Somebody found my blog while searching for a 'doctor's surgery webpage'.
October 16, 2000 5:14 AM   Subscribe

Somebody found my blog while searching for a 'doctor's surgery webpage'. AltaVista, Yahoo, Lycos -- has anyone ever found anything useful from any search engine ever? Really? I don't believe you. Never ever has any search engine -- not even lovely, nifty little Google -- given me what I want in any useful way whatsoever. You would not believe how long it took me to find a sodding picture of Steve McQueen smoking the other day. And for God's sake don't get me onto the utterly pointless localised versions or the abyssmal AltaVista picture search.
posted by James Bachman (22 comments total)
Yeah, if it wasn't for bad search engines, I wouldn't get three-quarters of the hits I do get.

Often the search engine results, when I go back to them, show that the searcher clicked through from, like, page 14, result 184. Did they actually wade through all the other bad results one at a time and then look at mine?
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:14 AM on October 16, 2000

Actually, I have forsaken most of the above in favor of Google. At least their "exact phrase" option works, much unlike HotBot.

The annoying part about Google is the words that it strips from your search. "Will" is considered too common of a word, so your search for "will writing software" would merely yield "writing software", and how many results do you want to sift througn in the hopes that it got included?

I like to do one-word searches to see what site is ranked #1 for that word, and get an idea how they did it. Dack used to be #1 when you searched for "bullsh*t", and he doesn't use META tags.

I tried the same search at HotBot (exact phrase, english), and coming in at #4 was some cheesy long-distance company who used the word nowhere in their source code. Go figure. My faith in HotBot was dashed at that moment.

We used to be #1 at Google when searching for "ethmar", now we're #2 behind some crusty site. Argh.
posted by ethmar at 6:17 AM on October 16, 2000

I agree, I get so many hits from wild searches, that it would be a shame to loose them. Plus, I get a lot of laughs out of finding out what people are searching for. I even created a little site to keep track of it: As Searched On
posted by matte at 6:28 AM on October 16, 2000

I very *rarely* have any problems with Google. I would've gone with Ditto for pictures. Google works great for me for just about *anything* else. I've spent time on some pretty obscure searches, and Google does the job. And if you put your phrases in quotes, Google won't filter out common words.
I don't *touch* any other search engines, besides AskJeeves, Yahoo, and dmoz... and that's only if I'm looking for a good starting point on a topic.
posted by gramcracker at 6:50 AM on October 16, 2000

So the obvious question is... what search terms WOULD be appropriate for your blog? Isn't this a case where the only search terms you would see would be random noise?
posted by smackfu at 6:58 AM on October 16, 2000

So, how *did* you find the Steve McQueen smoking pic??? ;-)

posted by Aubry at 7:16 AM on October 16, 2000

Are you kidding James? Google finds what I'm looking for 95% of the time. Really, that's amazing considering it's being done by computer. How much intelligence do computer apps really have usually? Google far surpasses all other search engines I've ever used. Lycos and Altavista are totally useless, sure, but Google?
posted by daveadams at 7:19 AM on October 16, 2000

Are there any pictures of Steve *not* smoking? :-)

I use Google religiously, myself. I concur with the complaints about stripping, though. Particularly when I quote a phrase. If you can't search for a phrase I went out of my way to quote, just don't return anything at all, cause I'm likely not to *see* the "we left out your search word, because you should have known better than to try and search for that word in the first place" error message -- I'm not looking there.

Alas, Google is too good to listen to complaints anymore.
posted by baylink at 7:23 AM on October 16, 2000

BTW, there is also a community weblog for messages like "Somebody found my blog while searching for [insert you favourite search query here]".
posted by arf at 8:04 AM on October 16, 2000

I used Excite, entered steve mcqueen smoking. The first result returned was The Steve McQueen Tribute Page. I followed the link to the Gallery, then Various Images, and got TWO smoking pictures, including the original of the ad you found.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:15 AM on October 16, 2000

Good to see other people are collecting their weird referrer log treasures... my site went live in July, 2000 but have been enjoying reading them forever.

As per finding images, have you ever tried the various search engine image search tools? That's how I found a lot of the photos used for my silly splash pages...
posted by matte at 8:26 AM on October 16, 2000

>I used Excite, entered steve mcqueen smoking. The first result returned was The Steve McQueen Tribute Page. I followed the link to the Gallery, then Various Images, and got TWO smoking pictures, including the original of the ad you found.

