Tag Archives: information

Why people use search engines?

In 2012 the world made 1.2 trillion searches on Google. What do we turn to search engines for information?

Why we ask search engines for information?

Everyone uses a search engine for one of two reasons. Hoping to resolve some problem, is the first, or, secondly, to achieve some goal which is usually linked with expanding knowledge. Choosing correct keywords to represent information, however, proves difficult for people.

Clay and Esparza take a different approach as to why people use search engines. They conclude that there are three categories:

This is linked to looking for answers to queries, as well as, finding data or information to make a decision.
Usually these transactional queries use phrases, such as, “best price” or “free shipping”, for instance.
The vast information on the addictive web means people will happily spend a long time on a search engine to find various entertaining sources.

One study analysed the impact of task phrasing and found that different phrases produces different results. This is important for digital marketers, for instance, because they need to think of the various ways people ask for the same information.

It is a good idea to think about the 4 types of web search queries (informational, navigational, transactional and connectivity) and match these to your website. Knowing about keyword searching allows you to make your website visible for more search queries. This, in turn, allows more people to discover your site which allows your organisation to grow organically.

Processed information allows us to have wisdom.

Data, information, knowledge and wisdom.

Presentation of SERP

  • Position and relevance of results changes how a searcher examines the information they asked for
  • Search queries and snippets go hand-in-hand because long snippets lead to better search performance for informational tasks but degrade navigational performance

It is also worth noting, through click-though rates, that we are biased towards highly ranked results. When we ask for information and the results appear to be relevant to our search query approximately 33% of us are likely to click the first organic link. It is a good idea to monitor the rank and position of your keywords.

If you are checking what position keywords appear remember to minimise personalised results by using, for example, incognito browsing mode, cookie removing software and sign out of your user account. Everyone’s results are different due to personalisation.

Analysing user’s search behaviour allows us to conclude that most people, on average, search for 2-3 keywords. Think about what your audience will write and see where you rank for these terms.

Why do you use search engines? Tweet Gerald.

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  1. Barsky, E. and Bar-Ilan, J. (2011) The impact of task phrasing on the choice of search keywords and on the search process and success. Journal of American Society for Information Science and Technology. 63(10) pp. 1987–2005
  2. Belkin, N.J. (2000) Helping people find what they don’t know. Communication of the ACM. 43(8)
  3. Clay, B. and Esparza, S. (2012) Search engine optimization all-in-one for dummies. John Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, NJ.
  4. Zeitgeist. (no date) 2012 Search Trends: The World.

Responsive Web Design: Alternative and important views

Challenges with Responsive Web Design*

Time and effort
Designer sketches, such as wireframes, need to take designs into each application. Clients on a tight timeline may not have the time to wait for RWDs
Devices will always be different
“…there will always be one of two devices which won’t translate”.

Is it the right choice?
If a site uses and relies on flash, clients may wish to limit all the content on all mobile devices. RWD does not allow for this to happen.
Media queries
Media queries allows the device to know what screen size and resolution is being used. If the web browser, however, does not recognise media queries then the page will be incorrectly displayed.

*Adapted from (Elle 2012: online).

SEO and responsive web design

The connection of SEO and RWD is clear but it is important to be aware of the alternative, if not negative, viewpoints because an SEOs job is to ensure they give the searcher, and user of technology, the best experience to obtain the highest possible rankings.

Some problems with RWD

Many, not all, responsive websites: have poor information architecture (e.g. Microsoft and Disney); are slow and don’t delight users with mobile only features (i.e. creating an app-like experience). Some of Meunier’s (2013) work, however, is not accurate. Mobile specific keywords, for example, are the same for desktop/laptop users. Arguably the only difference is that mobile searchers do not search for a lot of specific searches on their mobile devices because they carry out broad informational queries.

RWD is still in the early stages

RWD is approximately three years’ old: RWD is still in the early stages of the systems lifecycle and it still have a long way to go (i.e. becoming the fastest browsing experience).

I hope you realise that this post has not been intended to give RWD a ‘bad name’ or put someone off a RWD but I do hope you think about the negative viewpoints whenever you are thinking about what is best for your user.

Posted by: Gerald Murphy
(Twitter) @GeraldMurphySEO
(WordPress) A blog about search engines. Search “gerald murphy seo”

It is hoped that this post will help answer the following question: Are there any negative aspects to responsive web design? This post is, therefore, not saying RWD is poor. Knowing the disadvantages allows you to make the right decisions for your client/s.


  1. Elle [No surname] PS Print. (2012) 4 CHALLENGES WEB-DESIGNERS FACE WITH RESPONSIVE DESIGN. [Online] [Accessed on 30th March 2013] http://is.gd/TNtooy
  2. Meunier, B. (2013) How Common Are SEO Problems With Responsive Web Design? [Online] [Accessed on 04th April 2013] http://tinyurl.com/d9ggyma

What might a solicitor call ‘quality’ information?

