Recently I attended WebSearch University: Power Searching with the Pros, which was a conference organized by Information Today. The following are just a few of the interesting things I learned there.
- Spiders crawl the web looking for links in web pages. These spiders grab words on a page from the HTML code and add them to a database. Unless someone links to a webpage, it may not be picked up by a search engine. (See Matt Cutts’s 3 minute explanation: How Search Works)
- Knowledge graphs are starting to appear on the right side of Google search results. Most of the information pulled for these graphs comes from Wikipedia, errors and all. This is a change from getting links to information to having answers on the search results page. Search “What is the capital of Iowa” to see an example of a knowledge graph.
- In-depth articles. Google wants to go broad and deep. In search results for certain topics, Google is adding longer reads. For example, see the results when entering a search for death penalty.
- Where has Advanced Search gone? Google has made advanced search harder to find. Now it is hidden in two places, the gear button at the top right of the page and at the bottom of the search results page.
- Blekko is an alternative search engine to Google and Bing. The pros say it provides nuanced searches that block a lot of noise like eHow sites. Blekko may also be an alternative to Google and Bing in that it has not yet started selling users’ information.
- Have you noticed Google has been putting an image beside result entries? Google is integrating its products like Google+. To compete, Bing has recently partnered with Facebook as I personally discovered when going to search there.
- On the issue of privacy, there are a number of ways to opt out. While the search engines have opt-out options, your internet provider can still see every “hop” made and collect metadata. You can have alternative accounts, use different browsers for home and work, work with different search engines like Blekko or DuckDuckGo, switch to InPrivate browsing or other browser private modes, delete cookies, clear search history, turn off location, create a burner phone number and/or email for purchase sites, and still not be totally private. For fun, you can go to www.google.com/settings/ads and look at your own profile. Switch browsers and see how your profile changes.
- While I had been aware of filter bubbles from Eli Pariser’s book and Ted talk, I was reminded again of how Google and Bing are moving to personalize searching. A filter bubble is a website algorithm which guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user like search history. If you search mostly commercial and social media sites, the results from a search for more academic information may give you less than desired results.
- Google rolls out 500 to 600 experiments each day. You may not even be aware that you are in the experimental group and you might get quite different results from your searches as a result.
- Google Trends views frequency of search queries over time. It is a good proxy of what people are searching. It can also be narrowed by country or local area.
- Most of the free or low cost sources for EDGAR (SEC’s Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system) searching are gone; but there is an interesting company called WordsAnalytics that analyzes the words of a company’s SEC filings to note changes. For business researchers, the scores for sentiment, litigiousness, and risk can provide useful intelligence.
While I learned a lot more than these 11 things from the conference, I thought these were particularly interesting. Perhaps I have linked to enough websites in this posting to have the Charlotte School of Law Library News rise higher in search results.