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Google seems to be getting more difficult to use for me

 7:12 pm on Feb 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

I am finding Google more and more difficult to use. I don't think Google is any worse or any better in that regard than it was a few years ago. However, I do expect more from them today than previosly.

This isn't anything new really, it's just a level of frustration setting and waiting for Google to come up with an easier way to search than they have at current. It feels like they have stopped dead in the water on search and settled for what they have.

I really didn't even know there could be a faster, more accurate way to search until using that 'other engine' with it's nifty suggestions. They cut search time by multiples and make the actual process much less of an intellectual brain teaser. Instead of figuring out the right keyword combos to get Google to generate the result I want, I could be putting that effort into viewing information I want, or getting back to work.

In alot of ways, Google today is feeling more an engine from the pre-Google days. I sure hope they have something up their sleeve.


Receptional Andy

 9:37 am on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

>There are several 2-3 word searches in a particular industry I was looking for earlier this week that just gave me crap for 8/9 of the first 10 listings.

The kicker is, that of the crap entries are all 'affiliate' domains owned by the same company.

The fact that a couple of these sites are in DMOZ...<

This sounds EXACTLY like a search term I can think of, with hundreds of identical, content-free sites with the only difference on each being a country/place name. They all show up for "keyword keyword" which is the main search and dominate the results...

Maybe I'm easy to please, but I haven't been to a non-Google search for a while. I used to flit from engine to engine, but I've found that my searching skills can now find me what I want pretty quickly, even if I do end up with horrendously long search queries with quotes and minus symbols everywhere ;)

I figure, Google indexes the sites, it's up to me to figure out how to use the database to find what I want.


 9:52 am on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

A simple suggestion. If someone chooses a regional Google - why not have regional results as the default - instead of Worldwide? Cut out the regional redirects based on IP (where they go on) and maybe show an IP tailored Google.com home page with a link to the relevant regional Google in the correct language stating that a surfer can get local results there - if they wish.


 9:54 am on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi here are my suggestions:

- more refresh for GG Images
- possibility to keep its "favorite" search keywords results (Am I clear?) as I often look for the same keywords.
- possibility to customize/change the color of the main page and of the results page (a little bit like ATW)
- NEW results in other color or REFRESHED results in other color if the first proposition is not possible (would be better that the NEW results are in other color).
- creating a kind of "GG for kids"
- give the possibility to user to really give their opinion or vote (= real use of the vote buttons?), it would give more interactivity with other users
- dictionnary not only in English

I'm thinking about other suggestions...

Visit Thailand

 10:09 am on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

I would like to ask - because a few people have mentioned skins, colours etc. I want to ask - Why?

I mean how long do you spend on Google? When I go there I type in 'search term' I get results I go, its fast it is easy and I have not even noticed what colour anything is.


 10:12 am on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Google works because it's so bloomin' simple. That's what the average user wants. Although as a power user I like the idea of nice and funky gizmos such as related searches, FTP searching etc - most people will become confused by it all.

The only things I wish - Google needs to update it's spiders DNS cachethingymewotsit quicker and have at least twice-monthly full updates.


 10:13 am on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Put Google news out of Beta and put Google news in other languages in Beta for all the non English regular users.

Its way too fascinating a service to withhold from the other language users.
Call it Google Alpha News if necessary.


 10:14 am on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Another idea, would be some sort of "intelligent iterative search"

Like imagine someone searches for "blue widgets" .. in searching, they realize that widgets are also known as bodgets, so they search for "blue bodgets" (2nd iteration). Finally, in the 3rd iteration, they narrow it down to "fancy blue bodgets".

Now what if, the 2nd iteration for "blue bodgets" also searched for "widgets"?
... like on top it would show pages with (blue bodgets AND blue widgets), then followed by pages with (blue bodgets OR blue widgets)

For the 3rd iteration, for "fancy blue bodgets", it would again use previous search history to help narrow down the item being looked for...
... like on top, it would shop pages with (fancy blue bodgets AND fancy blue widgets) then (blue fancy bodgets AND blue fancy widgets) ... bla bla, you get the idea.

