A note from the future (it's now 2009): This FAQ is outdated by now, but kept alive here for archiving purposes.
What is a search engine?
A search engine spiders web content and makes it searchable by users, much like the yellow pages phone directory.
What is Google?
One of the world's most popular search engines.
Why are you interested in Google?
For one thing, it became a professional tool of income since I started working for Google Answers. Also, the more I worked with it, the more I saw the potential of the World Wide Web as giant information database, to which Google currently is the best entrance.
Think of the task of making sense out of a billion people chatting simultaneously on the phone. But also, think of how much interesting information a private eye can get by tapping just a single phone line.
What is the fastest search engine?
The quickest major search engine, measured by download size of the front page, is currently Google. It's also quite fast in returning results. However, speed doesn't matter the most. Wouldn't you want to wait a split-second more if it would save you minutes of clicking through wrong results? So it's more about which search engine returns the best results, uncluttered, with a clear visual separation from sponsored results, and a fitting description, tailored to your keywords.
What are some good Google search tricks to help find a site?
Please see Google search tricks.
Does Google get paid to list certain sites high?
No, unless they're AdWords (sponsored links, visually separated). See below.
What are sponsored results or sponsored links?
A sponsored links in a SERP (Search Engine Result Page) is not always the best link. It is simply a link which might or might not closely fit your keyword. But it is ranked that high simply because somebody paid the search engine to put it there. Text-only is the way to go ('cause users suffer from banner blindness), and highlighting keywords entered in the advertisement is also a pro. Advertisement with no real connection to what the user wants is likely to fail.
Which search engine is the best?
That is largely subjective. Most people put Google over everything. Others say AllTheWeb is getting better. Some people prefer meta-searching (a search using different other search engines at once).
What is SEO?
SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization.
What is SERP?
SERP is an abbreviation for Search Engine Result Page.
What is concept-based searching?
Concept-based search engines will try to figure out what a page is about without solely relying on your exact keywords. Even though engines like Google pretty much "take your word for it", straighforward and without any second-guessing, you might still land on a page using a keyword that's not contained within that page at all. This happens because Google analyzes words used in links pointing to the site. And different people will use different words (like synonyms, abbreviations, plural), quite naturally.
What is a LinkFarm?
A LinkFarm is an artificial sites-construct to boost the PageRank, and get more visitors. It can get you banned from the Google index, since Google tries to penalize everyone trying to tweak the system for his own use.
What is the Deep Web?
The so-called "Deep Web" describes databases and the likes which are full of useful information, but have restricted (such as commercial pay-per-download) access.
What are the major search engines?
Google is the most popular search engine today, with about 200 million requests per day. Other major search engines (or meta-searchers and search-based portals) include AllTheWeb, Yahoo!, Excite, HotBot, Infoseek, Go.com, Webcrawler, AltaVista, Faganfinder, AOL search, MSN, Teoma, Lycos, Looksmart, and Netscape Search. Some of these are actually web directories, with the web search "powered by Google" (like currently Yahoo!).
What are some major trends in the search engine world?
Development of new technologies, and alteration of current algorithms, happens very fast in the online world. It's hard to pin-point a recent technological breakthrough or anything the like. One major trend though is lean and fast search engine layout, focussing on what's most important; delivering results.
Does Google like me?
See at Does Google Like You.
What is Google Answers?
"Google's search engine is a great way to find information online. But sometimes even experienced users need help finding exactly the answer they want to a question. Google Answers is a way to get that help from Researchers with expertise in online searching. When you post a question to Google Answers, you specify how much you're willing to pay for an answer. A Researcher will search for the information you want. When they find it, they will post it to Google Answers, and you will be notified via email. You will only be charged for your question if and when an answer is posted to it."
-- Google Answers FAQ: What is Google Answers
How do I become a Google Answers Researcher?
The first rule in becoming a Google Answers Researcher, unfortunately: don't ask find out.
What is the meaning of AND, OR, NOT, NEAR, + and - in search engine queries?
Those are Boolean operators (see below).
What is "boolean" search?
Boolean operators are named after George Boole, English mathematician and logician (1815-1864). A boolean operator is e.g. "AND" or "OR". In Google, you don't need to use "AND", but "OR" can be helpful (note that it has to be spelled upper-case; "or" won't work.) For example, a OR b would return pages that include either the one, or the other, or both terms. Other operators in boolean logic are IMP (implication), XOR (exlusive OR), and NOT. A "NOT" in Google is expressed via a minus-prefix (like "cats -musical", no quotes).
Is Google case-sensitive?
