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Social Search is a FAIL

In high school, I got grounded. A LOT. Every Friday my friends would say, "hey, grounded this weekend?" To which my reply was, more often than not, yes. So I was used to getting punished by my mom - God love her - but now that I'm a (mostly) grown-up woman, I find it hard to believe I'm being grounded yet again. By Google, evidently.

Four days ago I learned about, opted into and wrote a review of the new Google Social Search ability. Since I'm a typical egotist, I was chagrined to see I wasn't showing up in my own social circle. While most things "Internet" get better with age - as software, search engines and social media roll out, refine and listen to their audiences - I'm more than a bit disappointed that things are even worse for my social searches now than they were earlier in the week.

Google, did Matt Cutts tattle on me, say I was dissatisfied with your shiny new service and now you're punishing me? No...that's not the way the universe works. Still, I find maybe I should've kept my pie-hole corked and not mentioned my disappointment, since now my social circle is eerily absent from my SERPs in social searches. As far as I know and can see, I'm still opted into the experiment, because it does work a little bit. Sometimes.

But let's take a look at how things have changed since Monday.

Monday's search for "SEO" revealed my social circle as my husband and Portland friend in the main SERP; when I delved into the 'Social' tab of my 'Options' I got a few more results from my fellow Twitterers, blog buddies, etc.

Yesterday and today? The results are MUCH different:

Obviously this result is right from my Google Reader subscription. Odd, because that result was absent on Monday. Let's look a bit further - utilizing the 'More Options' screen, I choose 'Social'...the results are scarce, to say the least.

Ok. So maybe "SEO" is too...I don't know, competitive. (Competitive between my social buddies?) So I'll try something I KNOW multiple friends on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are mentioning: Halloween. After all, we're only 1 day shy of All Hallows' Eve.

It seems none of my online acquaintances are talking about Halloween. Or costumes. But wait, they ARE - I've read several Tweets about those very topics today. So where's my circle, Google? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Now, not only am I not showing up, my friends aren't, either. Boooooooooooooooo. And not in the Halloween, fun, scared-you type of way.

Since this has all changed so drastically for me, I decided to read more on social search - ended up at the Matt Cutts video explaining it within the Googleblog post. In it, he (Matt) states there are a few ways Google taps into a person's social circle: Google profile, Friendfeed and Google Reader.

Well, I do have a Reader account - browse through that every morning. I also have a Google profile. While I don't use Friendfeed, two out of three should garner me SOME results I can live with in regards to social search. But, alas, no. Get thee to thy room, O naughty negative reviewer of Google services.

Why Don't I Show Up in Social Search?

Today Google officially rolled out its social search function, a way to customize your SERPs to include results from people within your very own network. Pretty neat, considering the vast amount of people we can be linked to and the amount of content to wade through out there in search engine land.

Danny Sullivan has a great post about this, in which I was surprised to learn that a person can show up in their own searches (with the 'social' option). It struck me as odd until I read his explanation of it,
" own blog is listed. That makes sense, in a way. I know myself, and I write about Newport Beach a lot."

Intrigued, I instantly opted into the Google Experiment and started searching. I tried an easy test first - "SEO" - since a good number of my friends on Twitter are SEOs. Bingo:

At the bottom of the SERP, my very own results. The dude in the 'stache is a friend...and the second result is my very own husband. Now, why wouldn't Clint's 'result' show up before Chris's, since we share the same last name (therefore, Clint would be more relevant to my search)? Well, that's not the way this social search works - even within "my" social results, they're still ranked based on the traditional Google algorithm, meaning in Google's mind is more important than For now anyway :)

Ever the narcissist, I tried another search, something for which I figured I'd show up for. Something I blog/talk about a lot: my dog. So I chose "german shepherd" and scrolled to the bottom of the page - nada. What? Where am I? Shouldn't I show up in my own social network for something I blog, micro-blog, and talk about often? Hmf. Evidently not.

Okay, different search - "music" - SOMEONE I know must be mentioning something about music. Lo and behold, when I click on my 'Show Options' view and then narrow it down to 'Social,' here's what I see:

Wait, Cities 97? I don't follow Cities 97 on Twitter...oh, wait, but one of my co-workers does. While I certainly respect her choice to support easy listening, I'm personally not interested in that station. Even though it's very relevant to music, I personally have no connection to it so don't think it's a relevant result here.

So, for my last search (in this 'test') I tried something else. I'm connected to several of my co-workers via Facebook and Twitter, so I performed a search for my company's name, expecting to find at least a few co-workers who've mentioned where they work. The only result came from a co-worker who follows ME on Twitter, but I do not follow this person.

Thus far, Google, I don't vote it a total FAIL, but I do have some grievances with how this works. Why am I not showing up for my own "relevant social searches" but people/entities I don't even follow do show up?

Looks like there could be a couple bugs yet to work out with this.

*PS: Yes, I have a Google Profile and had it long before this post.