Basically, if you do several searches one after another, it uses previous search terms you've entered to try and find what you're looking for, and there could be a reset button or something, or automatically reset after a minute or something, or if search terms were totally different.

So no two SERP's with more than 1 iteration will ever look the same. Is that too confusing? :)


 10:26 am on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Visit Thailand said: "I would like to ask - because a few people have mentioned skins, colours etc. I want to ask - Why? "

>> Maybe you only search for a few keywords per day, I look for many keywords per day and I think it would be great if I could change sometimes the colors... and sometimes the "very white" pages start to hurt my eyes, especially at night.


 11:12 am on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

I feel the algo is just fine. We need something to make it easier to search. Google has 'fallen down' for me on several important searches in the last week. The most recent was while looking for info on ipaq wireless [webmasterworld.com] networking. I specifically wanted to know how to access a local lan as a client while connected to it via WiFi without vpn.

I searched for several hours. I did _not_ find an answer. I do think the answer is out there and probably on several sites. So, can you come up with keywords that would pull the needle from the haystack?

Maybe it is just my search process that currently needs improving. Here's generally how I go about a search task like that:

I tried:
- ipaq 5450 wireless wifi [google.com]

That gave a nice general set of sites. I thought maybe there would be a tutorial, a review, or someones experiences with it. The sites were all good, but they were the big beefy sites known for pda info that had wireless and wifi on some page. The top ten results did not produce any usable info. Most of those I did not surf based on the page title alone.

So lets refine:

- ipaq 5450 wireless networking client [google.com]

Again, looking for tutorials or how to's. Same as before. They are all general pages or review pages about the ipaq.

Lets skip all the refine steps and try to "go for the kill"

- ipaq 5450 wireless network client windows 9x [google.com]

whew - one result and it's web spam city. Clearly too specific. Lets backup and try something else:

- ipaq 5450 wireless network client connect to windows [google.com]

Ok, frustration level raising - lets surf some of these sites and see if they lead to any better info. With opera, its a quick 10 shift-control-clicks and open those pages in the background.
whoops what's with the dialog box prompt - oh, it's a pdf in the middle asking if I want to run adobe. grrr, I can not ever recall hitting a pdf in a search result that I didn't consider to be spammy/noise. Out damned pdf:

- ipaq 5450 wireless network client connect to windows [google.com]

No joy there either.

Well drat - lets go the other way and dig through the meta information.

- ipaq networking faq [google.com]

While there was some good info in those results, it was mostly what I call "Mega Site Spam". Bunches from the Zdnet/Cnet crowd, the top pda sites, and a couple of link loaded spam pages. Most of which was well over a year old and did not apply.

I have come oh so close to finding the info I wanted, but not quite. I did spent quite awhile on other search engines and did not find what I was looking for either. So, I'm still looking for that definitive applicable up-to-date article.


That is the same process I go through with most serious info quests. Some suggestions that would make the above easier and faster:

- search suggestions:
give me 10 related top queries to click on.

- natural language:
The simple "how do I do this" type questions.

- more than 10 search words:
This is a real limit.

- no stop words.
Allow me to search without quotes on stop words.

[edited by: Brett_Tabke at 6:48 pm (utc) on Feb. 18, 2003]


 12:37 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

"I specifically wanted to know how to access a local lan as a client while connected to it via WiFi without vpn."

Try a search for:

<how to access a local lan as a client while connected to it via WiFi without vpn [google.com]>

second result might be what you are looking for?

[edited by: Brett_Tabke at 12:52 pm (utc) on Feb. 18, 2003]
[edit reason] fixed url [/edit]


 1:15 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

How about support for Perl [perl.com] regular expressions?
How about support for Perl [perl.com] one liners that allow you to postprocess SEPRs before they are sent?

Thatīs not for the average user, I know, but it would be cool and really geeky ;)



 1:34 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Ditto Cornwall's comments on travel-related spam. Some of the top-ranked sites for "New Orleans my keywords" don't even have facilities in New Orleans.


 1:38 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

- natural language:
The simple "how do I do this" type questions.

- no stop words.
Allow me to search without quotes on stop words.

Ok the advanced searcher could use the plus (+) before the stopwords to still have certain stop words included.

