Is Your Website Hacked? Check With Google Notifications

Google has introduced a new functionality to their search engine results that will tell visitors if a site has been hacked. Starting now, any search result from a website that Google detects as hacked will display a message that reads, “This site may be compromised“. Clicking on the link will take the visitor to a Help Center article.

So how does Google know if a website has been hacked? According to their blog posting, the search engine makes use of a number of automated tools to check for the common signs of a hacked site. Once this is done, the engine shall automatically add the notification to the search results apart from informing the website owner about it on the Webmaster Tools.

Website hacked

Of course, since this is automated, there are bound to be occasions when Google might get it wrong that could impact the traffic to any website adversely. Google has noted that affected users could request a review from their website that will ensure speedy rectification of any issue.

Google Wins Patent To Display Thumbnails Beside Results

Google has been awarded a patent for search engines to display “visual cues” alongside results that the engine deems relevant. In the patent application, filed way back in 2003, the company has noted that their search engine algorithm may determine the relevancy of particular results based on their click-through rates besides several other parameters and may choose to display a visual cue – a thumbnail – beside the result in order to make it easier for the user to find the particular result.

Google has elaborated on the application using an example search for “Stanford“. The result page, shown below, displays a thumbnail of the Stanford.edu website beside the link and notes this as a visual cue. The patent is however not specific to website screenshots and could hence possibly include other forms of visual cues like images, logos,etc.

Google thumbnail patent

Depending on how this is interpreted, Bing could be at risk here. Like Google, Bing too makes use of images alongside results for certain results. Here is an example screenshot of search results for “PGA Tour” on Bing as well as Google.

Google thumbnail patentGoogle Thumbnail patent

Of course, one may argue that the logo in this case is displayed alongside the realtime results and not against the PGA website. But then, this is a grey area that can still be debated. What do you think? Has Google got one more patent to potentially sue Microsoft?

Beta Google Instant On Android Phones Releases For Some Users

In September this year, Google launched a completely revamped search interface for the desktop. The new Google Instant not only offered quick and immediate results but also brought with it an improved keyword suggestion tool – one that completed your query instead of waiting for you to input yours. During the launch, Google had noted that the search interface would be made available for mobile devices moving forward.

The first step in this direction appears to have been taken. A number of users on Android devices like Motorola Droid, Droid X, Droid 2 and HTC Incredible are reporting about having seen the new interface in action on their mobile phones. Apparently, the Instant search is turned off by default offering users a tap control to turn it on.

Do you see this new interface on your Android phone? Tell us in the comments.

Google Instant – How It Works

Google’s Marissa Mayer is currently on stage at the company’s media event launching the new streaming search engine. Revealing that the bouncing balls logo was in fact a teaser to today’s announcement, Mayer has said that the new launch – Google Instant – would make search fast, fun and interactive.

You may know what Google Instant is from the outset – It’s a dynamic generation of search results even as you type queries. According to Mayer, this is much beyond simple ‘search as you type’. Here are some new things Google has introduced in the new Google Instant that will make searching quicker

  • Search results even as you being typing on home page
  • User doesn’t have to press ‘Enter’ to complete a search. Hit ‘Tab’ to complete a word
  • Use UP and DOWN arrows to move between queries
  • The new format does not search after the user enters a word. Instead, the system searches before you type by auto-completing a query and generating the corresponding results. Of course, the results will change if you do not enter the keyword that Google intended

The new technology will be available on IE 8, Safari, Firefox and Chrome. It will roll out to all users through the day. Google expects the new technology to save 2 to 5 seconds per query.

Google Streaming Search – Dynamically Generating Search Results

After Google ridiculously teasing its visitors with a bouncing balls logo and a gradually coloring grey doodle today, here is where we have finally come to – the new Google streaming search. Moving forward, the line of difference between Google home page and SERPS – the Search Engine Results Pages are blurred. As several users have already started noticing, typing a query on the Google homepage dynamically takes them to a results page where the results keep changing as you type or modify your query. According to Eric Schmidt, the company’s search engine is “already Fast..Fast Is About To Get Faster

So, the agenda of Google’s September 8 media event is already out. It will be interesting to see how the latest layout change will affect the traffic of the various websites. More importantly, it will be interesting to see how this will affect Google’s own infrastructure as searchers will seek a lot more query searches per entry compared to earlier times.

Check out the video below on how the new search engine function will work. Do you like it?

Update : The media event is scheduled to begin at 9.30 AM Pacific Time. You can catch the event live on Google’s YouTube channel here.

Slowdown Looms Large On Bloomberg?

When major publications resort to link-baiting tactics in search of increasing pageviews, then it is a sign that things are not too well. How else can you explain a recent article on the well-respected publication that slowdown looms large on Google when in fact such a thing didn’t exist much even when recession was in town?

Here are some quotes from the recent piece and justification for why Bloomberg isn’t doing well

“it has been leapfrogged by social network Facebook Inc. as the most popular U.S. Web site.”

