Thursday, October 22, 2009

Great Googling

Knowing how Google works can help you get the most out of your searches and can even improve your health!

To discover how Google works, let’s use my website, as an example. As soon as I posted my site to the internet, is became a target for a Googlebot. A Goolebot is a software robot that automatically sends a “fetch” request to my website which then downloads the entire text and graphical content of my website to Google’s servers. Once Google has my site on their computers, it processes my site by alphabetically “indexing” the text so that when someone searches for “Computer service Florence, Alabama” it can very quickly find and present my website as one of the first ones listed.

But how did my website get to the top of list? That is explained by Google “Pagerank” feature. Pagerank is Google’s system for ranking web pages. A page with a higher PageRank is deemed more important and is more likely to be listed above a page with a lower PageRank. Google considers over a hundred factors in computing a PageRank and determining which documents are most relevant to a query. One of the most important is the “popularity” of a page. In my case, when people enter the search phrase “computer service” my page is near the top of the list because (lucky me!) searchers generally click on the link to my website more than they click on others.

This Pagerank can sometimes be misleading. For example, when you search for something like “childhood vaccination safety” some of the top sites you see are from misinformed people who insist there is a link between vaccines and autism. People seem to want to flock to these conspiracy sites despite the gross misrepresentation. As a result, those conspiracy sites get listed towards the top of search listings. Another example that we run into every day at this shop is when searching for a way to remove a bit of nasty malware from your computer our searches may turn up websites owned by malware authors that will only make it worse.

So, now that you know how Google finds what you are looking for, how do you find the accurate stuff? The answer becomes complicated pretty quickly. The best I can do in this little space is to impart a few tidbits to get you started. Most of us know how to simply type in a phrase into the search box. You may not be aware of is that the order in which you enter search phrases affect the pages that appear in your search results. For example, searching “target Florence Alabama” may bring up sporting goods stores to purchase targets for shooting clubs. Entering “Florence Alabama target” will bring up the Target store.

There are dozens of other ways to further customize your searches to come up with exactly what you want every time. Since this paper won’t devote a full page to my ramblings I may revisit this subject next time. In the meantime, find many more hints at

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