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Britannica: #1 at Google

Today, for the very first time in my experience, The Encyclopedia Britannica was the #1 result at Google for a query.

It’s good to see the EB making progress with its online offering, but I’m actually puzzled in this case. The query was “horizontal hold” (without quotes), and the EB page that’s #1 is pretty much worthless. It’s a stub that gives a snippet of the article on the topic, but the snippet oddly begins with definition #4. The page then points us into actual articles in the EB, but they’re articles you have to pay for (although the EB offers a “no risk” free trial).

So, how did Google’s special sauce float this especially unhelpful page to the surface? And why isn’t there a Wikipedia page on “horizontal hold”? And does this mean that if there’s no Wikipedia page for a topic, Google gets the vapors and just doesn’t know what to recommend? Nooooo………

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10 Responses to “Britannica: #1 at Google”

  1. I pay for EB, and I can tell that this query gives the same result for my (password protected) account as for the open one.

    Well, the other problem of EB, is that, as far as I can asses, it is far behind Wikipedia when it comes to “deepth” of the entries, links to other resources, just everything important.

    For example (as I’m in Paris now), when I type Charters – I get much better and detailed text in Wikipedia than in EB.

    It’s pity (maybe), but that’s reality.

  2. This is the best wikipedia has on that topic now. I could make this a redirect from [[Horizontal hold]], but I don’t really think it’s good enough. :\

  3. @Judson – I’ve just made that redirect ;-)

  4. I guess it is better than that weird EB page. I never know what I’m looking at on their site. A snippet from an “assorted reference”?? (google jump start link) :)

  5. It’s long been Google’s policy to link to items that do not contain the search phrase, or at least not until you pass the paywall. Books, newspaper articles, and so on.

    They also seem to link to related pages even if these don’t have the search term on them. I remember searching once for something like ‘Teigetje’ (the Dutch name of Tigger) and ending up at an all English Pooh page.

    Google seems to want to refer people to places where they can find things, regardless of whether people have access to these things.

  6. Branko, I applaud Google’s latent semantic indexing (or, as I prefer to remember it, “synthetic latex indexing,” and I’m undoubtedly misusing the term anyway) when it leads us to a page that is useful. The EB is un-useful in itself and (because it points behind a pay wall) and as a reference. I wonder what sort of algorithm led it to such a miserable result.

  7. Thanx for the valuable information. This was just the thing I was looking for, Google’s policy is to link to items that do not contain the search phrase, or at least not until you pass the paywall. Books, newspaper articles, and so on. keep posting. Will be visiting back soon.

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