen are new options to drill down to see U2 videos related to specific albums or specific songs.

You can click any album or song to see the video results that match the refinement without losing the context of your original search. It looks and works similar to the travel photo tours refinement that Yahoo added to image search earlier this year.

One more note: on the image above, you’ll see a box labeled “U2 – Twitter Videos.” Although we don’t recall any specific announcement of this feature, Yahoo tells us it’s not new and not related to the real-time search tests that Yahoo is planning.

Google Tests New AdSense Management Console

Google AdSense announced today at the CRS Conference that they are currently testing a new interface for the AdSense console. The beta is currently being tested by few publishers, but Google promises to allow “thousands of publishers” to test this out “over the coming weeks.”

Here is a picture of one of the screens:

Features include:

More detailed performance reportsEnables you to view daily stats in graphical formatsAdditional metrics such as the amount you’ve earned from various ad, targeting and bid typesMore options to manage the ads that appear on your sitecleaner interface that makes it easier to find and review them within the Ad Review CenterA streamlined AdSense interface to simplify common tasks, such as making a change to several ad units simultaneouslyAdded more relevant help on every page, a message inbox for tips from our team, and alerts with important account related notices

How Google & Yahoo Make Money Off A Twitter Typo Domain

Like many people, I misspelled a domain name today when I was trying to visit a web site. I typed Twiter.com (with one T) rather than Twitter.com. I wasn’t surprised to land on a site with ads, as is common when entering typos. I was surprised that both Google and Yahoo were making money off those ads.

Google has a program known as AdSense For Domains, previously known as DomainPark. Got a tasty domain but no content for it? AdSense For Domains will put lucrative ads up on it, for you (really lucrative: see more here and here).

The practice is known as domaining. And before some domainers start working up heated rebuttals, let me make it clear. There’s nothing wrong with domaining. If you were lucky enough or smart enough to land a generic domain like usedcars.com or taxforms.com, my hat’s off to you. It’s well known that people will simply slap words together, tack on a .com and see if they reach a site that has information about a particular topic relating to those words. Domainers earn off that traffic, and no one is misled when visitors directly navigate this way.

So saying domaining = spamming is the same as saying SEO = spamming. Neither is true. But there are spam tactics that happen in both areas along with the legit stuff. In the domaining world, it’s the typo traffic that’s often scummy, in my book.

Typo domains are domains that are nearly identical to the domain name of another well known brand. Here, there is often harm. Someone expecting to reach a particular site instead lands on a different one that’s cashing in on the other brand’s fame.

OK, it’s the person who is entering the domain name wrong in the first place’s fault, right? It’s like they dialed the wrong phone number. Why shouldn’t a domain owner be able to earn off of misdirected calls to their phone? Or, it’s the “real” company’s fault for not registering all the typos out there.

What about companies that have a name in use before another company becomes more famous? Is there really anything wrong with UTube — a well established pipe company — benefiting from a spike in traffic after some upstart YouTube video site came along? Or in the case of Twiter, that domain existed well before Twitter became popular, so why shouldn’t it tap into new found popularity.

These are fair objections. In counter to them, some typo domains are often registered after a brand becomes popular, with the obvious intent of riding on someone else’s coattails. For another, it simply violates the policies of some ad networks, Google’s included. In other words, the fault isn’t with the domain owner themselves. It’s with companies supplying ads in violation of their own guidelines or policies.

That leads us to what I saw when I reached Twiter.com, the single “T” web site:

These ads are provided by Google, not that anything on the page tells you this. Domain ads apparently aren’t forced to carry those “Ads By Google” notifications as with contexual ads. That’s a handy way for Google to distance itself.

The first and fifth ad indicates a relevancy issue for Google advertisers. If you’re advertising “Free VoiceXML platform” or “Monitor Server health,” why on earth is someone from Twiter (one T) going to convert for you? They might click out of curiousity, but the probably aren’t going to buy (in fact, there’s a lawsuit against Google over the quality of domain ads pending. Google’s has also been sued over trademark issues with typo domains).

