1.20.2011

Diving into the search sewer

How's it going with Google these days?

I wouldn't know, really, because I fled for Bing more than a year ago. The fledgling Microsoft search engine has its faults and quirks, but proves more than adequate for everyday searches.

You've probably seen the Bing commercials where people in a crowd start yelling out nonsense based on other people's nonsense (video below). Those are slaps at Google Instant, which fills in search results herky-jerky as you type.

Let's do a Google search. Say you're looking for songs by the band Hot Tuna. "Hot" brings you all "Hot Mail" results on page 1. Type in "Tu" and the search page's lead link goes to "Hot Tub Time Machine." Only when you type in all of the characters does Google deliver.

You can turn off Google Instant, but no such luck with the new auto-fill feature. While you're at it, you might want to quash ad personalization, which means you see what Google guesses will prompt a buy. In any case, Google SERPS (search engine results pages) show a major bias towards brands. Big brands.

Chaos, all right. Some people are used to it; some people aren't. Still, eight out of 10 people doing a search turn to big G.

Some experts in the SEO and SEM industries are going public with their beefs. Here's the word from SEO Jill Whalen in High Rankings Advisor:

"Since (Google's) poor results are being talked about with more fervor ... 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 (search) results. ... Even though today Google is technically just an advertising platform that happens to offer Internet search, they built their reputation on providing superior results."


Vivek Wadhwa isn't as well known as Whalen, but he's a web guru affiliated with UC-Berkely, Harvard and Duke. He went after Google a few weeks earlier in a thoughtful Tech Crunch post called "Why We Desperately Need a New (and Better) Google"

"You can’t easily do such searches in Google any more. (It's) a jungle: a tropical paradise for spammers and marketers. Almost every search takes you to websites that want you to click on links that make them money, or to sponsored sites that make Google money. There’s no way to do a meaningful chronological search."


Wadhwa correctly points out that the SERPS are big on editorial spam -- quickie superficial articles from content mills such as Associated Content and Demand Media. Seen an article about psychedelic music on a dentist's website lately? That's primo stuff, according to Google.

"This content is what ends up as the landfill in the garbage websites that you find all over the web," Wadhwa writes. "And these are the first links that show up in your Google search results."

Perhaps this is natural selection. Every No. 1 search engine in the web's history eventually turned up lame.

All that said, Google remains the go-to service for tricky searches. I turn to Google when all else fails and I go there when there's no time to spare on a search, despite the mess. (I know how to write detailed and clutter-resistant search strings, that's why.)

Bing continues to improve, but it's years away from emerging as the clearly superior service. Blekko recently popped up as an intriguing alternative for those with search/database chops. And Google does tend to get incredibly complicated problems sorted out in time. Meanwhile, we wait.

Something's gotta give.



(Unpaid Bing commercial from YouTube.)

3 comments:

rajiv zone said...

The advantage with Google is that it has marketed its product perfectly. It makes us feel, at least it makes me feel that it can deliver all the results I look for.

Though, Bing will pick up, there is a lot of time left to convince people and take people away from Google.

vivek said...

Thanks for the mention! I have just started to try Bing out this week and for the most part it gets me what I need. But so does Google.

That's the problem in my mind. Both search engines provide pretty good results, but the way that people have gotten their sites to the first page is what I question. I expect people (search engine spammers) to be game Bing. But I have higher standards when it comes to Google and I hate to see them go this route.

Time will tell what happens. I plan to devote a lot of time in February towards documenting the various spammy methods that are being used and working in both Google and Bing and will then figure out what to do with it all!

BMAN said...

Also, bing allows itself to be enframed withing another website example
While google does not