OUseful.Info, the blog…

Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

So Google is No Longer OUseful.info’s Friend…? Use Bing.com instead…

It seems that Google search is no longer a friend of ouseful.info. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed my search referal traffic from Google ramping down day on day, to bounce back last week, only to fall of a cliff today. Somewhat ironically, three of the posts that I get most daily search referrer traffic for all relate to Google services.

[UPDATE: 6am, 18/4/12 It seems as if OUseful.info things are once again findable on Google…]

Here was my gut reaction, via a Google Plus post..

So it seems my Google referrals have gone through the floor overnight – presumably a result of a Google PageRank/algorithm change.

This suggests to me several things:
1) Google has been broken for ages and shouldn’t have been sending me traffic;
2) Google has just broken itself (I’m not sure – I stopped using Google search heavily a couple of months ago)
3) my Google searching for ‘ouseful’ by name was helping keep the rank up, and by not using Google/searching for my blog by name so much, I’ve reduced it’s ranking (if that’s the case, it suggests Google search is really gameable)
4) better alternatives to all the topics relating to the posts I used to get traffic to have suddenly appeared.

Whatever the case, it makes me realise several things:
1) I was getting a significant chunk of my traffic from Google, but as Google starts to lose percentage of attention, that was likely to start going down anyway;
2) despite my best efforts at trying to spend some of my attention on Google+, it really doesn’t have much appeal for me (and from tweets I see, that’s not an uncommon reponse)
3) all the non-geeks I know are heavy facebook users, donlt get twitter, have never heard of anything other than google search (and youtube) and are appallingly bad at using google search.

I am increasingly of the mind Google is getting like Yahoo in the sense that it has shed loads of users, but they’re there because they always have been… and may well start spending less time there.

If Facebook gets a good search proposition going, Google will take a hit…

As to traffic to OUseful.info, I guess I always said I was blogging for myself. Seems like that’s more true than ever now… but it’s not going to make me go back to using Google as my main search engine… In fact, it makes me less likely to…

Here are another couple of thoughts… Firstly, if you use Google for known item searching, but use keywords to do it, that’s a bad strategy.

For example, for searching my blog on search engines, I tend to use search queries of the form ouseful SEARCH QUERY, but that no longer seems to work on Google… The lesson being: if you rely on using keywords to find known items on a search engine, just because those queries have returned page 1 search results that you’re looking for doesn’t mean those queries will continue to work…

…that is, you have no control over what the search engine algorithm will return from a pure keyword search.

To regain some element of control, use search limits. So for example, queries of the form site:blog.ouseful.info SEARCH QUERY still seem to work fine (at the moment…) on Google for finding OUseful.info results.

Secondly, even though I’m logged in to Google, and even though I have shared blog.ouseful.info posts using things like Google+ (both +1s and posts), and even though all my Google accounts point to blog.ouseful..info as mine (and I think I also have the required link going from blog.ouseful.info to my Google+ page so Google knows it’s mine), I don’t get personalised results to my blog. (I’m not sure if I used to before?). Nor does a search for tony hirst blog turn up OUseful.info (although as John Naughton pointed out, it does turn up my Wikipedia page;-)

Anyway – I guess the long and the short of it is: if you want to search the web for OUseful.info content, use Bing. (Or use the site:blog.ouseful.info limit as part of your query on Google… But hey: if you think ouseful.info content may be relevant to your query, and you can’t find it on Google, then Google’s not working for you, is it… maybe it’s not returning all sorts of other content you might otherwise have expected to find? Maybe you cant trust it at all any more? Maybe you really do need to start giving other search engines a go…? As I mentioned above, Microsoft’s bing.com (which also powers Facebook search) is the search engine I’ve been using as a default for a couple of months now… Alternatively, you can subscribe directly to OUseful.info via an RSS feed, or email subscription – check out the details on the right hand sidebar of blog.ouseful.info

PS if you do happen to (still) use Google search, and you run a search for something expecting to find a OUseful.info link, you can let Google know how disappointed you are by clicking on the Give us feedback link at the bottom of the Google results page and telling them it’s missing:

I did. But do I believe it’ll have much effect? Not really…

PPS a couple of folk have suggested I really should be using DuckDuckGo as my search engine. My understanding – from DuckDuckGo sources – is that this in part draws on Bing Results, as well as results from other services and it’s own crawler index. Which reminds me in part of Metacrawler/Webcrawler, a meta-search engine that used to aggregate results from other web search engines. It was through Metacrawler (I think?) that I discovered Google – it’s results were dominating the Metacrawler results for searches I was running so it made sense to move. Maybe it’s time I moved back to a metasearch engine (which DuckDuckGo partially is; see also Dogpile, although in Dogpile the sponsored ads are hard to identify and annoyingly positioned…) to get some suggestions for what search engines are currently serving my search needs?

Written by Tony Hirst

April 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Posted in Anything you want

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8 Responses

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  1. Maybe it’s because you posted this and people have been searching on Google, but when I search on Google using ouseful , stuff from your blog comes up first just like it always did.

    Kevin McConway

    April 16, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    • @kevin Hmmm… proof of it will be tomorrow when I see whether referral traffic levels return. Chatting to a couple of others on Twitter, seems they have had occasional temporary vanishings from Google recently too… I suspect the Goog are tweaking bits of the algorithm… That said, it is a salutary lesson, I think… and worth recording as ‘evidence’ of these maybe temporary, maybe not, outbreaks of “weather” on the search engines… I’m still sticking with Bing, though ;-)

      PS one of the things I did was check my Google Webmaster tools account for this site and found a spam site with a quarter of a million links to a particular post here. I unpublished the post – so it 404s – and then got the Googlebot view of the page on Webmaster tools so Google would at least be aware that page was now 404ing so the link to it is pointless. As Owen Stephens hinted out, though, if such a cheap trick can trash a site’s PageRank, folk would be using it to trash competitor site rankings all the time…

      Tony Hirst

      April 16, 2012 at 11:20 pm

  2. I have to admit I had the opposite problem, at least when Bing first started, that it wouldn’t find things that I knew existed (like the ExPASy website) but could never remember the address of. It’s got better but I still don’t trust the results at much.

    • @kpfssport It took a few days for Bing to start to learn my preferences, but seems to work generally okay for me now.

      Tony Hirst

      April 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm

  3. I suggest using blekko search. It’s really good and not based on existing search engines like DuckDuckGo.


    April 17, 2012 at 11:03 pm

  4. so it’s not my imagination after all about Google and searches not doing what they should


    April 18, 2012 at 12:17 am

  5. […] prolific blogger (who has an entry in Wikipedia) Tony described his experiences in a post entitled So Google is No Longer OUseful.info’s Friend…? Use Bing.com instead… But today a Google search for “Tony Hirst blog” now seems to be working.  Another […]

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