March 2012 Archive
After panning Google earlier today for non-search changes like the addition of Play and disappearing search tools experiment, I should give them credit for a potentially useful search results change. Barry reported on SearchEngineLand that for some results from the Google Discussion database subset (web forums and Google Groups), that the results will include a new "Top Answer" tag line that highlights a potential answer to the search question. Searchers may not see this often. Clicking the Discussions database on the left will bring up more, but not all discussion records have it.
In addition to what Barry found, below is an example I was able to find when in "Everything." If you have not looked in the Discussions recently, also take a look at some of the other information that Google makes available on some Discussions results just under the URL like number of posts, number of authors, and date. While this information is not obvious on a quick look, I often find it very helpful in deciding which results to view.
Google Play, the new combined online Google store for music, books, and Android apps, is now being featured prominently in the top Google bar, highlighted with a "NEW" superscript. Clicking the Play link does not transfer a search that you have already done in Google (which is what happens with Images, Maps, and YouTube) but just opens the main Play page for buying something from Google. Sorry Google, but this is not a search-related enhancement. How about adding Scholar to the bar or at least the drop down list under More?
Meanwhile, Google OS shares a report and video of a royally stupid Google User Interface experiment: a collapsible search sidebar, further excluding the links to databases and search tools when Google already only shows some of the options. If I remember correctly, Google tried this experiment a few years ago when the sidebar was new. It stunk then and stinks now. If you want users to have these options, make them viewable! Better yet, give us the option in search settings to always have both the databases at the top and the search tools at the bottom fully expanded.
Remember when Google use to make improvements to search?
The search engine Yandex is big in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus,Kazakhstan, and Turkey, and an alpha version in English has also been available for awhile. Yandex builds its own search engine databases and currently has a web, images, and video database on the English Yandex site plus web-based email. All versions of Yandex also have a cache copy of pages, which makes it an alternative source for cache copies. On the search results page, the "more" link finds other page matches from that site, and you can do a follow-up search just within that sites. Some sites' icons show up on the left, and unusual among today's search engines, Yandex dares to number the results!
Its advanced search page is, like too many others, not linked on the home page, but it is linked near the top search box on results pages. It not only includes date, site, filetype, and languge limits and a title search option, but it also shows the chosen limits in the grey box at the bottom highlighted in this screenshot. The advanced search page even includes an option for turning off lemmatization (searching all grammatical variants) by clicking the "used in text" option as in "this exact form."
Yandex.com may not yet have much market share, but it is well worth a look for anyone interested in a Google alternative.
It is always interesting to hear people's rationale about leaving or joining a company. Yesterday a former Googler hit hard with "The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus." James Whittaker criticizes Google's heavy-handed move into Google+ and social networking to increasing ad revenue via learning more about its users.
It is an interesting and seemingly very honest soul baring. "Google+ and me, we were simply never meant to be. Truth is I've never been much on advertising." He ends by giving Google a -1.
James is not alone. The recent Search Engine Use 2012 survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that "73% say they would NOT BE OKAY with a search engine keeping track of your searches and using that information to personalize your future search results because you feel it is an invasion of privacy." See also Danny Sullivan's analysis of the report.
On the other hand, I can see where Google's new emphasis and concerns originate. Facebook is changing the way the web operates. James Fallows' article in The Atlantic "Facebook, Google, and the Future of the Online 'Commons'" provides a great overview of those issues. If you have some time for search engine reading, this combination of links will likely pique your interest.
Back in November, Google launched and then withdrew a new advanced search page. The new version is back, if you can find it, and it is improved over the buggy November version. I do like the new look and the removal of the need to click the + button to get the full advanced options, but I am sorry that the link and related search options have been removed. Instead, Google only offers links to how to use the link: and related: commands. I still miss how the old form would show the commands at they are selected from the boxes below.
It is not only Google's web advanced search form which is changing. Other Google databases (Books, Groups, Patents, Scholar, Shopping, and Video) still have the older interface while Images has the new one. News takes a very different approach while Google services likes Documents, Gmail, and Calendar have an even more different approach. My latest "On the Net" column "Advanced Search in Retreat" (in Online 36(2): 43-46, March 2012) discusses these issues in more detail, and is available online for free.
Some other search engines still have advanced search forms while other newer ones often do not (DuckDuckGo,Blekko, Wolfram|Alpha, Quixey. Speciality search engines like Hulu have sophisticated advanced search pages. For advanced searching fans, here is a list of links.
Google Advanced Search Links
Other Advanced Search Pages
Speaking of making Google Advanced Search hard to find, guess what happens when I try a Google search on advanced search? The Google Canada Advanced Search page ranks as #1 followed by other advanced search pages, but NOT the main Google Advanced Search page!
Google Operating System reports in Bring Back Keyword Highlighting to Google Cache that logged in users have lost the ability to have search words highlighted when looking at Google's cached copy of a web page. "For some reason, Google's caching feature is more and more difficult to use. The "cached" link is hidden inside the Instant Preview box and it's no longer available in the mobile interface. Now the keywords from cached pages aren't highlighted if you are logged in."
I had not realized that cached links were gone from the mobile interface. While I don't always use the highlighting when looking at cached pages, if needed, at least one option is to re-do the search in a non-logged-in browser or use the URL modification trick mentioned in the blog post. Since no keywords are highlighted, the header line of "These search terms are highlighted: . . . " is also missing. Also, as a reminder, the cache used to mention which search terms only showed up in links to the page. Now if you are not logged in and a search word does appear on the page, it is just not mentioned.
Google's expanded synonym operator, the tilde (which must be right before the word with no space as in ~cancer), can be used in some interesting ways. Garrett French's "The Link Prospector's Guide to the Tilde" from yesterday gives several ideas of use from an SEO (search engine optimization) perspective.
To review, unless using Google's verbatim search function (in the left side bar) or putting all search terms and phrases in quote marks, Google will search for the term entered plus grammatical variants and some synonyms. For example, searching art teaching statistic finds results with matches on words that were not entered like teachers, education, statistics, arts. Adding the tilde in front of a term makes Google look for even more synonyms. Changing the search to ~art teaching statistic also finds more synonyms for art including gallery and design.
It is not always easy to see the differences since exact matches may rise to the top, but some of French's ideas make it easier. He notes that you can use the ~ along with field prefixes like inurl: and intitle:. Since both titles and URLs are visible in the search results, it can help to see the synonyms, especially if you also NOT out the actual term. For example, intitle:~cancer -intitle:cancer shows that the synonyms include disease, leukemia, pain, and tumor.