Oh well done. I suppose I should know by now not to sight specific examples in forums; people always do their best to disprove you. (In a way, this just proves my point. Successful searching is essentially about luck.)

Look, I am not an idiot, I know how to use a computer and a search engine, yet I still generally find it very difficult to find what I want from search engines. I do find that Google is by far the best but for me that's much more to do with speed and simplicity than anything else.

I think the variable that makes the greatest amount of difference to the success of a search engine is what subject area you are searching for. If you search for something related to the internet and its more obvious uses (HTML, home pages, blogs, computer stuff and so on) you going to have a lot more luck because there's going to be a site dedicated to the area your looking for; but if you're just looking for information about anything else in our sphere of existence, it becomes a lot, lot harder to get anything sensible back.

Someone ought to be developing a much more sophisticated context-based search engine, and in fact I'm sure they are. At least I keep hearing about such things -- the search engine that will find pictures for you based on fuzzy-logic and image analysis techniques, for example -- but they never seem to emerge. Perhaps they're just harder to perfect than I imagine.

As for META tags, am I right in thinking that most search engines have begun to ignore these in favour of actual text on the page? Which negates one of the most useful ways of sensibly cataloguing sites that include non-HTML text, such as GIF or Flash elements. I know some people who have taken to hiding text at the top of the page in the same colour as the background in order to give search engines something to get their teeth into.

posted by James Bachman at 9:42 AM on October 16, 2000

curiously enough, to test google, i put in the search string (in quotes) "picture of steve mcqueen smoking". the only result? your weblog where you're bitching about the usefulness of google. i laughed my ass off.
posted by bliss322 at 10:02 AM on October 16, 2000

Now that, Alanis fucking Morrisette, is ironic.
posted by James Bachman at 10:20 AM on October 16, 2000

>As for META tags, am I right in thinking that most search engines have begun to ignore these in favour of actual text on the page?

Yes. However, thanks to certain goofballs stuffing their META tags full of crap (see for yourself) you get saddled with sites that have nothing to do with what you were searching for.

posted by ethmar at 10:37 AM on October 16, 2000

In Google, you can force a common word to appear by preceding it with a plus sign. (ie "+will writing software +is keen") This doesn't appear to work in exact phrase searches, though.

And you're right about meta tags. I don't think Google uses them at all. It uses two factors to determine relevancy: the text on the page, and the number of websites linking to that particular page.
posted by waxpancake at 10:50 AM on October 16, 2000

A neat trick you can pull with google is to type in "+www" as your search string. This (roughly) matches every single record in the database. Letting you see: the number of indexed pages AND the absolute rankings of various sites. (Yahoo on top)

Anyone have a search string that will give you more than 501 million records?
posted by smackfu at 12:03 PM on October 16, 2000

I find the arbitrary Google searches that reach my site terribly entertaining as well; I've gone through the trouble of having the last two days' worth of matches on public display. Now I can see just how many hits from searchers for "scooby doo porn" I accrue on a day-to-day basis - serves me right for ever mentioning salacious things even in passing, I suppose.

Oh - and "+and" yields 895,000,000 records. Booyah!
posted by youhas at 12:19 PM on October 16, 2000

Yeah... I got hit for 'teenage penetration' the other day. I hope the FBI isn't reading my referrer logs. :-)

The last time I checked, plussing a word wouldn't save it if Google *really* didn't wanna search for it.

Or maybe that was punctuation.

There are some useful categories of search, in any case, that Google *simply* won't permit.
posted by baylink at 12:38 PM on October 16, 2000

One of my pages (my CDMA FAQ) gets hit all the time from search engines, but that's because "CDMA FAQ" is a pretty straightforward search term and rather unambiguous.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:00 PM on October 16, 2000

I use google almost exclusively. It works for me. To find what you need quickly, take your best shot at a search string and, if that doesn't work, improve the search string. Don't waste time, just try different strings. Hey, variety is the spice of life!

Using Google, this string - steve mcqueen cigarette - located a photo immediately.
posted by shinybeast at 8:51 PM on October 16, 2000

As many have said, if you can't find what your looking for using Google!, you must be using the wrong search string.My weblog is the first result under its name on Google!, so I'm happy.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 7:24 PM on October 17, 2000

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