However, I think Google should/could offer the opt-in option of natural language type results above the Serps (a radio button?) the moment someone searches using FAQ type language, more or less including all stop words without making them exact searches.


 2:28 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

- search suggestions:
give me 10 related top queries to click on.

I think if Google started suggesting related queries, AdWords advertisers might want to cluster around keywords for those. Revenue for non-"blessed" keyword groupings might dry up, hurting revenue in the long run.


 2:34 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

I agree think that travel-related searches have become a problem for all engines, but I don't see any easy answers.

> ...(= real use of the vote buttons?),

The installed user base of the Toolbar must be enough for a "people who like the pages that you like also like..." feature. Merged with Google's search index (OK, tall order) we could arrive at the 'personal SERPs' nirvana that Chris_R has often mentioned.


 2:40 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Visit Thailand wrote,

For example we are now beginning to expect that the answer for every possible question is out there on Google or any search engine.

It just might be. I constantly tell people to use google for anything from (inspector mores sidekick) to a recipe for (beef in a bag). My wife who does prospect research for a non profit foundation has actually been sent to classes covering how to use google as a tool for her research.

I think the thing that frustrates me most about google is while they are attempting to weed out as much spam as they can, and probably doing a fair job of it, there are sites who are penalized who should not be, while there is a ton of "smack me in the face with it" spam still in their serps.

I don't expect google to be perfect, but I do find it is getting a bit harder to find that perfect recipe on the first page of serps. But is that google getting harder to use, or is it the shear volume of pages she has to index these days? Google is a different engine than it was two years ago, however, in 2000 there were 8547 pages relating to "web hosting" while today the number is closer to 3.5 million. That's quite a job for any SE.


 2:55 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Brett also wrote:
Google has 'fallen down' for me on several important searches in the last week. The most recent was while looking for info on ipaq wireless networking. I specifically wanted to know how to access a local lan as a client while connected to it via WiFi without vpn.

My personal strategy is to exhaust Google Groups before I lean on regular Google when researching technical solutions. I think Groups has a tendency of being overlooked--I try to hook friends or clients up with some Groups tips (nothing special, looks a lot like your wifi research example, in fact) before doing it for them. They're especially happy if they have an error string to search on ;)


 3:50 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Fascinating stuff--I'll be chewing over this thread for a while. I really like Brett's example too. Any other blow by blow sessions like the one he gave?

<added>Brett, what (if any) good pages did you find on that topic?</added>

[edited by: GoogleGuy at 4:24 pm (utc) on Feb. 18, 2003]


 3:58 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>Any other blow by blow sessions like the one he gave?

Why not add search history then you can get the results of millions of blow by blow accounts?

Search sessions... Done with one search in a specific topic? Click the "end session" button.

I know that Northern Light is now defunct and people pile abuse on it for being spam ridden but I could always find what I wanted at NL and the feature set made searching a bit easier.

Hardwood Guy

 4:11 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Boy, I can see how frustrated some people can be when they used something like this bizarre search phrase and clicked on my site. And heck, I thought I had a clean site...LOL. It has absolutely no relation to my site whatsoever...<b> strip bar pictures</B>

There are many others that have nothing to do with my business or site, but I suppose I shouldn't be complaining. Who said "rich content?" It's one of Brett's ten basic....


 4:28 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

This is a great thread and I too have noticed how difficult it can sometimes be to get the answers you want and have had to refine and refine some more in order to find what I want.

The problem (as I see it) is the incredible amount of data out there which has been indexed by Google and the spam masters zeroing in on any and all keywords for the sake of a hit rather than actually delivering the goods.

It used to be easier to find things simply because the volume of pages indexed was a whole lot less. As the web (and spam) grows, so too does the problem of relevant SERPS.

In my view, the only way to conquer the problem and deliver only relevant SERPS every time is to use PR by association. By this I mean that PR would be determined by links from "similar or related sites only".

The current method of determining page rank is becoming bogged down by those who manipulte it by collecting links from completely unrelated sites, and who use other questionable SEO tactics to get to the top of the pile for as many quiries as possible ... even if not entirely related to the search.

