Your search and browsing behaviour allows Google to personalise your search results. To escape this filtering of your results use a private browser window called incognito as it is called in Chrome. Google will then ignore tracking and search cookies to stop personalising your results. To get a private browser or incognito window use the following key combinations:
- Chrome – Ctrl+Shift+N
- FireFox – Ctrl+Shift+P
- Internet Explorer – Ctrl+Shift+P
I have found that this approach doesn’t work with Bing.
Metasearch for the Big Guys
Dogpile returns results from Google, Yahoo!, and Yandex. The Russian engine, Yandex, is the fourth largest search engine in the world and Yahoo! is really the Bing search engine database.
Dogpile is only good for short and simple search statements, however, it is a good for a quick look at what you are likely to get from the largest search engines.
Copernic has stopped selling its professional version metasearch tool and discontinued all support for both the professional and free personal versions of Copernic Agent. It only searches five of the 15 search engines it purports to search (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Dogpile, and Open Directory Project).
Copernic is Windows only.
iMetaseach is a possible replacement for Copernic. It is now in version 5.03, so it isn’t a new kid on the block. The paid version searches Google and purports to search 11 other search engines.
The program groups search results by concept; click a group that interest you and the search results will be revised. This is an effective method to refine search results and get the most relevant results. It’s very effective for ambiguous search terms.
Unfortunately, iMetasearch has a steep learning curve, but if you frequently conduct Investigative Internet Research it is worth the effort to learn how to use this advanced web search tool.
iMetasearch is Windows only.
The DuckDuckGo (DDG) search engine aggregates content to provide search results while offering significant privacy features. My favorite search shortcut in DDG is its version of the Google site: command. Place an exclamation point before the site you want to search–for example, “private investigator” !facebook. The exclamation point directs the search to a specific site. In this case, you will have to login to your Facebook account to see the results.
loc.alize.us shows the geo-location of images on Flickr. Address search and satellite imagery is provided by Google. The tag search is good as it shows all the tags on a given pic so that you can identify more tags to search for.
It has a lot of scripts running so be careful.
mypicsmap.com shows Flickr images on a on a full screen Google map. you can search by username or photoset ID.
This is a handy tool for seeing the image and it location on a map.
The apparent demise of Google Alerts forced me to turn to Talkwalker and Mention for alerts. However, Yahoo! Alerts offer some utility for keeping up with the world. In the past Yahoo! Alerts was only good for news. It now extends into the full web as catalogued by the Bing database. If you don’t already know it, Microsoft swallowed Yahoo! search whole in 2009. Perhaps we should call it Microhoo.
You need a Yahoo! account for Yahoo! Alerts. The results cannot be pushed to an RSS feed, they only arrive via email, Yahoo Messenger, or mobile device, depending on what you have set-up in your Yahoo! account. Not all alerts allow for delivery using all three of the above delivery options.
To create an alert, select Y! Search from the drop-down list on the right side of the opening page or select Y!Search from the list on the initial screen. Next sign-in to your Yahoo! account. In the Search keyword field add the search terms as you would in the normal Yahoo! search box. In the next drop-down list select what you want searched, I normally select Web or News. Finally select the frequency of the search. The search preview will only show anything added to the database in the last 24 hours.
The Google/Yandex Search Link Fix Firefox extension prevents Google Search and Yandex from modifying result links when they are clicked. If you try to copy the link you may get gibberish instead of the actual link. If you try to copy the text description in the results it won’t work unless you got to the Edit menu and select Copy — Ctl+C won’t work. This extension disables these behaviors on any Google domain without having to configure anything.
Did you know that you can improve your Google results by changing the order of the words in your search statement? Try searches for “civil society” or “society civil”, with and without double quotes. Do you notice any difference in the search results?
Did you know that you can make your Google search results more relevant by changing the reading level? If your search statement is complex or the topic is complex then selecting the advanced reading level may yield more relevant sites. To make this selection, click on Search tools then All Results and click on Reading level. The results will then be annotated with reading levels as well as a percentage breakdown of results by reading level. To filter by a reading level, click on the desired reading level. To go back to all results, click on View results for all.
Marjan Farahbaksh’s blog identifies some excellent places to search for Theses and Dissertations.
I use clustering search engines to build the most specific search statement possible for use in the large search engines. Carrot Search is a clustering search engine that I have added to my stable of tools. It uses Lingo3G — the third generation document clustering engine that features multilingual and hierarchical clustering, synonyms, and advanced tuning capabilities. This produces good results that are properly clustered with tabs to cluster results from different search engines, except Google.
Google and other search engines are wonderful things for gathering information, we all know that, but what if people with evil intent are gathering information about you?
Getting out of Street View
Google Street View provides a great deal of data that can be used to plan an attack on a facility, a person, or to conduct a kidnapping. Google offers an easy, free, and effective way to restrict access to this data.
At a client’s home, I found that his car licence plate was legible. This usually occurs when the car is parked inside a garage or car port. At the client’s workplace, several security measures were clearly visible as were other features of the facility that raised concerns.
Google’s solution is to place an opaque digital wall around your house or facility. To get out of Google Street View, first search for the street address. Once the property is visible, you will find a small box at the bottom right of the image that says “Report a problem”. Click on this to select a reason for blurring the image of the property. I usually select Other: This image presents security concerns. Add some discriptive data to help Google identify the property and complete the CAPTCHA (an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”) thing that takes me several tries to get right. In 2 or 3 days a blurred wall should appear around the property.
Google eliminated the synonym search feature in June. If you wanted to search your search term and its synonyms, you placed the tilde sign (“~”) immediately in front of your search term. They said nobody used this feature. I guess my new name is ‘Nobody’.
With this gone, an alternative called Google synonym Search Tool has appeared as a usable replacement.