February 2011 Archive
Several search engine watchers and forums have noticed how web page titles that Google is displaying in its search results are different than the actual page title. This seems to be a change that goes well beyond the traditional scope of why Google might change the page title (such as a missing title element, a different title in the Open Directory, or malformed HTML.
Over the past few weeks, I have noticed similar issues, and what surprised me was that Google will change the title in the search results for the exact same site depending on the search query. As Christopher Skyi comments (see 2/18/11 comment) "It appears Google is constructing the SERP on the fly as a combined function of the user's specific search query and what's on a ranking page."
Here's an example from my employer, Montana State University. I was checking out the Wikipedia entry which still gives the name of the university of Montana State University-Bozeman (even though the '-Bozeman' was dropped several years ago). Search either montana state university or montana state university-bozeman and the first results is the MSU web site. But the title that Google lists depends on which way you search it. (And for at least the past four years, the HTML title on the page has been <title>Montana State University</title>.)
So for some searches at least, it seems that Google will display a title for a page based in part on some of the words in your search query.
Yesterday Google announced the launch of its new Recipe Search which is also been added as another database in the left side bar. Initially, this will only be available on the U.S. and Japanese versions of Google.
Run a Recipe Search or choose the "Recipes" option on the left side, and Google provides specialized search facets on the side for ingredients, cook time, and calories, as in this example from a search for cherry rhubarb.
This should prove to be quite useful to many cooks, but what I find so fascinating is that Google is creating this database from sites that use Google's rich snippets markup which depends on content creators using the special coding on their pages so that Google will include the pages in Recipe Search and be able to better parse the fielded meta data in the recipe.
Searchers: this means that Recipe Search will also exclude many recipes that are not marked up with the special tagging.
I love cached copies of web pages for many reasons, but with the consolidation of search engines, the number of sources for a cached page has been decreasing. So imagine my dismay when I noticed the lack of links to a cached page copy at Bing recently. Fortunately, they are still there. The links are just a bit harder to find.
Read the rest of this post and watch the screencast to see how to find the new Bing cache link location:
Last week, Google rolled out a new top toolbar, as confirmed by SearchEngineLand. It is supposed to be few pixels shorter than the older toolbar and is a bit more colorful and interactive.
On the top left side, note the new darker blue bar above the current database (Web in this example). New is a background color change when you hover your cursor over one of the other databases (as shown with News in this example). The old toolbar had no hover color unless you choose something from the "more" drop-down when the color background went dark blue. At this point, only the following databases use the new toolbar:
The old toolbar is still seen at the home page for these (but after doing a search you may see the new one):
More significant changes occur in the top right section, which changes depending on whether or not you are signed in to Google. The Search Settings, iGoogle, Web History, and Sign Out links are now more hidden and each take an extra click to get to them.
Previously, when not signed in, you would see the following at the top right:
Here's the new version, after clicking on the gear icon to display the options:
After running a search, iGoogle is replaced with Web History. This change has removed all these links from the visible page, so if you want people to try changing their search settings, you must first tell them to click on the small gear icon in the upper right corner
Why is Google making these changes? Putting these options in the drop down menu does not increase screen space. It just removes links that I am guessing are infrequently used. It also allowed Google to add Privacy (even though that is already linked at the bottom of every page).
Perhaps more telling is the removal of the Sign Out link. Once you have signed in, you used to always see a sign out link in the upper right section. Now, searchers need to click on their name to see a drop down choice to Sign Out. Perhaps few other users ever sign out or else Google finds a strategic advantage in making it more difficult to sign out.
For your amusement! (At least, I was amused.) In creating a shortened URL for use with a job posting, I wanted to do a quick Google search to see if my created word has been used by others. So what happened when I tried?
Apparently, Google thought that in the middle of February in Montana, I really wanted to search for 'surfing.' So confident were Google's algorithms that I really had meant to 'surfing' that they decided to give me those results. After all, 4 of the 9 letters matched on surfing. At least, clicking the 'search instead' choice let me find what I wanted to know -- that no one else in Google's current web database was using msurefjob.
When Google first launched Google Instant, it was not available for all the Google databases. It still is not available in Google Scholar, for instance. Today, Google announced Instant's expansion to Google Shopping (also known as Product Search). See more coverage at SearchEngineLand where Barry notes that "Interestingly enough, this does not seem to work off the Google Product Search home page." It only works at this point after choosing "Shopping" in the left hand facets.