For those who "claim" that they get traffic for their blue widgets site from a link from a tobacco farmer's site in Ontario ... then by all means ... go collecting tobacco farmer links. However, Google should ignore that link as being irrelevant to the content of your site and therefore not count it among your PR calculations.

Now, I can think of far reaching topics which Google may somehow determine are unrelated to your site but which may actually be related ... but so what? So you don't get credit for those links. As long as everyone elses site in your industry is being ranked on the same basis ... then what does it matter?

Now to answer GG's question:

1) I would very much like to see a Yes/No check box next to the search box which asks, "Would you like to search for the most relevant sites using both the singular and plural form of the item(s) you are searching for?" Also a "Don't ask me again" option.

2) I would like to know which sites are new to the Google index so that I can see what is new and exciting.(I liked that about Yahoo back when I used to use Yahoo.)

3) I would dearly love to have the option to narrow my search. I tried searching for "futon shops miami florida" when trying to buy a new sofa bed. The first result on Google was a site about CSI Miami, the TV show. Huh? ... you may ask. So did I until I realized that there is some guy calling himself the "Futon Critic". (In my opinion, this just points out where PR is bogging down the SERPS.)

That's all I can think of for now ...

[edited by: Liane at 4:32 pm (utc) on Feb. 18, 2003]

Hardwood Guy

 4:28 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Another thing...it's been awhile since I've been in these discussions so I have a few things to say on the subject. Perhaps they've been discussed...but.

Wasn't there talk of outgoing links having more of an effect on page ranking? For some time I didn't think PR was that important if people used the right search phrases I'd like them to use. It works on several of them and has me up there #1 all alone across the board. But with more general search phrases it probably would bring in thousands of clicks each week. For now I'm near the bottom.

Those that are ranked up around the #1-5 position don't have anywhere near what I have to offer for my visitors. Items such as useful outgoing links related to my site theme and what they are looking for.

Isn't this what it's all about? Giving the people what they need? Frankly I gave up on the link exchange because they(big dawgs) just don't give a rats whatchacallit to a small fish like me. Heck more than 75% of the outgoing individual website links I have don't come close to me with traffic.

Maybe someday they'll pay attention? In the meantime I will continue to add related outgoing links to my site for my viewers.


 4:39 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Some of these posts are quite long so let me break from the format here:

1) "..more than 10 search words: This is a real limit." (Brett_Tabke) - Amen to that. Everything that determines if I will click on a link is in those 10 display words and it is often never enough.

2) The Related Searches presentation is a great idea.

Off-Topic of User Experience

1). A Google Site-Map - I have to search for Google's own pages from the search box. Fine, but it doesn't show me EVERYTHING it has. Preferably placed on the front page. IF it wasn't for WebmasterWorld, I never would have heard of many of the pages, features Google has.

2). Google email.

3). Never IPO

4). Google cheerleaders who deliver pizza in my city.



 4:53 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Past a neural link directly to Google there isn't much I'd change.

I use it as my only search engine except in the following cases:

1) FTP files. ATW does it the best so I use them. This is usually a fallback from Google where I find a set of drivers or a program I want and the link from the page or Google's cache is 404. I have the filename now and I just pop over and get it.
2) Industry specific. I still start with Google, but if I am looking for something really hard core in a specific area I'll pop over to one of the industry specific engines ... this is especially true when I am looking for medical information. I don't want to buy the drug I am looking up <sigh> I want to read information about it.

Someone mentioned Google Groups as a great search possibility. I can't tell you the amount of times I have used that. I use Groups for two areas: 1) Technical support. Invariably someone else has seen the same error message. 2) Product reviews. Again, groups doesn't have the BUY ME NOW sites.

The key to all this is how Google keeps your search terms between the offerings. With a simple click I can jump from Google to Groups to News to Images.

What would I like to see in Google that would make it more useful to me:

1) Natural language. You guys have nailed the spelling. I am sure you can do this.
2) Adaptive searches. Brett touched on this with his walkthrough of search terms. Google has all this info. It can track your searches. Why not suck them all up, run something against them at night and when someone searches for something they didn't find an answer for right away point out other search terms that were used?
3) Ranking the search queries. This is like above, but maybe a simple thing on the site that you can click on if your search term worked for you or not.

