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Saturday, October 30, 2004

FireFox Supports RoboForm After All

Not sure if this is a recent development or not, but FireFox actually does support RoboForm's password-keeping tool, via an extension you can download here. I guess prayers are answered!

So, let's see. FireFox is:

1. more secure than IE
2. faster than IE, by most accounts
3. more compliant with CSS, by most accounts
4. remembers passwords and form fields
5. works with RoboForm
6. has tabbed browsing capability
7. has embedded RSS feed-reading capability
8. possesses the allure of the underdog opposing Microshaft

I can't tell exactly, but I think I just made the switch for real!

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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Phishers Beware

Count Floyd here; welcome to Monster Chiller Horror Theatre. Phrightened by phishers? Well let's hope they become extinct soon. Can we get John Kerry out here to make a really hawkish statement on this matter? Something like "we are united in our determination to destroy, capture, kill all phishers. They are barbarians," would be about right.

Checking my GMail tonight I noticed a new option next to the "report spam" link -- "report phishing." Opening a separate pipeline of communications with GMail users so the authorities can keep tabs on emerging phisherpersons? That's got to be a good thing. Let's hope it gives the bad guys a phright.

["Igor, haven't you fed the cat yet? No, not that one, get the diet stuff, down in the basement!]

We're back. Where were we?

Phishers, you can run, but you can't hide! Howooooooo!!!!!

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Friday, October 29, 2004

Optimization Run Amok

For a pathetic example of Google manipulation at its worst, check out this site about migraine headaches:

http://www.migraine-headache-medication-treatment.com/migraine_headache.htm

I won't actually link to this site to avoid giving it another inbound link. Read it through the copy on this page and see if it makes any sense. Pretty "useful" stuff, huh?

I've seen several sites like this one in recent days, where it's obvious that the site owners wrote some bogus copy and filled it with common keywords, and *poof*, now they're in the top 10 search results for prime keywords. How can these guys pull this off?!

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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AdWords Diagnostic Tool Unravels Ad Delivery Mysteries

I frequently receive questions about why certain ads might not be showing up in readers' Google AdWords campaigns. Unfortunately, to this point, the explanations one necessarily fumbles for tend to be spotty.

Back-and-forth with Google support is one way of handling such queries, but one has always wondered whether that's the best way. One might receive a verbal explanation by phone or a canned email. As of now, we have access to much of the same information that the support staff do as part of our user interface. It seems so silly in hindsight that a person might have had the job of cutting and pasting the boilerplate explanation for the ad's delivery issues, since nearly every delivery issue, even in the most byzantine of accounts, is logged.

We are, after all, dealing with computers here.

In a move that seems to be a rather bold form of advertiser glasnost, Google's turned some of the information over directly to their advertisers in the new AdWords Diagnostic Tool (you'll only be able to look at this, likely, if you actually have an account and are logged into it!). The tool seems to be aimed at those advertisers who frequently type in keywords and then don't see their ads showing up. There could be any number of reasons for this, as I found out when I quickly accessed the tool.

Because advertisers are trying to push the envelope in a competitive environment, many have built complex accounts with "keyword overlap." Keyword overlap isn't recommended, as it's messy, but some have legitimately used the tactic of duplicating keywords in order to tap into content targeting at a lower price. Messy, messy, messy.

Anyway, there are two typical reasons an ad doesn't show for a given keyword query, it seems: (1) "another ad in your account is showing for this keyword" ; (2) delivery of this keyword has been slowed for poor CTR.

The diagnostic tool provides advanced advertisers with information that is probably supposed to deter them from calling Google AdWords customer support to wonder about ad delivery. It can also be helpful for advertisers or consultants who want to do "cleanup" on accounts that have keyword overlap or are just generally messy. However, one suspects a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, so Google should prepare for a flurry of hand-wringing and misinterpretation of the information shown in the interface. Once again, if you're keeping score, the average IQ out here in advertiser-land is about 78 points lower than that inside the 'Plex.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

New MSN Search to Have "Personalization Sliders"?

(via John Battelle's SearchBlog, by way of Search Engine Watch):

Gary Price apparently stumbled on an MSN Search interface before it was fit for human consumption.

Apparently (and he has the screen shots to prove it), this search engine will allow users to alter the rankings by tweaking the weighting of different factors.

Of late, Rich Skrenta has been nice enough to say that I thought of this. Obviously, I'm not the only one who has.

In short, then, this is the "bake your own pie" concept of search -- the notion of putting the user in the same cockpit as a search engine engineer with regard to determining the weighting of factors which affect rankings. In the screen shots captured by Gary, only three weighting factors could be adjusted: the importance of page freshness; popularity (how accurate this might be is in question for now, and there are privacy issues to consider); exact match vs. fuzzy match.

