20 Years of Web Search

If you’ve been using the Internet for the past 20 years, what big changes in search would you mention? Danny Sullivan has been in the thick of it for at least that long. Read his list of 10 big changes with search engines over my 20 years of covering them (Search Engine Land April 17) Not surprisingly Google dominates. I think that the  machine learning component to search today – Sullivan’s # 7 – is the most stunning. Privacy issues are much bigger today – our searches are recorded – an aspect that Sullivan didn’t pick as a big change.

Directions at DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo now offers maps and directions in a very handy, and meta, way to local services. It is described in the DDG blog post  Directions! with an example from the US. This works in Canada (in Toronto), although Apple Maps is not one of the map choices  –  Bing, Google, Here, and OpenStreetMap. Select the service you prefer and carry on. OpenStreetMap doesn’t have a public transit .

In running the query it can help to include directions! ( although not essential). This search feature is mostly for restaurants. It worked for Queen’s Park, the legislature for Ontario, but not for Art Gallery of Ontario.

DuckDuckGo screenshot of search for Paramount restaurant in Toronto

DuckDuckGo shows maps and directions

ntario or Archives of Ontario.  This limitation seemed true in US cities too.


Google SERP and text ads

Your eyes and memory aren’t playing tricks – Google has changed the display of text ads and organic search results. The reason – to make Google desktop look more like mobile. (And exactly why is that desired?)

On February 19 Google began rolling out changes to its desktop search results, expanding the vertical real estate given to paid search results and eliminating right-rail ads.

What the Google Desktop SERP Update Means for Organic Search, ALexis Sanders, Merkle (Mar 24)

  • no text ads in right panel
  • four text ads at top of page – before organic results (which was why you ran the search)
  • “product listing ad packs” when relevant will be in right panel
  • knowledge panels – still on the right
  • three text ads at bottom of page
  • will be fewer text ads in total – dropping from 11 to 7 – this was the good news.

US desktop search market share Feb 2016

Desktop search was at its highest in 2013 – and since then mobile (phone and tablet) has taken over. According to comScore Google dominates the US market in desktop search at 64% (no data on mobile); Micorosoft is holding to its 21%; Yahoo is slipping further; and Ask and AOL are barely registering. Statcounter does track mobile – it sees Google at 90%.

Data show that search query volumes on the PC peaked in 2013, Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land (Mar 22)

Google and DMOZ

Very hard to believe – Google still takes descriptions from Open Directory / DMOZ on items still found in that directory. Why? What happened to Google’s capabilities to devise new titles for poorly written pages? I suspect it’s still there because someone at Google didn’t finish the job of disconnecting the two. Doesn’t hurt, but does show inattention to search.

Google On Why They Use DMOZ: I Have Absolutely No Clue (Search Engine Roundtable, Mar 11).

Farewell PageRank

Long ago everyone wanted to know how their web page ranked in Google’s scoring system, and Google obliged by providing ways to obtain the PageRank. Google still has elaborate algorithms that involve hundreds of factors in assessing authenticity or goodness of a page or site, but it will stop providing the numeric pagerank score through a toolbar or any other means.

RIP Google PageRank score: A retrospective on how it ruined the web, Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land (Mar 9)

The absence of PageRank scores may cause some to seek alternatives, estimates from third parties about how authoritative pages might be. These remain, of course, just guesses. Only Google itself knows the actual PageRank score for a page — and as can’t be said enough, the score alone isn’t the only thing that determines if a page ranks well.