Business-like, isn't he?



Business in Vancouver: News that works for you

    Far-reaching search engine makes a name for itself

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2003 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue #721 August 19-25, 2003 High Tech Office column

    A couple of years ago, Internet searching seemed a mysterious process. There were a lot of search engines, and memorizing arcane (and varying) commands in an effort to get more accurate results. Some people preferred ‘metasearch’ services, combining the results of multiple sources. Sites such as Alta Vista or Yahoo busily added functions to capture more eyeballs for their advertisers.

    While most of those services still exist, for a large number of Internet users, the five year-old Google has become synonymous with Internet search. It combines a clean, uncluttered look, ease of use, and often uncanny accuracy in helping users find what they’re looking for even when they’re not entirely sure what it is (or how to spell it). Google has become so popular that its name has turned into a verb, meaning ‘to look up on the Web using Google’, as in “I googled your company before dropping by for my appointment”.

    When I view the statistics for my website,, I see that most visitors find my site from a search on Next in popularity is its Canadian equivalent, Yahoo and MSN are next, but they’re followed by British, Australian, and German Googles.

    While avoiding intrusive popup and banner ads, Google allows advertisers to display a link to their web address and a couple of lines of text on search result pages, charging eight cents or so each time a searcher clicks on their link.

    Despite is apparent simplicity, Google does offer more than simple keyword search; it’s easy to search for images or Usernet newsgroup messages. A new service lets users search some 4,500 news sources. Preferences can be set to filter results by language, screen out explicit text and images, and set the number of results displayed per page. Language tools provide quick translations of text or of entire websites.  You can get dictionary definitions, street maps, or find who links to your website.

    Windows users can download a free toolbar to Internet Explorer that makes a Google search instantly available at all times. And web page creators can paste a few lines of HTML code to their pages, adding a Google-powered search function to search just their website’s content. (Check any page at to see this in action).

    But all that’s just scratching the surface. Google Hacks by Tara Calishain & Rael Dornfest (O’Reilly, $38.95) offers 100 tips and tools to get more out of Google.  Among my favourites, using the ‘*’ as a full-word wildcard when you don’t remember the exact wording of a phrase. Or how to use Google as a (US only) phonebook or to track stocks.

    Calishain and Dornfest go beyond tips. As its name suggests, their book offers hacks; little bits of programming code that can make webpages do tricks with Google. While these are beyond most users, if you or your business has a website, some of these may prove interesting. For instance, you can measure your company’s ‘mindshare’, finding out what percentage of websites relevant to your industry mention your company.

    The book ends with a discussion of how to get your website listed with Google and how to optimize its placement with Google’s proprietary PageRanking. (Note that many of the dirty tricks that were used with other search engines may get your site bounced right off Google). A tip on generating Google AdWords will help you get the best results from your advertising dollar.

    Much of Google’s success stems from apparently offering less than other search sites (though in a more elegant, easy to use package). Google Hacks will help you get more out of Google.

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan