Google works in mysterious ways

As mentioned in an article I cited recently, the Google search engine
is one subject that we bloggers love to blog about. One reason is because of its sheer power.
Many of us remember life before search engines, when finding a site was largely a matter of luck.
I remember when Digital launched its AltaVista search system,
and we gazed upon it in wonder and decreed that it was good.
And then somewhere along the way, the upstart Google surpassed it, and now commands the lion’s share of the search traffic.
My own stats show that it’s responsible for the majority of hits on this site, excluding links from within the site.
Its influence on the rest of the internet is similar. Googling has even become a verb.
It’s no wonder that we’re amazed.

But as amazing as it is, it’s even more baffling at times. A whole subculture has evolved to study and discuss Google’s technology and philosophy.
And at times, it’s just plain inexplicable.
Sometimes a search can result in “hits” which contain none of the search arguments, as a result of Google’s mysterious “page rank” system. I recently spent a couple of hours looking for a way to find the page ranks for my own pages, without installing the Google Toolbar which only works with Winblows/Exploder.
I finally gave up. I still think there has to be a way, but obviously Google doesn’t want anybody to find it.

In keeping with the recent description of bloggers as “navel gazers”, naturally I want to see what Google will do with a search for
my own name. Ideally, I would like it to return the front page of this site somewhere near the top of the list. Maybe that’s an unrealistic expectation, since I’m not blessed with a particularly unusual name. There are a lot of other pages out there referring to people with the same name. But I’m special .. I want mine near the top. It used to be, before I started this blog. Then things got interesting.

When I first started blogging, I decided I didn’t want the blog to be indexed by search engines, since infrequent indexing of a frequently changing page sometimes leads to confusing results. So I configured my robots exclusion file to declare the blog off-limits. Of course, that’s an honor system; search engines don’t have to obey it, but Google is pretty good about playing by the rules. But, as I said, sometimes it’s just plain baffling.

Before blog, my “home page” showed up somewhere near the top of the hit list on a search for my name. My old website also showed up there. Shortly after the birth of the blog, the home page dropped out of the top ten, and the blog took its place. But the blog entry didn’t have any descriptive text with it, where Google usually includes some of the text from the page. Trying to rationalize Google’s behavior may be futile, but I
thought that maybe it was including the page because it found links to it from other pages, but not including any text because I told it to stay out. I had thought “stay out” would have meant don’t even show it, but maybe Google doesn’t think the way I do.

Since Google seemed determined to find the blog whether I wanted it to or not, I thought maybe I could force the home page back into the hit list by changing the exclusion file to allow Google to search the blog, and adding a home link to the blog.
Also, I decided having the old site appear was confusing, because I’m using it mainly as a “back-end” to serve all the images on this site (to allow me to have tons of pictures and stay within the space/bandwidth limitations of the low-budget service). The only purpose of the “home page” on that site is a link from the employee directory to provide my work contact info, so there is no need to have it globally visible. So I added a link on that page to the home page here, and added meta-tags to tell Google not to index that page, but to follow the links on it, hoping that would force it to drop that page from its index, and follow the link to here
and pick up this home page.

The result, at least at the time I’m writing this, is the old home page did get dropped, this home page is still not there, and the blog is still there without any text. Google … awesome but mysterious.

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