What Does Google Mean When It Asks What I Mean?

I have a client who is a Minneapolis interior designer. (Yes, that’s a plug for them. As if you wouldn’t do the same thing.) Earlier today, I was checking out the progress of their rather new site using Google’s webmaster tools, and was pleased to see them starting to move up, and even get some traffic, for searches like [interior designers minneapolis] and [interior design firm minneapolis]. They’ve got a ways to go, but they’re definitely moving in the right direction.

Google also listed them at #4 for [interior designersminneapolis] (note the missing space). That’s a little troubling. They rank higher for the search with the typo than without. I took that to mean that either someone’s linking to them with the typo in the anchor text, or they’ve got the typo somewhere on the site. I couldn’t find either one, though.

I was further confused by Google’s attempt to correct me:

Google search result for interior designersminneapolis

Google wants to know if I meant “interior designers minneapolis” and if I meant to search for “interior designers minneapolis.” Wha? Obviously, if I meant it, I meant to search for it. What else would I be doing at a search engine?

And the two searches being offered to me are indeed identical. The first one links to
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=0&ct=result&cd=1&q=interior+designers+minneapolis&spell=1 and the second to

So what’s the point?

As it turns out, this is not Google’s doing. I run a Greasemonkey script called GoogleMonkeyR. I use it to number G’s results. If I disable it and run the search again, I only get the “Did you mean: interior designers minneapolis” line. I have no idea why it’s adding that extra “Did you mean to search for” bit.

So, problem solved, for the most part. I’ll write to the script’s author about the bug, and I’m no longer freaked out about tripping over a bug in the all-knowing Big G.

It’s still a bit odd that my client is ranking for that search containing a typo, though.

Anyway, it gave me a decent excuse to link to them.

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Ask Tries Advertising Again

Ask logoI saw a couple of new adverts for Ask.com on the eye of hell Tuesday night. I’m pretty sure this makes five different campaigns in the past 18 months or so. We had…

  • One that took place in a café full of animalistic searchers, and that one Ask user who evolves, plus one with some scientist types being described as “animals in pants” by an ape. These, I’m sure, were massive hits with the intelligent design crowd.
  • The series with Apostolos Gerasoulis himself (founder of Teoma) pointing out what a “pimped out” search engine Ask is.
  • Two or three spots involving people talking about “the algorithm” and yucking it up over their friends who just didn’t get it.
  • Those god-awful singing and dancing “I got what I was looking for” ads, featuring searches for [Kato Kaelin] and [chicks with swords].

Apostolos Gerasoulis and a kidAnd now we get a couple of new ones. In these, the only sounds are a few musical notes at the end and the sound of a user clicking (must be using IE, so how smart a searcher can it be?) as s/he shows us the beauty, the splendor, the majesty, and the usability of Ask’s GUI. One of them shows how a search for San Francisco offers lots of options, such as different media — images, maps, images from news stories, or the Wikipedia entry on the city, direct information — the time and weather in SF, or the opportunity to narrow or expand the search.

In the other, we get to learn about how we can make our searches more pleasant by choosing wallpaper (they refer to it as a “skin”) from a dropdown list:

  • AskX – the Web 2.0-ish interface they introduced a few months ago
  • Azul – a bench, ostensibly in London in front of a blue backdrop
  • Cartas – a mail slot on a red door
  • Flower
  • Golden – wheat
  • Pink stripes
  • Polka dots
  • Rotunda – Sorry, I don’t know what building’s rotunda it is
  • Timber Brume – A forest in a bit of fog, which is apparently what a brume is
  • Western Sky – at sunset, of course, and
  • Default – that boring interface we all hate so very much.

The thing is, the “skin” only appears to skin ask.com. Run a search, and it’s gone until you go back to the home page. So… big deal.

Are these ads going to help Ask? Maybe the one involving how useful the engine is might bring them up from a distant fourth to a close fourth, but the skin ad really doesn’t strike me as a reason for anyone to switch.

I guess I’d like it if Google had a bit more competition. All three of the other supposedly big four are on the eye of hell, trying to get the public to give them a try. Big old Goggly Gogol has yet to stoop to advertising on the tube, and I’m still waiting for the day when Paris Hilton looks out at me from the dreaded eye and says, “iGoogle. Do you Google? Wanna Google with me?

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