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Google seems to be getting more difficult to use for me

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Msg#: 9398 posted 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.



WebmasterWorld Senior Member googleguy us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 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..


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 8:44 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

hi everyone,
from a user perspective i would like to see tools that allow webdesigners/sitecreators to validate and improve their webpages/and i would like to see google displaying some of the info - so that i/the user can already see that the following site includes a 10mb flash file, 20 mp3's, etc and that the page doesnt comply to any html standard - so that i dont have to try other browsers ...

keywords: accessibility, w3c, informatio flow, ...
otherwise i would like google to improve their core business - providing relevant search results.
relevant.fast. clean.

today i ve met one really bad example while searching for
mapping cyberspace solutions - newsmaps in particular ...
the url has been taken over by one of these so called "search directories" that still profit from more than 250 backlinks in google ...

responding to some of the prior suggestions:
eventually it would be possible to elimitate at least the biggest domain grabbers - because they/the new pages all link/redirect to their specific "search directories" ...


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 8:49 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

just in case that this sounds to difficult -
and i know its not really following the rules -
but this is an obvious case:

backlinks to urls that offer phonecards demonstrate over
200 domains that have only one purpose:
degrading search results.

google should focus on that first.


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 9:00 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

OK, here's mine....

My shower nozzle squirts me in the face every morning and I've had enough - I decided to enlist google to help me find a new one. Searching shower nozzles (I guess since brett used actual search terms its ok for this thread?) I got 10,500 results with lots of paper machine and even sex devices, but not too many shower nozzles like I need.

hmmm...what else - shower heads... bingo - 450,000 results with lots of shower heads (I'm sure you'll all be happy to know that I found one). I'll bet this kind of result happens to lots of average users. Luckily I was able to come up with the term shower heads on my own - wouldn't it be great if google could've helped me get to shower heads. How about (a page from amazon) "other people who searched for shower nozzles also searched for...." Maybe there could be a box where the spelling correction goes that lists popular related searches with the number of returns for them.


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 9:05 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

More ability for the average user to vote a page up/down. PageRank works very well, but its input is limited to those who know how to create a link (a tiny tiny fraction of the surfing population).

The smilies are there in the toolbar, but can a spam protection rule be developed that would make their input useful?

Something like Epinions "Web of Trust" could work, but it would require personalization of search results.

West of Willamette

10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 10:30 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

I like using allinurl, allintext, etc. in my searches but it would be great to be able to use them for only part of a multi-term search. Currently, when doing an "all" search, the "all" must apply to all the search terms.


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 11:20 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

People spend the most time on the sites they find relevant to their search. The bad sites and spammy sites might be initially clicked on, but searchers will leave them almost immediately. How about some kind of mechanism that tracks how long people spend on a particular site from a particular search and integrating this into the ranking algo? The relevant and useful sites will rise to the top.

Didn't some other search engine do something like this before?


WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 11:40 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Kire - Many people may leave our site quickly, but that's because they found it, saved the page and left.

In contrast they might spend ages looking for the right information on another site and still not find it.


WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 11:46 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

I'd like to see just one addition to Google: An optional drop-down box where I can specify which theme I'm interested in.

A simple way to classify would be to use the Library's Dewey number system. Here are the 10 main classes:

000 Generalities
100 Philosophy and Psychology
200 Religion
300 Social Science
400 Language
500 Natural Science and Mathematics
600 Technology (Applied Sciences)
700 Arts
800 Literature
900 Geography and History

We might want to just add in two non-Dewey items:

Commercial search
Non commercial search

[edited by: SlyOldDog at 11:48 pm (utc) on Feb. 18, 2003]


WebmasterWorld Senior Member powdork us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 11:46 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think Google does a good job of bringing up relevant pages most of the time. Google visitors land on deeper pages and find what they are looking for thus don't spend as long there. Of course if your only comparing Google results this wouldn't affect the total outcome.


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 11:56 pm on Feb 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

How about a validator that actually gives you an indication on where the page may rank for particular keywords(at the given moment) for the next update.(which in the future will be weekly ;-0 )

Nothing worse than modifying a page by adding more content only to have it slip 20 places.

Pay Per validation could be a membership of adwords.......ah then there would be no need for adwords if there was no mystic involved in rankings.

Then again it could put the SEO's out of business as the small business' try it for themselves & give Google their income.....or it could enhance the SEO?


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 12:47 am on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

Tracking how easy it is to spam Google.

The trick: Buy hundreds of expired domains with high pagerank and thousands of referral links.

Effect: World domination.

