Making Google behave: techniques for better results


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Edited verison of the slides for the UKeiG workshop "Making Google behave: techniques for better results". 9th April 2014, London

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Making Google behave: techniques for better results

  1. 1. 10/04/14 1 Making Google behave: techniques for better results Wednesday, 9th April 2014 London Karen Blakeman, RBA Information Services
  2. 2. Why do we use Google? Often gives 'good enough' results with minimal effort from the searcher Great coverage Personalisation Problems? Google thinks it knows best when it comes to the search strategy Too much information Personalisation 10/04/14 2
  3. 3. Five things you need to know about Google search 10/04/14 3
  4. 4. Google's Privacy Policy 10/04/14 4 "Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience." Toward a simpler, more beautiful Google "we're more excited than ever to build a seamless social experience, all across Google"
  5. 5. Single Google profile across all services 10/04/14 5 Videos occupy top 12 slots Results from Chrome Incognito Oi, Google! NO!!
  6. 6. How to “Un-personalise” your search Switch off web/search history Log out of your Google account Clear cookies Use private/incognito browsing 10/04/14 6
  7. 7. Private browsing - quickest way “un-personalise”search Chrome - New Incognito window Ctrl+Shift+N FireFox Ctrl+Shift+P Internet Explorer Ctrl+Shift+P Opera Ctrl+Shift+N Safari – click on Safari next to the Apple symbol in the menu bar, select Private Browsing and then click on OK. Will not remove country personalisation
  8. 8. Five things you need to know about Google search 2. Google automatically looks for variations on your search terms and sometimes drops terms from your search – Google does not tell you it has ignored some of your terms – “..” around terms, phrases, names, titles of documents does not always work – To force an exact match and inclusion of a term in a search prefix it with ‘intext:’ public transport intext:algal biofuels – Use Verbatim for an exact match search
  9. 9. Google Verbatim
  10. 10. Google now showing missing search terms? Not always shown – possibly still a live experiment? (See later) 10/04/14 10
  11. 11. Five things you need to know about Google search 3. Google web search does not search everything it has in its database – two indexes: main, default index and the supplemental index – supplemental index may contain less popular, unusual, specialist material – supplemental index comes into play when Google thinks your search has returned too few results – Verbatim and some advanced search commands seems to trigger a search in the supplemental index
  12. 12. 10/04/14 12 “Normal search” 1,555,500 Search after Verbatim is applied 35,500,000
  13. 13. Five things you need to know about Google search 4. Google changes its algorithms several hundred times a year How Google makes improvements to its search algorithm - YouTube
  14. 14. Five things you need to know about Google search 5. We are all Google’s lab rats Just Testing: Google Users May See Up To A Dozen Experiments Mostly minor effects on search but sometimes totally bizarre results Google decides that coots are really lions Update on coots vs. lions
  15. 15. What I see on my screen will not be what you see on your screen, will not be what your colleagues see on theirs, will not be what your users see. Google Scholar more consistent – stuck in a time warp? 10/04/14 15
  16. 16. Google Now 10/04/14 16 Google Now: Taking the Search Out of Search - Search Engine Watch
  17. 17. Voice search getting better 10/04/14 17
  18. 18. YouTube – transcripts Feedback from previous workshop participants: – If you don’t provide your own transcript for the voice content or lyrics of your video, YouTube will automatically create one with possibly embarrassing results. Provide your own transcript or make sure you correct the one that YouTube creates. 10/04/14 18
  19. 19. Hummingbird Not just an update but a completely new algorithm Tries to make “sense” of your query and put it into context, natural language queries Not just search history but also your location, device being used Announced September 26th 2013 but had already been in use for about a month Many aspects had been tested over the previous months and past year 10/04/14 19
  20. 20. Menu options change depending on your search 10/04/14 20
  21. 21. New layout 10/04/14 21
  22. 22. Yet more changes! Results page preview with cached copy and similar pages has gone Instead we now have ..... 10/04/14 22
  23. 23. In depth articles 10/04/14 23
  24. 24. In depth articles 10/04/14 24 Articles sometimes very old
  25. 25. What does Google know about you Sign in to your Google account and go to Check your ad preferences at 10/04/14 25 If you do not have a Google account there will only be information about you in the right hand column
  26. 26. Changes to T&Cs 11th November 2013 10/04/14 26
  27. 27. Google Instant Tries to predict what you are searching for as you type, and displays results as you type 10/04/14 27
  28. 28. Google Instant Only displays 10 results at a time Disable Google Instant in Search Settings under the cog wheel (upper right hand area of a Google results screen) or go to 10/04/14 28
  29. 29. Google Knowledge Graph and carousel 10/04/14 29
  30. 30. Google carousel 10/04/14 30
  31. 31. Google can get it wrong 10/04/14 31 Google "Henry VIII wives": Jane Seymour reveals search engine's blind spots Image courtesy of Will Oremus
  32. 32. 10/04/14 32
  33. 33. Google tries to work out your location Country based on your IP address Town/city based on your IP address/network provider – Google can get this wrong – Google switches between Bristol and Exeter for my location (I’m in Reading) – Tell Google your location in Search settings (hidden under the cog wheel in the upper right hand area of your results page) 10/04/14 33
