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Google Search Results are Getting Worse: We Need a Better Google
Friday, January 21, 2011
Google organic search results are getting worse.  I have been waiting to write this post for quite some time now.  In fact maybe even a year or two.  The timing just might be right for this post, especially as Google is stepping up their efforts to defend their search results.  As I began writing this post, Matt Cutts from Google is on the official Google blog suggesting that Google's search quality is the best it has ever been in terms of relevance, freshness, and comprehensiveness. Whoa, whoa whoa, wait just a minute.  The best it has ever been?  Matt goes on to suggest:
January brought a spate of stories about Google’s search quality. Reading through some of these recent articles, you might ask whether our search quality has gotten worse. The short answer is that according to the evaluation metrics that we’ve refined over more than a decade, Google’s search quality is better than it has ever been in terms of relevance, freshness and comprehensiveness.
Well Matt, consider this post another that will be critical of Google search results. When I was at Enquiro, over the years I had written posts questioning the quality and relevancy of search results.  Not just with Google but with all search engines.  As a user of Search, like many of you, I have been using search from the "get-go".  It started with some of those now old and defunct search engines, moved to Yahoo and them to ASK Jeeves.  In fact it is no secret of my love for ASK and some of their search innovations over the years.  ASK just could not "become mainstream".  Part of the reason for that was due to the relevancy (or lack-there-of) of their results.  Then probably around 1999 or so I moved over to Google.  They had a simple interface, an ever growing index and what seemed at the time as being able to provide more relevant results to my queries.  This was great especially as I was the type of searcher who used a lot of long-tail queries as I was looking for specific information.  So for the next few years I was jumping around from Google to Yahoo to ASK to MSN.  The reason for this was that I simply wanted the most relevant results and the different engines provided me with a different experience and with different results.  During this time Google appeared to be working on providing the most relevant results so they become my search engine of choice as I entered my professional career in online marketing and organic search. 

Then in late 2003 something happened that made me take even more note of Google and their power to "dominate" the Web or more specifically Web Search.  In November, Google launched what was dubbed the "Florida Update."  Overnight, search results that appeared for years in Google were gone, site owners, webmasters and SEOs were in a panic.  I remember thinking that with a few algorithm tweaks, Google was able to dramatically alter their search results.  I wondered how often this happened and what the immediate future would hold for the search results? One simple Google algorithm update and the Internet was turned upside down.

Enter 2010.  I would call 2010 the year of the "Google Swirl" where we saw infrastructure changes, algorithm changes and SERP changes more than ever before.  Google has been working hard on updating their search index, but it almost seems like there has been too much change in too short of a span.  For me it was like Google was in reaction-mode to emerging technologies such as Facebook, Twitter and real-time search results.  The winds of change are blowing which is no more evidenced with yesterday's announcement that Larry Page will be replacing Eric Schmidt as Google's Chief Executive Officer.  Today rumors of friction between Eric Schmidt and the Google founders has started to surface.

We Need a Better Google


For me, personally and professionally Google has started to slide. I am finding that based on my experience the Google search results are getting continually worse.  I won't get into any examples here, but over the past nine to twelve months, the search results that I am getting back from  Google are just not what I need or what I was expecting to find.  Sometimes the search results have been down right confusing.  The quality and relevance of the search results has diminished.  It appears that I am not the only one who has noticed this.  Jill Whalen had a great post on some of her recent experiences with Google results.  In a recent post Jill commented:
Which brings us back to today's sucky Google results.

It was done gradually over many years, but Google now provides organic search results that often look relevant on the surface, but either lead to made-for-AdSense content pages or somewhat sketchy companies who are great at article spinning and comment spamming.

Jill goes on to add:
Since their poor results are being talked about with more fervor outside of the search marketing industry, it's possible that they have indeed crossed the line. Numerous mainstream publications and highly regarded bloggers have taken notice and written about the putrid results. While Google is used to negative press, the current wave of stories hits them at their core -- or at least what most people believe to be their core -- their search results.
Relevancy (and spam for that matter) with regards to search results may be in the eye of the beholder, but people are taking notice.  A post from Aaron Wall over at SEObook suggests that Google just may be nearing their breaking point.   He suggests that
When Google's head spam fighter is doing public relations AND the Washington Post covers his lobbying you know Google is nearing a breaking point.
Perhaps this is the reason for the slight damage control that Matt Cutts is having to do.  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, uh I mean Google.  Whatever the issues are, we need Google to be better.  They have set a high standard for their search results and while there are more pages and blogs and tweets and news stories to index than ever before, Google needs to do a better job with their search results.  As Yahoo is no longer a true search engine (as their results are provided by Bing), and while Bing has made some small improvements, people still need a trusted resource to find the information that they are looking for.  While that may not always be a search engine, Google has the technology and the resources to make it happen. 