Now look at the second ad, which I’ve pointed an arrow at:

Twitter? Twitter is here
Need Twitter? Official Twitter site Twitter lets you share. Its Twitter
www.Twitter.com

That ad surprised me. Really, Twitter (that of 2 Ts) decided to buy an ad for its own name via Google? Actually, no. Instead, it’s a Twitter user that bought the ad, driving people to their particular profile which, while indeed being on the official Twitter site, isn’t providing Twitter but rather a pitch for a book:

Clever person, right? Yes, but they also likely being misleading. That would violate Google’s ad guidelines and also may violate advertising laws in various US states, as well as nationally and in other countries.

That ad also shows two flaws in Google’s ad system. Clearly no human being looked closely at this ad, to review it for quality guideline violations. Meanwhile, Google’s requirement that the display URL in an ad match the domain name someone arrives at get exploited. This ad correctly shows a Twitter.com domain, even though the ad itself doesn’t speak with the authority of Twitter itself.

Check out the third ad, with an arrow pointing at the domain (which I’ve also bolded below):

Twitter
Looking for Twitter? Find exactly what you want today.
Yahoo.com

Why yes, I was indeed looking for Twitter. Glad to know that Yahoo has it now. I guess I missed news of that deal being cut. Let’s go get us some Twitter at Yahoo:

Ah, Twitter, er, shopping results. Maybe that lamp beams out tweets, when you turn it on. The results are kind of crummy. But that’s OK, because right at the top of the page, we get three paid search ads from Yahoo.

Now, it’s not Yahoo doing this directly. Looking at the URL that brings me to the shopping page, I see an affiliate reference. So this is someone earning money by driving Yahoo traffic. But Yahoo takes some of the blame here. It’s their affiliate, getting paid by Yahoo, and Yahoo should be policing this.

Yahoo, by the way, joined a coalition against typo domains back in 2007. They’re no longer listed as a member, which given these type of ads, is probably best.

The rest of the ads are all products somehow related to Twitter, so at least the misleading aspects aren’t there. But there still seems to be a violation of Google’s domain ads program policies:

Domains submitted for the AdSense for domains program may not violate any trademark (and related rights), copyright, trade secret, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party….

Google AdSense for domains is committed to respecting the rights of trademark owners. It is our goal that advertisers, users and trademark owners all be aware of Google’s process for reviewing perceived trademark infringement in the AdSense for domains network. If Google becomes aware of a domain name that contains a trademark (or typo), that domain will be removed from the AdSense for domains network.

At best, Google might argue that Twitter hasn’t submitted a formal complaint, so as far as it knows, there’s no trademark violation happening. That’s still pretty weak. Does Google, which often holds itself out as championing the relevant organization of information, really want to hold its head up about what’s happening on that page?

I don’t think so. That’s especially so when you consider the type of ads that show up on Google’s own site for a search on twitter:

That Twitter user claiming to be the official Twitter site doesn’t show there. Neither does the Yahoo ad promising to deliver Twitter.

If those ads aren’t good enough to be shown on the shining storefront that is Google’s search results page, they don’t get any better being plastered on some dark alley of the internet.

Postscript: After publishing this, I sent these questions to Google.

Are the ads from that Twitter user and from Yahoo meeting your relevancy guidelines?Are they not misleading?If they are, were these actually reviewed by a human?And does the site violate your guidelines on typo domains or not?

In response, I was emailed this statement:

We don’t comment on specific ads or domains – but our AdSense for Domains policies are here. When we’re notified of complaints, we investigate for compliance with our policy.  We’ve found that advertisers enjoy the benefits of the additional reach that AdSense for Domains offers.  Many advertisers find that ads on parked domains perform as well as or better than ads on more traditional search and content sites.

Today, the site is no longer showing ads from Google. Instead, another company is providing the paid ads.