  34. 34. Country versions of Google and local information Country versions of Google give priority to local content Useful if you are researching a person, company, or sector in another country Go to the relevant country version of Google, for example,, Google International Domains - List of Country and Language Codes – 10/04/14 34
  35. 35. Choosing your search terms Google automatically looks for synonyms and variations on your terms – biofuels will find biodiesel, biogas, bio-ethanol etc. – but do not get the same results if you use biodiesel instead of biofuels – run separate searches using alternative terms – no information on how the synonyms are identified or implemented The terms you use can radically change results – copper mining north wales – copper extraction north wales 10/04/14 35
  36. 36. Choosing your search terms 10/04/14 36
  37. 37. Google Trends 10/04/14 37 Compare how often search terms are used over time and by location
  38. 38. Google Trends 10/04/14 38
  39. 39. Two old tricks that still work Both of these often change the results and the order in which they are presented Repeat important search terms in your search strategy renewable energy biofuels wave wind wind wind Change the order of your terms renewable energy biofuels wave wind wind renewable wave biofuels energy 10/04/14 39
  40. 40. Nutrition facts 10/04/14 40 Information from Wikipedia and USDA
  41. 41. Compare compare spinach with cabbage 10/04/14 41 Do not always need ‘with’ Can only compare two similar entities
  42. 42. Compare 10/04/14 42
  43. 43. Google commands " " around phrases "Metadata mega mess in Google Scholar" - to exclude a term Caversham –otago OR to specify alternatives oil OR petroleum (sometimes better to run separate searches) * to stand in for one or more words solar * panels Picks up solar PV panels, solar photovoltaic panels, solar water heating panels 10/04/14 43
  44. 44. Google commands Think file format – PDF for research documents, government reports, industry papers, company reports – ppt or pptx for presentations, tracking down an expert on a topic – xls or xlsx for spreadsheets containing data Use the advanced search screen or the filetype: command zeolites environmental remediation filetype:pdf "north sea" deep water drilling filetype:ppt "north sea" deep water drilling filetype:pptx annual average global temperature 1960..2012 filetype:xls annual average global temperature 1960..2012 filetype:xlsx 10/04/14 44
  45. 45. Google commands Filetype may not always work – The filetype: command may not always work even when a site offers data, for example, in spreadsheet format – Sometimes this is because the data is held in a database and the files are created from a subset of the data when you request the file. – Instead of filetype:xlsx or filetype:xls simply include the word Excel or xls in your search. 10/04/14 45
  46. 46. Google commands Site search For searching large websites, or groups of sites by type for example government, NHS, academic Can exclude sites using -site: Use advanced search screen or site: command organ donation statistics Wales organ donation statistics Wales organ donation statistics organ donation statistics Wales -site:au 10/04/14 46
  47. 47. Google commands Numeric range search Anything to do with numbers and quantities: years, temperatures, weights, distances, prices etc Use the advanced search screen or type in your two numbers separated by two full stops as part of your search TV advertising spend forecasts 2014..2020 world oil demand forecasts 80..100 mb/d 2015..2030 toblerone 1..5 kg 10/04/14 47
  48. 48. Google commands Words in the title – can be single words or phrases Ensures subject is the main focus of the article Use advanced search screen or intitle: intitle:”diabetic retinopathy” Words in the URL – can be single words or phrases Use advanced search screen or inurl: inurl:”diabetic retinopathy” 10/04/14 48
  49. 49. define 10/04/14 49
  50. 50. Google Reading level Changes the type of material that is returned Nothing to do with publishers assigned reading age Run the search and from the menu above the results select Search tools, All results, Reading level 10/04/14 50
  51. 51. Google Reading level 10/04/14 51 Basic Advanced
  52. 52. Date Restrict your results to information that has been published within the last hour, day, week, month, year or your own date range Search tools, Any time and select an option 10/04/14 52
  53. 53. daterange: Date restriction does not work with Verbatim Use daterange: command instead Uses Julian date format (fractions omitted) Julian Date Converter Syntax – for example pages between June 20th and June 26th 2012 talking about the Statoil/Rosneft cooperation daterange:2456098-2456104 Statoil Rosneft 10/04/14 53
  54. 54. daterange: the easy way Third party tools for the daterange: search for example then apply Verbatim 10/04/14 54
  55. 55. Searching foreign language pages A significant amount of information is in the local language Google has removed the extremely useful “Translated foreign pages” search option  This is how it can be done now 1.Use Google Translate ( to translate your search into the required language. 2.Copy the translated search and paste it into Google search. 3.Google Chrome will offer to translate page If using another browser click on the ‘Translate this page’ link next to a result to view a translation of just that page. 10/04/14 55
  56. 56. 10/04/14 56
  57. 57. Where have the databases & extra options gone? With thanks to Phil Bradley for some of these – Google Blogsearch – Google Discussions – Google Finance – Google Patents – Google Recipes – Google Scholar – Google Public Data Explorer – Google Art Project – Constitute 10/04/14 57
  58. 58. Personalise your app bar 10/04/14 58 Not all “apps” are available for the app bar, for example Google Scholar, Public Data Explorer
  59. 59. Google News 10/04/14 59 Can personalise news content when signed in to a Google account. Hidden underneath the cog wheel on the news home page. Change your location (automatically identified by Google), topics covered, sources and frequency of articles from sources.