Google for your next update how about code naming it the "Felicitous Update" or the "Idoneus Update" which is latin for proper, worthy, fitting, deserving, capable.  Because at the end of the day isn't that what search results are all about?  Let's get back to focusing on displaying relevant search results.  Your ad revenues will continue to come, but your users may not.

In my next post I will look at some of the different ways that Google search results have become watered down over recent years.


Labels: , ,

posted by Jody @ Friday, January 21, 2011  
6 Comments:
  • At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Andy said…

    I agree Google search results has went downhill fast. I can't remember how long it has been, but I know that at one time I could find what I needed within the first 5 results.


    Now I find myself going thru dozens of results and wasting at least a couple of hours before I might find what I'm looking for.


    Back when google was working good, the top results showed pages that had the all the keywords in the same sentence or paragraph. The further apart the keywords was from each other the further back the page was pushed from the top result.


    Now when you do a search, the top results have the keywords spread all over a page.


    The need to go back to sorting results based on distance of the search terms from each other. That provided the best results.



    Sorry for the rambling, but I wasted 3 hours today trying to get good search results. So if anyone knows of any good search engines please let me know at lincandyr@email.com.

     
  • At 3:43 AM, Anonymous Matt Ridler said…

    Google result are defo getting worst in fact i have installed the bing toolbar now as it seem it does bring up better results.

     
  • At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I concur 100%. I've noticed in the past couple years, and especially this year, and up until now, a steady dilution of search results.

    Most search results are junk, spam, malicious websites, outdated forums, useless blogs, old news, just old irrelevant information that has been obsolete.

    I remember it used to be easier to find out how to 'do something'. For instance, how to solve a technical issue. Now you can't make head or tail out of the crap that comes up.

    There is a bilateral issue, which is that technology/development is accelerating, and tech-support is becoming more in demand. Since google's ability to produce relevant solutions is fading, either they will become extinct or be replaced by a smarter, semantic system.

    Along with Google, Windows is about to hit the bricks. People are ditching windows in droves because of Windows 7 & it's deteriorating state. It sparkled when it first came out, but now it's riddled with failures, setbacks, vulnerabilities, dysfunction, incompatibilities, and is just an outdated model. People are getting sick of spending their entire weekends trying to solve some annoyance. The DIY aspect of PC computing has become a burden, rather than a hobby.

    The future is going to see a web browser with an ability to visualize in 3D the connection, and zoom through 3D space, while retrieving results that semantic algorithms have determined are most likely to be what you are looking for. This means more intensive indexing and analysis of the web.

    The operating system which replaces Windows and Mac OS is going to have three basic functions 1:) retrieve information 2:) Support project 3: Repair/Maintenance.

    Windows is such a primitive, over-bloated construction, it cannot possibly cope with the demands of the future.

     
  • At 2:35 AM, Anonymous Six Counties said…

    Yes Google is much worse, if I search for titanicni it suggests titanicnininja how that is relevant to http://titanicni.co.uk I have not a clue. Goggle just funnels you with blinkers on, dummed down results based on your previous searches or geographic location, I used to be loyal to google but now they are too invasive, I suggest using http://duckduckgo.com really worth exploring as the best alternative.

     
  • At 8:47 PM, Blogger SM said…

    You are so right about the quality of Google search results. I started using Google about 10 years ago and the results were pretty much what you'd expect to get. Nowadays they throw EVERYTHING including the kitchen sink at you for results. I have a Pease piano and I like searching for stuff regarding that brand. Well, now when I search for Pease I get Peace, peaceful and all sorts of garbage. So now I have to start adding qualifiers I never would have had to ten years ago. I have to add -peace, -peaceful, etc. etc.

    Yesterday I did search on the S-4 submarine that sank in the 1930s. I type in S-4 and submarine and our friends at Google start throwing all sorts of results with the word "FOR" highlighted!!!!! Good grief!! I'm sorry, but Google is shooting itself in the foot big-time with such lousy (and I mean LOUSY) "relevancy". What's even worse is that other search engines emulate Google and they're ALL getting really sucky. I mean, this is kindergarten style foolishness on their part. And how much a year are their in-house "experts" making. Lame, lame, lame, lame. It's truly awful and getting worse.

     
  • At 8:47 PM, Blogger JenIAM said…

    I agree, a lot of blank page and little content results, I like results from 2011-feb 2012 results best, I actually started using yahoo again. All I see is big brands with a few blank paged sites and now I have to go through many sites before finding whatever it is I am looking for. Used to average first 5 clicks now more like 15.


    Google, here is what you should do. Brands are already recognized and we can search brand names when we want that result to come up. Top brands of course should be first under keyword results, but you cant go overboard. honestly they need to go back to feb 2012 algorithm and improve on that, cause current penguin search results are jacked up.
    please fix this google.

     
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