WebSearch Academy presentations – edited highlights

Edited highlights from the presentations I gave at the WebSearch Academy on 17th October 2016 at the Olympia Conference Centre, London are now available on SlideShare. ?They are also available on authorSTREAM. These are selected slides from the presentations; if you attended the event and would like copies of the full sets please contact me.

The presentations are:

New Dimensions in Search: seeing, hearing viewing?(takes you to authorSTREAM). Searching for images, video and audio.

WebSearch Academy: If not Google then what??(takes you to authorSTREAM). Looks at alternatives to Google and some specialist tools.

SlideShare options for both are given below.

 
 

Google results: review stars may not refer to what you think they do

The contract for our domestic electricity supply is ending next month so I am trawling through cost comparison and energy supplier websites to check tariffs for our next contract. (UK readers can skip the rest of this explanatory paragraph). I don’t know what the situation is in other countries but in the UK the gas and electricity suppliers are forever inventing a variety of tariffs priced significantly less than their “standard” rates to entice you to sign up. The lower priced tariffs are generally only available for a year, or two years at most. At the end of the contract the customer is usually?transferred to the more expensive standard rate unless they actively seek out an alternative. The existing supplier is obliged to inform the customer of the new tariffs that will be on offer but the onus is on the customer to inform the company which tariff, if any, they wish to switch to. ?For other suppliers’ tariffs the customer has to do their own research.

Price comparison sites are a good starting point to identify potential alternatives but the only way to check that the a tariff meets all of your criteria, of which price may be just one of many, is to go direct to the supplier’s website. Today I spent most of the morning drawing up the shortlist.

The next step in my strategy was to look at customer reviews on the comparison websites, social media, discussion boards and to run a Google search on each supplier.?The reviews and comments generally spanned several years and while the history of a company’s customer service performance can be useful it is the last 12-18 months that are most relevant. This is where?limiting the search to more recent information by ?using Google’s date option comes into play. Having spent an hour or so to get this far, and with my brain beginning to wilt, it was tempting to read just the Google snippets for the reviews; but they can convey the wrong overall impression. Google sometimes creates snippets by pulling together text from two or more sections of a page that may be separated by several paragraphs and which may be about completely different products or topics. Never take the snippet at face value and always click through to the original, full article.

One of the energy providers on my short list is Robin Hood Energy, which is a not-for profit company run by Nottingham City Council and has only recently been made available to customers outside of Nottingham. ?Customer reviews are therefore less plentiful than for many of the other utilities. The results from a search on

Robin Hood Energy customer reviews

included one from Simply Switch. Underneath the title and URL is a star rating of 4.4 from 221 reviews and one could be forgiven for assuming that this refers to Robin Hood Energy. This is reinforced by the text in the second half?of the snippet: “Robin Hood guarantee their customers consistently low prices … rated 4.4/5 based on 221 reviews”. ?robin_hood_customer_reviews

The dots are important in that they represent a missing?chunk of?text?between the two pieces of information. When I looked at the web page itself the rating was nowhere to be found in the main body of the text. It was in the footer of the page and referred to the Simply Switch site.

simply_switch_reviews

A reminder, then, to never rely on the snippets?for an answer, and always click through and read the whole web page.

Google Blogger loses links and blog lists: what to do next

Google Blogger has done it again. A major update to the service was rolled out at the end of September and many users woke up to find that the links and blog lists they had so carefully created had gone. ? See the Blogger Help Forum for some of the postings and comments on the incident. ?Blogger engineers are supposedly working to restore the lost information??but it “may take up to several days.” Or never! This is not the first time that blog content has gone missing after an update. A few years ago an update somehow removed the most recent posts from people’s blogs. Most of them were eventually recovered but a few disappeared without trace.

The lesson learned from that experience was back up your blog. In Blogger the import and backup tool is under?Settings, Other and at the top of the page. Note, though that this will only backup the text of pages, posts and comments. It does not backup any changes you have made to the template, or the content of the gadgets in your sidebars such as links lists and blogrolls. For the ?template click on Template in the lefthand sidebar and then on Backup/Restore. This will save the general layout of the gadgets but not the content. For that you will need to copy and save the content for each gadget or save a copy of the content and HTML of your blog. ?Back up your Blogger blog: photos, posts, template, and gadgets has details of what you need to do.

And don’t forget your photos. For those?use Google’s Takeout service at?https://www.google.com/settings/takeout.

If you don’t have a copy of your lists of links then see if you can access an older cached version of your blog ?via Google or Bing and save the whole page, or take screen shots. If you try this several days after the event you may be out of luck. Mine were still in the cached page for up to 2 days but have now gone. In Google, use the ‘cache:’ command, for example:

cache:yourblogname.blogspot.com

An alternative is to search for your blog and next to your entry in the results lists there should be a small downward pointing green arrow. Click on it and then on the ‘Cached’ text to view the page. ?This works in both Google and Bing ?and, again, the sooner you do this the better.

bing_cached_option

If none of that works then try the Wayback Machine. Type in the URL of your blog and see if they have any snapshots.

wayback_blog

Still no joy? Then either hang around a while longer to see if the Blogger engineers manage to revive your lists or start rebuilding them from scratch. If you haven’t looked at them in a while, maybe now is the time to review the content anyway.