Google is the king of the search world for the simple fact that A) Sites don't have to pay to be included B) It brings a certain amount of order to the chaos on the web.


 5:00 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Allow users to set the description length in preferences, short descriptions are okay on some stuff, but I would like to see more in some searches.

The descriptions on a lot of searches are so "algo pleasing" that they are almost useless to the user.


 5:09 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Medical Search Option

One of WebmasterWorld's members has just built for me a fantastic search box that gives the option to query 8 of the best medical search engines.

This got me to thinking. Google has the option to search Web, directory, groups, news, shopping but what about medical information?

Although I am perfectly healthy, if I ever did become ill you can believe I would be searching the internet for every scrap of information I could find.

An option tab to search a medical only database would be the first of it's kind for any major search engine. (as far as I know).

Web sites in the medical only database would probably have to have an acceptance criteria. The word "cancer" probably shows up on lots of sites that aren't really "medical."

It's just an idea.


 5:15 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Features I would like to see:
1. use of "-" or "AND NOT"; more ways to narrow or refine searches (Liane's point further articulated from my perspective)
2. more translations of the non-commercial sites or newsgroups
3. a way to measure search satisfaction that is sharable (as an option, not a default)
4. better weeding out of duplicate information (it's not always spam; e.g. searching on recipes, product info, and so forth- but it doesn't provide anything new)
5. improvement in the combination of "relevance" with "timeliness" (blogs can be great at this but unfortunately, the link-popularity aspect restricts what blogs will appear on results in the first 2-3 pages of results)

Here, I'm thinking of the newsgroups; I've had to search on the "by date" feature because relevancy didn't match and I needed the info within specific parameters (e.g. searches on local doctor backgrounds or feedback of experiences- for those who are still around).

6. ways to look at sites that won't or won't naturally receive a great deal of linkage but may be highly relevant for my particular search (similar to Amazon users recommendations); I have concerns about accessing those sites that aren't commercial, aren't SEO-savvy, but are still good resources for the data I need.


 5:27 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

I would suggest improvements in searches conducted without accents for foreign languages that contain accents. The fact is that the vast majority of foreign language searchers dont use accents, so if your page has gramatically correct accents you are penalized. there has to be a way to do this better. also, from the users point of view, it would be better to have the best result for the keyword, whether accented or not.


 5:48 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

One of WebmasterWorld's members has just built for me a fantastic search box that gives the option to query 8 of the best medical search engines.

I work on medical sites also, I'm curious about your search box and what you consider the best medical search engines. Could you sticky me your site and the med search engines?

BTW, AFAIK Google doesn't/can't crawl the PubMed database. Not having this info in Google's database is a huge loss to the searching public. Someone at PubMed needs to figure this out. In fact, this collection info is so important, I would even suggest Google get proactive and work with PubMed on this issue.

For those who don't know, PubMed is the NIH's bibliographic database for medical papers. It contains more than 11 million citations and abstracts of medical research.


 6:07 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

GoogleGuy - I would vote for seeing searches grouped by category and a related terms feature. Type in zinc in Google and then try it in Vivisimo. In Google there is currently no way to separate out sites aimed at zinc for industrial use and zinc for people looking for a cure for their colds.

I also agree that a PubMed option would be great. There's a lot of great nutritional information on that database that often doesn't get distributed to the general public because fruit and veggie growers don't have the profit margins of large international drug companies.


 6:50 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Good grief. This stuff is great! Liane, I think you make a good point that fact queries are harder than navigational queries, and "how do I ..." queries are often even harder than fact queries. If someone wants to secure their WiFi network or debug an ipaq<->Windows WiFi connection, it's hard to find good answers. One of my favorite info pages is the Samba docs about connecting Linux and Windows computers. It has a great debugging section that leads you step by step through the process of hooking things together. The docs say what the common error messages are, why they happen, and exactly how to fix them. I'm always amazed at how much room there is for tutorials/introductions/overviews about common tasks. If I want to clean out the cruft in my dryer's exhaust pipe, or understand a file format--there's so much room for good information.

Okay, I just took a few deep breaths, and I feel much better. Keep the suggestions coming--I'm loving this thread..

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