Google is gmail+maps to me, not search.
I would still use Google because I don't like thinking about the kind of search I want to do and I don't think having Wikipedia/Amazon/IMDB as the only sources of information is healthy.
But goddammit, Google needs to do something about that spam.
You do need to know how to ask, but if you know how to ask, Google knows how to answer very well indeed.
I wonder if this new "Google sucks" meme is manufactured by some competing interest. I know it sounds a bit conspiracy-theory-like, but there have been many articles over the last few months repeating this theme.
It's not manufactured by anything beyond Google sucking. I've spent the better part of a year quietly raging as an essential tool loses its edge. I wondered for a long time if I was alone. Surely, I though, I must be crazy, others would also speak out if Google were getting that bad.
And finally, they are.
I wish, instead of spraying their pants about Google Suggest and cribbing the social media mechanism of the moment, Google would focus on what matters and make their core product work as well as it used to.
Instantly returning spammy, junky results doesn't do dick to improve the search experience.
I'm sure they are, but in the presence of increasing numbers of spammers and content mills that's an AI-complete problem.
Something like Dogpile 2.0?
google search sucks is not a meme, at least for me it's a reality.
But when you stray outside of known sites you get all kinds of garbage in the results and unsurprisingly it's always monetized by AdSense. If Google was serious about fighting spam they only have to audit AdSense publishers. Of course that's asking them not only to invest a ton of resources but to do it with the intent of making less.
Users won – they found what they were looking for. Advertisers won – they found customers they needed without wasting money. Google won – they became essential for everyone.
Google's strength is emphatically, absolutely not anywhere related to user experience or design. Their early product succeeded because the under-the-hood functionality was superb and they didn't have any taste to design anything beyond the absolute simplest interface that would work. Simplicity and efficacy beat mediocre, complex competition.
When you look at the Google of today, there's zero focus and a pile of products where UX is essential to success. They compete with people who can deliver outstanding user experience and reliable results. Can Google evolve to the point where UX is a strength instead of a liability? Can they succeed with such a scattered approach against focused competition?
Maybe. I give them even chances – they have more money than god. But if their boredom with their original, solely-profitable core product continues to manifest itself in the sloppiness and neglect we see today, I fear they aren't long for this world.
The problem Google has is that eliminating the spam is both technically challenging and detrimental to their bottom line: after all, most spam in Google's index is serving Google's Ads.
As I understand it, the history of SEO/Google is as such (simplistic view):
1. Google creates a search algorithm (that is not 100% known to externals) that tries to match your search term with valid, true content.
2. SEO strategists -- whether by legitimate or deceptive means -- tailor content, HTML, etc to match this algorithm.
3. Google has constantly improved and tailored this algorithm to prevent spammy type sites.
4. There is a growing consensus that spam is taking over Google search.
This all leads me to believe that either Google is losing it's touch on it's search algorithm or it's simply matured to a point that it can no longer out-game the gamers (SEOs).
Crucial point: Google is not consumer-centric. Google is advertiser-centric platform in the guise of consumer-centric one.
Google's value to the advertiser is purely a side effet of the number of consumer eyeballs that it can call its own.
Tech people, sysadmins in particular, have been living with this in the form of Experts Exchange for a long time. However since they're usually the second or third link among a pile of mailinglists and forums you just learned to skip them. The popular fad in "Q&A" sites (stackoverflow, answers.com, yahoo answers, quora) exists specifically to exploit this revenue/traffic opportunity.
But thats for tech stuff/people. When it comes to general consumer searches the real 800lbs gorilla is Demand Media. If you want to really wrap your brain around how silly this has gotten, read this: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/10/ff_demandmedia/
In a way this is all backhandedly from the success of google. We all got so used to it being so good at finding what we wanted, we learned to just "talk" to it, but writing into the search box pretty much exactly what we'd say out loud.
For those trying to get to the page here it is from Bing's cache (Google ironically hasn't cached it yet)...