Google Gets Into The Shopping Cart Business With Commerce Search

Google has just announced a new enterprise search service called Commerce Search. The name might remind you of Froogle, but this is not that kind of commerce/product search. With Commerce Search, Google has created what is essentially a shopping cart solution for online retailers.

Commerce Search, as Google describes it, promises to improve an e-commerce web site’s search and usability. It’s hosted on Google’s servers, and — like any good shopping cart software — offers a variety of customization options, including look and feel, product promotions, and more. Commerce Search also includes some Google search technologies like spellcheck, stemming, and synonym matching, and is integrated with Google Analytics by default.

When combined with Google Checkout — as shown in the introductory video (also embedded below) — this is nothing short of an all-inclusive e-commerce software package. Retailers upload their product data to Google, then customize the search/e-commerce options, and end up with a Google-hosted shopping cart. Pricing is based on how many products/SKUs in the retailer’s data feed, and how searches are done on the retailer’s store.

Here’s Google’s brief introductory video about Commerce Search.

SearchCap: The Day In Search, November 5, 2009

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

From Search Engine Land:

How Google & Yahoo Make Money Off A Twitter Typo Domain

Like many people, I misspelled a domain name today when I was trying to visit a web site. I typed Twiter.com (with one T) rather than Twitter.com. I wasn’t surprised to land on a site with ads, as is common when entering typos. I was surprised that both Google and Yahoo were making money off […]

Google Tests New AdSense Management Console

Google AdSense announced today at the CRS Conference that they are currently testing a new interface for the AdSense console. The beta is currently being tested by few publishers, but Google promises to allow “thousands of publishers” to test this out “over the coming weeks.”
Here is a picture of one of the screens:

Features include:

More […]

Yahoo Helps Music Lovers Find Videos More Easily

Yahoo has added a set of refinements to its video search engine that will help music lovers find videos more quickly.
A video search for [U2] shows the new refinements in action: On the left side of the screen are new options to drill down to see U2 videos related to specific albums or specific […]

Blocking And Tackling: 10 Fundamentals Of Local SEO

We’ve reached the midpoint of fantasy football season, and in our SEMpdx league, my team is hanging on to a playoff slot by a thread. (Yes, I am “that guy” who roots for the Patriots to get into the red zone and then stall out, just so my fantasy kicker Stephen Gostkowski gets a chance […]

MicroHoo-Ying Eyeing Global Reach, What About Ask?

There’s a report from Reuters this morning that Microsoft and Yahoo are considering expanding the scope of their search deal “outside the United States”:
Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said on Thursday the company could look to extend its search engine partnership with Yahoo outside the United States, if it gets regulatory approval.
Wasn’t that already the […]

MSNBot 1.1 Gives Way to Bot 2.0

Microsoft is retiring its MSNBot1.1 and introducing its next bot: 2.0B. According to the Bing Community blog:

As MSNBot 2.0b enters full-scale production, the time has come to retire our previous generation bot, MSNBot 1.1. By the end of the first week in November, you will no longer see the following user agent in your referrer […]

Google Removes Phone Numbers From 7 Pack

Google has apparently removed phone numbers from the so-called 7 Pack of organic local results. The numbers were present as recently as 24-36 hours ago. Immediately below is an example of a recent search result for “dentist, San Francisco” (within the last several weeks) and then for the same query this morning:

The result on the […]

Cheers to SEO: How It Pays To Be Optimized

The Free Dictionary definition for optimize:
op·ti·mize: To make as perfect or effective as possible.
My long-standing definition of Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
“Making your site the best it can be for users and search engines.”
SEO is both as simple and as difficult that
Making something optimal by its very nature is going to be hard work. Being the […]

Does Bing Have What It Takes To Flaunt Video Search Results?

