Has Google Shot Itself in Foot With Recent Changes to Search Pages?

Whenever a new search engine is launched or two opponents combine, whispers of the demise of Google as the king of the search world can be heard.

Many speculated that Cuil, Wolfram|Alpha, and most recently Blekko could topple the search giant. Facebook and Twitter have had mentions as the world becomes more social and people share information with their friends.

But now I'm starting to believe that Google could be its own killer.

Do No Evil Some Shopping

That fast simple engine that once asked us if we felt lucky has turned in to more of a chameleon shifting to meet what it thinks each user is about to want. And any new visit to Google lately is a chance of finding a new version of results -- and I don't mean the rankings.

The changes may provide Google with improved revenue, but could there come a point when people start to associate the engine with buying information or location information more than pure knowledge?

You couldn't blame them as Google pushes out Places pages, reviews, and ratings all over their results.

If we search for [laptops” in the U.S. we can see the scope of the sales orientation. Right below the search box are "Related searches" for Brands, Stores and Types -- links to purchase options or results where you can drill just a little deeper for more purchase options.

Then just a couple of spots below that is Google plugging shopping results with prices and pictures. And don't forget the ads themselves. There you can find another new touch: ratings.

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What happened to the Wikipedia listing telling us about the invention of the laptop? Where is plain old information without a sales pitch? I know it's the shopping season but that isn't all we're thinking about when we use their engine.

Future Shock

Alvin Toffler's shortest definition of future shock is a personal perception of "too much change in too short a period of time." Google's constant playing with their search platform is rapidly falling in to that category.

Yes it seems people want it all and want it now, but that humorous Bing ad where people are just spouting search lines is how it feels at times. Google gained its momentum from its simplicity and uncluttered search results. Yet now it appears they think we want it all in one search result.

Emerald Sea

Google doesn't like anyone gaining a large following in the online world. That's the big reason they began work on their long rumored "Google Me" (supposedly known in the Googleplex as "Emerald Sea") social layer, although Mashable reported earlier this week that delays have pushed back its launch until spring 2011.

Twitter and Facebook really don't do search -- both mainly search for information on their respective sites, although Facebook is beginning to branch out with its search box, showing stories your friends have shared and "x people like this" for some queries.

Yet, Google has had to try and maintain a link to them. In October, they began including a social posting counter in their own search results.

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Initially it seemed that the results were just for trending social topics but now they even include it for general terms. I found one for [bedding”!

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Google has to be careful they don't go too far, too fast. Us web surfers are fickle people. Just ask Jeeves!

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.