Thursday, November 11, 2004
Google attempts to mute Microsoft's buzz by announcing that its index has jumped to a colossal eight billion pages. The company isn't offering many details beyond pointing out that they "continue to innovate on the crawling side of the business," as one official put it. Certainly there are a number of obvious ways that Google could be finding additional pages, given its various overlapping products (eg. conversion tracking, Blogger, AdSense, toolbar, Froogle). Perhaps there are some non-obvious technical advances involved as well in following links on dynamic sites, etc.
Assuming the pages in it are useful, a huge increase in index size is a happy event. Some time ago I conferred with a large law firm, Osler, Hoskin, and Harcourt (osler.com). They had trouble getting all the pages on their highly dynamic site indexed. As much as one might want to scold the company for having such a hard-to-spider site, the more pages Google can find *without* them having to rework their site, the better. And better for the consumer. This site is full of articles and resources, as well as listings of lawyers and their bios.
Today, I noticed that on key queries valued by the company, like "business law canada," osler.com now ranks #3 (behind some public-domain and library resources), and finally ahead of the tiny immigration law company from upstate New York that used to routinely rank first on this query.
Looking for Douglas Rienzo, a partner in the Osler firm? Two years ago, when I searched for particular associates and partners, the only Google mentions of their names were pointing anywhere but the Osler site. Now, the top results are bios that appear on Osler.com, with contact info. This is neither here nor there, but it does prove that a lot more important pages on the massive Osler site got spidered and well-treated by Googlebot.
It's impossible to gauge search quality on just a couple of example searches. But it is heartening to see that on some queries, like "business law canada" -- to say nothing of "Douglas Rienzo" -- the results are now better, not worse, than they were two years ago.
Chris Sherman wonders, does this increase in index size portend the release of new search features or perhaps a significant rejigging of the ranking algorithm?
Can I be first to dub the next cataclysmic Google re-index? We're at about the one-year anniversary of the algorithmic imbroglio that was "Florida."
Let's call the next big one "Ohio."
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