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Do you Google or Bing? Do you use the filters? How do your make sense of the sea of information on the Internet? The increasing volume of content on the Web means that we really have to rely on search engines to select our reading material for us. The numbers around search engines and market share are mind boggling. comScore says there were 17 billion, yes billion, searches were conducted in January 2011 and Google did bulk of the work.

comScore Explicit Core Search Share Report*
January 2011 vs. December 2010
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore qSearch
Core Search Entity Explicit Core Search Share (%)
Dec-10 Jan-11 Point Change
Total Explicit Core Search 100.0% 100.0% N/A
Google Sites 66.6% 65.6% -1.0
Yahoo! Sites 16.0% 16.1% 0.1
Microsoft Sites 12.0% 13.1% 1.1
Ask Network 3.5% 3.4% -0.1
AOL LLC Network 1.9% 1.7% -0.2

Google announced a while ago that it was going to take steps to root out sub-standard content and last week the Google blog announced that the company has a new algorithm in place for its search engine which impacts 11.8% of the queries. While all this may sound slightly remote and vague to some readers, this is critical information for anyone who is targeting a good search engine rank. Google has said more than once that it wants to recognize and acknowledge meaningful and useful content and sieve out the overly re-used and recycled articles from content farms. It looks like they are getting there and this is incredibly good news for me as a writer and as an end-user who turns to Google for a lot of my information. But Google is not the only player in the field and it is sometimes important to remind ourselves that there are other ways to search which may provide slightly different answers.

I recently read an older article from Wired which talks of the options we have when it comes to finding information: ChaCha where you send your question as a text to 242242 and get an answer is great for mobile searches; GoodSearch combines charitable giving and searching because it donates a penny to the charity of your choice for every search you run; and Trackle offers a customized Web tracker which will update with information on all your topics of interest. There are also more specialized search engines tracking everything from jobs and parking spots to vacation packages and concert tickets.

All these search engines filter information for us and in a sense we are trusting their judgement and accepting their decision. And so it is no real surprise that there is Hunch started by a bunch of “MIT nerds with backgrounds in computer science and math.” Hunch aims to be a decision engine and builds a profile of each user based on 20 questions. The answers you give will help them offer personalized information rather than random search results. Interesting concept but I am personally not yet ready for a decision engine.

As our life choices seem to revolve increasingly around search engines, it is worth working out strategies for how exactly you want to live with them…

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