No. To Google, there's no difference if a word of a user query, or indexed page, is in upper- or lower-case.
What is a Google Dance?
About monthly Google will re-evaluate PageRank and such for websites indexed. This phenomenon is knowns as the "Google Dance". For more information, see Phil Craven's explanation of the Google Dance.
Does a good Google rank matter?
If it's not for some obscure keyword no one would ever enter, then yes, it does matter. I myself get many hits delivered from Google, and so do millions of other webmasters around the world. That doesn't mean a good ranking in itself is all you need. Word-of-mouth can be just as important and happens in a variety of other spaces online, such as blogs, discussion groups of usenet, personal email suggestions, or little notes passed in a pub.
What is a stop-word?
Stop-words are common words (like "the" and "a") which will ignored during a Google search, even if you enter them. Well, that's the theory. Actually, they're not completely ignored phrases including the stop-words have a higher chancing or getting a good ranking.
I heard meta-tags are useless these days, is that true?
Pretty much yes, except for meta-description, which is still being used on some sites. If in doubt, or under time-pressure, simply leave those out. I myself still regularly use description, author and keyword for the most important pages, but by far not for all. Search engines like Google completely ignore meta-keywords though.
Meta-data on the other hand includes the page title, which is very important to a page (one of the most important ranking factor for a given keyword, even).
As a rule of thumb; if your information cannot be clearly seen in popular visual browsers, chances are its content is not as important for ranking as other content. Simply for the fact that it's very easy to misuse everything which is not visible.
What is Google Mindshare, or Googleshare?
Google Mindshare is the percentage of one thing belonging to another, using a Google query. For example you can query "Beatles" and "Paul", versus "Beatles" and "Ringo", and see who has a higher Mindshare for "Beatles". What you do is put into the calculation the page-count with and without the extra-keyword. Also see; Google Mindshare and Google Century.
What is PR?
"PR" means PageRank. (See below for more information.)
What is PageRank?
PageRank (formerly "BackRub") is named after Google co-founder Larry Page. It calculates how popular/ relevant a webpage is by analyzing who and how many others link to it.
Is there a limit to which Google will index a single page of mine?
Yes, and currently that's about 100K. This means the page will be indexed, but just the first 100K of it.
What is googled, Googlosophy, Googlology, Google bombing, Googler, Googular and so on?
Check my Google glossary for these and other words. (By the way, Google ™ doesn't like it much if you play around with their trademarked name.)
Why am I not listed in Google?
Only Google knows for sure. It's a good guess your site is just too new to be indexed by Google. Give it one or two more months and check again. Also, learn how to optimize for Google.
A company involved in SEO promised me to get me a number one ranking, can I trust them?
It's not that easy. There might be ways to optimize your existing content in such a way that it will rank much better for your keywords, but no one can promise a #1 just like that. Unless we're talking about paid advertisement (sponsored links) as opposed to actual search results. But sponsored links (like Google AdWords) will cost you much more money than a "natural" good ranking, and the chance someone clicks on ads is much lower than the chance of someone clicking on a number one spot. Just be very aware there's software and people out there who will actually only get you banned. Even if they figured out a way to cheat search engines today, tomorrow you might be penalized, and it might take a whole lot of hard work to get back to where you were. In the long term nothing but real, high-quality content will secure a good position.
Why did my site disappear from Google?
Please see this entry from a Google FAW: "Why have my pages disappeared from the search results?".
What's a Fresh Crawl?
Google's main crawl currently happens about once a month, whereas the Fresh Crawl indexes on a daily basis. But only certain pages. It's a good guess that the more you update your page, the more often the Googlebot (or Freshbot) will come visiting you.
What is Gmail?
Please see the Gmail FAQ.
What is Orkut?
Orkut is Google's social networking site. You can meet dates, friends or business partners. Or just read along in the community discussions.
How do I get into Orkut?
Since Orkut is invite-only, you need to find a friend who already joined Orkut, who then invites you. If you are out of friends in Orkut, you can also ask me and tell me about yourself.
What is a blog/ weblog?
Almost just a normal webpage, but more like a daily journal (a "web log", hence the name "blog"), with new posts being added on top, and older ones being archived. A PermaLink will always point to the archive. Blogs are highly linked, and mostly always fresh.
How can I create my own blog?
I'm using Blogger Pro. For a small yearly amount, they provide the CMS (Content Management System) to handle adding and archiving weblog posts. Note that Blogger was recently bought by Google.
What changed with the new Blogger?
