For a multiplicity of reasons, I’ve been running a lot of tests on search engine results. Last night, just out of curiosity to see what actually got the best Google rankings (at least at that moment in time), I did a Google search on “vampire.” Not surprisingly, that term returned 39,400,000 hits. I wanted to see, first, what a person who typed “vampire” into Google would immediately be presented with; and second, how close to the top any “real vampire” sites were, and which sites were top rated. What I saw was…interesting.
The top-rated Google site for “vampire” is the Wikipedia page with that name, dealing with vampire folklore. Next came Vampire Wine, which I believe is the old domain that used to be Pathway to Darkness, and hence may be riding on that now long-vanished site’s extensive linkage and popularity. Then VampireRave.com, which is a commercial Goth/punk site aimed at Lifestylers and vampire fans more than vampiric people. Then came the two main pages for Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: Requiem at White Wolf Games. Then the Skeptic’s Dictionary page on “vampire,” which links Sanguinarius.org and Dr. Elizabeth Miller’s Dracula page. A technical page was number 7, then VampireFreaks.com, which is a very disturbing site. 9th and 10th on the first page of hits were Sanguinarius.org and Temple of the Vampire. So, two “real vampire” sites appeared among the first 10 hits.
The second page started with two gaming sites, “the vampire random name generator” and the “vampire” section in the site “How Stuff Works,” titled “How Vampires Work.” This is kind of sketchy, and has a handful of links that need updating. (Among other things, it links a page on this site that is no longer there.) But the fifth entry, the vampire section on Monstrous.com, is a candidate for my Hall of Shame–it’s entirely plagiarized! I started to read it and immediately recognized big chunks of text from my old “Human Living Vampires” articles and from Sanguinarius’ site, all just jumbled together without attribution or credit. The whole section consists of unashamedly ripped off material. The rest of the page was technical sites, gaming sites, and VampireMeetups.com.
The technical sites are intriguing. There seems to be a trend to name technical products, businesses or projects “vampire” something. There was “Vampire, an extension module for mod_python,” “Net Vampire, a file download manager,” “VAMPIRE–Visual Active Memory Processes and Interactive REtrieval,” and “Vampire Wire,” an online store for cables and wiring.
The third page of Google hits included Damien Deville’s organization The Vampire Church, and one of my friend Bev’s articles on vampire myths. It also contained Vampire Wear, the IMDb page for “John Carpenter’s Vampires,” a gaming site, a photographer’s gallery site, the spoof website “Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency,” and the website for the band Vampire Weekend.
And so it went, for pages and pages. Very few serious information sites or real vampire sites appeared among the top, say, 200. Obviously, anyone running a Google search on just the word “vampire” is going to have a hard time finding much information of substance–and not because the information isn’t on the ‘Net. But Google’s method of ranking sites is not angled toward returning the highest quality material. Apparently, it’s related primarily to the number of links a site has from other “important” websites.
The results from the same search on Yahoo! are entirely different. Yahoo! returns far more hits, 54,100,000, to start with. The first site on the list is Vampires Among Us, followed by Vampires Only, Dr. Miller’s Dracula Page, Sanguinarius.org, Beverly Richardson’s Vampire’s Vault, and Vampyres Online. By Light Unseen is number 11, top of the second page, and with the correct name. Google still lists us as “Living Vampires,” which hasn’t been the site’s name since 2002. (It still comes up if you Google By Light Unseen, however). Unfortunately, Yahoo! also returns Monstrous.com on the first page of hits, so I really will be contacting Monstrous about their little copyright problem. But the bottom line is: Yahoo! returns a much more substantial assortment of websites at the top of a simple keyword search than Google does.