Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blog search or web search? Taming the Google monster!

Next time you go to Google to search on some topic, spend 2.3 seconds thinking about whether a web search or a blog search would give you better results. Seriously. The difference between the two is amazing.

Google Blog Search is still so new, it's in Beta. To find it, on the Google search page, look in the top left corner and click on "more" ... a menu drops down: "groups; books; scholar; blogs." Aha.

There's plenty of reasons why you'd choose a web search instead of a blog search: you're shopping, the credit card is in your hand, you know exactly what you're looking for, the only question is, which store you're going to order it from.

Then again, there's plenty of reasons why you'd choose a blog search over a web search. The inescapable truth is, advertising has turned the Internet into one enormous catalog. Ads are in your face everywhere you go ... I mean, there's even Google ads on this page! Sheesh.

(In fact, there's a pretty good reason for having a modest little box of Google ads: its presence on a page gets the googlebot, the spider, out to index said page PDQ. You can wait days, even weeks, for a new page to get spidered ... unless you stick a few ads on it. With ads on there, the spider will be along momentarily. And this goes a long way to answering why a great many pages, my own among them, sprout ads like fungus.)

I have to confess, I'm rather "ad blind." I've seen so many of the damn jumping, flashing, jiggling things, in every way, shape and form, I've either become very adept at ignoring them ... or else they've burned out the neurotransmitters that convey commercial information from my eyes to my visual cortex. The more obnoxious the ad, the less I see it.

The other day, when I was writing about digital cameras and photography (which was fun; I need to do that more often ... and incidentally, guys, those posts were written in reply to a reader's question, so when something's on your mind, don't hesitate to post a comment here ... you never know where it till lead) ... where was I before the mind wandered? Oh, yes. I was writing about cameras and wanted to be able to give a ballpark guide on what the little fellas cost these days (it's a year since I bought one).

So I googled "digital cameras."

And 95% of everything was a commercial. Now, this suited me fine on the day, because I was only looking for a price to paste to a blog post to give prospective shoppers half an idea of what they can expect to spend.

But consider the person who wants to know how to DO digital photography...

Or oxy welding. Or knitting. Or painting and decorating. Pruning begonias. Writing a novel. Changing a fuse in the car. Building a model kit. Bricklaying. Home brewing. Breadmaking.

No matter what you type in as the search parameter at Google, you can be dead sure you'll get 15-19 commercials for every page offering you free advice, the thoughts of an enthusiast, a hobbyist's page full of explosively exciting info about thing like yeast and glue and yarn and grammar.

You've reached a point in your life where you don't want to buy anything. You're not even entertaining the idea of even thinking about the remotest possibility of perhaps going shopping at some later date. All you want is a snippet of info. You go to Google, and what do you get?

Page after page of commercials.

So, try a blog search instead.

Now, you're still going to see commercial pages, and some enthusiasts' pages do carry ads. Go ad blind like me. Just don't see them: focus on the information ...

And on blogs, at least you GET information, and it's free, and there's plenty of it.

A popular Google search that brings loads of people to this blog is, not surprisingly, POD publishing. I talk about it a lot because a lot of my work is involved with the physical aspect of taking fiction, shoving it through the meat grinder process and having a book pop out the other end of the patty-making gizmo. To me, it's interesting (it had better be, or I'd have been driven bonkers by the aggravating vagaries of the process long ago!) so I blog about it, and I've been astonished by the number of people who are reading those pages.

Same difference. A web search on POD publishing is slightly more rewarding than a web search on digital cameras, because at this point there are only maybe a dozen major businesses selling the service (I talked about this to a degree yesterday). So you find a more equitable "commercial to social ratio."

But if you were actually looking for people's own personal experiences -- in other words, enough "word of mouth" vicarious feedback to let you decide for yourself if you want to get involved with POD ... do a blog search.

(Part of the reason for the confusing and often daunting search results for "POD" is that the industry is so new, it doesn't even have a firm name yet. Print on demand; publish on demand; limited printrun; short run printing; self-publishing; vanity press; publish yourself; whatever.)

Writing is another field that has become hyped to hell lately: it's catching up fast with the commercial market. Not quite there yet, but, alas, hundreds of people seem to have cottoned on to the fact that new writers are desperate and will pay money for "quick fix" courses that purport to turn one into a best selling author, in 150 easy-to-read pages. A Google search on "how to write a bestseller" is incredibly depressing for a writer who's been around the block a few times, and knows how the industry really works. But the sad truth is, increasingly tough economic times make everyone, everywhere think, "Gee, if I could only write a book, I'd earn pots of money!" If only.

(Incidentally, if you're laboring under this delusion, go here:


...and search this blog on "writing" and "publishing" ... I guess I've spilled the beans on a subject that has been a kind of taboo for a long time!)

So, Nostrakeeganus, he actually recommending blog searches, unless you actually have the plastic in the hand and are ready to go shopping. With eighty million blogs out there, it's odds-on that an enthusiast somewhere has already written and uploaded what you need to know. It doesn't have to cost you a dime ... and you gotta like that!


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