Posts Tagged ‘Yahoo’

How Will Change Your Search Results & What it Means for Marketers

30 Jun

search image

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Algorithms aren’t going away anytime soon now that websites have a better way to directly describe their content to major search engines. Earlier this month, Google, Bing and Yahoo came together to announce support for, a semantic markup protocol with its own vocabulary that could provide websites with valuable search exposure. Nothing will change overnight, but is important enough to bring the three search giants together. Websites would be wise to study the basics and come up with a plan to give the engines what they want. attempts to close a loophole in the information transfer from website data to presentation as search results. As they note on their homepage: “Many sites are generated from structured data, which is often stored in databases. When this data is formatted into HTML, it becomes very difficult to recover the original structured data.”

Simply put, hopes to create a uniform method of putting the structure back into the HTML where the spiders can read it. The implications go beyond just knowing if a keyword like “bass” refers to a fish, a musical instrument or a brand of shoes. The real value is that websites can provide supporting data that will be valuable to the end user, and they can do so in a way that most search engines can read and pass along.

How Works was born out of conflict between competing standards. Resource Description Framework (RDF) is the semantic standard accepted by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The Facebook Open Graph is based on a variant of RDF which was one reason that RDF seemed poised to emerge as the dominant standard.

Until this month. went with a competing standard called microdata which is part of HTML5.

Microdata, true to its name, embeds itself deeply into the HTML. Simplicity was a key attribute used by the search engines to explain their preference for microdata, but simplicity is a relative term. Here is a basic example of how microdata works:

<div itemscope itemtype="">
<span itemprop="name">Abraham Lincoln</span> was born on

<span itemprop="birthDate">Feb. 12, 1809</span>.

He became known as <span itemprop="nickname">Honest Abe</span> and later served as <span itemprop="jobTitle">President of the United States</span>.

Tragically, he was assassinated and died on <span itemprop="deathDate">April 15, 1865</span>.


A machine fluent in Microdata would rely on three main attributes to understand the content:

  • Itemscope delineates the content that is being described.
  • Itemtype classifies the type of “thing” being described, in this case a person.
  • Itemprop provides details about the person, in this case birth date, nickname, job title and date of death.

Meanwhile, a person would only see:

“Abraham Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, 1809. He became known as Honest Abe and later served as President of the United States. Tragically, he was assassinated and died on April 15, 1865.”

Fast forward to the web economy of 2011 and restaurants can use the same technology to specify item properties such as acceptsReservations, menu, openingHours, priceRange, address and telephone.

A user can compare menus from nearby inexpensive Japanese restaurants that accept reservations and are open late.’s vocabulary already describes a large number of businesses, from dentists to tattoo parlors to auto parts stores.

Examples of Structured Data Already in Use

Structured data in search results is not new. The significance of is that it is now going to be available on a mass scale. In other words, semantic markup in HTML pages is going prime time.

Google has so far led the way with structured data presentation in the form of “rich snippets,” which certain sites have been using to enhance their search listings with things like ratings, reviews and pricing. Google began the program in May 2009 and added support for microdata in March 2010.

A well known example of a customized structured search presentation is Google Recipe View. Do you want to make your own mango ice cream, under 100 calories, in 15 minutes? Recipe View can tell you how.

The Scary Side of

Google, Bing and Yahoo have reassured everyone that they will continue to support the other standards besides microdata, but still feels like an imposed solution. Some semantic specialists are asking why the engines are telling websites to adapt to specific standards when perhaps it should be the other way around.

Another concern is that since can be abused, it will be abused. That translates into some added work and expense as content management systems move to adapt. might also tempt search engines to directly answer questions on the results page. This will eliminate the need to actually visit the site that helped to provide the information. Publishing the local weather or currency conversion rate on a travel site won’t drive much traffic because search engines provide those answers directly. means that this practice will only expand.

Not everyone is overly concerned about this change. “If websites feel ‘robbed’ of traffic because basic information is provided directly in the search results, one has to ask just how valuable those websites were to begin with,” notes Aaron Bradley who has blogged about as the SEO Skeptic.

