Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Google -- Over-spammed or over-engineered (or both)?

Brad DeLong points to a couple of posts on the declining quality of Google searches. Jeff Attwood concisely sums up the central point:
People whose opinions I respect have all been echoing the same sentiment -- Google, the once essential tool, is somehow losing its edge. The spammers, scrapers, and SEO'ed-to-the-hilt content farms are winning.
This is certainly right as far as it goes, but the Google searches that annoy me the most are the ones where Google decides I don't want what I just asked for, sometimes even ignoring quotation marks. For example, if you query "jeff bridges true grit", about a third of the results on the first page don't contain the string "jeff bridges true grit". This is an unlikely example but I've frequently found myself looking for an obscure search term that was similar to something popular. The results were unspeakably aggravating.

The great irony here is that by taking control away from the searchers, Google is making search engine optimization easier. If you really want to screw with the people trying to reverse engineer your algorithms, make the searches more interactive. If Google let us tune our searches with dials that changed the weights of parameters such as word order or proximity of words in our search, the results would be less annoying for us and more annoying for the SEO people.

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