Now that Bing is officially a major player, it’s time to ask some important questions. Are Bing video search results delivering a winning performance? Does Bing match searcher queries with relevant results? For advertisers, what is needed from an optimization standpoint to make your video standout among a search crowd?
Let’s use the popular music group […]

Google Dashboard Offers New Privacy Controls

Google has launched a new privacy dashboard — technically just called Google Dashboard — that gives users quicker access to, and more control over, the personal information stored in Google’s databases. The dashboard is a one-stop shop for managing this data and the settings that are associated with the Google products you use when […]

Google Gets Into The Shopping Cart Business With Commerce Search

Google has just announced a new enterprise search service called Commerce Search. The name might remind you of Froogle, but this is not that kind of commerce/product search. With Commerce Search, Google has created what is essentially a shopping cart solution for online retailers.

Commerce Search, as Google describes it, promises to improve an e-commerce web […]

Search News From Around The Web:

Applications & Portal Features

Choose which messages get downloaded for offline use, Official Gmail BlogMyCoupons.com Teams Up With Brand New Ask Deals, ReutersGoogle privacy controls: Most people won’t care, news.cnet.comIntroducing Closure Tools, Google Code Blog

Business Issues

Google Seeks Damages In Android Suit, ForbesCommerce Search: Google Attempts to Boost Online Stores With Boringness, Fast CompanyGoogle CEO Eric Schmidt envisions the news consumer of the future, Nieman Journalism LabJudge In Google Book Settlement Case Says Photographers Are Not Authors, TechCrunch

Local, Maps & Mobile

DigitalGlobe Announces New Agreement with Microsoft for High-Resolution Aerial Imagery, DigitalGlobeGuide To FREE Google Local Business Centre Listings, HoboDealing with multiple phone numbers in Google Local, BlogStormFederal Bust of Dependable Locksmith in Florida Strikes at Heart of National Locksmith Scams, Mike BlumenthalGoogle Pulls Local Phone Numbers from Search Display, Small Business SEM

Link Building

What Makes a Link Worthy Post – Part 2, SEOmoz

Searching

Google NEAR Operator & Exclude Faces on Image Search, Search Engine RoundtableList of all magazines now available in Google Books, Inside Google Books

SEM Industry

Google’s Matt Cutts Goes a Year Without Posting at WebmasterWorld, Search Engine RoundtableKen Aulleta, Author of "Googled": Biography Of A Company, And An Age Chats with Terry Gross on NPR, ResourceShelfSEOmoz 2009 Search Spam PubCon Party, SEOmoz

SEO & SEM

Fixing 404 File Not Found frustrations (SEM 101), Bing Webmaster BlogThe "Complete Marketer" Search Agency Model, AIM Clear BlogUsing Google AdWords Data to Inform Your SEO Strategy, SEO BookDraft Microformats – the Future Looks Structured, seogadget.co.ukGoing Down The Long Tail of Local Search, Search Engine GuideGoogle UK Results Still Showing Irrelevant US Sites, David NaylorMicroformats: What, How, and Why, Van SEO DesignMore Ways for Google to Embed Themselves in Your Conversion Stream, SEO BookShould I expect increased traffic if I optimize my images?, YouTube

Social Media

Testing new tweet notifications, Twitter StatusBuying Twitter followers?, BusinessWeekMassive Facebook and MySpace Flash Vulnerability Exposes User Data, TechCrunch

Video, Music & Image Search

YouTube Gives Partners More Control Over Video Blocking, TechCrunch

Google Dashboard Offers New Privacy Controls

Google has launched a new privacy dashboard — technically just called Google Dashboard — that gives users quicker access to, and more control over, the personal information stored in Google’s databases. The dashboard is a one-stop shop for managing this data and the settings that are associated with the Google products you use when signed in to your Google account.

“We recognize how important our users’ trust is, so we’re looking for ways to be more transparent,” says Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google’s Business Product Manager for Trust & Safety. “Over the last 11 years we’ve launched a lot of products, so we wanted to provide more transparency for people using those products.”

How to access Google Dashboard

Google Dashboard can be reached by going to www.google.com/dashboard or by going to your Google Account page. You’ll see a link under Personal Settings that says “View data stored with this account.”