Proof Two: Its quite interesting how insufficient Google Search is - especially when one considers that Google itself is listing hundreds of comments about a particular domain grabber - and even includes the company in its directory under:

directory.google.com/Top/Society/Issues/Business/ Allegedly_Unethical_Firms/

In this case we are talking about 2,840 domains, hundreds of them even with DMOZ and Yahoo listing ... but Google:
Doing nothing.

You can find hundreds of stolen domains when you search for: "Conference+Calls, +Phones, +Calling+Cards, +Long+Distance, +Cable+Boxes, +Cable+Descramblers, +Cellular+Phones, +Wireless, +Satellites, +Voice+Mail"

Google even lists dozends of newspaper reports about the domain grabbing/manipulating activities of this company - as well as several descisions from the National Arbitration Forum and the WIPO

But as long as the only thing that matters is pagerank -
Google is indirectly creating this kind of "market" in the first place. This is quite telling ...
(I know they are greyed out ... but still ...)

Just in case someone is asking how to identify such sites:
It would take me 5 minutes to do that - and help DMOZ, Yahoo, and Google to improve their search results.

Will they implement it - considering the available manpower at DMOZ? I doubt so ...

[edited by: Brett_Tabke at 5:11 am (utc) on Feb. 19, 2003]
[edit reason] not doing spam reports [/edit]


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 1:15 am on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

I really think that Google results have deteriorated in the last few months, and I am saying that even though my sites have top rankings. This is not true for every category, but in many.

I think the problem is that exact or near exact phrases are not as important in the algo any more?

If I am searching for a "sentence" with 3-5 words I want the results to show pages that contain those results in that exact order or if no matches, then results that are as near as possible to what I searched for. Now I often get results with all words on a page but not in the correct order, and sometime not even close to each other like they used to be. I know I can use the " " to get the exact matches, but that often narrows the field too much.

Non-competitive phrases have become less relevant in the last few months in my opinion.


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 2:52 am on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

Some of you have suggested localizing results due to searches for travel related subjects or for ordering something like take-out food. This should definitely not be set up as a default, but as an option.

Such a default would lower the relevancy people for who wanted to do global searches. As an American, I would not want the top results for Afghanistan war to return the local Afghanistan propaganda about our war with them. If someone did a search for Chinese human rights violations and got local results, those results would likewise be distorted by local propaganda. I'm sure the Communist government would censor anything negative and paint a rosier picture.

In my opinion, it would be a mistake to automatically rank a site higher because of where it is located.



10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 3:15 am on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

wingslevel: How about (a page from amazon) "other people who searched for shower nozzles also searched for...."

This is a great idea! Why not allow me to benefit from the search experiences of others?


Msg#: 9398 posted 4:02 am on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

Mardi Gras wrote:

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.

So what? The sites that are hosted out of town may be more relevant according to Google's criteria. (They may be better, too, but that's something Google has no way of knowing.)

It's the same with guidebooks: Just because a guidebook is produced locally doesn't mean it's more useful, relevant, or comprehensive than a Rough Guide or a Michelin Green Guide. The proof is in the pudding or--in this case--in the content.


WebmasterWorld Senior Member powdork us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 4:06 am on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

As an American, I would not want the top results for Afghanistan war to return the local Afghanistan propaganda about our war with them.

Because as Americans, whatever WE say is true?! Now I'm slightly embarrassed.

Google often has a hard time discerning identical content.
I can show many searches like this one [google.com].

Note the similarities in the URLs
Note the similarities in content
Note the similarities in ownership
Note the AltaVista like user experience.


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 5:27 am on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

As an American, I would not want the top results for Afghanistan war to return the local Afghanistan propaganda about our war with them.

I didn't know america even was at war with Afghanistan.. you must have different propaganda in america than australia.. we thought it was the 'terrorists' you were at war with and you were in fact working together with afghanis :)

my favourite suggestions thus far in this thread:
- related searches option
- a library type category dropdown menu

I don't like the voting suggestions - way too open to spam.


WebmasterWorld Senior Member vitaplease us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 6:46 am on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)


Yah, I'm more interested in things regular users would want...
..I'd also be interested to hear about common types of searches that don't seem to work as well as you'd like

I think regular users are already extremely happy with Google.

They can Google themselves and others, they can find their homepage, they can even look-up someone through their telephone number and all in lightening speed in a clean set-up.

It is partly happiness through ignorance.

If the comments in this link are true:

..only about 3% of searches use the advanced search form so they do not spend much development dollars on it..

Then I think Google is forgetting where it came from.

It was the advanced webuser and searcher that got hooked on Google first.
It was through word of mouth that these early adopters passed on the good news about Google.

Google should not forget that these advanced searchers are now spreading news on other search engine advanced search options, because for some reason Google shows no interest in enhancing the advanced search options.

Or is it that Google is scared, that too much of their algo could be detected from adding more advanced search options?


