Years ago, when the search engine category was a lot more competitive, I did a lot of comparing between contenders. For awhile HotBot was ahead, then AltaVista, then AllTheWeb/FAST… Not necessarily in that order, but you get the point.
Then Google won. Huge. They were just bigger and better than everybody at finding nearly everything.
But lately Google has frustrated me. When I do lookups for subjects, it gives results that include misspellings and other approximations, even when I use the “advanced” settings. Worse, it’s been useless at something it used to do perfectly: find old blog entries of mine.
For example, when I was writing this post about cameras and lenses, I wanted to see what I’d written on my blog back when I first picked up my Canon 30D. I kinda remember that it was in early ’06, but beyond that I wasn’t sure how to go hunting, since Google seems to have lost track of that blog, even though its archives are online with inbound links. See, my old blog was moved off of weblogs.com and mothballed (with welcome help from Dave Winer) at the domain doc-weblogs.com. Some links got 404’d, but Google re-made enough connections so that people could at least search for specific words and strings and find stuff. But somewhere along the way, that ended. When I looked for doc searls tamron zoom canon lenses on Google, I found page after page of nothing.
I just repeated the experiment with the same two searches, and found that Google has caught up, and now lists what I was looking for in the first page of the 17 results it brings up, with yesterday’s post pointing to it as the top result. Obviously Google followed the link and indexed the old page.
So I decided to do a search for another day in that same time-frame, for another bunch of words that only occur on that day’s blog postings. The day I chose was Thursday, May 18, 2006. The words I searched were doc searls rob cottingham profitable tragedy. Google found nothing, but gave me three pages of results, including misspellings of Searls. Yahoo delivered four results, including exactly the page I was looking for. In fact, every test I do, for every day of my old blog, brings up a Yahoo result. (One sample.) To Google, my old blog pretty much doesn’t exist unless there’s a new inbound link to one of its pages.
Obviously, Yahoo is doing a better job of following links here.
And that means it’s doing a better job — to me at least — of competing with Google than most folks give it credit for.
My hat’s off to them.