The decline of Google

As I’ve written before, I love Google. It works on every level. The information is highly relevant. It’s free of visual clutter. And the advertising is innocuous yet relevant — in 2003, I probably clicked through more Google ads than every other site combined.

Google did two things right. First, they showed that you can build a top-notch website without garish graphics, annoying animations, pop-ups/unders, and other childish visual clutter. Then, they developed an algorithm that ranks pages based on links. In other words, every web page is a vote for the importance of other web pages. (Computer scientists call this pointers). It revolutionized the search engines so that links were really relevant. That’s clever, and I’m disappointed that I didn’t think of it first. Google has made a strong business out of this, and I’m pleased to use their service.

But the decline of Google has begun. Once people discovered that Google ranks pages by links pointing to it, they simply developed a bunch of dummy pages that link to the site they want. This started as a joke called Google whacking so that searches for “miserable failure” would target politicians. But marketers have hijacked Google so that your search points to their website, regardless of whether that’s what a rational person would want.

For example, I recently wanted to find some recipes for Baked Chicken with Sesame Seeds. But Google returned a number of links for pages like: “Looking for information on sesame chicken? We have the best recipes for sesame chicken. Click here to get recipes for sesame chicken.” When you visit the page, you are taken to some website promoting some cookbook. You don’t get a website with recipes for sesame chicken, and you don’t even know whether the cookbook contains recipes for sesame chicken. All you know is that you are annoyed for wasting time seeking but not finding.

You can help by reporting spam to Google. But frankly, it’s not my job to do quality assurance for Google.

Now to get the information I want, I often have to specify words to exclude in my search. (Tip: to find pages that do not include a specific word or phrase, simply put a – symbol before that word).

This is a sad, sad development. If it gets much worse, I am going to have to start looking for another search engine.

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4 Comments on “The decline of Google”

  1. NS Says:

    You must be psychic. I was just having this conversation with somebody whose bf works at google about how we both have told our contacts at google that this SUCKS. And in 2004 it has gotten very bad. The problem is, I can’t see anybody else is doing better.

    Where this is really bad is with corporations. I’ve seen cases where the official corporate webpage isn’t even on the front page of hits returned. OTOH, I find it pretty funny that Savage Love’s definition of Santorum has overtaken Senator Santorum’s webpage as the top hit.

    One way around this might be to weight links so that tight clusters would be less important than ones in a real world type network … so we model what we think the world should look like and weigh those links more. BUT, the web often has tight clusters of friends, each of whom links to each other on their blogs, and my suggestion would underweight them as well.

    We shoudl discuss this on the phone. Remind me about this and a privacy point I want to make …

  2. NS Says:

    Am liking Teoma more of late …

  3. greg Says:

    The only problem is that the minute a search engine gets popular, it makes them a bigger target for marketing hijacking. Today Google, tomorrow Teoma?

  4. NS Says:

    But it took them far longer to hijack Google than it did to hijack Altavista. And Teoma’s algorithm is far more robust. If they want to hijack Teoma by making real expert networks and then slipping their sites into that mess, they should feel free. It’s like the kids who "cheat" by memorizing all the material they’ll need on the exam. Hopefully Teoma will stay good for a few years …


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