You’ll have to be logged in to your Google account first and, because the information in Google Dashboard is sensitive, Google requires a second login before you can access it.

What’s included in Google Dashboard

At the beginning, not all Google products are included in Google Dashboard. Ghosemajumder says there were some “last-minute technical issues” that kept some products out of Dashboard. Google hopes to add those within the next couple weeks. For now, here are lists of what’s in and what’s not:

Included: Account & Profile, Web history, Gmail, Docs, Calendar, YouTube, Blogger, iGoogle, Latitude, Reader, Talk, Health, Orkut, Picasa, Shopping List, Voice, Contacts, Alerts, Finance, Friend Connect, Tasks, Custom search engines, Mobile Sync

Not included: Checkout, Google Video, Groups, SideWiki, SearchWiki, Analytics, AdWords, AdSense, 3D Warehouse, Book Search, Sites, MyMaps, Base, Code, Moderator, PowerMeter, Feed Burner.

As Google launches new products in the future, Ghosemajumder says they’ll be added to Dashboard, too.

How Google Dashboard works

The dashboard lists all of the Google products that are associated with your account and shows different bits of data related to your use of each product. If you have a Gmail account, the dashboard shows information about your Inbox, Sent mail, Chat history, and more. If you use iGoogle, you’ll see how many gadgets are installed. All of the data in the Dashboard is considered private and only viewable by you, except in cases where you’ve elected to share data with others; a small “friends” icon will appear to indicate that.

More importantly, next to all this data are links to manage it. Gmail users will see links such as “Manage chat history” and “Manage HTTPS settings.” Google Docs users will see a “Manage documents” links. Ghosemajumder says that none of these management links are new. It’s all about organizing the user’s ability to see and control the data that gets shared with Google when using their products. Rather than needing to visit each Google product individually, users can manage everything from this single console.

If you use Google products while not logged in to your Google account, the data associated with those uses won’t show up in Dashboard.

Google Dashboard is currently available in 17 languages, and the company hopes to expand that to 40 languages soon.

Final thoughts

All of the major search engines face privacy issues, but it seems that Google is put under the microscope the most due to its size, success, and perhaps its ambition, too. Google clashes with governments over YouTube, over data retention, and even the idea that Google Maps helps terrorists. It clashes with regular Joes over Street View. It clashes with privacy groups over Google Latitude. The list goes on and on.

In September, Google announced its Data Liberation Front – a team focused on making it easy for users to move data in and out of Google products. The Google Dashboard is a sister and almost a prequel to that effort — one that helps users see and manage the data Google that Google has about them. It represents a step toward appeasing some of its critics and preventing some of these privacy clashes. The question is … will Google’s critics feel that it’s a big enough step?

Note From Danny Sullivan: I’m thrilled to see this step and look forward to seeing how it develops further. My Anonymizing Google’s Server Log Data — How’s It Going? post from last year looks at privacy issues at Google and the difficulty of knowing exactly what they have stored. That was a follow-up to Google Responds To EU: Cutting Raw Log Retention Time; Reconsidering Cookie Expiration, in 2007, which also looked at privacy pain points. In that article, we got our first hint that a dashboard might be coming from Google:

Figuring out where all my data resides and how to kill it is a pain — at Google or Microsoft or Yahoo, for that matter. John Battelle had a good suggestion back in early 2006 for a sort of private data control panel that could show you exactly what was stored where and put the user in control:

“I bet 95% of the public will never edit, or even view the data more than once. But the sense that the control panel is there, just in case, will be invaluable to establishing trust.”

We could use that more than ever. Google especially could use that, if it wants to stop the privacy attacks or at least stem them. How about it? I asked Google’s global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer about this yesterday, when talking to him about the Privacy International survey.

“We’re thinking hard internally along the digital dashboard-type of approach. Is there a way to give users a dashboard and visibility to all these elements and give them control,” he said. “It would be hugely complicated to build, but in terms of that vision, I completely share it, and we’re having deep discussions about it.”

