Yet more advanced search features are being killed off by Google. With the move of the search tools from the left margin to the top, and requiring an extra click to get to most of them, Google has been removing those that get little use. We used to have a full translated search function at Google, but the “Translated Foreign Pages” search tool option gave some of that functionality until recently. As reported at Search Engine Land, Google has not removed that drop down menu choice. Last month, the “similar pages” function had been removed for a similar reason, lack of use.
When you make advanced search features harder to get to, is it any wonder that usage drops? Google offers that if you use Chrome, you can still translate pages, but it is not the same.
Now that I am no longer seeing the lost preview Google user interface (UI) experiment in Firefox (and I saw that for several weeks), I am now seeing a different on in Chrome. This is another experiment that removes the black bar from the top, but unlike the one spotted in March that gave no other options for getting to Gmail and other Google services, the one I’m seeing adds several links to the top right: G+, Gmail, and “Apps” along with an Apps logo. Click the logo or link to see a list of some of the most popular Google services (the visible ones in the black bar).
The Google databases and services under the “More” link in the current black bar are not available separately, and instead of just available under the “Even more” link. After running a search, only the Apps logo still shows up at the top right, and clicking on it brings up the same options. However, clicking any of those options does not pass along the search but just goes to the home page for the service. The one exception is the Images links which at least pastes the query into the search box.
I first saw this yesterday when signed out in Chrome. Signing in to a Google account does not make much difference beyond showing my G+ head shot instead of the Sign in button. I can’t say that I care much for this experiment since it makes it still makes it more difficult to switch to other services, especially other Google databases, unless they happen to show up in the search results. Google Scholar is still nowhere to be seen, but it does potentially show a continued effort to find a more touch-friendly interface even for computer users.
A new study from iAquire and SurveyMonkey highlights searcher behavior — not professional searchers but the general web searchers. While the focus is on marketing for retail sites, it has some useful for informational findings as well. I found the following sad but not surprising:
40% of searching activity is shopping (e-commerce), but
65% don’t click on ads, or at least say they don’t since
50% of those who do click on ads can’t differentiate the ads from regular search results.
On the positive side, I was surprised (but pleased) to hear that 90% of users will view the second page of search results.
“Users are incredibly bad at finding and researching things on the web . . . and they’ve only gotten worse over time.”
Such evaluations of general searcher skills should be incentive for us to teach search more effectively and frequently and encourage a greater understanding of search strategies and techniques. However, Jakob continues with a more pessimistic interpretation:
“It would certainly be nice if schools would get better at teaching kids how to search. But I don’t hold out much hope. . . . .most people today can’t think up good queries without help.”
For those of us who search frequently and professionally but also need to help others, both of these studies are useful reminders about searcher behavior and patterns as well as providing some interesting examples of how e-commerce sites try to help less-than-stellar searchers.
I have seen reports of several interesting Google user interface (UI) experiments in the last few weeks. Most recently is one the removes the page previews (I wonder how many searchers really ever use that feature) and makes the cached link available under a tiny triangle, rather like Bing does. I came across this experiment when logged in and using Firefox. Someone else has a video of how it looks when not logged in. Here’s my comparison of the current interface with the experimental one:
I would not be surprised to see the previews disappear. I just hope that the cache link (and copy) remains, under this triangle like Bing’s or somewhere easily accessible.
So how many of these experiments does Google run? If it seems to happen more often lately, it appears that Google searchers can see as many as 12 tests every time they do a search and that 5,000 such experiments every year. No wonder Google results can change so often! Interested in some of the other recent experiments? Here is a linked list with a few that have been documented:
Bing has had date searching available for some time now, but it had been frustrating to use since the date limit options did not always show up at the top of the search results page. For my searching, it only showed up as an option when I did not want it and the date limit did not show up when I would have like to use it. For the last week or so, Bing has finally changed that and it now shows up on all of the search results, or at least on all of my searches.
In the past, I recommended switching over to Yahoo! which uses the Bing database and always showed a date limit for ease of adding the date limit. Now I have one less reason to use Yahoo! for searching and can use Bing instead. To get to the limit, run a search at Bing and then use the drop down limits available above the search results and under the search box. Four options are available:
Past 24 hours
I do wish that they would also include “past year” like Google has (and the one that I probably use the most frequently). I’d also like to see the custom date option. Bing has the ability to add more limits, but for now at least they must be added by hand at the end of a Bing search results URL. The following codes can be used at Bing (and Google, usually):
past second: &tbs=qdr:s
past minute: &tbs=qdr:n
past hour: &tbs=qdr:h
past day: &tbs=qdr:d
past week: &tbs=qdr:w
past month: &tbs=qdr:m
past year: &tbs=qdr:y
I don’t find the second and minute ones that useful (and quite inaccurate), but I do wish that the past year would be added to the drop-down menu. Now that the three-option date limit is showing on all results, some are finally seeing it and make it sound like a new feature. That is the difference that having it always available makes.
Why the change at Bing? In part, I think it may be due to otherscomplaining about the frequent lack of the date limit. I also wonder (and hope) that Bing has improved its date identification. One of the problems with date searching is that it has not always been easy to clearly identify the date of the content on a web page. Google has made major efforts over the years to better understand page content dates. Early search engine efforts relied on the date and time stamps of the file, but content management systems could be easily set up to constantly update the dates of static pages and server-side scripting also masked the date stamp since every page was created on request. With more blog posts and news media sites including date stamps within the text and dated comments giving data information, the pages can be better parsed for date. It is still not a perfect process, and I find plenty of examples which are inaccurately listed as being more current than they really are. However, overall Google does much better with date identification than it did several years ago, and I find myself using the date limit frequently. My hope for Bing is that they are also more accurately identifying dates and felt that it had improved enough that it could be rolled out on all search results pages.