Scanned Media now Google Search Friendly
Article by George Norman
On 31 Oct 2008
If you work on something that you believe may have an impact on the outside world (like scientific research or an academic paper) you will want to scan that work and post it on the web for everyone to see. Even though countless scanned media makes it to the web on a daily basis, it is quite hard for Google to index it and make them search-friendly. Or is it?

Evin Levey, Product Manager with Google, comments: “In the past, scanned documents were rarely included in search results as we couldn't be sure of their content. We had occasional clues from references to the document - so you might get a search result with a title but no snippet highlighting your query. Today, that changes.”


According to Evin Levey, as long as the scanned document is saved in PDF format, then Google can perform OCR (optical character recognition) on those files, convert the scans into digital text files, and then unleash the web spiders on them so as to index all the information included in those files. This is no simple feat, as it requires vast amounts of processing power, but it is better than not being able to do it at all.

The simple truth of the matter is that computers, mighty as they are, tend to have serious problems when it comes to performing some actions (such as text recognition). To a human being, reading a text document or looking at a picture of a text has the same result – one has no problems reading it. Computers on the other hand cannot adapt so quickly and that is why up to this point indexing scanned files was a problem for Google. It may be simple for you to tell the difference between the letter O and the number zero 0, but it is not that simple for a computer.

A word of warning for those that posted scanned files on the web knowing very well that no one will ever reach them by means of Google search: if you don’t want people reading them, take them down.

Tags: Google
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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