ILI 2011 web search presentations

The presentations I gave at International Librarian International this week in London are now available on my Advanced Search page at They are also available on authorSTREAM and Slideshare.

Searching without Google

Presentation given as part of the main conference on Friday, 28th October 2011

It is also available on Slideshare at

Web Search Academy

This was a pre-conference workshop held on Wednesday26th October with myself, Marydee Ojala and Arthur Weiss presenting.

Alternative Search Tools 

Please note the content of this presentation is similar to that of my main conference presentation “Searching without Google”.

Also available on Slideshare at

Visual Search

Looks at image search tools, video search engines and visualisations.

The Slideshare version is available at

Google dumps ‘+’ operator

You will either have read about this on other blogs or found out yourself when searching that Google has dumped the ‘+’ operator. This was a useful way to stop Google automatically searching for variations and synonyms of your terms. The theory was that by prefixing your term with a plus sign Google would be forced to look for an exact match. Try it now and Google tells you to use double quotation marks around the term instead. To be honest, the + sign has not worked reliably for several months but I often have the same problems with the double quotation marks. If I search on St. “Laurence” or “St. Laurence” Google still includes page on St Lawrence in my results.

Search Engine Land has covered the news and the reason why + has been dumped in “Google Removes The + Search Command” It suggests + has been dumped because of Google+, their social network, and Google now suggests auto completing your friend’s names when you use the operator. As Danny Sullivan comments “it seems to have been tossed out and replaced by quotes because of a problem Google created for itself, by picking stupid names for its social network.

I’ve noticed anther worrying trend – Google does not always look for all of my terms in the page. Viewing the cached copies of some of my results I see that not only are some of my terms missing from the page itself but they are not even in links to the page. So is Google now deciding when to ‘OR’ our search terms?

Bing becomes more like Google and personalises

So you thought you could escape filtering and personalisation of search results by fleeing Google and running into the arms of Bing? Afraid not. Bing has announced that it is rolling out a new personalisation feature called adaptive search. Details are on Bing’s blog Adapting Search to You ( According to Bing the “more you search, the more Bing can learn”.

The feature is being rolled out first in the US and is cookie based. The cookie and personalisation lasts for 28 days if you are not signed in to Bing and 18 months if you are. You can clear and turn off your search history at any time.

Bing seems to be trying to be more and more like Google all the time. I tried one of my test searches on Hewish mild and Bing did a Google on me by unilaterally deciding to include results for Jewish mild in my results. Placing a plus sign before Hewish did force an exact match but the related searches it offered me all involved Jewish – Jewish Chronicle, Jewish jokes, Jewish festivals etc. Yahoo does exactly the same, which is not surprising since it uses the Bing database and search algorithms.


Build your own web naughty list on Google

Google first announced that it was introducing an option for users to exclude web sites from results in March of this year (Google lets you create your own naughty list Then it disappeared, reappeared, disappeared and then reappeared for some people and only if you were logged in to a Google account. Now it is back for everyone. Run a search, view a result and then use the back button to get back to your results list. You should now see a link next to the result offering to block all further pages from that site.

Google Blocked Sites

If you are not already logged in to a Google account you are prompted to do so.

Next time you run a search that would normally include pages from a blocked site Google displays a message at the bottom of the results offering you the options to show the blocked results or to go to ‘Manage blocked sites’ where you can unblock them altogether.

Google Blocked Sites

You can also manage your blocked sites by going to your Google account dashboard.

Google Blocked Sites

Be warned: this does not only affect your results. is using this data as part of their general search ranking algorithms “to help users find more high quality sites”. This may be extended to other countries in the future. So don’t block sites unless you really mean it. If you want to remove a site from just one particular search then use the site: command prefixed with a minus sign in your search strategy. For example

The original announcement can be found at “Hide sites from anywhere in the world – Inside Search”


Google de-clutters results

Google has been busy de-cluttering its web results page again. The ‘similar’ pages link disappeared from entries on the results page a while ago and was moved to the preview copies of results pages. Now the cached link has gone as has the magnifying glass for the preview. Hover over a result, though, and a double arrow appears to the right of it. Click on the arrow and the preview copy appears along with the ‘Cached’ link and sometimes a ‘Similar’ link.

New Google results page

I’ve noticed that fewer and fewer pages have a Similar link, which makes me wonder if Google will do away with it all together in the not distant future. If Google carries on at this rate there won’t be anything on the results page at all!

Please note: this is what I see on my screen. What you see may be totally different.