Greg Notess did another of his very popular Search Engine Updates. He began by noting that we are left with Google and Bing as unique search engine databases. Yahoo is now powered by Bing; Ask has a question and answer focus, and Cuil is gone. Blekko, Exalead, and Gigablast are still trying.Is this the death of search? Searcher behavior is changing. Wikipedia often comes up in the top 3 results. “Content farming” sites–eHow, wikiHow, answerbag–are becoming more dominant in search results. They are not necessarily bad information. Many of these “farming” sites have recently bee sold at high prices, but most of the people writing the content for these sites are only paid a few dollars at most per article. The farmers look at trends and find what people are searching for, then hire writers who volunteer to produce an article.
“Content scrapers” republish near-duplicate content, which may be slightly updated. Google recently made major changes in its “Panda” update, which targeted farm sites. The update changed more than 11% of results and removed low quality content like Yahoo’s Associated Content. The winner in this was eHow, which gained some ranking. Some domains were heavy losers.
Google Blocking allows users to block sites from their search results. They did the Chrome extension first. But it rarely works! You do not have to rely on Google Blocking; you can do this yourself and manage your own blocked sites.
Other changes at Google: A sidebar lets you go to images, video, etc. They only show some of the functions; you have to click to see everything. Lots of the databases changed names. When you click on one of the databases, the options change on the sidebar. Your location also shows on the sidebar, but it’s not always guessed correctly. You can change it.
Search tools are listed, but you must click on More to see the entire list. If you’re not logged in, you won’t see many of the choices. You have to set up a Google profile to get Social to work. “Something different” lets you get other types of information. Theleft pane seems to be where advanced search is moving. (“Everything” really means “Web”). On the advancecd page, reading levels have been added.
Some database names have changed. “Sponsored Links” are now Ads (finally!). Google Instant is a feature that suggests search terms as you type. Sometimes it shows strange results. You can get distracted by the other things that come up, so you may not save much time. If instant is on, you don’t get a search box at the bottom of the page. You usually get 10 results. With Instant, you only see 5 suggestions and cannot increase the number. Some of the suggestions come from your search history if you’re logged in. Not all the databases have Instant. (Most of the ones on the left side have it.)
Google Previews (copied from Bing) is a magnifying glass on right of the hits. Click it to see a site preview. You can’t turn this off once it’s initialized. For videos, it takes snapshots in the middle of a video for the display.
Personalization is becoming more important; it is based on history, and geographic location. You can somewhat disable it.
Encrypted searches are available, but not for all databases.
Some lost features : For social searching a Google profile required, and no Facebook connections are now available. Bing has Facebook Connect, where you can see linked pages and friends’ faces.
Using Google ad preferences, you can target the ads you see.
Some new search tools have appeared. Qwiki offers a different view of searching.