Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Google Search: Have It Our Way

By Nicholas Stix

It just happened for the umpteenth time in the past three or so months. I typed in search terms at Google and hit “enter,” only to fail to get what I’m looking for, because Google changed my search terms on me.

I typed in “Lionel Martinez,” and hit “news” and “enter.” Google changed my search to "lionel martinez" construction.

The result:
Your search - "lionel martinez" construction - did not match any documents.

• Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
• Try different keywords.
• Try more general keywords.
• Try fewer keywords.

Where on earth would Google’s Web crawler or bot get the idea to substitute a search term that leads to nothing? I can understand when it responds to keywords with suggestions, based on the popularity of certain keyword combinations, but even then, there is a difference between suggesting an alternative and imposing it. But imposing an alternative search that returns no documents?

Other times, Google will substitute my own narrow search of a name within quotation marks with the same name, plus some phrase or set or phrases, without the quotation marks removed. The change results in my getting a zillion worthless hits. If I wanted to maximize the worthless hits I got, rather than find a particular article about a particular person, place, thing, or incident, I would have done as Google had.

About the same time that the folks at Google started messing with search terms, for reasons known only to them, they began changing users’ upper-case spelling in searches to lower-case, when giving results.

About 11 years ago, when I started using it, Google was an incredible tool. I would almost always find what I was looking for, in microseconds. After a few years, however, I started having problems finding articles that I’d previously found, or knew existed. Some articles had been removed by their publishers, and contrary to a myth spread far and wide on the ‘Net by “experts,” Google caches have very limited lives. Sometimes, they disappear immediately, as in the time that the Seattle school district was caught imposing racist official policies against whites. As soon as the district pulled the offending (and illegal) Web page, its cache also disappeared from Google. I was convinced then and still am that the only explanation was that someone from the school district asked someone at Google to remove the cache, and the latter intervened on the racist “educators’” behalf.

Other articles were pulled back behind pay walls, but that still doesn’t explain not getting any results for them. I frequently come across articles that are behind pay walls and require payment, in order to read them, but their publishers don’t make them invisible to the Internet. After all, how would the publishers make any money off selling articles, if no one could find them via search engines?

This bizarre behavior by Google had caused me to have to double and even triple the number of keystrokes I have to type, in order to find the results I seek. This not only wastes precious time, but is not good for one’s fingers and wrists. The only explanation that comes to mind is that Google’s programmers are seeking to increase the number of searches people have to make, in order to inflate the firm’s stats, in setting its ad rates.

I just did a copy and paste, repeated my search, and and got a page full of results.

Why’d you have to make a simple search such a trial, Google?

If another search engine comes along that has a depth comparable to Google, but without its shenanigans, I’ll drop Google like a hot potato.

P.S. Full disclosure: Google owns this blog, but like so many of my colleagues in the same situation, I'm on borrowed time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are indeed correct sir. Look at what happened to the my south africa sucks blog. After google trying to hide it and repeated hacking attacks it's gone.