My catchphrase is ‘they have an algorithm!’ How does Twitter work out its top tweets? – an algorithm. How does Google know what results to show? – an algorithm.
I thought we should take a look at the history of this elusive tech formulae.
Sometime circa 1990 early search engines began cataloging the web. To register, all web people had to do was submit their URL address to the engine which would release a ‘search spider’, like something out the Matrix, to extract links to other pages and return the information to be indexed.
A large part of the search formulae relied on meta tags, labelling your webpages with keywords, and your site would slowly work its way up the listings. But this lead to keyword dumping or to a ‘high key word density’ and pages that read like this:
“We have a variety of inflatable palm trees in stock and these inflatable palm trees are for sale at $14.99. Be sure to pick up your inflatable palm tree today before all the inflatable palm trees are gone. Our inflatable palm trees are flying out the door”
Annoying. And Google thought so to.
It also meant search rank listings were easily manipulated, causing search terms to throw up completely irrelevant pages. Key word dumpling is a technique belonging to ‘black hat’ SEO. (Tactics search engines disapprove of, as opposed to ‘white hat’ methods, like web design, which will cause higher rankings long term.)
So the search engine giant evolved its elusive algorithm to include a trust and credibility measure – that is how many third party sites linked back to content on your webpage. In the ever-waging battle between SEO manipulators and Google, ‘link farms’, which manufactured backlinks, littered the web to boost rankings.
Now this is where it gets clever, in April 2012, Google released Penguin (named after the black and white hat SEO techniques). The latest algorithm, which not only includes meta tags, backlinks but now social influence. Essentially how many social networking sites you’re linked to, how many people engage and organically spread your content.
Google’s algorithm is now so well-tuned it can provide you with personalised search results which means if we were to both Google ‘Inflatable palm trees’ I can guarantee our top 10 would be different. Google computes your location, what browser you use, age, other sites you visit to help you find the information you need. Knowledge is now more accessible than ever before.
There have been lots of changes afoot with our most loved social networks recently so here is a quick summary of some of these, and how they might affect you as a user:
Facebook seems to be developing at a rate of knots at the moment, with several changes occurring, some more significant than others. But most recently:
– The Facebook toolbar (which appears across the top of your Facebook news feed) has become locked, so that it continues to appear when you scroll down the page – whether you are on your personal profile or your Facebook business page. The benefits? Well it is easier navigation of course….but it is a feature already used by Twitter.
– The Facebook subscribe button was launched this week, which allows users to follow the public updates of others, regardless of whether they are facebook ‘friends’ with them. This can mean a whole host of things, for the celebs amongst us (oh wait, that’s not me really) it can mean that rather than having a personal profile and a fan page, you can have both and just chose which of your updates are public and which are private. But it could also be a great feature for the average Joe on the street, such as teachers, for example. Mashable describes it far more succinctly than I could: “Users can subscribe to others without enabling others to subscribe to them. This means teachers can allow their students to follow their public updates about school and classes without actually friending them (and accessing more personal information). That way, students can continue to update friends about their lives without worrying what might pop up in their teachers’ News Feeds.” Useful, huh? A bit like Twitter (noticing a pattern here) but going that stage further because you can choose for some of your updates to be private whilst others are public for all those that may follow you to consume….
Twitter has also made some interesting advancements:
– Twitter announced that it is now available in five additional languages (making the total 17). The additional languages are simplified and traditional Chinese, Hindi, Tagalog and Malay. This might not be a move that effects all of you, but is a necessary one none-the-less….[worth noting that Facebook is available in 70 languages, so Twitter still has a way to go].
– A new analytics package has been launched by Twitter to help users understand “How much of their content is being shared on Twitter, how much traffic Twitter is sending their way and how well Tweet Buttons are performing.” I have yet to try out the analytics but this could be a great tool for agencies and in-house PRs that need to provide statistics on their social media activities, watch this space….
Google + has introduced a map sharing feature that allows you to share directions (and other information) from Google maps, though your Google + accounts – potentially useful for businesses with difficult to find offices…
These are of course just a few of the changes happening, but it is great to see that the big players are not resting on their laurels and continue to develop and improve. That said, it does feel a little like Facebook and Twitter are in a bit of a war to catch-up and outdo each other, whereas it feels slightly like Google + is actually breaking new ground…..(and let’s not forget that David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg have all ventured into the Google + world).
Do you agree? Or do you feel that Twitter and Facebook are still streets ahead?