Be Careful What You Google For

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May 16, 2005
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By Bill Bittner, President, BWH Consulting

Just think… If Albert Einstein could have had a “magic window” in his home that had allowed him access to all the world’s knowledge… What would he have done with such a resource?
Of course we have such a tool today, with our PC’s and broadband access to the Internet. The problem is that there is no “Internet editor” who validates (or, some would say, censors)
the information that is posted.

Google and the other search engines get fees from advertisers for featuring their sites on result screens and by placing ads on sites that seem relevant to their products. Thus
a tent manufacturer might be listed on the right side of a results page or have a link placed on a Web site dedicated to camping. In the later case, the Web site receives a portion
of the Google advertising fees for being the source of the consumer’s inquiry. The ranking of a Web site in the search results is partially determined by patented algorithms that
count the number of interrelated links between various Web sites.

The Google method for reimbursing Web sites and ranking them has led to a proliferation of sites designed merely to collect revenue from Google. These sites may contain some
superficial articles on a subject, but their main purpose is to trick the Google algorithms so they gain a high ranking and earn income from users who use their links. Google
is constantly trying to modify its algorithms to stay ahead of the imposters.

The net result of all this “portal spam” is that searches done through Google become less useful. Instead of finding meaningful results, the user is confronted with a bunch of
meaningless sites, while the really useful sites who are not “playing the game” end up relegated to the bottom of the results, if they show up at all. People end up abandoning
the Internet for their locally focused and trusted source, the Yellow Pages.

Moderator’s Comment: Do you think Google’s relevancy rules work well enough? Have you become frustrated with the results you get from search engines?
Are manufacturers and retailers getting the value for their Google dollars or is it just more “noise” to the consumer?

In response to the on-going battle, Google does editorial reviews of their results and attempts to avoid meaningless references by “sandboxing” Web sites
that suddenly appear under popular subjects. The goal is avoid listing sites that are created solely to take advantage of the latest craze.

I see an opportunity here for a more “human based” reference tool that uses real people to compile the results for searches. Rather than search all the
pages on the Internet, this tool would only search a set of sites whose legitimacy had been verified. The result would be more appropriate answers for the user and more productive
advertising for the companies referenced.

Bill Bittner – Moderator

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7 Comments on "Be Careful What You Google For"


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M. Jericho Banks PhD
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M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 9 months ago
Our company spends $thousands with Google and $thousands more with Yahoo! Search every month, and it’s part of my job to manage these marketing efforts. With constant attention, we’ve been able to reduce our search expenses by half over the last few months while maintaining sales and increasing the average time spent on the site. However, total clicks have fallen significantly. Why? “Click Quality” or “Click Relevance” are important with search engine marketing, which means attracting shoppers to the website who are genuinely interested in the category, products, or information. Good indicators of “interest” are how long visitors stay on your website and how many pages they look at. Website visitors who are not “interested,” but who get paid by search engines to “bang” your website briefly and repeatedly to increase your click count – thus spending your entire daily budget – are reportedly common. Search engines charge by click count, so the more clicks, the more revenue for them. Google has been accused of this practice, particularly of using “affiliates” in India, S. Korea,… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

Having spent years specifying the research necessary for creating databases that could be searched every which way for information just on the food industry, I can’t see any way that Bill’s human based search engine would result in anything remotely resembling sufficient results. I have never had any problem with Google and agree with others who say that when the techies find problems, they set out to solve them, generally successfully. They have certainly done a remarkable job up until now and I can’t see any reason to abandon them in favour of the limited mentality of mere humans.

Tom Hill
Guest
Tom Hill
15 years 9 months ago
In some searches, while I sometimes wish more serious sites were listed first, it seems to me Google, and other search engines, are constantly battling chaos. The issue of the commercialization pollution is a tricky one to me. Regardless of the algorithms, search results will still be peppered with “relevant” ads, whether as obvious paid listings or text ads, or not. Google’s (and others’) practice of making paid ads obvious lends more integrity to their organic results and don’t bother me at all. In my fairly constant use of Google, my frustrations aren’t around the mini-sites mentioned, but the inconsequential legitimate sites that still seem to match what I search for. I continue to try to craft search terms and operators to narrow things down – but the universe of possible results is often radically huge. Heavily vertical mini-sites (built for click revenue or more ‘legitimate’ product promotion) are an inevitable result of search-reliance and aren’t really a “cause” of search results relevancy complexities. And click-spam is just another phase in the evolution of the… Read more »
Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

I think that fundamentally, the system works and Google seems committed to closing the loopholes. The current system at least gives some advantage to fresh suppliers that might otherwise have no presence. Look for the next challenge to be limiting blog indexing advantages!

Peter Fader
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

Google’s rules don’t only work “well enough,” they’re terrific. Google really is a “magic window” into all things commercial and non-commercial, and it’s getting better all the time. The folks who create their algorithms are able to understand our information needs and preferences better than we do, so I have complete faith in them to do the right thing.

Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 9 months ago
Bill…while I think your idea for a “human based reference tool” may be feasible for a specialty interest area, the phenomenal success of Google’s automated site indexing model over Yahoo’s human-based categorization is testament to the impracticality of that on a large scale. According to Wired magazine, Google conducts around 200 million searches per day on about 8 billion Web pages. Getting accurate search results on that scale is all about gargantuan processing power and really smart algorithms. People are certainly needed to monitor and spot-check activities, but humans simply can’t keep track of the continual changes that occur on the world’s Web sites day in and day out. Whenever you do work on this scale, there will be ways for thieves to take advantage, but I have faith in Google’s ability to maintain the upper hand. The company has tremendous potential. As someone reportedly said on the Slashdot.org site recently, “In a few years, you’ll be driving your Google to the Google to buy some Google for your Google.” Let’s just hope the good… Read more »
Irma Nykolyn
Guest
Irma Nykolyn
15 years 9 months ago

I’m an avid researcher. Every time I use Google I end up finding my information on the last pages of my search. Unless of course, I am searching for something specific, then it appears on the first page. Google should ascertain that sites are valid and not just able to pay their bill.

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