Google Testing Frequent Searcher Program

Ever wonder just how often you use Google in a day? Soon you may be able to get an exact count thanks to a Google search counter the company has been quietly testing with a small group of users.

Although it's not generally available yet, the counter has been the subject of discussion in several online forums, such as Webmaster World. The counter is displayed at the bottom of Google's home page, and shows both a numeric count and a color bar to represent the frequency of your searching.

Unlike the Google toolbar, the counter requires no special download to function. Rather, a cookie is placed on your computer to keep track of your searches.

The cookie is not associated with you, personally, so if you share your computer with others the count represents the total number of Google searches done on that machine. This also means that the counter can't be used to track your total Google searches if you use multiple computers.

Google says it's not trying to encourage compulsive or competitive searching with the counter. Counting stops after 100 searches in a single day (one search every 14.4 minutes), though your cumulative totals are not reset.

Google has been testing the counter with a small group of users, automatically displaying the counter and offering a brief FAQ page explaining the new feature. It's not unusual for search engines to test new a feature with a small number of users before rolling it out to all users.

Users seeing the counter were not offered a choice to opt-out of the test, though the FAQ did suggest deleting the cookie used by the counter to reset your homepage to Google standard.

Beyond being an interesting gimmick, what's the purpose of the counter? Though Google has removed the counter FAQ page, its answer to the question "What do I win" was the zenlike "There is no winning. There is only self-awareness. The search is endless."

However, when the editors of Search Engine Watch were shown a prototype of the counter last August, Google product manager Marissa Mayer suggested that token prizes might be awarded to the most frequent searchers, though we could not get confirmation from Google of any planned reward program prior to publication.

When will the Google counter be available to everyone? No official word on that, either. Best bet is to watch the Google home page and it may appear without warning, just as the recent index size increase appeared without warning last summer.

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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was's Web Search Guide.