Do Search Engines Actually Help?

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Search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing have been an integral part of the Internet for decades. They have helped us discover new websites and find information we are looking for. However, there are also instances in which search engines do not get the job done. Let us examine the pros and cons of search engines.

Guessing Queries

For a “focalized” search, one must know the exact keywords or phrase to search for. And therefore, when someone is searching for an item that does not have a precise phrase that it can be searched under, in other words if it is an “exploratory” search, the searcher is out of luck. Unless, of course, they are alright with sifting through various irrelevant links before getting to one that has information that is of use to them. However, for anyone who is conducting a focalized search, a search engine’s results may lead them to the exact information they seek. The number of words in the search query can generate many results that have one of the search keywords only once in an entire document.

Irrelevant Results

In a multiple-word query, a search engine could also produce results that are irrelevant – save one of the words in the search query, producing pages of irrelevant results. And though a search engine recommends alternate phrasings, these are based more on popularity than anything else. Speaking of popularity, a search engine ranks results based on popularity, and that is not always what a user is looking for. If it is what they are looking for, great. But if not, it is harder for the user to conduct their search. Some sites even pay money to be ranked on the first page, which does not necessarily mean that they are the most popular or the most searched result.

Increased Access

However, there is plenty that a search engine accomplishes to better the lives of Internet users. For example, the ability to gain access to such a large portion of the world wide web. Where else can one simply type in a keyword or phrase and find dozens, if not hundreds, of results in one place? Though some searches generate fewer relevant results, and may not receive much, if any, help from a search engine’s efforts, those are only a fraction of searches. And despite the fact that sites are ranked by popularity and some even pay to be on the first page, this does not mean that the less popular results someone is seeking are not in the pages of results at all.

Thus far, a search engine is the only thing with a recognizable structure for searching for a particular thing on the Internet. Without some form of search engine, we would be lost trying to find out how to treat a bug bite or tune a piano, but a search engine opens the doors to all sorts of knowledge, no matter how obscure.