Yahoo Site Explorer closes – try Blekko instead

A reminder that Yahoo Site Explorer is closing down tomorrow (November 21st ) and I assume that the link and linkdomain commands will go with it, although they are not specifically mentioned ( Webmasters are being told to use Bing Webmaster Tools. This enables you to analyse links to your own domains but is no use if you want to find who links to other web sites as part of research. Bing, or as it then was, removed its link and linkdomain commands in November/December 2007 and Yahoo was left as the only reliable alternative. The link command enabled you to find who linked to a specific page on the web and linkdomain found links to anywhere on a specified web site. Both were useful ways of finding other sites containing similar content and discovering what others were saying about a page. Google’s link command is useless as it picks up a minuscule number of results, which now leaves Blekko ( as the only realistic alternative.

Blekko enables you to track down linked pages in two ways but both lead to the same results. The first is to use their slashtags ‘/links’ and ‘/domainlinks’ with a URL or domain name. For example /links will find pages that link to my official company registers page whereas /domainlinks finds all inbound links to my site

The second route is via your search results. Below each entry is a downwards pointing arrow. Click on this and select ‘links’ from the pop-up box.

Blekko Lonks


You will then see a list of sites that link to that page.

To view inbound links to the whole of the web site click on the seo option below the result and you will see some statistics together with the total number of inbound links.

Blekko SEO


Click on the inbound links number and Blekko presents you with a list of domains containing links to yours and how many.


Blekko Domain Links


To see exactly where the links are located and where they go to on your site just click on the number in the links column.


Blekko inbound links


I have only looked in detail at a couple of sites but Blekko seems to do a good job and is certainly far superior to Google. The Blekko data on my own site seems to correspond with that available from Bing Webmaster Tools but of course I cannot compare other sites in the same way. My initial thoughts are that for link searching Blekko is definitely worth adding to your research toolkit.

Google: Verbatim for exact match search

Well it looks as though the user feedback to Google on the discontinuation of the +/plus sign for enforcing an exact match search has paid off. Google removed the plus sign as a web search option a few weeks ago and told searchers to use double quotes around terms instead.The double quote marks option does not always force an exact match and increasingly Google is ignoring them and making  some of your search terms optional. (See my blog posting Dear Google, stop messing with my search, The official reason for the change was that hardly anyone used it: the real reason has become clear with Google implementing its Google+ Direct Connect Service. This enables you to go direct to an individual’s or company’s Google+ page by prefixing their name with the plus sign, for example +BASF.


For those of us who really do NOT want Google to second guess what we are looking for there is now a Verbatim command. Google’s Inside Search blog ( says:


 With the verbatim tool on, we’ll use the literal words you entered without making normal improvements such as
  • making automatic spelling corrections
  • personalizing your search by using information such as sites you’ve visited before
  • including synonyms of your search terms (matching “car” when you search [automotive])
  • finding results that match similar terms to those in your query (finding results related to “floral delivery” when you search [flower shops])
  • searching for words with the same stem like “running” when you’ve typed [run]
  • making some of your terms optional, like “circa” in [the scarecrow circa 1963]
So be warned: when using Verbatim you are rejecting Google’s “improvements”!


Verbatim can be found in the options on the left hand side of your results page, which means that you have to run your search before you can implement it. Go to the menu to the left of your results and click on ‘More search tools’ at the bottom. This will open up a menu that includes the Verbatim option.
Google Verbatim
It works!. When I run a Verbatim search on St Laurence I get only St Laurence and not St Lawrence as well. And my Heron Island Caversham UK parrot search now finds only those pages that contain all of my terms. There is one drawback in that Verbatim is all or nothing. I often want to have an exact match search on just one or two of my terms but am happy to have Google mess around with the remainder. Verbatim works on your whole search strategy but I think that you can include advanced search commands in your strategy. Running searches such as ‘”Heron Island” Caversham UK ~parrot’ or ‘”Heron Island” Caversham UK parrot OR pigeon’ followed by Verbatim gives me what I would expect. However, more complex searches incorporating filetype: and site: gave me very bizarre results. I need to do more research on this part of the strategy.