  60. 60. Google Finance - 10/04/14 60
  61. 61. Google Finance - 10/04/14 61
  62. 62. Google finance historical share prices 10/04/14 62 Can only display and download one year at a time
  63. 63. Google Public Data Explorer One of Google's best kept secrets! 10/04/14 63
  64. 64. Google Public Data Explorer 10/04/14 64
  65. 65. Google Videos 10/04/14 65 Not the same as YouTube Google Video YouTube
  66. 66. Google Videos 10/04/14 66 Limit your search by duration, time, quality, source
  67. 67. Images - copyright Always, always check and double check the copyright - images may have a digital watermark and be tracked e.g. Digimarc Creative Commons does not mean you can do what you like with an image – “Open-licencing your images. What it means and how to do it.” Andy Mabbett aka pigsonthewing – Karen Blakeman's Blog “Free-to-use images might not be” – 10/04/14 67
  68. 68. Images – usage rights 10/04/14 68
  69. 69. Images 10/04/14 69
  70. 70. Images – “all sizes” 10/04/14 70
  71. 71. 10/04/14 71 Images – colour (not always what you expect) Search for patent and select the colour red (Thanks to Arthur Weiss for the example)
  72. 72. Images – use an existing image 10/04/14 72 Click on the camera icon in the search box and then either enter the URL of an image or upload the image
  73. 73. Google Art Project 10/04/14 73
  74. 74. Google ArtProject Museum view 10/04/14 74
  75. 75. Google Cultural Institute 10/04/14 75
  76. 76. Google Maps (classic view) Post code areas, locations, directions Public transport for some countries Cycle routes for some areas Estimated fuel costs Satellite, Street View, photos, weather, videos Only as good as the underlying data – double check location 10/04/14 76
  77. 77. Google Maps (classic view) directions 10/04/14 77
  78. 78. Google street view As well as for personal use, useful for assessing location of a business (but remember out of date images) 10/04/14 78
  79. 79. Looking for an expert on a topic? Academics – use keywords with or with site:edu Presentations at conferences, lectures, seminars – use keywords with filetype:ppt or with filetype:pptx – use keywords with filetype:pdf Google Scholar – 10/04/14 79
  80. 80. Google Scholar “Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research”. • Search all scholarly literature from one convenient place • Explore related works, citations, authors, and publications • Locate the complete document through your library or on the web • Keep up with recent developments in any area of research • Check who's citing your publications, create a public author profile 10/04/14 80
  81. 81. Google Scholar Does not cover all key journals in all subjects – no source list Top publications for subjects and languages under Metrics link on home page or Scholar indexes the full text but you may have to pay to view the whole article Groups different versions of an article together 10/04/14 81
  82. 82. Google Scholar Includes open access material, pre-prints, institutional repositories (but not necessarily author self archived repositories) Includes material that is NOT peer reviewed but is structured and looks like an academic article (title in large font, authors, affiliations, abstract, keywords, citations) Pre-prints and IR copies may differ from final published version – charts and images may be redacted because of copyright restrictions 10/04/14 82
  83. 83. Google Scholar 10/04/14 83 Does NOT use the publishers’ metadata Date and author search looks in the area of the document where those elements are usually found Page numbers, part of an address, data item may be mistaken for publication year Sometimes gets the author wrong
  84. 84. Jacsó, Péter. “Metadata mega mess in Google Scholar.” Online Information Review 34.1 (2010): 175-191. Jacsó, Péter. Newswire Analysis: Google Scholar’s Ghost Authors, Lost Authors, and Other Problems Jacsó, Péter. “Google Scholar Author Citation Tracker: is it too little, too late? “Online Information Review 36.1 (2012): 126-141. Jacsó, Péter. “Using Google Scholar for journal impact factors and the h-index in nationwide publishing assessments in academia–siren songs and air-raid sirens.” Online Information Review 36.3 (2012): 462-478. Jacso – Savvy Searching Columns, Online Information Review 10/04/14 84
  85. 85. Bad Google Scholar Results | Academic Librarian Gray, Jerry E., et al. Scholarish: Google Scholar and its Value to the Sciences. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship. Summer 2012 Hamilton, Michelle C, Janz, Margaret M and Hauser, Alexandra. Can librarians trust resources found on Google Scholar? Yes… and no. Impact of Social Sciences: Maximizing the impact of academic research .17 September 2012. Kramer, Bianca and Sieverts, Eric. Beyond coverage #ili2012. Slideshare. 27 October 2012. HLWIKI International. Google scholar bibliography. UBC HealthLib Wiki - A Knowledge-Base for Health Librarians. 10/04/14 85
