Archives for February 2012

5 Image Related Google Search Quality Highlights

Google announced on their blog today that 40 Search Quality Highlights had been made for the month of February 2012. While I am very much interested in the improvements to ranking for local search results (btw: I love Venice as a launch codename), I noticed 5 of the 40 updates are image related.

My interests in photography may be no secret but my study of how Google handles images is something I have not typically blogged about (I’ve covered image search in WordCamp & PubCon presentations). For me, image search is fascinating, and I was very pleased to see the 5 image (or at least 4) related updates Google announced.

I’d like to share my thoughts and you’re welcome to ignore them or disagree.

1) More consistent thumbnail sizes on results page.

We’ve adjusted the thumbnail size for most image content appearing on the results page, providing a more consistent experience across result types, and also across mobile and tablet. The new sizes apply to rich snippet results for recipes and applications, movie posters, shopping results, book results, news results and more.

My thoughts: Setting and following standards for image resizing and cropping (on your site/blog) is more important than ever. My advice is to stick to standards similar to those on your digital camera and/or camera phone. Google will adjust images regardless of how you size them but why not shorten the steps it takes to do so?

2) Expand the size of our images index in Universal Search. [launch codename “terra”, project codename “Images Universal”]

We launched a change to expand the corpus of results for which we show images in Universal Search. This is especially helpful to give more relevant images on a larger set of searches.

My thoughts: Image Search will increase so watch analytics for changes (increase or decrease) in image related traffic and make adjustments accordingly.

3) Improved detection for SafeSearch in Image Search. [launch codename “Michandro”, project codename “SafeSearch”]

This change improves our signals for detecting adult content in Image Search, aligning the signals more closely with the signals we use for our other search results.

My thoughts: Hurrah Google! Allow me to share a real world example as to why this is important by sharing a photo I took recently of Actress and Model Capri Cavanni while in Las Vegas.

Capri Cavanni

I would argue that this Capri Cavanni photo (one of many I shot while in Las vegas) is safe for work and should therefore be OK to appear in a SafeSearch Google image search. However, an image search for the name Capri Cavanni most certainly doe not display safe images (trust me on this) even when settings are set to strict.

I have an image search keyword query theory on this best saved for another day. I could share numerous examples (not today) where unsafe images get triggered when searching peoples names. I’ll watch to see what improvements take place algorithmically and hopefully there’s good news to report in March.

4) Fresher images. [launch codename “tumeric”]

We’ve adjusted our signals for surfacing fresh images. Now we can more often surface fresh images when they appear on the web.

My Thoughts: This should greatly improve the user experience. A good recent example were images that appeared when searching SOPA. While I did not take a screen shot, searching SOPA (up until recently) would exclusively return images related to soup (spelled sopa in Spanish). Today I see Stop Sopa and Blocked Content images prevail.

Stop SOPA eat SOPASOPA Image Mix Disambiguation

5) SafeSearch update.

We have updated how we deal with adult content, making it more accurate and robust. Now, irrelevant adult content is less likely to show up for many queries.

My Thoughts: Although not related directly to image search I’m including this since I think it’s closely related to number 3. I think most of us would agree that adult content (when not specifically searched for) shouldn’t be appearing in regular search results (images, text or video). Searches for bananas should be safe for all to view, even when the search query is food porn.

On the topic of food and photos, checkout this mean cheeseburger I stacked up in Hawaii. Cheers!

PubCon Paradise After Dark

After two days of Search, Social Media and Sunshine in Honolulu, PubCon Paradise wrapped up with an after party at Jimmy Buffett’s Waikiki in Honolulu, HI. I almost decided not to bring my camera but I’m glad I did. It was after dark so I mounted up a Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM Lens, grabbed a locally brewed Longboard Lager, and started capturing some photographs. Here’s what we got…

Aaron ShearAaron Shear

Seen here relaxing on an outdoor patio in Waikiki, Aaron Shear, spoke on content strategies and an expert spotlight session on SEO for large-scale websites.

