27 May 2007

Google's Automatic Error Correction

Google's error correction seems to be getting more and more sophisticated. It still suggests alternative spellings occasionally. But where there does not seem to be any ambiguity at all it goes ahead and returns results after performing the corrections automatically. Sometimes it does both.

A look at my recent server logs is instructive.

If you type "Oman insurence group" Google asks whether you meant "Oman insurance group". But it still returned a page from one of my sites on the first page. Insurance Oman Middle East although the word "insurance" was not misspelled anywhere on the site.

Similarly if you type "martial art training center Pune" it returns the appropriate page Martial Arts India Asia although the page uses the form "centre" not "center".

Type "amusementparks united states" and it automatically realised that it should be "amusement parks united states" and returned the appropriate page.

Yahoo's spelling correction is just as good. But the quality of the results it returns is not so good.

For some incorrect spellings Google outclasses everyone else. If you type "Ibn Khaldoun school" it returns www.ikns.edu.bh as the first entry although the school is actually Ibn Khuldoon School. Yahoo does not return the url at all.

Category: Google


14 May 2007

Submitting Sites to Web Directories

Every day we receive tens of site submissions for the 12 country search directories we run. Many never get past the screening process. Why? And what can you do to make sure you get listed?

The big search engines have bots that spider millions of pages every hour. Directories have no such luck. We have to manually read through your site. This costs time and money, and anything you can do to help us save on both will make us look upon your site more kindly.

Whoever said that a picture is worth a thousand words was obviously not thinking of flash animations. If you insist on wasting our time with fancy things which whirl and dance, make sure you have a prominent "Skip Intro" so that we can escape and get to the text quickly.

Search engine optimisation experts will tell you that the title is the most important thing on the page for search engines (for those not familiar with html: the title is what appears right at the top of the browser, and between the title tags in the source code). It is equally important to us, because it tells us at one glance what your site is about. If your site has no title we have to spend that much more time figuring out what you want to say.

If you run a hotel in Alabama, say so in the title. Don't leave it blank or let it say "Home Page" or "New Page 1".

Tell us succinctly and concretely what it is that you do or manufacture. An "About us" page is ideal for the purpose. Try and compress everything about your company in one brief sentence. If we like it, we may use your exact words. And for heaven's sake, don't put a mission statement in the About Us page. Most mission statements we see are quite pointless. You could swap a hospital mission statement with a bakery mission statement and no one would be the wiser.

Don't make us click ten links trying to find out where you are located. The "About Us" page is a good place to put this information. Else, put it on the Contact Us page. Hey, why not put it in the title as well!

What are your main products and services? Again, before writing a lot of fluff, list out the main products or main product categories, and put it in a page that can be found easily.

If you run a purely online service your chances of getting listed are very bleak. Our experience is that most such sites won't last out the year. Weeding them out costs us even more time and money than listing them, because we scrupulously check our database for dead links all the time.

Make sure that your domain name is not due to expire in a few weeks. If it is dead when we revisit it and your domain name registration is valid only for a few days or weeks more, the chances are that we will delete it from the database.

Your web site is like the receptionist in your office -- the main point of contact that the world has with your business or service. You wouldn't put a rude or stupid person to handle your customer calls. So why put out a web site that confuses your customer and wastes her time.

Of course you can break all these rules and if your content is compelling enough we will still list you. And you can follow all these rules and if your content is not good enough we won't list you -- even if you link to our site.

Finally remember this: Our directories are built up mainly out of submissions from website owners. So keep sending them in.

Category: Search-Engines


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