Stealth – New Google Competitor

As search engines increasingly gather and store data about their users, there is an opportunity for a new search engine that just provides good results, and nothing else. Which is easy to achieve when you are starting out – but if such a search engine ever does well, there will be pressure to start doing the very things they were against, for the $$$. Of course Wikipedia have stuck to their no-ad promise, so it’s possible for a search engine as well.

Stealth doesn’t record any info, and routes your search query through other servers so that the link you click on doesn’t pass on referrer data (browser, IP, search query, cookies etc).

In their F.A.Q there’s this:

Where does Stealth get its search results from?

We do a good bit of our own crawling and also utilize many different API’s (Google’s Ajax API, Bing’s search API, etc) as well.

From looking at their search results, I think it is fair to say the results are 100% lifted from Google. So for now, if you like Google results (just web, not universal) and care about privacy, use

Maybe ranking services could use it, and maybe it could become the de facto standard for determining a site’s ranking in Google.

New: Symptom Search

One day we will be able to self-diagnose. The next step towards that goal has been provided by Google. Now, if you search for a symptom or multiple symptoms, Google might return “related searches”. That’s all Google will dare call them, because it is just the algorithm making the connection, not a person and certainly not a doctor.

While this start is exciting, I hope people don’t mistake the first 5 results for being the only possible illnesses related to the symptoms…

Google Now Indexing Symbols… Like +

I was wondering if and when it would happen. Google have a product called Google+, which they have high hopes for. Yet they chose a brand name that could not be searched for in Google!

Google can’t show themselves favoritism, so they now index a wide array of symbols:

I’ve recently noticed that Google started to show results for queries like [.], [,], [:], [;], [#], [%], [@], [^], [)], [~], [|], ["], [<], [$]. When you search for [%], Google shows the results for [percent sign] and that happens irrespective of the interface language, so it’s not a synonym generated by Google’s algorithms. [source]

It’s not perfect, because obviously some are used for advanced search features within Google – so a search for a phrase within quotes won’t only bring up pages where it appears in quotes…

And if you search for : you get anatomical results because it is searching for the name of the colon symbol rather than the symbol itself

Important AdWords Help Page Not Indexed

Once upon a time Google decided to give advance notice of upcoming policy updates – probably to keep them safe legally. It was a good call, because it would be unreasonable for advertisers to check the myriad of policy pages on a daily basis.

But it seems Google doesn’t care too much about the page. I only found it by accident, and I doubt advertisers were ever emailed about its existence. Yes, it might have been mentioned on Google’s Adwords blog, but most advertisers don’t even know about the blog, let alone feel they have to read it every day.

Now, to make things worse, Google have changed the URL of the page, making it even more obscure. And I’ve just found out the new page isn’t even indexed in Google!

Here’s all it says on the old page:

This page shows upcoming changes to the AdWords advertising policies. When appropriate, we also send out service announcements and notifications to advertisers who are directly impacted by our policy changes. We hope that you find this page useful.

(the rest of the page is blank, and there’s no link to or mention of the new page)

The new page is here:

It is linked to from this page:

But not indexed!

I feel sorry for any advertisers who lose their accounts because they weren’t aware of rule changes, because Google:

  • has a continually changing and hard to use navigation system for their help files
  • doesn’t contact advertisers directly about policy changes that could see their account permanently closed
  • doesn’t even index a page as critical as the AdWords Policy Change Log

Google Breaking Their Own Guidelines

Google is trying out a new AdWords format, in which searchers can sign up for newsletters from within an ad. If you are signed into your Google account, the form is pre-filled with your email address.

I’m wondering how this fits with Google’s own landing page guidelines. Obviously the ads are not landing pages, and the advertiser is probably still required to have the information on the site the ad points to… but the guidelines state

If you do request personal information, provide a privacy policy that discloses how the information will be used.

If the searcher subscribes, they just see this:

No immediate opportunity to see a privacy policy.

Original story at Search Engine Land

Maps is now Crowd Sourced

The new version of Google Map Maker lets you submit updates, edits, or other changes to a map—and once it’s approved, you’ll see your additions on the live Google map.


…With the redesign, you can add currently unmarked hiking or biking trails, rivers, or ball fields, and update existing buildings and landmarks by drawing your addition directly on a map. In this way, Google can rely on your map updates to essentially crowd-source its maps.

Changes will also appear on Google Earth. As they say here, spam will always be a problem. You can guarantee that someone will manage to use this system for wholesale spamming that will work for a while. Don’t be surprised if the crowd-sourcing (ie free data) gets turned off one day.



Aussie Minnow Takes On AdSense

Many, many, many thousands of Google Adsense users have had their accounts suspended by Google. 99% of the time it is due to newbies not managing to navigate and abide by the numerous rules that must be obeyed. That Google does little to remind you of them, and makes their discovery moderately difficult seems to be a deliberate tactic.

Why would they make it so hard? Well for most businesses 80% of the income comes from 20% of the customers. Big customers will put the effort into abiding. Minnows might not, and Google’s automated system will catch them out. It’s an exclusive club, open to everyone.

Which means Google avoids dealing with customer service (one of the biggest costs when everything else is automated) for accounts that make them next to nothing.

Unfortunately this means collateral damage – SME customers who missed a rule or somehow get to to be suspended unfairly. I’m not sure if Rusty Compass is a minnow or SME, but in Australia there is a law that protects it from bullying:

Mr Bowyer’s complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will accuse Google of unconscionable conduct – a legal definition that refers to harsh or unfair behaviour by a stronger party over a weaker party.

In the USA the only option would be to get a judge to define Google’s advertising products as a utility – utilities are required to make themselves available to anyone who pays their bills.

Secret Google Ninja!

This is a very elaborate Easter Egg hidden within Google. It only works if you follow the precise instructions:

Go to Google Reader, then use your cursor keys thus: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A. A ninja then pops onto your screen and into your search box.

If you can’t be bothered, here’s a screenshot: