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This week in search wars

America Online and Google launch new technologies. Plus, French court rules against Google.

Two big names in search, America Online and Google, introduced technologies this week to expand options and block ratings manipulation, respectively.

AOL unveiled an expanded search offering that lets consumers quickly narrow queries and gives them new ways to seek out information and products.

The company also announced several partnerships and plans that will enable it to let people search both for online information and for computer files from one location on its Web site.

In addition, the online giant is expanding its local search offerings and giving advertisers a way to track which local markets their customers are coming from. AOL also has revamped its shopping search to allow its members to narrow results for products based on category, brand, price, store and merchant rating.


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AOL also released a new tool designed to help parents evaluate entertainment for children. The Family Friendly programming guide will appear initially in AOL's Moviefone and CityGuide services, which provide listings of films, DVDs and events suited to families. The option will be extended later to other AOL channels, including music, games and books.

Meanwhile, Google is introducing technology controls to thwart people who use blogs to manipulate rankings in its search results. Otherwise known as "link" or "comment spam," the ruse is as old as Web marketing. Such Web site promoters use the comment form on forums, blogs or any Web page to place or gain a link pointing back to their own Web site.

And because Google and other search engines tabulate search results in part by a Web page's link popularity with other sites, the trick can boost a site's ranking--and more importantly, traffic. It can also produce irrelevant search results.

In other Google news, the search giant was dealt a setback when a French court ruled that it must refrain from using the trademarks of European resort chain Le Meridien Hotels and Resorts to trigger keyword ads. A Nanterre court in France ruled that Google infringed on the trademarks of Le Meridien by allowing the hotel chain's rivals to bid on keywords of its name and appear prominently in related search results.

The decision casts a shadow on Google's billion-dollar money engine--keyword-based advertising--and potentially on the company's financial prospects in Europe. About 98 percent of the company's revenue comes from keyword advertising linked to search technology, and many such ads are tied to branded or trademarked names of products and services.