WebmasterWorld Senior Member googleguy us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 8:07 am on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

vitaplease, good comments. It's always a hard trade-off to decide about an advanced feature that only a few people would use, versus something that's more subtle but that would affect most user's searches. Lately we've been working on more subtle things that improve search for a wider base of users, but that's always open for change. We tackle projects in the order that we think can give the best benefit to most users, but feedback threads like this are an important barometer about where we should put our resources.

One other factor in advanced search is that we want our features to be clean and useful. It's not hard to implement (say) a home page search, but how many people would use that versus would think that it made the advanced search page more complicated or less user friendly? And if you did a home page search, would you just want to look for the '~' character, or would you want to do more complete home page detection?

I don't mean to come off as critical--I think it's great that some other search engines let you limit searches to an exact byte count. But there's a continuum of usefulness vs. complication/clutter, plus whether to put resources on broader scoring improvements or more features. Hopefully that gives some of the motivation behind the choices we've made, but again--if we hear a lot of users asking for a certain feature, we'll look into whether we should work on that. I'll take your vote for more advanced search features and pass that on.

Thanks for the comments so far--what other improvements could we do?


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 8:39 am on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

What I would like as feature in Google:

1) as an user.
- clustered search results
- numbered SERPS
- skin button integrated in the toolbar
- better local results

2) as SEO
- singular / plural problem
- spelling problem: website or web site?
- more frequent updates. If I want to sell my car and use the internet as marketing tool, I can't get any visitors from Google. Worst case scenario for max 3 months.
- increasing the indexing of dynamic pages. I run several PostNuke and phpNuke sites and they have too many id's for a good deep crawl. ATW has are ahead on this one.

Just my 2 cts :-)


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 9:25 am on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

Powdork & daamsie,

Yes, you are right. It is the US war against the terrorists hiding in Afghanistan.



WebmasterWorld Senior Member powdork us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 9:38 am on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

My favorite suggestions other than my own.

1. Others who searched for keyword also searched for * (as a user I love it, as an SEO I really love it.)
2. I love Vivisimo.

Strictly as an seo
1. Pay us for site submission:)


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 10:13 am on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

I do Google searches for a living, and I have 3 pet peeves:

1) Capitalization. It is embarassing to have to use AltaVista when I wish to search for a name which is also a common word, like the surname Banks. If AV can do it, surely Google can?

2) 101K. When I do a search for 5+ words I get many 101K+ pages high in the results. The keywords can appear a few page lengths from each other, in different posts or stories. I would love to restrict results to a certain page size of less. Or some proximity thingy - like all keywords appear in the same 1000 word block of text.

3) Genealogy. When searching for names, the results are often flooded with genealogical sites, people with the same name but who lived 200 years ago. Google could choose to recognise a special META tag which defines a page as genealogical. This would help the general searcher avoid such sites, and the genealogist select them - just by checking a box. I can see no negatives aspects in doing this.


WebmasterWorld Senior Member ciml us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 12:05 pm on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

Welcome to WebmasterWorld, Robert. I like the variable proximity weighting idea.

Although AltaVista already had the 'NEAR' operator, the default proximity weighting was a major part of Google's additional usefulness for 'ordinary' searchers IMO.

If we could adjust the weighting, or choose which words we would like to be near each other, this would be a major boon for advanced searching.


WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 12:23 pm on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

what are the areas where we could do better

I think Google is too much about the exact words. Plurals vs. singles have already been mentioned en we've discussed splitting words in parts at Google.de in [webmasterworld.com ]

I think the avarage user isn't aware of this and simply wants to find sites about the subject rather than the word s/he is looking for, including synonyms.

Especially in non English searches this can really improve the serps.

[google.com ]
[google.com ]

The 2 words meaning exactly the same (u boat war).

Most people don't realize they have to search for both words if they want the whole picture.

It gets worse when we split the words:

So my first suggestion is to improve the splitting/concatenation of words and right behind that is the introduction of synonyms in the serps.


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 7:52 pm on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

Automatic synonym suggestions would help sometimes.

i.e. "mobile phone antenna"

Not satisfied with your results? Try a new search with "mobile antenna" replaced by "cellular phone antenna" (clickable)


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 10:27 pm on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

This conversation will draw a lot of lurkers out of the woodwork... like me.

I use Google in a few different ways.

1. I'm looking for a single piece of information. You're trying to win a bar bet; you want the official website for some television show; you want the website for your local library, etc. There's only one answer, right or wrong. I find Google is unerringly good at this - I'm always feeling lucky.

