Many serious bloggers rely on Google Blog Search to provide regular reports on who’s linking back to them. The blogging tool I use, WordPress, even uses Google’s blog search to feed a little window on the blog dashboard. (This is the listing it shows for this blog.)
The Google Blog Search results have generally been the fastest and most useful tool of this kind (Google displaced Technorati, which had long served in this role, some time ago). But a couple of months ago Google Blog Search started becoming pretty much useless. Instead of only reporting links from the “main” blog content, it reported all links on a blog page, including the so-called “sidebar” or blogroll, where many bloggers place a lengthy static list of blogs they read. So this means that, for instance, every time JD Lasica adds a new post to his blog at Social Media, which includes Wordyard in its blogroll, I get a new listing in the Google Blog Search for Wordyard, even though the post has nothing to do with Wordyard. This completely messes up the utility of Google’s search for me — and, from what I see posted by other serious bloggers, many other users.
Google’s whole expertise and reputation lies in the sorting of search results, so I’d hope and think that the company would pay close attention to this issue. But so far the only public comment I can find from Google itself about this problem is this post by Jeremy Hylton last month. Apparently Google Blog Search used to index only the content in the blog’s RSS feed, but now indexes the whole web page. Hylton says Google ” may have underestimated the impact on searches using the link: operator or where the query matches a blog or blogger’s name.” Since (for instance) every installation of WordPress uses such a search this is not a minor issue; it is, for many of us, the central use of the service.
Hylton says Google’s working on a fix. In the meantime, the company might do a little more outreach so that it doesn’t face the general perception that its service is simply broken, which is how it feels now.
UPDATE: Danny Sullivan in comments below suggests that Google has focused on serving users doing general subject searches rather than bloggers searching for “who’s linking to me.” I’m sure that’s right. But the bloggers are the ones creating the content — they ought to be served well too. See Danny’s Searchengineland post for more info on the changes that Google made that resulted in this situation.