Dave and CarolynDave and Carolyn

Working in Waikiki was tough work for everyone. When not speaking at the conference, there was a constant battle of whether to work on a laptop in the hotel room or get outside for some sun and mai tais. Oh the struggles of life is an SEO.

Axel MetayerAxel Metayer

Coming all the way from Hamburg Germany for PubCon in Hawaii, Axel Metayer, was a perfect photography subject. I love when friends just carry about with what they’re doing while I take their photos.

Dan Zarrella in Honolulu

Social media scientist, Dan Zarrella, showed us the scientific approach to getting the brass ring on the hook. You had to be there, it was an addicting activity.

Alison Zarrella

Alison Zarrella shows her excitement for Dan’s bar game accomplishments. At PubCon, Alison spoke about Facebook marketing, and she was also part of the Monday Search/Social Media training.

balancing four cups on headbalancing four cups on head

Not to be outdone by SEOs visiting from the mainland, a local shows us some real skill in balancing cups on one’s head. He did this all night, and I think 4 cups was the maximum I saw him balancing, never dropped one. Tricks like that really come in handy at parties.

ladies pubcon after party

The location was perfect for a conference after party, and it was great to see spouses, girlfriends/boyfriends, and significant others joining us for a good time on a Wednesday night in Honolulu.

Brian MasseyBrian Massey Conversion Scientist

Even Brian Massey got out of his conversion scientist lab coat to enjoy good times with friends and conference goers. Brian also spoke during the Masters session and he’s a regular speaker at PubCon.


We were in Waikiki, so wearing flowers in one’s hair was a regular thing to do. The colors in Honolulu were great for taking photographs, and when not taking pictures of people, had to settle for photographing birds. They were quite colorful too.

Scott CowleyScott Cowley

Having a great time in Honolulu, Scott Cowley got into the spirit with a fresh Hawaiian flower lei, and a smile. Gingers make for great photographs.

Todd Malicoat Michael BonfilsTodd Malicoat and Michael Bonfils

Top gun fisherman Todd Malicoat bought me a cheeseburger, so he gets additional extra bonus points for being an awesome dude. I got really hungry taking photographs and I missed out on the nachos being served in the bar. Michael Bonfils spoke on international search and destination SEO, and I have to say that it was really cool PubCon had sessions dedicated to travel & tourism, and even local search for the Honolulu area.

ralf martinibusterWebmasterworld PubCon Attendees

Also visiting Hawaii from Germany was Ralf Schwoebel, and it was good to see Webmasterworld people like Roger Montti (Martinibuster) making the trip as well. This was the first time PubCon was in Hawaii, there’s lots of us hoping it’s going to be a regular thing. Thanks to Michael for buying the beer on Monday nights first networking party of the week. Was great to see sponsors supported the effort in Hawaii, and it was really great to see people stayed for the sessions, even when it was so beautiful outside.

Sarah CarlingSarah Carling

Scott Cowley wasn’t the only ginger in the room, Sarah Carling got in a few of my photographs as well. For PubCon, Sarah spoke on convergence of social media and search. I’m discovering there’s far too many photographs for a single blog post, so I’m posting the PubCon Paradise Afterparty Waikiki set to Flickr.


Birds Spotted in Honolulu Hawaii

I am finding birds make good subjects when it comes to taking photographs, and there was no shortage of colorful birds to take pictures of while in Honolulu. On day one I discovered that I had to closely guard my plate when eating things like this cheeseburger, since the local pigeons would jump on the table to steal food.

white feral rock pigeonWhite Feral Rock Pigeon

The rock pigeon (Columba livia) was one of the most common birds I encountered in Honolulu, and it seemed at times there were more pigeons inside open air restaurants than there were customers. “Do Not Feed the Birds” signs were common but I witnessed many tourists feeding birds while dining. White pigeons like the one shown here look prettier to me when up in a tree posing for a photograph with a twig vs a french fry.