“The websites with the most to lose are those which capitalize on long-tail search traffic with very precise but very thin content,” Bradley says. “Websites with accessible, well-presented information and — critically — mechanisms that allow conversations between marketers and consumers to take place will continue to fare well in search.”

Three Things To Do Right Now

  • Audit the data that you store about the things that you sell. Do you have the main sales attributes readily available in machine readable form? Make sure you have the size, color, price, previous feedback, awards, etc. easily readable.
  • Review the data type hierarchy currently supported by to see where your business fits in and the types of data that you should be collecting.
  • Check your content management and web authoring systems to see if they support microdata or if they are at least planning for it. Microdata is not just a few lines of code that go into the heading of each page. It needs to be written into the HTML at a very detailed level. For some site administrators it will be a nightmare, but for others who have done proper planning and have selected the right tools, it could become an automatic path to greater search exposure.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, claudiobaba

More About: bing, business, Google, MARKETING, Schema,, Search, SEM, SEO, Yahoo

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Why developers cannot afford to ignore design

15 Jun

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We developers sometimes take design for granted. And let’s be honest: who doesn’t hate taking things for granted.

Some say we will never truly appreciate the importance of design until we have been trained in the essence of design and beauty. Well, I say BS to that. I want to break us our of this box and clear away the cobwebs from our code-oriented minds.

Development, by its very nature, reflects the knowledge base of the person in charge. And the skills required to develop such a knowledge base can leave us in the dark about design. Developers often sweep design under the rug in order to be able to learn the intricacies of PHP and MySQL.

But as someone who has been writing code for 13 years, I can tell you it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, many of the world’s greatest developers have an excellent grasp of UI and UX and of what their users want. The best way to get a handle on it is to figure out what you want in a UI.

People in business say to start with what you know, and this works equally well in design. The best designers aren’t the ones who know a thousand fonts (although that helps), but rather who know exactly what will “feel” best on the page.

To get started, simply go to a website that you feel “would be better if” and write down all of your ideas. Before you know it, you will be debugging design patterns and UIs.

This is just a start. But after doing it a few times, you’ll start to understand why these factors are so important. You might even discover that you have these questions about more websites than you had imagined. Below are a few critical reasons why design is important, courtesy of two great competitors.

Google Video: the case for strategic design

Google has been known to solve problems by throwing development resources at them for months. It analyzed data patterns in order to improve the UI of its Google Video project. This was absolutely detrimental to the functioning of the product, as evidenced by its canceling of the service. Let’s look back at Google Video to see why it didn’t work.

It started out simple enough, with that minimal design that Google is so famous for. Even the search wasn’t too bad, with the classic Google row streaming down the page.

This changed when Google found that people hated those early horizontal rows. It restructured the page to try to make it more enjoyable. In fact, it took a page from YouTube’s book by adding links to related videos on the side.

This is a key problem of developers who aren’t sensitive to design: copying or borrowing elements from other successful products. “If it worked for them, it will work for us” is one of the most dangerous attitudes to have in web design. There were hundreds of Digg clones over the years, but only one stands out: Reddit. There were hundreds of YouTube clones over the years, but only one stands out: Vimeo.

Products gain acceptance not by ripping off other services, but by innovating on the user experience through interesting design and UI. These small innovations are exactly where Google Video lost users. Google assumed that people would stay if it removed every feature except what was similar to proven products. In fact, users did not stay, and the only real use anyone had for the product was the one thing that Google truly innovated on: allowing bigger and longer videos.

So, what does this product teach us about design? It teaches us that innovating carelessly is just as bad as not innovating at all, and that going minimal for the sake of minimalism is not always the right approach. Google would have been better off not developing products like these at all, because it has left us questioning its judgment.

With all of its failures—Buzz, Wave, Google Video, etc.—we begin to question its understanding of these spaces. We know that Google understand advertising and search (it pretty much owns these markets), but that doesn’t keep us from questioning its overall understanding of design. This erodes Google’s image. It’s detrimental to a company that is trying to take over the world, or even one that’s just trying to put food on the table. Focusing on design and not changing for the sake of change would have helped. Let this be a lesson to developers everywhere.

