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INTERNET TECHNOLOGY. Innovations in Local Search How people find local information online. Andrew Connery, Managing Director of Your Online Community Pty. Ltd. Introduction. Most locals use a global search engine Information is provided indirectly by a human edited directory

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Internet technology

INTERNET TECHNOLOGY

Innovations in Local Search

How people find local information online

Andrew Connery, Managing Director of Your Online Community Pty. Ltd.


Introduction

Introduction

Most locals use a global search engine

Information is provided indirectly by a human edited directory

Local directory-type search queries are usually only two keywords


Domain size

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Domain Size

Search engines index all web pages by matching keywords

A search engine creates a SERP comprising all web pages indexed in descending order of importance (PR)

SERP = Search Engine Results Page. Is the listing of web pages returned by a search engine in response to a query.

PR = PageRank. The way that Google measures the relative importance of a website. PR 0 - PR 1 is average, and PR 10 is the most important.


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  • EXAMPLE

  • As at January 2009

  • Google indexes 4,170,000 web pages with the keyword ‘wollongong’

  • Google indexes 443,000,000 web pages with the keyword ‘golf’

  • BUT only indexes 212,000 web pages with the keywords ‘wollongong’ and ‘golf’

  • AND indexes 211,000 web pages with the keywords ‘golf’ and ‘wollongong’


Domain size1

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Domain size

When searching locally, the domain sizes involved are relatively small – hundreds of thousands of web pages versus tens or hundreds of millions

Page ranking algorithms originally developed to sift through millions of indexed web pages become biased towards non-local websites


Domain size2

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Domain size

Most locals try to access information about their area using a global search engine (Google, Yahoo etc) first, rather than a locally based web page or an online directory / community portal


The role of directories

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The role of Directories

Current local search is the dominated by directory listings

Nearly all the critical first page (usually 10 listings) of Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) observed show no standalone websites


Table a google serp using keywords abrasive blasting parramatta

TABLE A – Google SERP

Using keywords ‘abrasive blasting Parramatta’


The role of directories1

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The role of Directories

AussieWeb, Yellow Book ranking above SMARTPAGES shows Google’s preference for longer established and/or higher ranking directories, despite lack of relevant content


Table b aussieweb note top position 1 listing pr5

TABLE B – AussieWeb

Note: Top position, 1 listing (PR5)


Table c yellow book note second position 1 listing pr3

TABLE C – Yellow Book

Note: Second position, 1 listing (PR3)


Table d smartpages com au note third position 15 listings no rank

TABLE D – SMARTPAGES.com.au

Note: Third position, 15 listings (No Rank)


Role of directories

3 of 3

Role of Directories

This domination of SERP results by large players is a reflection of the ‘rich get richer’ factor so readily observed in traditional media

This is at odds with the supposed egalitarianism of the internet:

“Uniquely democratic - Google Technology official literature 2004”


Table e human edited directories typicals prs

TABLE E – Human edited directories, typicals PRs


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TABLE F: Comparison of PageRanks

DO: DIRECTORY ONLY, DR: DIRECTORY AND REVIEW, CD: COMMUNITY PLUS DIRECTORY


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2 of 2

TABLE F: Comparison of PageRanks

DO: DIRECTORY ONLY, DR: DIRECTORY AND REVIEW, CD: COMMUNITY PLUS DIRECTORY


Limitations and biases

Limitations and biases

Search engines index (compile) web pages in a number of ways

The most important factor is the use of keywords in the URL and Title

This factor virtually guarantees that directories appear above standalone web pages


Search first page only

Search first page only

Nearly 70% of all searchers do not go past the first page of SERPs

About 15% continue to the third page

The order of keywords can also negatively impact the quality of search finding (order in SERP)


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Location as second keyword

A search engine would prefer to use a post or zip code as a location reference for indexing purposes

Users find these numbers non-intuitive

Users do not limit their search to a small area and much prefer to make their choices from a larger selection, within easy driving distance


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Location as second keyword

Directory advertisers want to reach the maximum number of potential customers

The critical minimum viable size of a local directory is yet to be determined

A number of approaches have been attempted in this country, and the optimum solution has yet to emerge

Community based directories do have some natural advantages


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PageRank (PR)

A high PR web page will appear on the SERP above a low ranking website with more relevant and/or unique content

A Wikipedia (PR9) related web page will nearly always dominate a SERP


Content issues

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Content issues

The quality (comprehensiveness and freshness) and number of relevant listings within a directory is not currently used as a determinant of PageRank, when indexed by Google and other search engines


Content issues1

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Content issues

Internationally based directories with very small numbers of relevant listings usually rank higher on SERPs than more comprehensive local directories

This factor is a major impediment to improving the quality of local search, which currently does not match the standard of global search


Other factors

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Other factors

Recent innovations in local search such as mapping, Google ‘street scenes’ has:

1. increased the mix in favour of paid placement; and

2. reduced the area available for organic / natural listings on the critical first page of SERPs

Searchers hardly ever use advanced searching options and almost never view more than one page of results


Table g pew life project others 2004

SERP

Web searchers

All Page 1

51%

All Page 2

35%

All Page 3

15%

TABLE G – Pew Life Project & others (2004)


Other factors1

2 of 2

Other factors

Spelling mistakes and non-grammatical formulations

Unless listings appear in the first three pages of SERPs, they are virtually invisible

80% of searches use three keywords or fewer and the average is only two


Local search bias

Local search bias

High PR websites will jump lower ranked websites with proper keyword domain names

Using the default web search button ‘.com’ domains also skew results unfavourably

Wikipedia has a Page Rank of 9/10 (PR9) virtually guaranteeing a top spot on single keyword search and ranking very highly on most multiple keyword local search queries


Table h the url anomaly searching for keyword tlc a local training organisation

TABLE H – The URL Anomaly Searching for keyword ‘tlc’ a local training organisation


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Wikipedia PR9 is the top linkwww.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TLC (the band). Top listing plus Indent

Discovery Channel is second using a sub-domain, PR7–www.tlc.discovery.com

Third is Trinity Lutheran College, PR4 – www.tlc.qld.edu.au/

Tender Loving care homes, www.tlchomes.com.auis fourth with a PR4

Tlc (tender loving cuisine) is fifth with PR4, www.tlc.org.au


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www.tlc.com.au PR2 is the second entry on second page – on ‘the web’ radio button, ie the default

www.tlc.com.au is a perfect keyword match and should have been No.1 spot (using a PC with Australian IP address)

NOTE: www.tlc.com.au is second from bottom of Page 1 when using ‘pages from Australia’ search radio button