Solicitor’s seem to be more corporate about defining ‘quality’ information. Whereas, librarians tend to view ‘quality’ from an editoral angle.

Solicitors, like librarians, have three different viewpoints:

Business viewpoint
Information is regulated and not commercialised
Search engine results page (SERP)
Results are relevant, accurate and subscription results do not have to pay their way to be at the top
Information viewpoint
Information itself is more specialised, more reliable and subscription results tend to be less biased

Subscription services vs free access

Unsuprisingly, members of the information society (both librarians and solicitors) value subscription services. Subscription services seem to offer ‘added value’ because their results are, generally speaking, reflective on what keywords we search for rather than the search engine thinking, or predicting what information we search for.

Why are subscription services better than free access search engines?

This is a difficult question to answer because the viewpoint changes for each person (i.e. a librarian and a student, for example, will look at information in a different light even though they use both subscription services and free access search engines). This post attempts to answer this question by breaking the question down.

Why are paid searches better than free access searches?

Paid search offer a better interface. Subscription services are less likely to change their interface as regular as free access search engines. This allows a user to get used to a specific interface, which, inturn, is better. From an interface perspective, subscription services are more involved and in-depth.

As part of an interview a librarian stated that people are more likely to look at the first (or second) page of free access search engine, such as, Google. This is not the case with subscription services.

What is the added value of subscription services?

The short answer is ‘quality material’ can be access via subscription services. The longer answer, albeit slight, suggests that subscription services are extensively connected. For example, academic journals are linked to other journals which can be easily found by the searcher, such as the ‘cited by’ feature. In other words, subscription services know what an article is, how/why it is connected to another article. Free access search engines (i.e. Google Knowledge Graph) are starting to build up these connections, but they have a long way to go.

What is the added value to subscription services?

Quality of material. Instant access you might not get to go beyond. Academic databases are starting to get indexed by Google crawlers. BBC and Wikipedia get precedence. Better interface, post search tagging options (even if not thought of search terms), usability is a lot better. Instant access. Can’t beat library catalogue from each institution. If you’re paying for subscription services, you’re crazy not to use them. Could get lucky with free access search engines, sub subscription you get.

Why the searcher doesn’t always search

Have you ever surfed the Web and found information on X, without searching for X? How does this information find the searcher, rather than the searcher finding the information?

Push technology forces info

In short, push technology has changed the way we traditionally think of search engine technology. That is, push technology allows content to be delivered to a passive recipient (Dubas 2002:223). Push technology, otherwise known as Webcasting, allows information to find the searcher.

Push technology, however, can be an effective technology because important info can be easily seen, if not pushed to the user. Software updates, for example, can be pushed to the users’ screen to make sure they are up-to-date.

Push technology destroys search

Although the example above (regarding software updates) illustrates the effectivness of push technology, its use in search destroys search. The whole purpose of search is to allow the searcher to find the info they require — not allowing the search engine to force info on the searcher.

Push technology, in this context, destroys search because it does not allow the searcher to find info.

Who is Gerald? What is search?

Background info on Gerald Murphy

My name is Gerald Murphy. I am a Final Year Student at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and I am completing a dissertation on search engines. An undergraduate dissertation, 12000 words in length, counts as two taught units. As well as the dissertation, I study four other taught units:

  • Designing Online Learning
  • Human and Financial Resources Management
  • Learning and Professional Development
  • Media Law

What is search?

Simply put, search is the ability to find information on the web. Finding this information usually involves a search engine. A search engine is a complex collection of documents which have been crawled by a special program (called a bot, or spider) owned by that search engine. The bot’s job is to mine the text within websites, store these related terms in an inverted index, assign asset numbers to each of these terms, and match these terms to a user’s query.

Whenever you use a search engine (e.g. Google) you are searching that search engines interpretation of the web. You are not really searching the whole web because you are looking at results that search engine’s bot has found. For this reason, you never really search the web.

Manchester Metropolitan University, MMU

My undergraduate bachelor’s degree is entitled Information and Communications which is situated in the (fairly new) Department of Information and Communications, Languages witin MMU.

The keyword here is information. We study what makes information so important. So, from the network people need to use to connect to another computer, to the laws (e.g. Copyright, and the bundle of rights) that apply to a new creation which has been created by a computer, as well as search, website design, amongst other things. In other words, if a technology has information, we study that information. Where is the info going? What is it doing? What if…?

What is this blog all about?

This blog has been created for one reason: to share a passion for search. I want to share the findings I have made, or some of the knowledge I have generated by searching journals and books as part of my research, for example. In many ways, I want to share knowledge itself — giving everyone the information to make up their own mind.

If you want to get in touch, or if you have a question, please feel free to comment on this blog (or e-mail if you wish to remain anonymous). A contact form is available from the contact me page!

Dissertation aim and objectives to follow.

PS, welcome to my blog