  86. 86. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making | Full text | Is the coverage of google scholar enough to be used alone for systematic reviews No, Google Scholar Shouldn’t be Used Alone for Systematic Review Searching | Laika's MedLibLog BMC Medical Research Methodology | Full text | Google Scholar as replacement for systematic literature searches: good relative recall and precision are not enough 10/04/14 86
  87. 87. Google Scholar advanced search commands Use advanced search screen or commands as follows: + sign before a search term to force an exact match, for example +norne “....” around phrases for example “environmental remediation” intitle: to search for a single word in the title, for example intitle:zeolites environmental remediation allintitle: to search for all of your terms in the title, for example allintitle:zeolites environmental remediation author: to search on an author’s name, for example zeolites environmental remediation author:rhodes site: to limit your search to specific institution for example marcellus shale Commands can be combined for a precise search, for example author:wolford allintitle:marcellus shale 10/04/14 87
  88. 88. Patents Coverage: – US – Canada – European Patent Office (EPO) – Germany – China – World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Patents available in original language and English (Google Translate) 10/04/14 88
  89. 89. Google Patents 10/04/14 89
  90. 90. Google Patents advanced search 10/04/14 90
  91. 91. Google Patents Patent Searching 101: A Patent Search Tutorial Patents & Patent Law patent-search-tutorial/id=22851/ Compares Google patent search with other services “Holes in the database” – may not be able to find patents you know exist Does go back further than some e.g. to US patent no.1 but difficult to focus search See also Patents Searching with Esp@cenet, Google Patents and USPTO - University of Bradford espacenet-google-patents-and-uspto/ 10/04/14 91
  92. 92. Or use the Books option under More on the results page. Includes magazines, journals, newspapers 10/04/14 92
  93. 93. Google Books Ngram viewer 10/04/14 93
  94. 94. Constitute “The world’s constitutions to read, search and compare” Supported by Google Ideas See for background and who is involved 10/04/14 94
  95. 95. Create your own Google custom search engine For – regularly searched sites – selected sites on a subject or type of organisation Cannot include password protected sources or sites where you have to fill in a form to access the information Google's blog on custom search 10 April 2014 Karen Blakeman 95
  96. 96. Google’s free alerting services Google email and RSS alerts are seriously broken – do not alert you to everything that is new – alerts sometimes ‘die’ – often bring up old material that you’ve already seen – duplicate information Need an RSS reader e.g. Netvibes, Feedly, FeedReader, Old Reader – Phil Bradley's weblog: 20 Alternatives to Google Reader – -alternatives-to-google-reader.html 10/04/14 96
  97. 97. Google alerts Option for Scholar alerts not included – have to be set up from within Scholar 10/04/14 97
  98. 98. Google alerts 10/04/14 98
  99. 99. Google Scholar alerts 10/04/14 99
  100. 100. Google Scholar alerts 10/04/14 100 Google alerts can go bizarrely wrong
  101. 101. De-mangling Google search results links 10/04/14 101 nverters/convert-serp-link-to-direct-location-for- copying-and-pasting.htm With thanks to Jo Brodie for the tip getting-hold-of.html
  102. 102. Keeping up to date Inside Search Official Google Blog Google Scholar Blog Google UK SearchReSearch : Search Engine Land Search Engine Watch Search Engine Roundtable Karen Blakeman’s Blog Phil Bradley's weblog 10/04/14 102
  103. 103. Fact sheets The fact sheets are available at Search Strategies - Top Search Tips – Search Strategies - Selected Google Commands – Search Strategies - Google Search Tips – Search Strategies - Search Tools Summary and Comparison – 10/04/14 103
  104. 104. 1. Remember that Google is continually changing 2. Personalisation is a key element of Google’s algorithms 3. Explore and make use of the options in the menus on your results pages 4. Get to know the advanced search commands 5. If you want to keep Google in check keep up with changes and new developments at Google 10/04/14 104