hawaiian roosterHawaiian Rooster at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Park

I saw lots of feral chickens and roosters during a day trip to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Park. There are wild chickens all over Hawaii’s parks, and apparently there’s a great abundance of feral chickens in Kauai. I’ve also seen plenty of feral chickens on Maui. I think most of the birds are accustomed  to being fed, since they showed little fear and stayed pretty close while taking their pictures.

blue and gold macawBlue and Gold Macaw

This colorful blue and gold macaw (Ara ararauna) was a chatty bird but it’s not a Hawaiian local. We had an exchange of hellos while I snapped a few pics. The Hilton Hawaiian Village property (where I stayed) had an abundance of birds living on the property, mostly in the lawn areas of near the Koi fish ponds.

pink flamingos hawaiiPink Flamingos

A group of pink flamingos are also residents on the Hilton Waikiki property. I didn’t see them move too far from where they are here on the lawn, sometimes they waded in a nearby pond, not sure what specific species of flamingo these are either. Colorful birds though.

black crowned night heronBlack Crowned Night Heron

The Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) was a bird I saw often perched in and around the Koi fish ponds. They are the same species of bird I see in Venice Beach hunting along the canals. They are great birds to photograph since they are typically standing still waiting to ambush prey (like fish and frogs). One day I’ll sit long enough to photograph one catching breakfast or dinner.

spotted doveSpotted Dove (Spilopelia chinensis)

The spotted dove (a.k.a. spotted turtle dove) was a species of bird I saw quite a bit while walking/running in Ala Moana State park. It’s a great park (starting point for the Honolulu Marathon) that lots of local birds call home. Besides spotted doves, there were many zebra doves (a bit smaller than the dove pictured here and they have a bluish head), pigeons and other birds. I saw a pair of red crested cardinals flying around, but I didn’t get a chance to take their photograph, they looked like they had red mohawks.

african black footed penguinAfrican Black Footed Penguin

The African black footed penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is not a bird one would expect to see on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. There were several of these cute penguins living on the Hilton Hawaiian Village property. I’m pretty sure their caretaker took them in each night, but during the day they got to walk around and swim in a small enclosed environment that was also home to a number of water turtles and Koi fish. Since 2010, the black footed penguin has been listed as endangered under the U.S.A Endangered Species Act.

bird man moana parkDancing with Birds at Ala Moana State Park

The photo above shows a man dancing in the distance at Ala Moana State Park with a large following of his feathered friends. Some people don’t care for birds (I personally find them annoying when they are trying to steal your lunch) and others can’t get enough of them. While I noticed some parks in the Honolulu area had signs posted that it was illegal to feed birds, others didn’t have such signs.

Happy birdwatching!

Online Review Social Awkwardness

Writing online reviews has not yet become part of our regular culture (in the USA). Ask any local small business owner (or manager) and you’ll discover that very few people write online reviews of businesses, even though the selecting of businesses based on reviews, has shown a dramatic increase during the past few years.

Ordering a Mai Tai while in Honolulu Hawaii provided a perfect example to demonstrate the social awkwardness local businesses currently face when it comes to asking for online reviews. Take a look at what came with my bill.

15 percent gratuity15% Gratuity in Five Languages

Correct me if am wrong, but I believe the languages are Japanese, French, Spanish, English and Chinese. I assume they all generally say “Quality Service is customarily acknowledged with a 15% gratuity.”

I incorporated the photograph in my PowerPoint presentation for a local search and review session I did during PubCon Paradise. I asked the audience if anyone would have been offended after being presented with that piece of paper. Nobody stated they would be. In fact, one participant stated that local businesses include information on tipping with bills and receipts, because the practice of leaving a gratuity is not customary in some cultures visiting the island.

