Internet Search Engines: Search And Ye Shall Seek, or Something Like That
by Marjorie Dorfman

Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.
– Albert Einstein

Why do we rely more and more on internet search engines to answer all of the questions in our daily lives? Will they soon be telling us whom to marry and how many children to have? Has anyone noticed that "Google" has slipped into the lexicon and has become not only a verb but also a panacea for all research? Whatever happened to Barney Google with his goo-goo-googly eyes? He seems gone forever, but his surname has reached new and different heights of fame. Read on, whether you are into search engine optimization and have noticed or not.

As a writer who maintains seven web sites, I have come to regard search engine submissions, particularly at Google and Ask Jeeves, as my research right and left arms respectively. In the past, it was the public library, and while I still use those facilities too, the convenience of sitting with a cup of coffee in my pajamas, plugging in a keyword or search engine placement and discovering a wealth of relevant material is just too easy to resist. Being a bit lazy makes the package of search engine submission more attractive as well. According to David Hochman of The New York Times "it’s more like the new kabbalah. With an estimated 200 million searches logged daily, Google….has a near religious quality in the minds of many users."

And what is it about Google and the other web directories that renders such "authenticity" to each search question? The truth is that they really don’t have to justify their sources and it is up to the researcher to discern references and advertisements. It’s kind of like caveat emptor, only more far reaching than buying a mattress that collapses the first time you lie on it. There are a million good things to say about search engine submission and search engine advertising. They perform electronic, spidery miracles every day. According once again to David Hochman’s article, In Searching We Trust, a missing boy found his way back home after he discovered he was on a Canadian web site advertising missing children and had the courage to tell one of his teachers. I personally know of a woman whose jewelry was stolen and she got some of it back through a search engine submission that directed her to live auctions on the Internet. (She actually bought back some of her own jewelry, bringing new definition to the words wholesale, retail, resale and web site advertising.)

Google is a play on the word googol. It was originally coined by Milton Sirotta, nephew of American mathematician, Edward Kasner, and was popularized in the book, Mathematics and the Imagination written by Kasner and James Newman. It refers to the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. Google’s use of the term reflects the company’s mission to organize the immense, seemingly infinite amount of information available for search engine submission on the web. Company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin first met as Stanford University graduate students in computer science in 1995. Although they were not too fond of each other at first, in 1996 they began collaboration on a search engine optimization and Internet domain name called BackRub, dubbed so for its unique ability to analyze the "back links" pointing to a given web site. They gained a reputation and pushed on to perfect their search engine optimization technology and find a buyer. They started in a dormitory, progressed to a friend’s garage and the rest, my friends, is web site advertising and web directory history.

Yahoo began as a student hobby also at Stanford University and was first known as Jerry’s Guide To The World Wide Web. Eventually, with the help of a dictionary, it received a new moniker. The name Yahoo is an acronym For "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle." Its two founders, David Filo and Jerry Wang, started their search engine optimization guide in a campus trailer in February of 1994 as a means to keep track of their personal interests on the Internet. Before long, they were spending more time on their lists of favorite web site advertising links than on their dissertations. Eventually, their lists became so long that they broke them up into categories. When they too became full and sub categories were born, so was the search engine optimization concept of Yahoo.

The butler really did do it in the case of Ask Jeeves, the dignified noble fellow in the chalk waistcoat. This affable smiling soul is one of the best-known web advertising faces on the Internet. Ask’s search engine placement is always ready to help, whether the question is poorly phrased, a sentence fragment, or even just a word, spelled correctly or not. Founded in 1996 when the Internet was in its infancy, this Internet domain name has become one of the fastest growing search submission sites on the Internet. It began in Berkeley, California (where they say it never rains) by David Warthen and Garrett Gruener. Ask Jeeves’ web advertising services, which include Ask Jeeves, The Excite Network and MaxOnline, provide search engine advertising with targeted, effective tools for reaching a broad base of highly valuable customers.

But none of the search engines know everything, and according to Leon Botstein of Bard College and Music Director of the American Symphony Orchestra, "just because you found it on Google doesn't make it right," or necessarily so, as the Ira Gershwin song says. Their criterion for site and information selection is based on popularity and not accuracy. Also, there are great gaps in the types of knowledge these search engine submissions provide. According to James H. Billington of the Library of Congress, "Google can be useful as a starting point to research or for superficial inquiries. But far too often, it is a gateway to illiterate chatter, propaganda and blasts of unintelligible material."

Consider the arrival of Gimpsy, a web site advertising directory that "helps you do, not find." It is highly selective when it comes to site acceptance and lists only those Internet domain names that provide online activity or help in the accomplishment of a single, specific task. The slogan "Active Sites for Active People" pertains to Gimpsy retaining only those sites that can provide an interactive online service. By being specific at the outset, one can research anything with optimum results. According to founder, Mordechai Chachamu, "it only takes a cursory glance at the home page to appreciate that it is quite different from all other web site advertising directories out there."

And indeed, he is right. Every directory copies the format of the first major one ever developed, Yahoo. Home pages look virtually identical, and they all contain the same subjects: arts, business, computers, entertainment, health, science, etc. Editors ask different questions about sites. A Yahoo editor will be evaluating a site’s specific purpose. While not an unimportant issue, a Gimpsy editor will be more concerned with the search engine submission question: What can the user do on this site? Gimpsy’s web site advertising home page is devoted to verbs like buy, design, trade, subscribe, etc.

All Internet search engines have the capacity to serve as watchdogs for a public not afraid of the truth. Far less costly than a private detective, one can find out about a prospective date or mate with a mere flick of wrist, finger and telemarketing services. According to Rael Dornfest, author of Google Hacks, a 300-page manual for advanced googling, "old lovers are finding each other and reuniting, and new ones are checking each other out." He tells one amazing tale of a New York woman who ran a suitor’s name through Google’s search engine advertising and found that the FBI wanted him for fraud! A few clicks later and before he even knew what hit him, the man was apprehended at an Applebee’s restaurant on Long Island.

At this point, search optimization services are changing and expanding so rapidly that they have become obsolete almost upon mentioning. The year 2004 brought a Local Search to Google, for those times when all one wants is find a place that delivers chocolate covered strawberries that arrive with only a portion of the chocolate melted or a nearby store that sells voodoo dolls for that "special someone." Google, ever the perspicacious entrepreneurs, followed up with a way for web site advertising to target their ads to locations near their stores. In this way, merchants can help searchers find goods and services for sale within their own neighborhoods.

The far-reaching arm of the Internet truly seems to be today’s last frontier. Fortunately, it’s not like the old one and we don’t have to live in log cabins or be shot at with arrows from Indians who had the nerve to be angry because we took their land away from them. Perhaps they too can find solace somewhere in web advertising cyberspace (and maybe find a way via search engine submission to steal back some of their own territory). There’s enough room for everybody. Just be on your guard the next time you research something. You may get the truth or…you might get shot with an arrow. Search and ye shall seek, or something like that.

Did you know . . .

Copyright 2005