Tue Jul 29 09:45:15 GMT 2003 Googlitis
Gather closely, children. Draw the blinds so the neighbors may
not see. Closer, for I need to whisper. There. Now listen
carefully, and repeat this to no one:
Google is not perfect.
Be brave. Santa still toils in his workshop, the Easter bunny
yet hops along. The sky has not fallen. But you need to learn not
to entirely rely upon Google.
I saw a great example of why just yesterday. I review my web
logs now and then with particular attention to Google searches. I
do that to help me know what people are looking for, what Google is
sending them to, and how I can make it easier for the next
While taking my notes, I noticed that the same ip address was
repeating, coming from Google, looking for "aplawrence+netcat".
Obviously this person was looking for something very specific to
this site, but was not finding it. What they probably wanted (and
apparently never found) was What is netcat and how do I get
Google finds more than 700 matches for that search. The number
one position actually is the right section of the FAQ, but of
course Google doesn't take you to the right line. That's why i have
a Search box right at the top of each FAQ page. Had this person
typed "netcat" into THAT search box, the number one match from my
search engine would have been What is netcat and how do I get
it?, which takes them right to the very paragraph they probably
want. They probably also could have just used their browser page
search, though that would have taken longer because "netcat" is
referenced quite a bit in that section.
My search engines know my site better than Google does.
That shouldn't be a major shock to anyone. It's true for most
web sites. But this person apparently has a bad case of "I trust
Google". The logs show them coming from other sites that Google
sent them to because those sites point back here to something
related to netcat. Not what was wanted, because the search went on.
This poor soul spent quite a bit of time in pursuit of netcat, and
was probably quite frustrated. But not once did they avail
themselves of my bulit in search tools, which would have found what
they were seeking instantly.
Google doesn't have a clue
I don't mean that in the sarcastic sense that people so often
use that phrase. I mean it literally: All Google knows is that
"netcat" appears X times on page Y. That's great, but it doesn't
have the important clue of how relevant the page really is. Very
often the site provided searches DO have more than a clue about
what's really useful and important.
Google has other problems too. A recent article at Slate
Googleholes is good reading for more on that.
No, don't stop using Google. But learn to use other tools with
it. Site specific search engines can sometimes be disappointing -
sometimes you ARE, unfortunately, better off with Google. But at
least give the other tools a chance.
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