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Yes, Google Does Alert You To New Blog Finds

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ZDNet's David Berlind rants that Google Alerts don't include blogs, so he can't get an email update on news found via the new Google Blog Search service. David, you can have an RSS feed of anything you want on blog search. I explain that here. It's not even that hard. There are links to keyword-based feeds at the bottom of each page. So you want the latest from blogs via Google -- there you go.

Want to get huffy about something? Stick to the bigger problem that for the blog RSS alerts I get, there's still a ton of spam and off-topic material, not to mention it misses stuff because it's not an full-text index of actual blog posts yet. Of course, it's only been out for less than two weeks, so I'll cut them a little slack for now.

Berlind's just flat wrong when he goes into this part:

I can understand if Google feels as though the blogosphere isn't a part of "news."  But isn't the blogosphere part of the Web? Or is the blogosphere not the Web?  This problem with Google Alerts is nothing new.  For example, Yahoo!'s Jeremy Zawodny made hay about the exclusion over two years ago.

Google, of course, does index blogs as part of its web index. In fact, anyone who has half an ear to the blogosphere knows the conventional wisdom that blogs have supernatural ranking powers that can push ordinary web pages aside in Google web search.

It's not quite like that, but blogs can, do and have existed in Google web search. So if you have a Google Alert to monitor the web, and a new blog page shows up in the top rankings, you'll get that alert. The real problem with watching web search is that it's not really time sensitive. If the top results don't change a lot -- and they really generally shouldn't -- then there's nothing to alert you to. News search, blog search -- these change often, since new material is purposely flowing in and given a deliberate relevancy boost, as it makes sense for that content.

As for what Jeremy was making hay about, let's be clear. It wasn't an exclusion of blogs from web search. It was the exclusion of blogs as part of NEWS search. Not web search, got it? Blogs have always been part of web search.

This part is fun:

I'd do a fact check with Google to find out why the Blog Search isn't included as a new type in Google Alerts (doesn't it make sense for Google to do this?), but, as an employee of CNET Networks, I'm included in Google CEO Eric Schmidt's blackout.

Yeah, that sucks. They're stupid for doing that to News.com. Bad, bad Google -- and example of why this will keep blowing up in their face as well as why it hurts the communication process. Of course, Berlind probably wouldn't be so ticked it he hadn't been banned. More to the point, he can certainly fact check in other ways. Hmm, maybe even by reading the FAQ.

Postscript: Dave Winer says I'm wrong and unfair in my post above:

Google doesn't include blogs in Google News, or at least that's what they claim. However, a lot of the supposed non-blogs they include are in every way blogs.

Yes, Dave -- I know that. David wasn't writing about how Google keeps blogs out of news search. He acknowledges in the story that blogs aren't part of news search -- as I wrote in my summary. In fact, he even says he "understands" why Google doesn't include blogs in news search.

Where David was wrong, and what I was correcting, was his suggestion that blogs aren't in WEB search. Blogs, of course, are in web search.

Postscript 2: And now David Berlind's not happy and STILL incorrect again. Since he feels so taken to task that he wants to take me to task, I'll answer what he said:

First things first. Sullivan never bothered to call me before questioning the integrity of my coverage when, in referring to Google's blacklisting of journalists that work for CNET Networks, he wrote "Of course, Berlind probably wouldn't be so ticked it he hadn't been banned. " Had you called Mr. Sullivan, or if you've read anything I've written in my 15 years as a hi-tech journalist, you'd know that I've never and will never take vendors' personal treatment of me into consideration when writing about them. This is true in both respects. My coverage cannot be swayed to the positive by currying favor, nor can it be swayed to the negative by treating me negatively.

OK, first, I didn't need to call you because the key fact in your story about blogs not being in web search was wrong. I could see that. It would be like calling you up and saying, "David, you said 2+2=5. I disagree with this. How are you doing the math." What were you going to explain to me? How further wrong they were?

Question whether you were ticked at Google? Of course you were. You should be. They have a stupid policy of not talking to CNET, and it means you can't get direct answers from them, when you should. Could you verify the facts another way, if you really cared. Of course you could. You didn't. And did that ticked tone come through in your story? It did from where I sit. Rather than using the standard CNET line that all your collegues I talk with regularly with at News.com about having tried to ask for a response and not getting one, you went with a brand new "I'm on the blacklist" tone.

