I means what I means

by | Sep 29, 2011 | Notes while surfing

If you could hear me when I’m using Google Search lately, you might think I was doing a Popeye impression; I mumble a lot. Ever since Google changed its search algorithm in March, I’m having to reteach myself to surf. I go to Google and type something, say “”Monkees” like ice cream” and I’m half way down the results page when I realize that Google’s suggested a different search for me:

“showing results for Monkeys like ice cream
search instead for “Monkees” like ice cream

“I means what I means,” I mutter and click on the link to search for what I originally typed.
I really do like change. Change is good. Change is necessary. Change is life, and all that hyperbole. But, come on! I’ve been searching this way since way back when AltaVista still existed. My head knows it’s time for a change, but my fingers still do the walking, er typing, and they want to put phrases within quotes.
It seems in Google’s attempt to assist us, they have started ignoring power users by over riding what we search for. Their own help files tell us that a phrase search works like this:

Phrase search (“”)
By putting double quotes around a set of words, you are telling Google to consider the exact words in that exact order without any change. Google already uses the order and the fact that the words are together as a very strong signal and will stray from it only for a good reason, so quotes are usually unnecessary. By insisting on phrase search you might be missing good results accidentally. For example, a search for [ “Alexander Bell” ] (with quotes) will miss the pages that refer to Alexander G. Bell.”

However, they may need to update their help site as they is no longer an absolute. It used to be preferable to use the double quote boolean term to get exactly the phrase you were looking for within Google, but now its hit or miss.
According to About.com, “Boolean searching is built on a method of symbolic logic developed by George Boole, a 19th century English mathematician. Most online databases and search engines support Boolean searches. Boolean search techniques can be used to carry out effective searches, cutting out many unrelated documents. “
There are tons of search strings available, but here are the terms I find most useful when searching on Google:

  • “Exact Phrase Here” — If it’s in quotes, Google is supposed to look for those words in the exact order.
  • +Exact+Phrase+Here — The + before a word tells Google that each of these words must be in the results.
  • +Word -other — Using the – sign, tells Google not to return any webpages with that word in it. In other words if you want to find Justin but not Timberlake you’d type +Justin -Timberlake
  • word site:weburlgoeshere — If you want to find something within a specific website use this. For example, if I want to find singer Pink’s videos on Youtube I would type this: Pink site:youtube.com

Currently the results of my search seems to change by the hour. I’m guessing it all depends on how much Google likes me at the moment of the search.
It’s hard enough when Google’s autocomplete, Google Instant, starts filling in my words before I get to the fifth letter. I surf using my keyboard, hitting return after typing in my text, which most times means that Google Instant has replaced what I typed or filled in more than I typed milliseconds before I hit the return key sending me to ridiculous results. Type in “do m” and get:

  • do midgets have night vision?
  • do men like virgins
  • do my thang lyrics

You can stop Google from using instant search. According to Google’s help files:

“If you don’t want to see results as you type, you can opt out by accessing your search settings under the  gear icon on any search results page. When you opt out, we’ll save that preference on a cookie, so you’ll stayed opted out until the cookie is cleared. Note that the preference will only apply to that particular computer and Internet browser, and it is not tied to your Google Account.”

To turn it off, go to your Google preferences. At the bottom of the page is the Google Instant options. Simply click the button next to “Do Not use Google Instant”
I like Google Instant, but if you don’t use it, you get the added benefit of being able to increase the number of results given on each page of a search. With Google Instant turned on you only get 10 results per page. With it off, you can choose 20, 30, 50 or 100 results per page.
While you’re in your preferences, you might want to reset your SafeSearch filter. If children are using the computer, you can have it filter out adult content. The default is set to moderate filtering. For me, I don’t want to be filtered at all so I click “Do not filter my search results.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a perv, I just don’t want something computer program telling me what it thinks is appropriate for me to see. I can make my own decisions, thank you. I’m a big girl now.

On September 22nd, Google changed its Instant Preview feature so that you no longer have to click on the magnifying glass to view what a website looks like before you click its link. You can now simply hover your mouse over to the right side of one of the results. When you do, two arrows ” >> ” appear, hover over that and a a preview of the site appears. This is very handy if you’re looking for a specific site but can’t remember it by name. One glimpse tells you whether you’re in the right place or not. If it’s not the specific site you want, hit the down arrow key on your computer keyboard, to view a preview of the next result.
I’m not getting too attached to any of the new changes though, because Google made an announcement yesterday that they’ll be rolling out even more changes soon. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just cross my fingers while surfing.

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