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September 14, 2005

Google Offers Blog Search

Courtesy of TechWeb News

Google Inc. on Wednesday launched a blog-search tool to gather information on what people look for in blogs, as the search-engine hunts for new areas for online advertising.

Google is the first among its major rivals, which include Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN, to offer a dedicated search tool for blogs, one expert said. The others, however, are expected to follow soon.

Web surfers are reading blogs in growing numbers. In July, 29.3 million people, or 20 percent of active U.S. web users, accessed blogs or blog-related sites, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. That number represented a 31 percent increase since the beginning of the year.

With that much interest in blogs, it makes sense that search engines would be interested in tracking use of the emerging medium.

"We want to begin the process of seeing what people want from a blog-search product and how they use it," Jeff Reynar, product manager for Google Blog Search, said. "Right now, it's in a testing state."

In the future, however, Google would certainly look to "monetize" blog search, Reynar said.

Google generates most of its revenue from text advertising lined to search results.

Nielsen analyst Jon Gibs sees blogs fall into three categores today: the personal journal posted by individuals, the more journalistic opinion and reporting blogs, such as Gawker Media; and corporate blogs, which companies use as a marketing tool. The latter two comprise the beginnings of a commercial market.

"What will be interesting to see is the degree to which individuals use the new Google search tool. Are they looking for information on Johnny's blog or the more personal blogs, or on the more commercial groups," Gibs said. "If it comes from the latter players, than it really could open up the possibilities for new commercial growth."

Topics discussed in blogs are too numerous to count, stretching as far as people's imaginations. The challenge for search engines will be to carve this universe into segments and opening them up to advertisers.

Chris Sherman, associate editor of Search Engine Watch, said Google is the first of the major search engine to offer "full-blown blog and feed search capabilities."

"Now that Google has launched blog search, expect the other major search engines to follow suit fairly quickly," Sherman wrote on the Search Engine Watch Web site. "All have been feverishly working on blog search over the past year, and now that Google is first out the gate the others will likely move quickly."

The Google tool, which was released in beta, indexes blogs by crawling content sent through their site feeds. Many blogs distribute content updates to newsreaders via RSS or Atom, both standards for content syndication on the web. A newsreader is software used to aggregate and manage Web-site feeds.

Indexing the feeds enables Google to update search results with new content much faster than standard web searches, the Mountain View, Calif., according to the company. Also, feed content enables Google to find precise posts and date ranges with greater accuracy.

Google plans to eventually provide a form for blog writers to manually add blogs to the company's index. For now, blog content goes back only as far as June 2005, but Google is looking to go back further.

Blog Search contains many of the advanced capabilities of the regular web search engine, including searching in foreign languages, exact words or phrases, and restricting search to particular dates.

Google is not the first search engine to offer blog search. Smaller companies, such as Technorati, Icerocket, and Feedster, have offered similar services for awhile.

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