Many many moons ago, I set up a news alert on Google News to send me a ping whenever a news story mentioned ResearchBuzz. I always liked to see where news and mentions ended up. As you might imagine, that Google Alert went very silent last year when ResearchBuzz lapsed into a semi-coma.
So imagine my surprise when I started getting a fair number of Google Alerts within the last few weeks for ResearchBuzz. I’ve been posting more, but not enough that would warrant an avalanche of news mentions. And the summaries were mostly business-related stories. Where were all these new mentions coming from?
I finally went over to Google News (http://news.google.com) and ran a few searches. It didn’t take long to figure out that Google News was being a little more flexible with my searches than I intended. Fortunately there’s an easy remedy.
At the moment (a while after I first noticed this problem) there are three results for the query ResearchBuzz on Google News. Only one of them — a mention by the Search Engine Journal — is about this site. (Thanks, Search Engine Journal!) The other two are about business. Looking at them both I see they both mention publicly-traded companies with a set of research links that includes this: Research, Stock Buzz.
So Google News is taking my ResearchBuzz query and turning into something like “Research * Buzz”. And while I appreciate some flexibility in my searches — especially as the data pool for news is much smaller than that for the Web — it doesn’t find me information I need.
I took a look at the Google News preferences, but while you can change whether or not you can get suggestions, you can’t really change whether or not Google alters your search term. You CAN make sure that Google News searches for your query exactly as you enter it by using a + in front of your search term. Enclosing it in quotes will also do the trick.
This particular Google search quirk isn’t NEARLY as irritating as searching for words, looking in a page cache, and then discovering they’re not there. But it is leading me to think about “best practices” for setting information traps with Google Alerts. Quotes all the time? Plus marks? More test searches so I can make sure ahead of time that I’m getting only the results I want? I haven’t decided yet.