So kudos also to John Battelle. His idea of a control panel dashboard, rather than a million settings and cryptic privacy policies, becomes a reality.

Does Bing Have What It Takes To Flaunt Video Search Results?

Now that Bing is officially a major player, it’s time to ask some important questions. Are Bing video search results delivering a winning performance? Does Bing match searcher queries with relevant results? For advertisers, what is needed from an optimization standpoint to make your video standout among a search crowd?

Let’s use the popular music group “Black Eyed Peas” as an example. After conducting a series of different searches with the band name being the basis of the query I observed the following:

Query 1: black eyed peas. Images of the band were among the top positions, while the video results were at the bottom of the search results page along with a search volume/popularity graph, which is something new and different to the search world. I’ve yet to determine the full impact/effectiveness of the search popularity graph. If anything, the graph can reveal and/or validate the popularity of a searcher’s query and show other popular musicians Bing users are searching for(e.g., Metallica). However, when clicked through, this option only offers a video link on the sidebar, not a video thumbnail on the main page, which in my opinion is a shortfall, given the online video demand as well as the musical nature of the query. This is another opportunity to connect with the proactive video-seeking audience.

Query 2: videos black eyed peas. The video results were the last listing on the first page of the search engine results page.

Queries 3 and 4: black eyed video peas and black video eyed peas. The first page of results did not deliver any inline Bing video results for either query, though there were text-only links to videos on YouTube and other video sharing sites.

Query 5: black eyed peas video. Inline Bing video results were in the top position.

Now what can we learn from this small example? Also, does this example apply to other types of queries? Well, it appears that Bing delivers top ranking video results based on an intuitive, logical query structure. For example, the keyword “video” delivers high ranking at the end of a query vs. at the beginning or in the middle of a query. I performed similar tests with other types of keywords, not just music-oriented keywords, such as “Chicago Bears” and “Apple iPhone,” and had a similar experience.

However, the logic is only one observation; it also seems that the keyword density of the terms also play a key role in the ranking. In the listing above, all of the MySpace videos include “black eyed peas” and “video” (twice) in their title tags.

Using GoRank, a free SEO tool, you can analyze the keyword density for these terms within the MySpace URLS, and discover that the word “video” has an average density of 3.74% and the phrase “black eyed” has an average density of 3.21%.

These are solid percentages that indicate Bing places a great deal of value on the words appearing on the page. Therefore, advertisers should ensure that they are including valuable content within their title tags, descriptions, etc.

On the other hand, the YouTube page does not contain any instances of the word “video”, but the phrase “black eyed” has a density of 14.17%. This is due to YouTube’s practice of showing links to related videos, and all of these links contain the phrase “black eyed.” Bing may give YouTube default visibility for search queries that contain the word “video” even if the word “video” does not appear on the YouTube page.

Another interesting thing to note about Bing video search results is that once you click on a video thumbnail result you may have a different experience depending on the source. For example, the “Black Eyed Peas” YouTube video opens a pop-up video while the MySpace video is played directly from Bing. By using pop-ups and hosting other videos, Bing encourages the searcher to stay on the Bing site, an attempt to increase retention rate and further interactions with Bing. Additionally, Bing allows a searcher to play video snippets directly from the search results, which is another way to entice searchers and encourage more interaction.

As announced this past July, Bing and Yahoo! are joining forces in the search world. After the deal finalizes, Microsoft’s MSNbot (showing up in referrer logs as either msnbot/1.1 or msnbot/2.0b) will be the crawler for both Yahoo! and Bing. This means it will be doubly important for advertisers to optimize their video assets for the bot and Bing’s search algorithm. According to comScore’s September 2009 U.S. core search engine rankings, Microsoft sites make up 9.4% of search engine share, while Yahoo! makes up 18.8%. Once these search houses consolidate under the same technology, they will make up nearly 30% of the search share, taking on powerhouse Google, (64.9% of search engine share). It’s up to Bing to prove to searchers, specifically the rising pool of video searchers, if it has what it takes to deliver the most relevant, useful results that can stack up against Google.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Cheers to SEO: How It Pays To Be Optimized

The Free Dictionary definition for optimize:

op·ti·mize:  To make as perfect or effective as possible.