Overall, I welcome Verbatim and thank Google for listening to its users. However, as Phil Bradley has said it is a tool that “Google should not need to have created” (Google Verbatim tool

Free UK company information: Company Director Check

Company Director Check ( is a sister database to Company Check (, which I reviewed earlier this year ( It provides free access to information on current and past directors of UK companies that until now has only been available for a fee. Director searches can unearth links between apparently unrelated companies and help you identify “families” or groups of companies. It can also bring to light interesting patterns of behaviour. For example, I carried out a search on a director whose business activities had aroused my suspicions. I knew he had run companies in the past that had been dissolved and his most recent venture had gone into liquidation. Looking at the list of companies of which he had been director it became clear that 6-8 weeks before a company was dissolved or went under he would set up a completely new company. This had happened so often that it was not just me who had begun to smell a rather large rodent. I understand that he is “currently under investigation”!

If you are viewing a company in Company Check click on the director’s name and you are taken straight to their record in Director Check. Alternatively just run a search on the person’s name in Director Check. A list of possible matches will be presented to you, which you can refine by entering a postcode. Alternatively just work through the list until you are certain that you have found the correct person. Do not be surprised if you find a director has multiple IDs. There is nothing “dodgy” about this, it just reflects the way the system has evolved over the years. Companies House have carried out a massive exercise to try and fix this but there are still some multiple IDs in the database.

The information that is provided includes full name, short name, month and year of birth, address and past and present directorships.

Director Check

The status of each directorship – active, dissolved, resigned – is displayed followed by a summary of each of the companies. More detailed information on the individual companies can be found on the Company Check web site.

Now that so much directorship information is freely available it will be interesting to see if more directors make use of the option to provide a service rather than their home address for the public record.

Definitely one to add to your business research toolkit.

Dear Google, stop messing with my search

I have been complaining for several months that Google does not always “AND” your search terms and delivers results that do not contain all of your terms, or their synonyms, in the page itself or in links to the page. There was a time when you could force Google to deliver exactly what you wanted by prefixing your terms with a plus sign. That option has now gone and Google says that you have to use double quote marks around your terms and phrases instead. Not only is it tedious to have to surround every term with “…” but it does not always work!

The evidence

I recently took a photograph of autumn leaves on Heron Island in Caversham and uploaded it to Flickr. At the time I hadn’t noticed that there was a bird hiding amongst the leaves and when it was pointed out to me I assumed it was a pigeon of some sort. Someone else, however, thought it might be a parrot. I have not heard of any sightings of parrots in my area but decided to check Google to see if there were any reports. My first search strategy was parrot “Heron island” caversham UK

Google search results 1


Over 8,000 results! Unbelievable – which it was. Looking at the top results and their cached copies revealed that Google had decided to forget about parrots or birds of any kind and look for just “heron island” caversham UK.

Google search results 2


Changing the search to “parrot” “Heron island” caversham UK reduced the number of results to 84.

Google search results 3


This time Google was leaving out Caversham or UK or both. Amending the strategy yet again so that both caversham and UK were within quote marks reduced the number of hits to 23.

Google search results 4


There were a handful of directory listings containing all of my terms but the rest contained only one or two of my terms, for example the Tripadvisor page shown below.

Google Search results 5

There was no obvious logic as to why these irrelevant pages had been chosen by Google – remember that the grand total was a mere 23 – and they were not advertisements. Using advanced search and the allintext option made no difference whatsoever. For the final version of my search Bing found 15 pages that contained all of my terms but sadly nothing to do with parrots in Caversham, UK. DuckDuckGo found three documents but again no sighting of a parrot of the feathered variety in my neighbourhood.

I was disappointed that my original identification of the bird seems to have been correct but extremely annoyed with Google. I had to wade through irrelevant documents and wasted time tweaking my search only to find that Google was ignoring my strategy anyway. I could understand it if my search had zero results and Google wanted to give me something, but there were some documents that did have all of my words. Various scripts that automatically add quote marks around your terms have been written since Google withdrew the + sign for general searching. These really aren’t much help because I sometimes want Google to look for variations of some of my terms and Google seems to be ignoring the quotes marks when it feels like it. More reasons to look seriously at the alternative search tools that are out there.

