“Google has become a jungle” says The Wall Street Journal. After coming under widespread attack regarding the relevancy of its search results, it’s now common knowledge that Google searches often bring up not what are necessarily the best sources for a particular search but sites ranked highly for commercial reasons.
The truth is that Google generates its hefty revenues through advertising programs. The more you pay, the higher you go on the list of results. As Google’s inner workings become better known to the public, it’s easier to see that Googling is not the “end-all” of searching online.
Says the Wall Street Journal,
Almost every search takes you to websites that want you to click on links that make them [spammers and marketers] money, or to sponsored sites that make Google money. There’s no way to do a meaningful chronological search.
For most of us who are online but not shopping, relevant or useful information is available on more than just commercially successful sites. What if a user wants to find some information about an emerging company that Google happened to place on page eight of the search results? It can sometimes make sense to skip to page eight of a Google search if you don’t see what you want on pages one or two.
Google constantly updates its complex (and secret) search algorithm. Minor tweaks result in barely noticeable differences, but larger changes are dramatically affecting rankings of sites that rely on Google for their traffic. On such change happened recently when Google targeted two online retailers – Overstock and JCPenney, attempting to game the algorithm and boost their rankings. Google banished them to later pages in search results. Changes that target “cheaters” sometimes end up hurting honest, quality sites, too. But, as Google’s head of anti-spam says – “No algorithm is 100% accurate.”
Despite the overwhelming market share Google holds, it’s now evident that better information could be out there and getting to it could require changing search strings or sifting through 10 pages of results.
A start-up search engine that’s currently in the beta-stage of shaking things up is called “Blekko.” The concept behind their search is similar to the “like” button on Facebook. If users find the page valuable, they click a “like” button and Blekko ranks it higher. With so much ruthless spamming present online, it’s not likely that Blekko will turn the idea into a foolproof system. But if there was a way, our internet could be delivered pre-approved by an overwhelming majority. Online content delivery could turn into more of a democracy, instead of Google calling the shots.
Tips for smart Google searching:
- Change your search string. Word order matters on Google
- Search again a few hours later. Search results change all the time
- Pay attention to time frame. Google can limit search results to a specified period.
- Limit your search to particular document formats. You can call up only pdf’s, Excel spreadsheets, or documents on a server with a .edu suffix.
- Use advanced search to remove unwanted words
- Search within particular domain. John smith site:harvard.edu searches for John Smith only within the Harvard University domains.