The lead up to the Christmas and New Year holidays required researching a number of consumer goods to buy, which of course meant using Google to search for them and ratings reviews thereof. But this year it really hit home just how badly Google's systems have been spammed, as typically anything on Page 1 of the search results was some form of SEO spam - most typically a site that doesn't actually sell you anything, just points to other sites (often doing the same thing) while slipping you some Ads (no doubt sold as "relevant"). The other main scamsite type is one that copies part of the relevant Wikipedia entry and throws lots of Ads at you. It wasn't just me who found this - Paul Kedrosky found the same(http://paul.kedrosky.com/archives/2009/12/dishwashers_dem.ht...):
Google has become a snake that too readily consumes its own keyword tail. Identify some words that show up in profitable searches -- from appliances, to mesothelioma suits, to kayak lessons -- churn out content cheaply and regularly, and you're done. On the web, no-one knows you're a content-grinder.
The result, however, is awful. Pages and pages of Google results that are just, for practical purposes, advertisements in the loose guise of articles, original or re-purposed. It hearkens back to the dark days of 1999, before Google arrived, when search had become largely useless, with results completely overwhelmed by spam and info-clutter.
And I can't believe Google doesn't know this - nor does Paul:
Google has to know this. The problem is too big and too obvious to miss. But it's hard to know what you can do algorithmically to solve the problem. Content creators are simply using Google against itself, feeding its hungry crawlers the sort of thing that Google loves to consume, to the detriment of search results and utility. For my part it has had a number of side-effects. One, I avoid searching for things that are likely to score high in Google keyword searches. Appliances are an example, but there are many more, most of which I use mechanisms other than broad search. Second, it has made me more willing to pay for things. In this case I ended up paying for a Consumer Reports review of dishwashers -- the opportunity cost of continuing to try to sort through the info-crap in Google results was simply too high.
Reading the comment's on Paul's blog post was interesting - you can parse the responses into 3 broad groups:
- Yes, we agree with you, and here are some tips on how to deal with it
- Yes, but its not poor Google's fault, its those evil spammers (ie Google has no way of changing their systems and is at the mercy of SEO)
- No, there is no problem, this is the best of all possible solutions (complete bollocks IMHO, it was definitely better a few years ago)
(Ignoring the ones trying to pimp their own products or agendas of course, and the end posts comparing the economics of online vs library copies of Consumer Reports.....)
Ignoring these comments, I have found my behaviour is exactly the same as Paul's , i.e. increasingly reaching for paid-for, edited research (Which? in the UK) as Google and some of the "comparison" sights (clearly flooded with Spam, Sock Puppets and Sleazeoids) become less and less credible. (Another aside - I had a gift voucher from Amazon, and searching for a book I wanted I found Page 1 was totally full of results for the book on Kindle, which was very irritating - they need to allow one to select e-book and/or book).
The interesting question to me is what happens if this gets worse, as Google risks attacks on 2 fronts:
(i) Other search engines decide to eschew Ads for accuracy and cut down the spamming, to gain market share. There is an article on Techcrunch today about Blekko, which appears to promise this.
(ii) The market for paid-for search and research grows - how much would you pay per month for a neutral search engine? Which? costs about £7 a month, would you pay that for a neutral engine?
Frankly, I don't believe that it is not possible to reduce this sort of spam, I think Google's problem is more that it is trying to navigate a line between income (systemically the more spam there is, the more Ad money it makes) and usefulness (how much spam can you run before the user walks away) and has veered too far to the spamside.
I've found the value of consumer reports giving a me a general overview of any given genre of consumer goods has not been diminished in the internet age.
This probably only works as long as they are small, i.e. of little importance. With market share comes the spam.
Anyway, I don't think google is that bad. At least, I don't find google any less useful than other general purpose, non-specialized search engines. I'm more concerned about their use of personal data.
But adsense is only one advertiser, there are many more. And the problem is the measures taken to combat this are likely penalise new sites and new (legitimate) content.
It's a difficult line to tread really.
Considering how amazing Google's accomplishment has been until recently, the spammers have obviously really, really stepped up their game. But all anyone talks about is Google's "failure."