DuckDuckGo – silly name but a neat little search tool

Fed up with Google ignoring your search terms and giving you something completely different? Confused by irrelevant tweets and postings in your results? At the recent Internet Librarian International conference in London one of my fellow participants told me that he would not mind Google collecting his search and personal information if it gave him better results but he said that it seems to make them worse. Judging by the comments from some of the other conference goers Google’s attempts at personalisation and semantic search are not always delivering what the searcher needs. There are several steps you can take to try and depersonalise your results but even then Google can still mess up the search. Perhaps it’s time to seek out a different search tool.

Yahoo is now using Bing’s database and search results for web and image search so you might just as well go straight to Microsoft’s Bing ( The trouble is that Bing is starting to behave like Google by messing with your search terms (Bing becomes more like Google and personalises So what are the other serious alternatives? DuckDuckGo (, also known as DDG, may have a silly name – it certainly put me off from using it for some time – but once you get over that it does have a lot going for it.

It has been around for a while and when it was launched one of its main selling points was that it does not track or share your search and web browsing habits, or try to personalise your results (see for more information). That’s all very well but how good are the results?

The home page is minimalist as are most search engine’s these days.


As soon as you start typing  you’ll notice that there are no suggestions appearing in a drop-down menu below the search box. Some may regard that as a good thing but I do occasionally find them helpful if I am researching an unfamiliar area. In compensation DDG offers “search ideas” on the results page that make up for the absence of suggestions and related search options. The results page is clean and uncluttered with search ideas on the right hand side of the screen. You add one of the “ideas” or terms to your search simply by clicking on it, but you cannot add more than one and the search ideas disappear from subsequent results pages. The only way I can see of adding more than one is to type them into the search box yourself.


When you hover over an entry a “more results” link appears that finds more articles from that site and if you look at the results URL you will see that the site: command is used. There is no link to an advanced search screen but there are an incredible number of what DDG calls “Goodies”. The ones that I have found to be most useful are:

  • site: followed by a domain name –  searches for your terms within the specified site
  • inbody:  followed by your search term – looks for your term in the main part of the page
  • intitle: followed by your search term –  looks for your term in the title of  the page
  • filetype: followed by a file extension – looks for specified file formats containing your terms
  • sort:date to sort by date (uses results from Blekko)
  • region: followed by the standard two letter country code e.g. regions:fr to boost pages from France

Then there are the DDG !bang commands ( These automatically take you to other search engines, for example your search terms followed by !images runs an image search on Google and !videos will run a video search on Bing. Details on general syntax, keyboard short cuts and ‘tech goodies’ are at  and It all looks somewhat daunting but it is worth working your way through them and drawing up your own list of what you think you might use on a regular basis. If you still find it all a bit too much to take in then use the options under the arrow next to the search box at the top of the results page. This brings up a menu of some of the more popular types of searches.

DuckDuckGo Search options

For some searches DDG gives you a red box at the top of the results page containing “zero-click” information extracted from pages and DDG’s Topic Lists for example a possible answer to your question or the result of a conversion/calculation. For a search on Mapledurham watermill it gave me a description and link to Wikipedia along with links to DDG Topics Lists for Grade II* listed buildings in Oxfordshire and museums in Oxfordshire.

DuckDuckGo zero-click info


My request to convert euros into pounds came up with a calculation generated by Wolfram Alpha.

DuckDuckGo Wolfram Alpha results

Would I use DuckDuckGo as my default search tool? Difficult to say at this stage. I do miss Google’s time search option but DDG’s sort:date goes some way to offset that, and I regret to say that there are times when I miss Google’s localisation and personalisation. Looking for pubs or restaurants in Reading and Caversham is so much harder in DuckDuckGo. However, I am getting a feel for the type of searches that work well on DDG and for general web searching it is a good alternative to Google and Bing. It does not play around with your search terms, supports advanced search commands and most important of all it delivers relevant results, some of which are not always in Bing or Google.