My long-standing definition of Search Engine Optimization (SEO):

“Making your site the best it can be for users and search engines.”

SEO is both as simple and as difficult that

Making something optimal by its very nature is going to be hard work. Being the best you can be at your job, your schoolwork, your relationships, or anything else is not easy. Very few people, if any, will ever be optimized, or perfect. The same is true for websites. But that shouldn’t stop you from attempting to be optimized.

Let’s step outside of the online world for a moment and look at a real life situation where it pays to be optimized. My hope is that this analogy will help you have a better sense of what it means to be optimized.

Now that my kids are older, my husband and I frequent a little pub down the street from us. During our time there, I’ve quietly watched how the bartenders work, as well as listened to what patrons say about them.

What I’ve noticed is that when it comes to bartending, the more you meet the exact needs of each customer, the more money you will make in tips. In other words, it pays for a bartender to be optimized. While most bartenders try to be the best they can be, some are better at it than others.

Rule #1: Optimization shouldn’t turn people off

As it applies to a bartender: Take the bartender who has a great sense of humor, but can be sarcastic at times. While thick-skinned patrons (like me) find her extremely witty and amusing, others don’t. These folks didn’t come to a bar to be teased, thus, making this bartender not truly optimized. Or take the bartender who can never quite pour a full beer and doesn’t notice that your glass is empty until 10 minutes later. He or she is far from being optimized.

As it applies to your website: Is your website stuffed full of keywords? Is it extremely slow-loading and/or all Flash? Is it optimized for search engines, but not people?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’re turning people off and therefore, your website isn’t optimized.

Rule #2: You can’t fake optimization

As it applies to a bartender: Take the one who is super-duper nice to everyone. While you might think she is an optimal bartender, she’s not; her extreme niceness comes across as phony to many. While it does fool some, and may even be optimal for them, she’s not optimized because she’s only pleasing one segment of her clientele.

As it applies to your website: Are you creating doorway pages/domains? Are you writing about “the history of whatever”? Are you using automated software to scrape articles off others websites and then mixing up the words? Are you hiring someone to write hundreds or thousands of low quality articles?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you may be faking your optimization. While it may appeal to some search engines for a time, it’s certainly not optimal, nor will it provide you with long term results.

Rule #3: Optimization is hard work

As it applies to a bartender: The optimized bartender is not necessarily perfect, but she is authentic. Everything she does on the job is to be the best bartender she can be. She works her butt off to please each and every customer the way they want to be pleased, which is no easy feat. Every patron is different and what’s optimal for them won’t necessarily be what’s optimal for another. If a patron likes to be flirted with, she can do that, but not so much that they think she wants to date them. On the other hand, she would never dream of flirting with a guy who was with his wife or girlfriend.

The optimal bartender treats both genders equally, and quickly learns their drink preferences, where they like to sit, little tidbits about their family, etc. She also discloses bits of personal information about herself and family, but not so much as to be always talking about herself. She’s humorous and can be self-deprecating, but in good quantities. And by the end of her shift, you know she’s exhausted (it’s often exhausting just watching her!). You can bet that this level of optimization is hard work.

As it applies to your website: Like patrons at a bar, every website is different. While there are basic strategies and tactics most websites need, there’s no SEO formula that will work for each and every one. Are you spending time every day making your website better? Are you being authentic and putting yourself out there in your blog or newsletter? Are you thinking about each and every potential customer, client or user of your website and making sure your website has exactly what they need? And are you working your butt off to do all this?

If you answered yes to those questions, you are probably tired! But you’re also on your way to having a successful website and business online. Congratulations! But first, go take a nap–you deserve it, and will need it before the real work begins!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.