Monday, August 2, 2010

Google searches are unreliable

Google is amazingly the most well known and used search engine. Heck, the word "google" itself has become a verb thanks to the website. I've always used Google, as far as I can remember, but it seems like in the last few years, they've been slipping.

The first thing that really annoys me is that Google seems to accept partial results of your search. Instead of searching web pages for all 4 words in your search, Google will bring up results with only 2 or 3 or the words, and that can really make all the difference. True, it does have the useful quotes feature in which case everything within quotes must be in the page, but that only works on more than one word, which doesn't solve the problem of me specifically wanting every word of my search term in the result.

Next, something I believe I've complained about before is the fact that Google tries to "help" you by using "similar" words. For example, a coworker and I were having a discussion on the meaning of the Italian suffix "-aglia", and I was searching around to find out what it meant, and Google kept bringing up results for "anglia." They are not the same. Another example, I'm right now interested in buying a Dr. Pepper hat, but googling "dr pepper hat" brings up results with the word "cap" also, so it shows things like "Dr Pepper Promotions" just because it has "Look under the cap of specially marked". So again: it sounds nice on paper, Google, to have similar terms, but the thing about language is that it's extremely vague, and yet direct at the same time. All I want is for a search to (1) place heavy emphasis on results that have all the words in my search term, and (2) bring up only the words in my search term.

The last major, major problem is the results themselves. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on these types of things, but it definitely seems like Google needs to update how their web crawler indexes the internet. Maybe it's because they've been around for so long and people are starting to abuse the system, but sometimes half of the results are to sites that are not the thing themselves, but just links, like maybe Digg or some service like that. This sounds fine, but the problem is, with many composite sites, it was indexed a long time ago so much so that the phrase in question isn't even valid anymore.

Probably the most annoying is the sites that take your search and plug it into theirs, claiming they have results. For example, if I searched "Firefox Bumper Stickers", it would come up with something like "Find Good Deals on Firefox Bumper Stickers Today!", which you would click and the site would say "0 results for Firefox Bumper Stickers". It's just retarded, and makes me loathe those sites.

Again, I am definitely not experience or advanced enough to be criticizing Google in any way but a user. But here are my pieces of advice to Google about their search:
  1. Put the web pages with all of the words at the top, because one word can make all the difference. I don't care how popular a site is, if it's missing one word from my search, it could not not even close to what I'm looking for.
  2. Use only the words I search. You can have your "Related Searches", that's fine. But don't make me throw in additional '-'s just to search something simple. I want what I'm searching for: nothing more, nothing less.
  3. Re-invent the way you index your sites. I can't say anything on this really, but you need to work on sites that are obviously 'trolling' your methods, just trying to get higher in the rankings when they have nothing to do with the search term.
Honestly, I'm going to have to move away from Google if they don't improve. I'm fairly confident that they're still the best search engine out there, but the fact that it now takes 20 or 30 pages to find what I'm looking for instead of 2 or 3 like it was a few years ago testifies to the changes that need to be made.

Google, I am a faithful user, and as a faithful user, I'm telling you this with all the geeky tech love in my heart: kick it up. The last thing I wanna see is another company that tries to pass off crap as legitimately good software/services. *coughMICROSOFTcough*

Your's truly,


  1. I have to agree. Also, I have seen searches where, even if you block out words with the '-' thing, IT STILL BRINGS UP RESULTS WITH THE BLOCKED OUT WORDS IN THE PAGE. That is unacceptable.

  2. Yes! Thank you, a! I'm not insane after all!

    I know what you're talking about. It's just so dumb. The other day I was searching for stuff for my Sansa mp3 player and I searched "Clip+", with the quotes, and it kept bringing up results for the regular Clip, so I had to search "Clip+" -clip. It's just absurd.

  3. I did, but in casual conversations (forum posts, blogs, etc), people never refer to it as the "Clip plus", because it's true name is "Clip+". The only time people refer to it as the "Clip plus" is either when they want search engines to find it (which is rare, in my experience), or if the medium they are entering it into does not allow + (which is also rare).

    My point was, Google used to just say "Did you mean 'Clip'?", but now I have to manually tell it "No, I did not mean 'Clip'."

    I see it as having a conversation with Google and it was a person. When you're having a conversation about a movie, the other person may suggest something like "'Helraiser'? Are you thinking of Hellraiser?", but they'll never assume you're talking about something 'close' to what you just said, like "'Hellraiser'? A Fundraiser is an event or campaign whose primary purpose is to raise money for a cause."

    Crappy analogy, maybe, but it hopefully illustrates my point.