Find Your Anagram

Thanks to my buddy, @wtongen, for finding this fun anagram service and passing it along. I've just spent the last 15 minutes scanning through hundreds of anagrams for my name (Sarah B Danks) are a few samples:

Ad Shrank Abs
Bad Ash Ranks
Bad Sash Rank
Bard Hank Ass
Bads Has Rank
Dabs Has Rank
Bah Drank Ass
Bah Dark Sans
Bah Ads Ranks
Bahs Ad Ranks
Bah Sad Ranks
Bash Ad Ranks
Bash Sad Rank
Bank Hard Ass
Barks And Ash
Ban Ad Sharks
Ban Sad Shark
Bra Ads Shank
Bass Had Rank
Bhad Ass Rank

An SEO Writer Picks a Fight

In my Twitterfeed this afternoon, I stumbled upon (yes, pun intended) a Search Engline Land article by Jill Whalen: Is Choosing Search Engines Over Users A Fatal Flaw In SEO? I love the 'question' article title, it's like waving a red cape in front of a Spanish-bred bull: you have to at least click to open and scan.

Immediately I see she's written this article in rebuttal of a @randfish blog post titled Terrible SEO Advice: Focus on Users, Not Engines. Again, a catchy headline since he does touch on that angle, but it's not really what he's actually saying in the post.

In Jill's little back-at-ya attempt at setting the record straight, she spouts off about how Rand's article "could potentially set SEO back at least at decade," in her opinion. Really? Well, Jilly-girl, you might want to actually READ what Rand wrote, instead of just scanning (as so many website users are wont to do), 'cause you didn't even grasp what he said. (Also, might wanna run the ol' document through at least a cursory proofreading ARE a writer, after all.)

Here's what Jill has to say about Mr. Fishkin's advice:

In the article, he apologized to his audience of budding SEOs for having ever told them to do what’s right for their users. In fact, he called putting your users first, “utterly false and tragically misleading.”

If you listen to this advice, your SEO will be fatally flawed from the get-go.

You go, girl. Except...wait...this is what Rand ACTUALLY wrote:

If you've been around the SEO world a while, you've undoubtedly heard the old adage:

"Do what's right for users and engines will reward you with higher rankings"

Along with its peer:

"SEO tactics that focus on engines, rather than users, are manipulative (black/gray hat) and will eventually be discounted or penalized"

In my opinion, both of these statements are utterly false and tragically misleading. In my view, SEO starts with the user (of course), but cannot ignore the incredible importance of search-engine targeted (and specific) tactics.

So let me sum it up for you, Jill: Rand was merely stating that new SEOs deciding to totally adhere to only one of those adages (and therefore utterly ignoring the other) are making a mistake. Your mistake, my dear, was criticizing a much bigger name in the SEO world than you are, without even the proper information.

4-H Dog Show

Tasha & Kiah (a Mini Aussie) in ObedienceSeptember 26th and 27th was the Minnesota State 4-H Dog Show at the Fairgrounds. I went for a portion of both days and watched some agility and obedience classes. Tasha is the daughter of a dear family friend, and while just shy of 17 years old, she's quite the little trainer. Her Aussie, Kiah, is 27 months old and this year they worked together to win a bunch of awards:

  • blue (award of excellence) in elementary agility
  • blue in obedience - graduate beginner
  • blue in obedience - four-dog team
  • blue in showmanship - open
Now, keep in mind these four classes occurred over a span of 2 days, in the heat of the September sun (well, agility anyway!) and both handler and dog were surrounded by a plethora of people and dogs all weekend.

Mini Aussie Jumps in Agility CompetitionUntil this show, I'd never seen a live agility competition, and it's pretty cool to watch. The dogs have to perform a pattern containing all the requisite obstacles and it's the handler's job to direct them throughout their timed course. They have to leap over jumps, climb an A-frame, scoot through a couple of shoots, and lie still for 5 seconds atop a small table in the middle of the course. Try stopping a running dog in the middle of their excitement, make them lie motionless and tell me how it goes!

Tasha & Kiah (a Mini Australian Shepherd) Executing Obedience Pattern In obedience classes, the trainers take their dogs through a series of on- and off-leash steps such as heeling, recall, stand-for-exam and sit- and down-stays. While on leash, the dogs must pace their owners, stop when they stop (and sit down), not pull on the leash and always remain attentive to their handler.

Miniature Aussie: Recall in Obedience For the off-leash portion, the dog waits in one corner of the arena while the handler moves to the other, and upon recall (the "come" cue) the dog must proceed directly to the handler and sit - straight! - in front of them. They then must also stand for the judge's exam - not sit, not lie down - while their handler moves ~15 feet away.

The final part of the class is the hardest...with 7 other handlers and dogs in the arena, the handler must put his/her dog in a sit- or down-stay and walk ~20 feet away for a timed judging. I was amazed that these 8 dogs didn't MOVE from their positions amongst strange people, sights, sounds and most of all, other dogs in close proximity.

I was super-proud of my family friend - and her dog - and was only a TAD nostalgic and jealous that when I was in 4-H, we didn't have much of a dog program. I've helped Tasha with Kiah's training - just some simple operant conditioning training tips here and there - but the amount of work she's put in is testament to her dedication to dog training. These kids are so lucky - at 16 years of age, they're so much farther than I am in my own training and they'll only get better!

Congrats, Tasha!!! Tasha & Kiah