Seth Jayson has written an interesting piece “How Google is killing the internet” over at The Motley Fool. It’s a lengthy analysis which takes in part its premise that web authors are so desperate to get visitors to click on their Adsense links that they’re creating pages of junk without any useful content. As a result the content that is returned as the result of a search (not just on Google but on its competitors websites as well) is valueless. I’m rather ambivalent about this but the implications for search are interesting to say the least.
In common with Jayson I’ve run searches that return very little useful content, or almost as irritatingly, have visited a page with good data, but that which has been spread over 4 or 5 pages to maximise the number of adverts I have to look at. Despite SEO claims that the best way to get a good ranking in Google is to have really good content, some pages that rank highly in the results have got there due to dubious methods such as cloaking or link farms. The argument runs that although Google should stamp down on activities such as this there is little incentive for them to do so because Adsense brings in so much of their revenue.
Well, yes and no. Obviously Google wants to make money, but equally the only way that they will achieve this is if people continue to use their resources. If the average searcher becomes disenchanted with Google, they do have other options available to them, with Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask already trying to get rather more than a foot into the door. Although Google is constantly releasing new utilities in order to get people to use their entire raft of products, their key focus is, according to Marissa Mayer still all about search.
As a searcher what I (and everyone else) wants from a search is an authoritative answer from a trustworthy source. What any search engine needs to do is give me a good reason to visit any particular website that is returned in the results. While I trust Google to do that, the key is not to trust it too much. If the searcher can retain a skeptical viewpoint with respect to the information that is returned to them they’re not going to go too far wrong. Searchers need a blended approach, combining robot powered solutions but also resources created by human beings; indexes, virtual libraries, gateways and swickis for example.
So I don’t think that Google is killing the internet; that really is a statement too far. If Jayson is correct and that search results are getting clogged up at Google, it is going to have the opposite effect – the more that people are disatisfied with the results they get, the more likely they are to explore other alternative methods of getting the information that they need. Indeed, as Jayson does actually point out towards the end of his article, other search engines are constantly striving to surpass Google and there are plenty of examples where this is already happening. The limitations of Google as reflected in poor results gives greater scope for other search engines and other search solutions, which has to be a healthy situation.