Blogger.com has been fully redesigned during 2004. You now have better archiving possibilities, amongst other changes. Blogger.com is one of the only major sites delivering XHTML1.0 Strict + CSS2.
What is RSS?
RSS means RDF Site Summary (RSS)/ Rich Site Summary - and is an XML application used to allow people to grab headlines and descriptions from up-to-date news resources online.
What is Atom?
Atom is another type of RSS (see above). There is a bit of a battle in the developer community between these two formats. Google heavily pushes Atom, while ignoring the older RSS by Dave Winer. Atom is completely XML-based.
What is RDF?
RDF means Resource Description Framework and is part of the semantic web by people like Tim Berners-Lee, director of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium).
What is a PermaLink?
A PermaLink is a permanent link associated with every blog item/ entry. You can use it to link to the entry, as it points directly into the (non-moving) archive page.
What is PHP?
PHP is a server-side scripting language (as opposed to client-side scripting languages that generate documents, PHP allows search engines like Google to index the page).
What is ASP, Python, Perl, CGI?
Some more server-side scripting languages in use.
What is the purpose of this Google blog?
To tell about all the news in the search engine world and to interview people, and investigate.
How can I add a comment to your weblog?
The easiest way is to blog yourself and link to me (I'm regularly reading through posts linking to Google Blogoscoped). Also, you can send an email to email@example.com (Philipp Lenssen). I reply to all emails and might publish your comment as a new blog entry. There is no comment feature or guestbook for Google Blogoscoped specifically, even though Outer-Court has a comment section.
How do I link to an article?
Use the headline displayed below the article, above my name. It's the PermaLink.
Are you working for Google?
No, I'm not working for Google, and this blog is in no way anything even remotely official.
Are you working for Google Answers?
Well, I'm a contractor for Google Answers as Researcher j_philipp (which is short for Jan Philipp Lenssen).
How does the automatic headline compilation work?
I'm using a combination of my own PHP scripts, as well as the MagpieRSS module, to pull RSS feeds from other, search engine related news-feeds.
How do Egobot, Egobrowser, and Moviebot work?
They are all making use of the Google Web API, a developer's tool to query Google via a scripting language (such as PHP, which I use, along with the NuSOAP toolset). There's no magic involved in e.g. the musings of Egobot; all he does is reformulating a query you want to execute (like instead of writing "How can I learn programming", it will query "You can learn programming ..." and take the rest of the sentence as answer).
Who are you?
My name is (Jan) Philipp Lenssen and I post from Germany. Germany is GMT+1 or 2 depending on DST (GMT means "Greenwich Mean Time", and DST is "Daylight Saving Time").
Can I use your RSS data to include headlines on my own page?
Yes, that's fine. If you want to let me know about it once you included them, that'd be nice.
Where is your private homepage?
What are your other sites?
They can be found at:
Can I use your Google cartoons?
Yes, provided that you link back to this blog and give full credit below the picture. Also, please download the image and put it on your own server (as opposed to directly linking to mine). The following HTML should be used:
Google Cartoon © 2003 by Philipp Lenssen, <a href="http://blog.outer-court.com">Google Blogoscoped</a>.
Can I copy complete articles and use them on my site?
The articles are copyrighted to me, so no, unless you ask for permission first via email. It's better if you just quote relevant parts, and then link to them.
How do you research the Google and search engine world news?
I browse and search different sources, like DayPop, Google Web Search, Google News, AllTheWeb, and Technorati Web Services for Bloggers. (Also, I read different forums, Google Answers Researcher tip me off at times, and I get emails by readers.)
How do you finance the blog?
I'm currently not making any money with it, but feel free to donate it's very much appreciated.
How do you interview the Google Answers Researchers?
Being a Google Answers Researcher myself, I can write to them in the inofficial Google Answers Researcher forum.
How can I help out?
If you create a new article, new cartoons, new anything related to Google, and the search engine world in general, just send the stuff to me and I might include it in my blog (giving you full credit of course).
What other good Google/ Search engine blogs are there? What are some interesting Google discussion forums?
For a nice list of blogs, forums, and all the other information, see the Google World directory and its different sub-categories.
Can I use a logo to link to your site?
Yes, copy the image http://blog.outer-court.com/logo-small.gif on your own server:
You can use the following (X)HTML:
<p> <img src="http://blog.outer-court.com/logo-small.gif" alt="Google Blogoscoped" /> </p>
For more see the Archive.
Google Blogoscoped is © 2003-2004 by Philipp Lenssen. I am not working for Google. GOOGLE is a trademark of Google Inc.
Google with thumbnails.