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Google rules among web search tools

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Dana ShultzGoogle ( has become my favorite internet search site. It is lightning fast, and it has an uncanny ability to put the most relevant sites near the top of the results list.

The home page is simple, clear and ad-free. Google tells you how many pages it has indexed (more than 1.3 billion, as this article was written).

Google offers typical search capabilities. Unless quotation marks are present to designate a phrase search, there is a presumed "and" between search words. Google supports logical "or."

Interestingly, to provide the most accurate results, Google does not support root searches or wild cards. If alternative word forms are important, the user must enter them explicitly.

Advanced Searches

Google has many advanced search features. Some of the most important include searching by Google directory category (similar to Yahoo! category searching); restricting a search to a particular website, or to all websites in a particular language; and finding pages that link to a given page.

The ability to search Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files is a recent addition. Google also can serve as a multifaceted reference guide, offering telephone and address look-ups, stock quotes, maps and dictionary definitions.

Search Results

For each search result, Google displays the name of the identified web page, a textual excerpt with query terms bolded and the URL. When you click on "Similar Pages" for a given result, Google searches the web for pages related to that result.

Google's high accuracy in searching and Similar Pages results from PageRank, a system that Google's founders developed.

PageRank examines the linking structure of the web. The more other pages link to a given page, the more "important" that page is. In addition, to the extent that a given page is important, it makes the pages that it links to more important.

In processing a search, Google first looks for all pages that satisfy the search terms. Then Google uses PageRank to present those pages in order by importance.

Users who are particularly impatient can take advantage of "I'm Feeling Lucky," which skips the results list and displays the most highly ranked page.

Search Speed

Near the top of the results page, Google displays a statistics bar, which shows the approximate number of search results and the search time.

Search times normally are less than one-half second. On a dial-up connection, searches are fast. On a high-speed digital connection, they are almost instantaneous.

Google's speed is the result of two factors: an efficient search algorithm and thousands of low-cost, networked PCs that work together as a super-fast search engine.

Any website discussion must address advertising. Google has sponsors so it can exist as a free service. Fortunately, Google's placement of ads is tasteful and unobtrusive.

Google does not have garish ads plastered all over its results page. Instead, if search terms match those specified by sponsor, clearly-identified "sponsored links" appear above the search results.

Any time I review a product or service, I discuss significant negative features. Amazingly enough, Google has none. It is great, and near as I can tell, no competitor comes close.

Dana Shultz is vice president and legal counsel for an international financial services organization, where he specializes in technology licensing and related transactions. His e-mail address is