The long-term significance is that we would transcend the concept of "the" index's ranking algorithm. There might be tens of thousands of "algorithms" in force depending on users' settings. Among other things, this would keep spammers and optimizers off balance, and improve the user experience.

Lest we think that users don't like to twiddle dials, how many audiophiles thought it was cool to play with the equalizer on their $89 Sony boom box in the '80's? Even your average tone-deaf jerk liked to twiddle the dials.

To be honest, I thought this kind of functionality was going to take years to be released. If three dimensions are user-tweakable, is it far off before power users are given the option to tune their search on fifty or a hundred different dimensions?

Down the road, users could also save different "suites" of weightings depending on what kind of search they were performing. Search engines could offer a dozen or two "pre-sets" with cute names. Each would be like a different search engine within the search engine.

If MSN Search really does roll this out soon, it will vault to the top of my list of favorite search engines. And I'm not kidding.

The question is, will MSN users get it?

An alternative question: are they just messing with us?

Related Traffick article: Google's Personalization Merely a Taste of Things to Come

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Monday, October 25, 2004

Copernic Finds a "Seam" in Enterprise Search

In the next couple of days, search technology company Copernic will announce major progress in its efforts to sign up enterprise customers for its Copernic Enterprise Search product, and will unveil a new integrated product.

To better serve that market, a separate company, Coveo, has been created. Copernic will continue to focus on consumer search products.

"The noise being made by companies like Google and Microsoft about searching the desktop over the past little while has really benefited us," says Eric Negler, VP of Sales for the newly-formed Coveo. "You can't buy that kind of publicity. It's brought enterprise search needs back into the spotlight."

Coveo's desktop search is only part of its offering, and shouldn't be confused with the more consumer-oriented desktop search initiatives of companies like Google, argues Negler. Coveo's desktop product is "designed to integrate with our enterprise search." This, of course, means an "interruption-free experience" in the process of scouring corporate intranets for documents.

A key area of concern for corporations is privacy. According to the company, Coveo's latest version of the enterprise search product, to be released Wednesday, "does not collect or record any user activity or data and maintains the highest user privacy standards."

Although divisions of larger companies are on their client list, Coveo's customers are mainly companies like small law firms with fewer than 50 employees. "If a small law firm wanted its eight partners to be better able to search their document repository -- our product allows them to do that without adding a whole lot of features they don't need. For such companies, time is literally money," says Negler. "Many lawyers," he points out, "probably bill more per hour than you or I could spend in a day."

Part of the time-money equation is getting the product installed without a huge hassle. Copernic (now Coveo) Enterprise Search is relatively easy to deploy, and piggybacks on widely known Microsoft standards.

In the forthcoming press release by Coveo, they cite an IDC analyst who believes that their entry into the enterprise search market might be "disruptive" to the enterprise knowledge management sector. Negler modestly allows that it "might not be quite disruptive," but affirms that "we do put a lot of price pressure on the competition, and that has to be good for us at this point in time."

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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iPod Hot, Hegel Not

So I'm doing a little e-commerce background research at the moment. The interesting thing about this project is that I'm able to see not only what people are searching for in high volume, but also the kinds of things that they actually buy. Sometimes, they buy them after looking for something else.

Currently hot: iPods, infant formula

Not: Books about G.W.F. Hegel

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Sunday, October 24, 2004

FireFox is Looking Foxy

FireFox, the Mozilla-based, open-source web browser "that could," recently achieved the magical plateau of version 1.0. Although it's still a beta release, FireFox has received a measure of credibility that finally made me stand up and take notice. So, lest I become one of the uncool kids, I decided to install it and gave it a whirl. My verdict: not bad indeed.

FireFox is also getting loads of positive press, thanks in part due to its relative immunity to the many recent security threats that have plagued Internet Explorer.

The up-and-coming browser also earned a prominent write-up in the latest Business 2.0 magazine, with the plucky headline: Microsoft's Worst Nightmare.

While that label might be a tad melodramatic, you might be forgiven if you got the sense that this thing just might be for real and could very well slice into Microsoft's share of the browser market. Considering that IE has been dormant for at least two years, and might be dormant for another two years until the next Windows is released, it's beginning to seem that FireFox has some real momentum.

I'll keep playing with it, and write up a full-fledged review in the coming weeks.

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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Speaking Engagement

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Andrew's book, Winning Results With Google AdWords, (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed.), is still helping tens of thousands of advertisers cut through the noise and set a solid course for campaign ROI.

And for a glowing review of the pioneering 1st ed. of the book, check out this review, by none other than Google's Matt Cutts.


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