The Dirty Little Secrets of Search

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
The Dirty Little Secrets of Search
Tue, 02-15-2011 - 10:51am

This article is long but an eye-opener.

PRETEND for a moment that you are Google’s search engine.

Someone types the word “dresses” and hits enter. What will be the very first result?

There are, of course, a lot of possibilities. Macy’s comes to mind. Maybe a specialty chain, like J. Crew or the Gap. Perhaps a Wikipedia entry on the history of hemlines.

O.K., how about the word “bedding”? Bed Bath & Beyond seems a candidate. Or Wal-Mart, or perhaps the bedding section of

“Area rugs”? Crate & Barrel is a possibility. Home Depot, too, and Sears, Pier 1 or any of those Web sites with “area rug” in the name, like

You could imagine a dozen contenders for each of these searches. But in the last several months, one name turned up, with uncanny regularity, in the No. 1 spot for each and every term:

J. C. Penney.

The company bested millions of sites — and not just in searches for dresses, bedding and area rugs. For months, it was consistently at or near the top in searches for “skinny jeans,” “home decor,” “comforter sets,” “furniture” and dozens of other words and phrases, from the blandly generic (“tablecloths”) to the strangely specific (“grommet top curtains”).



iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2002
Tue, 02-15-2011 - 2:08pm
I use Bing so I haven't noticed this....but I'm not surprised either. I also tend to define my search beyond a general request at the beginning.


iVillage Member
Registered: 02-05-2011
Wed, 02-16-2011 - 3:06pm
If you can't see the javascript urchins embedded in every ivillage page, you may just want to scroll down to the bottom and note where it says "powered by lithium".

Lithium provides our boards, moderator functions, and also tracks all posts by all users, aggregates information, packages it and sells it. Just posting here on iVillage over time provides a lot more data for data miners than most search engines.

There are ways to limit urchins, turning javascript off stops most all of them, but makes sites like this stop working. It is also possible to have a hosts file on your Windows PC, or to get a free OpenDNS account and block trackers (which will also stop this site from working).

Data mining is easy with Internet, and with the browsers we use. It is up to each of us to review the websites visited and to understand what they are doing with our information.