As for Sullivan's explanation of why I was wrong about Google Alerts, I think the fact that he provides a workaround instead of factual evidence that I am wrong to ask the question I asked actually supports my position. Instead of discussing Google Alerts, as I did, he discusses Google's new blog search and how to set it up to satisfy my needs. So, let me fall back to the original facts, and the original question.

It's not a workaround. You want to be alerted to new blog finds. RSS feeds at Google give you this. You want it fast? RSS is faster than web alerts. You can't get it via email, no. The Google Alerts may not be working right. But the point is, you want blog content from Google, but you with "15 years as a hi-tech journalist" don't seem to know that Google's new blog search offers exactly what you want. Did you read any of the coverage of Google's blog search launch last week? This type of alert is what you want. Numerous people including myself mentioned it exists. It's right on the blog search result pages. Is there some additional road map you need?

And back to the original incorrect fact, you were wrong before and you're yet WRONG again:

Google Alert says it can watch for me: News and the Web. Not that I agree (it's the subject of huge debate), but I understand the reasons that a search engine company might fall on the side of saying blogs are not news. But, there's just no way anyone can say that they're not part of the Web.

No one is saying that. Google isn't saying that. They've never, ever said blogs aren't part of the web. In fact, they said the exact OPPOSITE when some people worried that blogs might get pulled from web search back in 2003. From my story then:

By the way, one thing NOT in the cards for future index changes are any plans to pull blog content out of Google's regular search results. Google made a special point of stressing that blogs are staying, during my interview with them last week.

Google offers you a web search alert. Blogs, as I wrote before, are part of web search. Here, do this search for your name. Plenty of blogs there for your name. Go sign up for a Google web alert to that, and if some new blog (or anything) in web search shows up, you'll see it. Suggesting that because it doesn't say "web & blogs" is like saying you aren't getting oxygen because the canister of air doesn't say "air & oxygen" on it. There's oxygen in the air. There are blogs in web search.

I don't know how else to say it. Blogs are in web search. They ARE in web search. You get a web search alert, you get blogs in there. If you JUST want blogs, then you have to do something else. That's what you want, I know. But you're wrong to suggest that blogs aren't already in web search results. They are.

I don't know much about ranking algorithms. But, I have a difficult time understanding how I can be alerted to something "as it happens" if that something has to get ranked by an algorithm first. In Sullivan's words, some blogs "have supernatural ranking powers that can push ordinary web pages aside in Google web search." Thanks but no thanks. I'm not looking for the bloggers that have figured out how to manipulate search engines. I'm looking for the ones with the most interesting things to say about Vista (including ones that work at Microsoft). So, the pages I actually want to see are probably the unranked ones. At the very least, this should be a configurable item (like a checkbox that says "filter results based on Google's rankings").

This isn't about knowing ranking algorithms. It's about understanding the basics of search. What does the search engine include, and how does it sort things.

Google web search includes content from across the web, including blogs. Scoring is done by relevancy, rather than currency/freshness. IE, just because you are the newest site doesn't mean you'll be the site at the top.

So you want bloggers that seem to be most relevant for Windows Vista over time. Web search helps there. You want the very latest things being posted? You have to use a blog search engine where the default sort is on currency.

Over at Google's blog search, you can do both. The default is on relevancy overall, but you can switch to getting the most recent. The underlying results so far aren't that great either way, to me.

Overall, sorry you wrote a column where you made a major factual error about what's in Google's web search. Sorry you were upset I felt like I had to comment on a piece written by a major IT journalist who thinks blogs aren't part of WEB search. But that's what you said, and it was wrong.

Postscript 3: Just in case there is any confusion, I wholehearted apologize to David for giving any impression that he somehow wrote a slanted article because of the policy of Google not talking to CNET. I did feel the tone of his piece seemed upset at Google, but upset doesn't mean you can't be fair. In short, I really wasn't trying to imply he was unfair. I can't apologize for the fact that he made a factual error in saying blogs aren't part of web search or that he could have fact checked this in ways other than contacting Google.

Postscript 4: One more wholehearted and unreserved apology. I certainly could have written my critique of his piece without it being so personal or in a better tone.


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