2. I'm researching something that doesn't have a single answer. For example, I recently wanted to know a good video card to hook up to my television. That's not so simple. You start with general queries and do more specific searches, slowly building a clear picture in your mind. I might do several dozen searches with Google with different keywords. I think Google does a great job at this. There is no right answer, but with some work I can approach an understanding - I can become very knowledgeable about subjects I didn't have a clue about only a few hours ago. But maybe there could be some way that I could take advantage of other people's similar searches to see some better keyword ideas. I feel all alone every time.

3. I want to know everything on a subject matter. Relevancy no long matters. I don't care if Google thinks it's first or last, they're equally important to me. For example, our company produces content management software. Microsoft is a competitor and is high on the list. It's hard for me to spot newcoming companies and their innovative ideas because every time I search for "content management", the same old gorillas float to the top. Organizing the search results by some other method would be way more useful to me. Sorted by date? Only see stuff newly added to the list? Alphabetically by domain name?

Here are some general improvements I could suggest:
- cache images.

- integrate a search through the Wayback Machine (archive.org). It kills me that they don't have a keyword search option.

- give me more information about a page so I can prejudge it before actually visiting their page (you already provide url, description, last updated, filesize). The description is a great way for me to judge if the page is appropriate before actually clicking a link. Is there any other information you could give me? Could I modify my setup options to get a longer description? I might avoid a page that had Flash or Java on it because it'll bog my system down. Or one that's currently getting a 404. I'd rather know before actually visiting their site.

- figure out a way to integrate the translation more seamlessly. Perhaps I could do a search in English, but Google could search pages with a translated search term and then return translated results? Then let me visit the website fully translated.

- some kind of collaborative function. There must be some way to harness the collective knowledge gained from serving billions of searchs. I'm not the first person to ask how to connect my computer to my television. Is there any way Google can help me learn the lessons from those who asked before me?

You asked GoogleGuy. :-)


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 10:51 pm on Feb 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

Yah, I'm more interested in things regular users would want...
..I'd also be interested to hear about common types of searches that don't seem to work as well as you'd like

Two issues that came to mind...

Geographical relevance
This is a hack of a problem, IMHO - there are only three types of information for it:
- The site's URL (.com .co.uk etc.)
- The site's physical location
- The site's content
What is readily available for an algorithmic analysis are the first two. Alas, this is not very useful. Any experienced web surfer knows that the suffix of a site does NOT indocate what population it serves. Its physical location is totally meaningless.
So we are left with the content. I dare say that no existing keyword based analysis of the content will provide an acceptable answer to the question: To which area(s) in the world is this site relevant?

Narrowing down of search results
For me - this is a source of great frustration. In particular, the inflexibility in combining various methods to produce relevant results. For example, if I search for links to a site, using 'link:www.nicesite.com', I get a list of PAGES that have in them a link to that site. Looking at the results, I see that some pages mention 'blue widget'. Great. Narrowing the search, I try to combine the two to get just those pages. Well, I am told that none are available. Hmmm... I could sware that it wasn't my imagination...

That should do for starters... :)



10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 12:41 am on Feb 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

* Special characters (as an option hidden away somewhere on the advanced page). I do a lot of web development related searches, and often those <'s and .'s and ('s are important.

* More precise size limitation on the image search - or at least a "Print resolution" option above "Wallpaper".

And regarding the Web Archive: I agree, keyword search on the Archive would be amazing. I think Google should just donate them a Google Appliance :)


WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 9398 posted 3:31 pm on Feb 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

This is a great thread! I was recommending Google to people years and years ago. Back then I was constantly amazed at how often exactly what I was looking for popped up at or near the top of the listings.

Now I find myself looking through pages and pages of results, adding and sutracting keywords, trying to find relevant results.

Two recent (and related) examples:

#1--I'm planning a trip to Paris this weekend and was trying to find out information about my hotel, particularly independent reviews of it. No problem, I can enter the specific name of the hotel and avoid a lot of chaff. Unfortunately, what I got back was tons of affiliate sites wanting me to make the reservation through them, 90% of which used the exact same description of the hotel. I never did find the hotel's home page in the listings (I eventually found it buried in another site), and out of all the listings I was only able to find one or two that told me about individuals experiences there.

#2--I was looking for sound and video cards for a new computer I bought, as well as other add-ons such as memory, etc. I wanted to read information about the devices, get reviews from users, etc. Unfortunately, the majority of results were just sites that had the items for sale. Adding the keywords "review" or "opinions" didn't do much to reduce the number of selling sites.

I wish there was some way to say "ignore the sites that are trying to sell this to me unless they have significant information about it". I often have to go a few pages in (and I have my defaults set to 50 results per page!) to get past the commercial sites. Too often these days the "optimized" commercial sites are front-loaded, while the really significant, much smaller sites are way down the list, if they're there at all.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

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