In Japan for example (60% or more of the people I saw visiting Honolulu appeared to be from Japan), tipping is not part of the culture. I was told that some may even consider the practice of tipping to be offensive. As far as I know, tipping in China, France and Spain, is not customary either. Tipping in the US however, is a widely practiced social custom. So how is educating various cultures on leaving a gratuity different from educating customers about online reviews?

quality service rewarded with reviewsQuality service rewarded with a review

Is suggesting to patrons that it’s okay to reward quality service with a positive online review inappropriate? As a consumer, would you feel uncomfortable seeing this note along with your bill or receipt? Can you see adding logos and/or shortened URLs with locations to where those reviews could be written? Would you find that offensive?

Who would’ve thought ordering mai tai’s in a hotel bar could be so productive? Local is a 24-hour job.

Best Cheeseburgers in Honolulu

I love cheeseburgers. That’s a pretty well-known fact in my family. But even though I love them, I can’t say I’d be willing to travel a long distance to find a cheeseburger I can enjoy. In the case of cheeseburgers, “best” often loses out to location, which follows the Location + Branding + Trust formula I’ve mentioned many times in local search presentations.

The best cheeseburger I had while in Honolulu was at a Bar & Grill on the Ilikai Hotel property, one hotel over from the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, where I had been staying for a PubCon Paradise search conference.

avocado pineapple bacon cheeseburgerAvocado Pineapple Bacon Cheeseburger

Taken with my iPhone 4s, the above photo shows a cheeseburger made with green lettuce, avocado, grilled pineapple, onion rings, onions, bacon, Swiss cheese, a hamburger patty and a sesame seed bun. Thick cut salted french fries were served on the side.

I consumed more than a few burgers while in Honolulu for the week. I made all my choices the old-fashioned way, relying on what was found during walks throughout the city, versus using my mobile phone or suggestions from online review sites.

grilled mushrooms hamburgerGrilled Mushrooms Hamburger with side of Onion Rings

This hamburger with grilled mushrooms, green peppers, and tomatoes, was ordered by my wife. It came with onion rings on the side. I didn’t eat any of it but it looked like quite a tasty burger as well. After seven days of being in Hawaii, my spouse got use to me photographing nearly every food and drink item that was served to us, but now I have plenty of Hawaii related food photos for blog posts.

Pretty much every burger I had while in Hawaii was cooked medium to well done, and I’m not even sure how many places asked how I’d like my burger done, perhaps that’s the islands default way of cooking beef. I had a few Loco Moco burgers while on Oahu, I have to say those were my favorite overall. But cheeseburgers on a bun (with a nice pale ale or lager on the side) are my standard food fair, and Honolulu cheeseburgers didn’t disappoint. Take a look at it stacked up.

grilled pineapple bacon avocado onion ring cheeseburgerGrilled pineapple bacon avocado onion ring cheeseburger

Stacking the cheeseburger is a combination of art, skill and personal preference. In this case I started with the bottom sesame seed bun and added catsup. Stacked in order was the following: beef patty, cheese, bacon, avocado, grilled pineapple, onion ring, sliced tomato, sliced onion, another layer of catsup, and the top sesame seed bun. The lettuce never made it on the burger.

A nearby couple was laughing as I shot this photo and they were wondering how I was going to manage to consume this burger. Some people may opt to slice it down the middle, but my preference is to simply have extra napkins on hand, and just go for it. In my experience, avocado is typically the most slippery, and good finger control is required in order to keep all burger fixings in order during consumption.

I paid about 16 bucks for this burger, and about 45 bucks for the entire meal, which included beverages (no beer). Our server Michelle was friendly and attentive. Outdoor patio featured a nice breeze coming off the marina. It was a good experience overall. For those interested, you can order burgers like this at the Ilikai Hotel & Suites – (808) 949-3811 – 1777 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96815.

Update: After searching online, I discovered there is a website for the Ilikai Bar & Grill, which includes an online menu. The burger I had was the 5-0 Burger.