It has been argued over the past week how misleading the conclusion from Hitwise’s study is. Hitwise claims Facebook has overtaken just the search engine part of Google. Not Gmail. Not Picasa. Not the several hundred properties that Facebook owns. Secondly, the average revenue per user on Google search is much higher than the casual Farmviller on Facebook. More reason why Hitwise’s study means nothing.

“Google’s sales increased 9 percent last year after almost doubling in 2005.”

Even the most cynical of analysts would agree that companies cannot continue their dream run growth percentages once they have grown big. Secondly, a 9% growth for a company that makes money via advertising in a recession is pretty impressive.

Facebook’s gains at Google’s expense weren’t lost on Levi Strauss & Co. The closely held maker of blue jeans and Dockers pants is advertising on Facebook this year for the first time, while its budget for search, Google’s mainstay, is staying about the same as last year,

It’s surprising Levi Strauss didn’t do it earlier. Do we have numbers on the people who search for blue jeans before making a purchase online?

Google’s ventures in mobile, video and display ads have failed to match the success of search

This might be the wrong time to call upon Youtube as a failure since we have just about started hearing that the world’s largest video sharing website could in fact turn profitable starting this year. Also, in mobile,  Google’s Android OS is seen as potentially the likely successor to the success of the iPhone and the Android marketplace is projected to overtake the App Store by the next year.

Here is the complete Bloomberg article. What do you make of it? Does it look like an article borne out of genuine concern? You decide!

Bing Quick Tabs To Help Organizing Search Results Easier

Microsoft has revealed some upcoming upgrades on its Bing Search engine at the Search Engine Strategies forum in NYC recently. These upgrades are aimed at making the website a better “decision engine” – a phrase that Microsoft coined to help them be number one in an industry heavily dominated by Google.

One of the important features that will make its way to the Bing search results is Quick Tab. This will assort search results into several categories for easier perusal. Also with agreements with Twitter and Facebook in place, Microsoft hopes to bring a real time touch to its results. VentureBeat writes,

“A search on Boston, for example, provides upfront information on weather, attractions and flight deals. Recently signed deals with Twitter and Facebook, help to put more real-time information within search results. And, finally, a map integrated with Foursquare is available that when activated shows local check-in locations and their “mayors” — users who are most active at any one location.”

We wonder if such a classification would work for the several long tail keywords that people search for in a variety of categories.

[via VentureBeat]

ChaCha To Get Into eCommerce (Kind of)

ChaCha launched back in 2006 as a human edited search engine. However, since then, the company has morphed itself into a SMS-based search service where users may SMS questions to receive answers from human editors.

Now, it appears that the company could be graduating further to help users make purchases via SMS as well. In a patent filed last month, ChaCha has elaborated on a model whereby ChaCha users can integrate their account with their Amazon or eBay accounts. Once this is done, an SMS based enquiry on specific products will return a ‘BUYNOW’ option. Users interested in buying the product may SMS the relevant text to ChaCha for the transaction to be complete. ChaCha is supposedly calling this “242BUY

Here is a portrayal of how the whole process will work. (Click to view enlarged image)

ChaCha eCommerce

While this model might not work with auction based services like eBay where users may not be willing to trust a ChaCha editor for the best prices, it can really be a hit with purchase of books and movies from a service like Amazon.

What do you think of this?

Microsoft’s Local Search Algorithm A Privacy Nightmare?

Local search is big and everyone is jumping into this segment. And for a fact, we all tend to realize that the local results from major search engines is nothing to brag about; except if you are in a high internet density area like New York or San Francisco.

While companies have been devising different ways to go local, Microsoft’s new technology seems to offer you very relevant local search results; except that it can be a privacy nightmare.

In a patent filed recently with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Microsoft has described a new way to rank local search results. The inventors cite the following issues with current search results

  • Search engines make use of link authority to rank results. While they are good for most cases, they are not exactly relevant when a person is searching for say ‘Italian restaurants near MG Road, Bangalore’. This is because restaurants around MG Road in Bangalore might not necessarily have good PR value
  • Some search engines make use of  ‘click popularity’ where sites which have been clicked a higher number of times tend to be ranked higher. These sites create a positive feedback loop which does not help in showing the relevant results

To overcome these, Microsoft has proposed the usage of the users’ access log in order to study the pages visited in a specific time period and build an implicit pagerank for pages from the user log which will be used as a factor while  displaying search results. So in the earlier example, if the user has visited BangaloreRestaurants.com, results from this website could fetch higher weightage than results from a site like Yelp.

Microsoft says this technology will be particularly useful while ranking pages from intranet websites. While the algorithm sounds interesting, making use of a user’s access log sounds scary. Users are not always comfortable giving third party websites access to the sites they visit. Something does not sound right in Microsoft’s plan to record this log, processing them for implicit pageranking and delivering results back to the user.

What do you think? Are the fears justified or are they unfounded?