Friday, May 02, 2008

Be Consistent With Your Case Insensitivity

In the Google Web Search Help Center, you state that:

Google searches are NOT case sensitive. All letters, regardless of how you type them, will be understood as lower case. For example, searches for george washington, George Washington, and gEoRgE wAsHiNgToN will all return the same results.

Yet, as my Netconcepts colleague Chris Smith recently noted, this is not currently the case. We get different results in the 8th position for “george washington” vs. “George Washington” vs. “gEoRgE wAsHiNgToN”, when expanding out the number of listings per page in the Google preferences.

Here's another example: "fossil watches" and "Fossil Watches" return different results, as you can see from the screenshot below. This is not a consistent user experience for searchers.

Google SERPs Case Sensitive - Fossil Watches

(click to enlarge)

It gets worse. Some shortcut queries may not even work, depending on the case used. For example, a "whois" query is supposed to return a domain lookup from as a shortcut, yet it doesn't work if the domain name is entered in upper case. Check this screenshot:

Google SERPs Case Sensitive - whois

(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Increase the limit on the number of URLs allowed in the CSE

The Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) is very cool. I have been playing with CSE in the hopes I can use it as a replacement to the open source search engine that we're using on Innfinder. The current engine is a resource hog at spidering the list of over 9000 websites (even though most of the 9000 are very small sites of individual bed and breakfasts). I would love to switch to CSE. Heck I'd even consider paying for your CSE Business Edition. However, your 5000 URL limit is stymying me because I have 9000 URLs. I even checked with your sales folks selling the Business Edition and that has the 5000 limit too. Argh! My suggestion is that you have a mechanism for people to request an increase to the limit.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Minimize Google Talk and Gmail interruptions with Google Calendar

I and many others use Google Calendar to book our appointments, organize and join meetings, and otherwise block out our time. I really like Google calendar for all of those reasons and more.

And I, like many others, also suffer from "urgency addiction" -- constantly checking email for fires to put out -- as well letting interruptions like IM conversations break us out of the "flow." Interruptions like incessant new mail notifications and IM chat requests are productivity killers.

What we need is the ability to block out quiet times within Google Calendar to work on project uninterrupted -- in "Do Not Disturb" mode -- and for Gmail and Google Talk to automatically sense this status and then stop notifying you of incoming mail and put you in  "Do Not Disturb" status in Google Talk for the blocked-out time. This would save us the step of always having to remember to sign out of Gmail and changing our Google Talk status to DND.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Improve the Webmaster Tools Authorization Process

Google's Webmaster Tools is an increasingly valuable resource for information about Google's perception of one's website, and we've been quite pleased to encourage our clients to make use of it.

However, Google could easily improve upon the authorization scheme for enabling users to access the interfaces for their sites. There are some issues that we see with some repetition, so here are some suggestions:

  • Why not allow a user that is authorized on the primary domain (like to be able to administrate additional Webmaster Tools user accounts for the site? It's inconvenient to have to add more Meta tags or HTML files to enable additional user access accounts over time. It's also sometimes causing serious time-lags to revoke some employee's access to Webmaster Tools when they leave a company. A master administrative account would be very helpful to a great many companies for these reasons.

  • Under "set preferred domain", it might be very helpful to enable webmasters to add in additional domains. You currently allow them to request either the www or non-www versions of their domains to be dominant, and I suspect you're using this to some degree to canonicalize the domains which may be mirrors of one another. However, quite a few major companies are using additional domain name variants as their primary domain names, so it could be useful to you and them both to allow them to add in a list of domains which they'd like to have canonicalized all under one main domain. For instance, if you go to, they redirect the user to And Nordstrom redirects the user over to There are many cases where companies have registered many misspelling domains and competitive term domains and are delivering up their main content on them as just more aliases of their primary domain. Ex:,,,, etc. While it's best practice to redirect those alternate domains to the primary, many sites don't get that done, and there are cases where people deep-link pages on misspelled domain names. Since you don't want to penalize people for accidentally setting up duplicate content on these alternate domains, it'd be great to provide additional functionality to help get those domains all canonicalized.

  • Also, allow a user who has authority for the primary www domain to automatically be able to access Webmaster Tools for any other subdomains (like

For that last suggestion, you folks at Google might not realize the frequency of cases wherein websites are outsourcing some portion of their site's delivery to other companies to deliver on their behalf. So, a webmaster who has access to their www domain in Webmaster Tools may have to ask a few different other company's IT staff to enable his access to the subdomain sections they deliver in his behalf, and some portal platforms are very "challenged" to customize META tags or install HTML files.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Allow Revisions to Incorrectly Labeled Sitelinks

It's great that you guys now allow removal of bad sitelinks through Webmaster Central. But sometimes the sitelink is incorrectly labeled for no fault of the site owner, and the sitelink just needs to be corrected, not removed. For example, note the typo below in the sitelinks of

In the above screenshot, you'll notice one of the sitelinks says "Pangler Science Experiments." The word "Pangler" should actually be "Spangler." I checked, and there is not a single occurrence of "Pangler" anywhere on or on his blog at However, I did find such a typo in the anchor text of a link appearing on this blog. So it appears Google is trusting the anchor text of a single blogger over the site's own internal linking structure? This should probably be looked into too, since bloggers make typing mistakes, and the site owner has no control over that.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Allow Opt-out on Foreign Language Search

Google's foreign-specific search indices allow users to find web pages from the overall internet as well as being able to filter content down to pages specific to their own countries and/or languages.

The problem is, there are quite a few overseas (non-US) users who use Google without clicking the button to restrict content to pages specific to their countries, and there are companies who desire to restrict their content from appearing to those users in other countries, either because they are not set up to sell to those users, or because they may be legally restricted from conducting trade with those countries.

I suggest that Google might want to allow webmasters to specify whether their content should be presented to users in their various country-specific search engines, for these reasons.

Google could offer this through an opt-in/opt-out interface in Webmaster Tools, or this could be pushed as another type of restriction which could be added to robots.txt files. Considering how many countries there are, it would probably be most desirable to add this as an interface within Webmaster Tools. Webmasters could go in and click a button for each country-specific version of Google that's out there.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A better 404 error page and 301 redirects on

In a recent post that I had published on the CNET Blog Network, I talked about how "Even Google Could Use Some SEO."

After getting an inside view into Webmaster Central's metrics on, I noticed that the top 404 reporting errors were for:


As I'm sure you know, the %20 represents a space after the URL. Those users who link to Google, sometimes copy and paste one, two, or three spaces after the URL. Unfortunately, this creates a 404 error and a bad "end user" experience.

That bad user experience is made even worse by the fact that the 404 error page is a complete dead-end for users. If users were to come across a link like this one, they have no place to go.

Implementing 301 redirects would help usability, especially since this appears to be such a common mistake when people link to Google. It would also give the site more PageRank, which can then be passed down to deeper pages in the site.

Also improving the 404 error page to be less of a dead-end would be helpful too.

I realize that Google doesn't need any help with their SEO, but in this case, what's good for search engines is also good for users.