It’s probably safe to argue search engines have become the most useful piece of technology most of us interact with on a daily basis. Whether tweaking (or buying) listings for marketing purposes; conducting competitive research; or simply trying to find needles in the giant haystack that is the Web, all of us ‘Net marketers are dependent on these handy apps.
Like so much of the technology we use on a daily basis, it’s safe to say few of us have done more than use the most rudimentary functions in most of the search engines we use. As most of us probably use no more than 10 percent of Microsoft Word’s functions (and use even fewer in applications like Excel…what the heck is a “pivot table” anyway?), most of us tend to use little of the functionality built into search engines. That’s a shame.
Most search engines are incredibly powerful tools for pinpointing information on the Web and gathering information about links between sites. They can even be hacked into automated information-gatherers on interesting topics. Of all search engines, Google is perhaps the most “hackable,” because its creators published an API (Application Programming Interface) that lets users tie directly into Google’s database.
I know…it sounds pretty technical. If you aren’t a techno-whiz, how can you tap into Google’s power? Look no further than Google Hacks by Tara Calishain and Rael Dornfest.
The book is an incredible collection of 100 high-powered tips and tricks that take you deep into Google’s guts. While “Google Hacks” contains some very technical information (including Perl code for performing some real wizardry), it also contains a heck of a lot of practical information for the casual researcher, marketer, or anyone who just want to find stuff quickly and easily.
The first chapter, “Searching Google,” is chock-full of information to supercharge searches, including how to best read search results, using Google as a dictionary, or how to best arrange search words to better find what you seek. Everyone who uses Google on a regular basis is sure to find something immediately usable. For example, you’ll learn special Google “syntaxes” let you hone searches by focusing on page URLs, page text, even just page titles. You’ll also learn how to create specialized search forms on your site that take advantage of Google’s targeting power and become topic searches for your site’s visitors. Google can even be used as a phonebook, and you can target searches to business or residential numbers.
For marketers, the real gem is Chapter 8, “The Webmaster Side of Google.” While the title sounds like something only a geek could love, a quick read reveals a huge quantity of “insider” information to help you optimize sites for Google. SEO companies probably know a lot of this stuff, but for many of us, “Google Hacks'” explanations of optimizing keywords, selecting new AdWords, even researching competitors’ AdWords, is a revelation. There’s even a peek into the PageRank algorithm, the heart of Google’s ranking system that matches relevance to links.
For the truly technical, “Google Hacks” has a huge amount of information coders can use to build “hooks” into Google. From insider tips about using the Google API to instructions on building custom “content scrapers,” “Google Hacks” is clear, concise, and relevant. The non-technical may find their eyes glaze over when confronted with source code listings, but developers are sure to love the new tools.
I had more “aha!” moments reading “Google Hacks” than almost any other Web how-to book in recent years. Admittedly, I’m a total data geek and enjoy nothing more than digging up interesting data on the Web.
But even if you actually have a life, knowing how to get the most out of Google can instantly increase your effectiveness online. That’s what “Google Hacks” is about: no fluff, no hype, and no BS. Just simple, easy-to-read information that’ll make you a better searcher right away. It’s probably the best investment you can make this year to become a savvier Web marketer.
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