Encrypted Google Search by Default Coming to Firefox

Mozilla Firefox logo

Sometime in the next few months after a period of testing, Firefox will implement HTTPS encrypted search by default for all Google search users. Firefox, which enjoys about 25 percent browser market share, is the first to do so, beating even Google Chrome to the punch.

Google first began encrypting search for signed-in users in the U.S. back in October, though marketers called foul on the fact referrer data remains available to the search company’s paying advertising clients. Earlier this month, they took SSL search as the default global. Some webmasters were already reporting the loss of keyword data as high as 20 percent prior to that wider launch.

“We are currently testing the change to use SSL for built-in Google searches in our Firefox nightly channel,” a Mozilla spokesperson told InformationWeek. “If no issues are uncovered, it will move through our Aurora and Beta release channels before eventually shipping to all our Firefox users. This will include migrating the changes to our non-English version of Firefox, as well.”

Webmasters and marketers should expect further loss of referrer data, though to what extent will depend on a number of factors. There may well be some overlap between signed-in Google users, whose data is already unavailable, and Firefox users, whose search data will soon be encrypted unless they opt out of the browser’s security settings.

Through their search deal, Google was responsible for 84 percent of nonprofit Mozilla’s revenue in 2010. The Google-Firefox search deal was renewed in December 2011.

Source: http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2164077/Encrypted-Google-Search-by-Default-Coming-to-Firefox

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How to Prepare for Google’s Search Makeover

Are you worried about Google’s upcoming search makeover? Whether you agree that Google’s upcoming refresh is a big deal or not, a storm of change is brewing on the search horizon, and it’s best to be prepared. Even though semantic technology has been embedded in search for years, Google is planning to include more of it. Focusing on named entities and marking up content with semantic microdata could keep your search traffic (mostly) intact.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal

Google is planning to revamp search and feature more facts and information generated from semantic technologies. Recently it grew its database of named entities (people, places, and things) from 12 million to over 200 million. The forthcoming changes have potential to impact billions of search queries. It’s Google’s effort to get way ahead of Bing and keep up with Siri on Apple’s iPhone 4S.

Google and Apple Compete to Dominate the Future of Search

Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant millions of iPhone users have grown to love, is actually the first commercial product from the Pentagon’s Personalized Assistant that Learns (PAL) project – the largest artificial intelligence project in U.S. history. The project’s mission is to create an intelligent “cognitive assistant” to help the U.S. military operate more effectively, as depicted in thisDefense Department video. SRI International, a California-based research & development company leads efforts for the project. It spun-out Siri as a commercial application and eventually sold it to Apple.

Apple’s ambitions for Siri span far beyond military applications. It hopes to create virtual personal assistants for the masses. Imagine being able to strike up a conversation anywhere anytime with an all-knowing computer like on Star Trek. Amit Singhal, head of Google’s search algorithm team calls this his dream. Apple has harbored ambitions to build what amounts to Star Trek’s computer for years. In 1987, it released this video:

In my opinion, something like the knowledge navigator is the future of search. Google and Apple are in a race to dominate that future. Search is entering a new era beyond keywords and blue links toward one of concepts and task completion. Concepts are at the heart of semantic technologies like Siri and Google’s knowledge graph.

Understanding Google’s Search Refresh through Siri

To understand how Google’s search refresh might work, let’s look under the hood of Siri. Siri is built upon a huge database of concepts all mapped together into various relationships. In computer science circles, this is known as an ontology. Siri’s founder, Adam Cheyer built the program upon a foundation he calls, “active ontologies”.

In ontologies, concepts have attributes that describe their characteristics. For example, a “movie event” is a concept that has attributes like movies, show times, theaters, actors, genres, ratings, and locations that describe what a “movie event” is. It’s these concepts and attributes that give meaning to otherwise meaningless text.

When you say, “show me the best movies near here at 8pm”, Siri (hopefully) pulls up a list of top rated movies near your location starting at 8pm or later. To accomplish this feat, it hones in on certain keywords from your input like: “best”, “movies”, “near here”, and “8pm”, then maps those onto corresponding concepts like: ratings, movie events, locations, and show times from its extensive database.

In Figure 1, you can see graphical representations of ontologies for a movie event and a meal event. From the image, we see that a “movie event” is a type of generic “event” type that has an “event date”, “movie”, and a “theater”. This breaks down into further levels of granularity until a “movie event” is exhaustively modeled and defined. After Siri maps your input onto this conceptual model, it mashes up matching data from various web services to present a response (some have protested its accuracy.

Semantic Markup: The New Search Engine Optimization

How does Siri know which web services to call upon for specific questions? And what does this tell us about Google’s potential approach to the same problem? In a nutshell, Siri uses semantic markup from web service APIs to identify bits of information that match its conceptual models. Given the state of technology in this area, Google will likely follow a similar path.

In fact, Google has already begun to prepare us for its upcoming changes by emphasizing rich snippets and semantic markup starting in 2009. Last June, Google introduced schema.org in collaboration with Bing and Yahoo! to define a single semantic markup vocabulary across search engines. Search results have already begun to change.

