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Quora Opens to Google, SEO is Rocking

A little over a year ago, I wrote about Facebook's new vanity URLs and the immediate SEO boost that ensued. Quora recently opened up their content to Google... and it appears as though it too is the beginning of an SEO boom. It makes sense considering how deep, rich and unique Quora's content is - which to Google is a goldmine. Furthermore, the questions and answers format has always been relevant to search engine queries. Two great examples are Ask Jeeves (now which was built with this in mind and Yahoo Answers, which for years has ranked terrificly in Google.

SEO has emerged from a talent (usually buried within the organization) to a business. Folks like Demand Media have turned it from art to science - and for folks like Quora, it can be an important lever for traffic acquisition, findibility, etc. Ultimately, it boils down to the lasting value of the your site's content - and Quora (and others) are in a great position for that because of its community and the dynamic nature of site (content evolves over time - it is not a static, one-time piece).

Here is a simple example of just using my own name as a query. Within a week Quora has emerged on the first page... which is impressive:

Designing a Great Search Box - Yahoo & Chickipedia are Great

The search box is often overlooked despite being such a critical launching point for the user experience. The search box shouldn't necessarily be an afterthought. Whether it is in the header or footer, it should be inviting, large enough to house a full query, and be visually enticing. There are a lot of ways to make a search box interactive:

* The Look: sets it boldly atop a rich background. * In the Box: fills the search box with the message "Search beRecruited" that, when clicked, disappears. * Before the Submission: reveals search results as the query is entered.

Here are some of my favorite search boxes and interactions:

* Yahoo. Fills in results as you type. Looks terrific. Allows you turn 'search assist' on and off.

Yahoo Search Box

* Chickipedia. Not sure what to say about the rest of their site, but the search box is terrific.

Chickpedia Search Box

* Boxxet. The search box is ordinary, but the pre-rolled interaction is brilliant and inviting.

* ESPN. As you type, it fills matching results with key data like team, school, position.

Google Universal Search vs. Ask, Yahoo, and Live

Very thorough, thoughtful article on Google's Universal Search over at SearchEngineLand - but it leaves me asking how anything can be considered universal when the formats change with nearly every query. To give Google credit, the types of pages they include in their search results (core, video, product, news, etc) depends on the type of query. Search for "Yahoo" and you'll get a mix of news clippings, stock ticker, core results, etc. The formatting of the results pages and the blending types change depending on query and Google's familiarity with it's context... the result is anything but a universal experience.

I personally find the always-changing formats somewhat confusing - for instance, for current-event queries, blogs and news are often so jumbled that they are hard to decipher in an efficient manner.

Google Ron Paul and you get a mix of relevant webpages, news, YouTube videos, blogs, etc. Some have icons, others don't. Frankly it's quite confusing and far from the straight-forward experience that Google is known for. For other query types (local, visual, and so on) - this sort of predictive sorting is quite useful.

Use Ron Paul, because current events are difficult to render appropriately, and compare results across the four major engines:

1. Ask: they have a true universal approach: core results in the middle and blending on the right column. Easy to predict where content types are. 2. Google: discussed above. 3. Live: mix of core links, news, icons and related searches. Very clean. 4. Yahoo: two youtube vidoes (with icons), core links and 2 news clippings (which appear more like ads).

Of course, the most important factor is search relevance and the engine's ability to deliver important, timely links for the query. And for that - Google hasn't been beaten.