This blog complained in January 2006 about how bad search engines are. This post will raise that one by about a grand. If anything, they seem to be getting worse.
I had offered to try to find someone’s email address online. Assuming the person was too canny to put their real name (to avoid spam) but might give some signs of their presence in forums and so on, I tried various search methods. The first thing that I discovered was that there seem to be no legitimate directories in which you can find people. Where there used to be White pages and People finders, there are basically none worth using. I can see that spam has made people unwilling to leave their email addresses ripe for the plucking but this seems ridiculous.
I did straight searches for the name (quite an unusual one) and found one forum post containing this name in Google. I continued searching using other search engines and what you would assume to be more productive versions of the name, (such as just the first initial and surname) and actually found that even the forum post that I had found the first time wasn’t brought up by any other searches.
So experimentally, I tried searching for other names, including the name of someone who I know was found through the Internet by an old school friend a couple of years ago, when the internet was clearly a much more naive and open place. No results. I then tried searching for a name that had appeared in this blog. I found this blog but only a cached version. I did not find the article to which the blog had linked, although this is still available online.
So, to test Google, I searched for the headline of the article to which I had referred. I enclosed the text in quotes to stop it from bringing up its first choices – a string of web addresses where any of the words appeared anywhere in any order. (The blog article had came up on page 2) No results, this time, except for where the headline was quoted in this blog – cache version only.
Not believing my eyes, given that I had the article open in front of me in Internet Explorer, I assume that the site for which I was searching is just not indexed by Google. It is a local newspaper site for a pretty sizeable UK city. It gets public funding. Can it really have been so inept in its SEO practice that Google can’t see it? Are googlebots so inadequate that they can’t see a site which supplies many GB of text?
The article is nearly a year old. I thought that maybe Google feels impelled to cache anything this old to save its search time. However, this doesn’t explain why most of the presented results went back 7 years and came from very obscure rural journals, when I put a couple of phrases from the headline in quotes.
There are lots of sources online that claim to have some idea about the logic that underlies Google (et al) ‘s search methods. Bullsh. There is no logic to it, as far as I can see, after empirical testing.
Tragically, search engines are not just getting poorer at delivering meaningful results, they are increasingly clones of each other, so that you get the same garbage, in the same order, from half a dozen. There must be a solution?