For example, when you search for “sore throat”, Google taps into its database of named entities to show a list of conditions you might have, eliminating several steps (and website visits) in a typical health search session:

Preparing Your Site for Google’s Makeover

If you have a site that focuses on people, places, or things (e.g. products), then you should get familiar with the schemas at schema.org and incorporate relevant semantic markup into your content. Follow these steps to prepare for Google’s upcoming search refresh.

1. Identify named entities in your keywords

Named entities are recognized phrases that describe a particular person, place, or thing. They often answer the questions of: “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when”. Named entities are some of the most frequently searched patterns on the web. They make up the bulk of informational query types, which in themselves account for between 40% and 80% of all search queries. Think of named entities as searches that bring back results from Wikipedia. Chances are good your site covers named entities in some way.

To identify named entities relevant to your site, examine keywords from internal web analytics or from competitive intelligence services. Look for mentions of products, people, geographic locations, organizations, brands, creative works, events, and just about any other type of person, place, or thing and add them to a list.

Mining keywords can be a time-consuming and tedious task. We offer a keyword tool [http://www.concentrateanalytics.com/] that makes it easier to sift through search data and pull out named entities.

2. Find relevant schema types at schema.org

Once you’ve identified named entities from your keywords, match your list with relevant schema types at schema.org. Schema.org has numerous schema types covering everything from local businesses to job postings and geographic shapes. If you sell products, you might choose the “Product” and “Offer” types to describe your inventory.

3. Markup your content with microdata

After you’ve selected the proper schema types, it’s time to markup your content with microdata. Follow the instructions in the getting started guide to transform your HTML into rich semantic microdata that gives search engines new insights into what your content is all about.

Continuing with the products example, you would markup content on product detail pages withmicrodata properties such as: images, brand, manufacturer, model, ratings, availability, condition, price, reviews, and sellers.

4. Test with Google’s rich snippet tool

When you’ve finished marking up content with relevant schema types, test your work with Google’srich snippet testing tool. It will show you all the semantic markup data it can read from your page and identify any gaps or errors.

No matter what you believe about Google’s coming search changes, one thing is clear: users are doing billions of searches looking for answers to a broad base of informational queries. Many are coming away with less-than-satisfying results or ending up at Wikipedia.

The 300 million search clicks arriving at Wikipedia every month is a lot of unmonetized traffic. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google wants in on the action. Plus, Google refuses to leave an opening for a new search leader to emerge (e.g. Apple). It has to maintain its lead by adapting to new technologies and user needs. And this means changing search for the better.

With the tips presented here, you should be able to prepare your site for the kinds of changes Google is boasting about in its latest PR blitz.

Source: http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2012/03/how-to-prepare-for-googles-search-makeover.html

Google Search For Android Gets Updated

Google just announced a new version of Google Search for Android 2.2 and higher. Google touts it as faster and easier to use. Go figure.

Specifically, Google lists the following as the differences:

  • Faster, smoother performance, with an updated and simplified user interface.
  • Suggestions for your search grouped by type, with web suggestions at the top.
  • Country-specific suggestions and search results for all countries with Google domains.
  • Long press to remove history items.

You can tap the arrow to the right of a search suggestion or history item to add it to your search term before you actually search. You can get suggestions from other apps on your phone, and you can long press on home screen to add the Google Search widget.

Source: http://www.webpronews.com/google-search-for-android-gets-updated-2012-01

Google “Search, Plus Your World”: Twitter Not Happy

Add Twitter to the growing list of critics of Google’s practices of delivering search results.

As you may know by now, Google announced some new features for personalized search today. I’m not going to run through all of that again. You can read the rundown here.

Interestingly, Twitter is speaking out against the new changes, which they seem to think will make Twitter content less accessible to users. Twitter General Counsel Alex Macgillivray, calls it a “bad day for the Internet”:

The company has been emailing around a statement, saying:

For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet.

Often, they want to know more about world events and breaking news. Twitter has emerged as a vital source of this real-time information, with more than 100 million users sending 250 million Tweets every day on virtually every topic. As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter; as a result, Twitter accounts and Tweets are often the most relevant results.

We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.

This is quite interesting. I don’t recall anything in Google’s announcement saying that it would no longer be including results from Twitter.

In fact, this mentality, to me, would have been more appropriate when Google and Twitter were unable to reach a deal to extend Google’s use of the Twitter firehose for realtime search, which I totally agree is a bad thing.

Google used to show tweets rolling in, in real time (or at least close to it) when people searched for timely topics. That is in line with what Twitter is talking about here. It doesn’t do that anymore, and that sucks, but I don’t see why making Google+ content more accessible in Google results is making Twitter results less accessible than they were yesterday.

Perhaps Twitter knows something that the rest of us don’t.

Granted, Google has said all along that it would look to use Google+ in the future to bring back realtime search.

Actually, Google Fellow Amit Singhal (who announced the changes) is quoted as saying:

“Facebook and Twitter and other services, basically, their terms of service don’t allow us to crawl them deeply and store things. Google+ is the only [network] that provides such a persistent service. Of course, going forward, if others were willing to change, we’d look at designing things to see how it would work.”

In other words, if Google was granted access to the Twitter and Facebook data it needs to put that content into the results, it would probably do so – at least that appears to be Google’s position on things.

Source: http://www.webpronews.com/google-search-plus-your-world-twitter-response-2012-01