Searching privately

Helen Brown gives us a good reason to use a search engine that does not track searches or pitch ads – Because it’s none of their business (Sept 8).  Of importance to the professional researcher, the filtering done by search and ranking algorithms may cloud results. Solution – use tools that don’t track but do have a broad reach. She offers a comparison of 13 search engines that indicates for an engine whether there are ads, personalized results, or  tracking.

Some to particularly note are:

Disconnect Search – web version of browser add-on. Operates through a proxy server to direct your queries to the search engine and the results back to you. See short video about the browser add-on. Also – more about Disconnect in Information Week — Disconnect Search: Google In Private (Mar 2014)

Duckduckgo – Bing-based but more of a meta search engine. Does not log any personally identifiable information.

Startpage – does not store personal history. But even more valuable is that  search results can be viewed  through the IxQuick Proxy. See StartPage Proxy Explained.

Oscobo in the UK claims to store no personal data. I suspect the web search results come from the Bing database. It also searches Twitter.

I have also used Carrot2, a meta-search engine developed in Europe (mostly Poland) that clusters search results by topic. Its web search uses Google and Bing. Carrot2 doesn’t promise privacy but as an intermediary it blocks personalization.

But for full privacy you may want to consider access through a virtual private network. Paul Gil at About.com explains why — 10 Reasons to Use a VPN for Private Web Browsing

Mobile searches over 50%

Desktop search has been declining for a couple of years – now down to less than 50% of searches – where Google still dominates with 63% of market share in the US and Bing, Yahoo, and Ask still hang on according to ComScore. Mobile search is a different story – Google is up to 94% in the US.

Billions served: PC search is down but query volume is way up for Google, Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land (Aug 31)

My Activity at Google

There may be some advantages to being able to see your activity on all the Google properties – and on pages that serve up Google ads. This would especially be the case if you are researching a topic across media and need to keep a trail. Or you need to confirm something you found earlier.

Google’s new My Activity page lets you see all your Google history in one place, Napier Lopez, The Next Web (June 28)

Nonetheless, it’s a bit scary to realize that Google could track all activity rather than just web search and therefore deliver more ads. But it might also be true that the ads will be better directed. “Mainly, you can control which kind of ads show up everywhere, across various devices and websites.”

You can find this through “My Account” – or go directly to https://myactivity.google.com/

Google Patents for Display

Search today is less about keywords and more about entities as is made clear (again) in this examination by Barbara Starr of Google patents.
Structured Data & The SERPs: What Google’s Patents Tell Us About Ranking In Universal Search (Search Engine Land, May 29)

Google packs into search results knowledge panels, answers, images. Much of this derives from use of structured data and identification of entities involved. One patent quoted notes that, “In some implementations, search results are retrieved from a data structure. In some implementations, the data structure also contains data regarding relationships between topics, links, contextual information, and other information related to the search results that the system may use to determine the ranking metrics.”

Starr describes with examples four entity-specific metrics. “The patent provides strong evidence that semantic web technology is being used as background context for the definitions of the metrics and the environment in which they are framed.”

Lastly, we learn that thare are “different algorithms for different screen areas”; ie., different displays for different devices.

New Search Filters at DuckDuckGo

Bravo for DuckDuckGo – it is adding search filters to help searchers, and has done so through its partnership with Yahoo. (Which makes us wonder about its partnership with Bing.)

DuckDuckGo adds date filters & sitelinks to search eatures, Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land (Jun 2)

“Searchers can now filter the search results by date, and searchers will now also see sitelinks for some of the top search results.”

Also see DDG blog – New Features from a Stronger Yahoo Partnership

Title tag at Google

Who knew display of the title tag in search engine results could be so complicated?  Dr Peter Meyers has figured it out in Title Tag Length Guidelines: 2016 Edition.(May 31)

Bottom line – if you’re writing title tags on your web pages, keep to 60 characters; if you are a searcher be aware that Google makes some adjustments. Google will break a title at a whole word (this is good), but sometimes modifies a title by appending the brand name at the end (which may or may not be helpful).

Do Not Track Search

Hongkiat has compiled a list of search engines that don’t track your search activity — 12 Private Search Engines that Do Not Track You (May ). A list of these is always handy but,  as mentioned at Research Buzz,  “do your own due diligence”. Not all of these are top notch.

  • DuckDuckGo is an excellent search engine.
  • A couple on this list are using Google Custom Search – which is ok.
  • Yippy has some interesting features but is not forthright in showing the sources of its results and it truncates the results.
  • Hulbee looks interesting. It does some analysis of results to pick out key words that may represent concept or topic.