Yahoo: the case against overdesign

Yahoo may be a household name, but it could have permeated the Internet even more than it has. Going to a party that offers everything is sometimes as unsettling as going to one that offers nothing. People think that they like choice, but sometimes they just want someone else to decide for them. Apple has made more money than God by exploiting this business principle. But web designers overlook it all too often.

Yahoo’s home page shows hundreds of things to do, to click on and to consume. You can customize it to display your favorite sources; and as we all know, you’re welcome to make it your “first and last stop on the web.” This has led it to become a top property online (perhaps because it was first to market), but this has also kept it from dominating the competition.

Why did the competitors win? To put it simply, because they didn’t add anything extra. Google didn’t try any BS in the beginning. It cut out the fat, leaving only the lean, delicious search box that we know today. And despite Google’s problems in other spaces, it still dominates search.

People often say that Yahoo offers a much broader service—weather, news, film times, horoscopes, etc.—and that Google did only one thing in the beginning. But this is exactly why Google dominated. There is something to be said for having a million different products and revenue streams, but it can still be awfully detrimental to the brand’s image.

Google also chose to pursue multiple products and revenue streams, but it didn’t go about it by shoving them in our faces. The relative elegance with which it went about it is perhaps the reason those products were more welcome by users and less confusing.

Granted, appealing to people who aren’t web savvy has its merits, too. But mastering a niche is better than starting out grand. Take the overall valuations and stock prices of the two companies: one started out big and has since contracted, while the other started in a niche (for developers, designers and web-savvy users) and has since grown to become the most reputable company in the US. If that isn’t a case against overdesign, I don’t know what is.

In sum

A lot has been said about Google and Yahoo here, and the lessons to be learned are notable. Developers by nature lock themselves into boxes (or IDEs), and getting out of them can be hard. The point is that we should recognize the importance of design going forward and focus on bringing authentic user experiences to the forefront of our products.

In this Web 2.0 world and beyond, these are some of the most important considerations in developing brand equity, understanding users and cultivating an aesthetic. If we leave everything up to trained designers, then we will be missing out on some valuable UI insight. Graphic design and user experience will never decrease in importance, nor will development. But unless we bridge the gap, we may never find the authentic experience that arises from balancing the two.

Written exclusively for Webdesigner Depot by C Dain Miller. He is a freelance journalist and developer. Follow him on Twitter @_dain.

What are your thoughts on design? Has it gotten enough attention in the last few years? How important will design be as the world becomes more web-centric?

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Yahoo Search Clues

17 Nov
Yahoo launched a new service that shows information about the volume of searches, popular queries and demographic information about users. It's called Yahoo Clues and it's similar to Google Trends and Google Insights for Search. Unlike Google's services, Yahoo Clues is limited to the US and it only shows information for the past 30 days.

"With Yahoo Clues, you can discover and compare trending information for search terms of interest to you, or explore popular trending search terms on Yahoo. You can see search volume charts, demographic graphs, maps, or even related searches specific to a demographic group. We're also experimenting with an interesting feature called Search Flow, which offers a unique look at people's search patterns and the next most probable search term people try after searching for a query," informs Yahoo.

For example, if you compare the queries [Google Buzz] and [Google Reader], you'll notice that Google Reader is much more popular than Google Buzz, it's not very popular with teens, but it's very popular with women, which is rather peculiar.


What Identities Are We Using to Sign in Around the Web? [INFOGRAPHIC]

07 Jul

The days of having a separate login and password for each online service we use are behind us. Now, you can log into most sites and services using your social network’s ID.

The most popular social identities are Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Twitter, but are they always being used in the same way? The infographic below, courtesy of social optimization platform Gigya, shows that users trust different identities on different services. For example, users are most likely to log on to entertainment sites via Facebook, but when it comes to news sites, the login of choice is Twitter. Furthermore, the infographic shows what profile data is available to services after users log in using various online identities.

Check out a bigger version of the infographic here.

Reviews: Facebook, Google, Twitter

More About: facebook, gigya, Google, online identity, social networking, twitter, Yahoo

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