Why Microsoft BrowseRank Will Fail Too
CNET has posted an article on Microsoft’s newest attempt to challenge Google for more of the search share market. Microsoft will be launching a new toolbar called BrowseRank. If you don’t want to read the whole article, here the gist of it:
Microsoft likes the results BrowseRank, which assigning Web page priority based on how people actually use the site. (Credit: Microsoft Research A Asia)
Essentially, the researchers tested out a system that replaces PageRanks’ link graph–a mathematical model of the hyperlinked connections of the Internet–with what they call a user browsing graph that ranks Web pages by people’s behavior.
“The more visits of the page made by the users and the longer time periods spent by the users on the page, the more likely the page is important. We can leverage hundreds of millions of users’ implicit voting on page importance”
The key takeaway here is that Microsoft, like Nielsen, wants to change the paradigm of how a page should be considered relevant from web pages link to your site and the importance of those linking pages to how much time a user spends on a page.
Granted PageRank is not perfect, but measuring a site’s importance and relevance by the time a user spends on it, is a worse idea. All that will really do is encourage the web community to regress back to 1995. We’ll all build sites so complex and convoluted that it will take every single user 10 minutes to find what they want. And by BrowseRank standard, all my sites will be excellent because users spend tons of time wandering around on them.
And, I can see Microsoft’s point with measuring TOS (time on site), it must mean that my site has compelling content and information. But, as you’ll see below, Plurker beagooddad made some great points:
While I couldn’t find any exact numbers on how many users actually use Live Search, it’s safe to say it’s considerably less than Google (based on current market share of search traffic). And, with lower population data, how valid will these results be? While I’m sure TOS won’t be the ONLY factor MS considers, having that piece as the cornerstone of your algorithm seems to completely invalidate BrowseRank for me.
Once again, Microsoft is a “Johnny-come-lately” in the area of web innovation. And, this effort, while valiant, is doomed to fail as all the rest of the MS search endeavors have. And, we know that if Yahoo ever builds a web page relevance toolbar, it’ll be nearly as solid as Google’s and really offer some competition. But, we’ll have to wait and see how the community, and the general populous, takes to the new BrowseRank Toolbar.
The Dissolution of SEO Misinformation
Scouring the blogs lately, I’ve seen a couple get frank with the SEO community about respecting one another and “SEO haters” and misinformation. So a special thanks to Graywolf’s SEO Blog and Search Engine Roundtable and for leading the way with two good posts on the subject.
Myself, I’ve never really been accused of “ruining search” or manipulating search engines for my own gain (or my clients’). In fact, I’ve never really heard anything but thanks for helping to stave off a massive decline in leads and sales with the work I do.
A SEOs mission, at least it should be, is to make, like Google and other SEs, the best possible information available to users. I don’t consider it “manipulation” or “spamming” by following the rules set in place in order to give you, the user, the most relevant information available.
We’re not saintly, none of us can claim to be, but we are Good Samaritans. There isn’t an industry I can think of that is virginal and doesn’t have the “smudge” they’d rather not talk about. I’ve dropped the holier-than-thou act, and you, as a “hater” or whatever negative attitude you bring to the SEO party, should as well. We all have dirt under our fingernails.
Here’s why you want SEOs to continue doing SEO for you:
SEOs clarify and refine page information in SERPs
SEOs make the web a better experience for you:
SEOs help Mom and Pop level the playing field:
So, the next time you’re about to bash, hate, or be disrespectful to an SEO, think about these three reasons above, and think about your own industry.
Why Small Business Should Use Flash Sparingly
It’s about two weeks past the big announcement by Google Webmaster Central Blog about indexing flash on websites. I know, personally, I’ve fought off a rush of designers who wanted to create heavy-laden flash websites because they think it’s “ok now”.
I had to shut down the flood gates quick before everything became just a huge conglomerate of Flash animation. I told them to actually read the blog, not just the headline. Because, if they’d actually read it, they’d know it’s about as vague as vague can be. Moreover, while aesthetics are important, we’re in the business to be found and make our clients found. Flash, like AJAX, is still, as far as I’m concerned, a “website” cloaking device.
Let’s read what Google says their Flash limitations are:
Q: What are the current technical limitations of Google’s ability to index Flash?
There are three main limitations at present, and we are already working on resolving them:
2. We currently do not attach content from external resources that are loaded by your Flash files. If your Flash file loads an HTML file, an XML file, another SWF file, etc., Google will separately index that resource, but it will not yet be considered to be part of the content in your Flash file.
3. While we are able to index Flash in almost all of the languages found on the web, currently there are difficulties with Flash content written in bidirectional languages. Until this is fixed, we will be unable to index Hebrew language or Arabic language content from Flash files.
The third point doesn’t concern me as much because I am just starting to get into the international scene, but the first two are a deal-breaker. And the update Google provided doesn’t do much to reassure me that their Flash techniques in the algorithm are SEO-ready. To get a nice, in-depth blog about why all-flash or heavy flash is not a great idea, check SEOmoz’s blog post by Rand.
I work with smaller business. Most small business have this strange attraction to flash, and up until now, I could never figure out why. But I finally came to a conclusion: larger corps (i.e. Starbucks) use flash like it’s going out of style; it looks great and represents the brand they way these smaller businesses want to represent their brand. The problem is, the smaller business doesn’t have nearly the brand recognition or brand staying power to be able to develop an all-flash or heavy-flash site.
Let’s take the Starbucks example further:
Here’s what the site looks like normally:
Here’s what a search engine sees:
Creating a flash-heavy site for a small business is like putting a Romulan cloaking field around the site, forever hidden from the eyes of the search engine. The object is to be found not to hide. And, even though Google can supposedly index flash, we don’t have much of an idea how they’re temporally conveying the contextual text. The example the blog gives is probably the utopic example, so don’t expect treatment like that.
Still think Flash is good for Small Business?
Flash can be done well, but it rarely is. The conclusion is to use common sense when designing the site. If CSS and HTML can present the nearly the same look and feel as Flash, then go with the CSS. If you absolutely have to use flash or AJAX, then use it as sparingly as possible and stick to the basics.