free html hit counter Lost the Intent? | John Battelle's Search Blog

Lost the Intent?

By - March 24, 2008

Perry Evans wonders, as he examines the new site-specific search SERPS (see here for context):

Have we lost the intent?

When a consumer uses search terms like walmart or walmart.com, it’s one thing to “help the user” by giving them sub-site links, it’s an entirely other thing to use the site’s content and perform your own search, while showing competing ads. Shouldn’t this be a retailer opt-in scenario? Is there not an underlying TOS issue on the crawled content?

This feels like the user intent is being hijacked by Google’s intent.

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4 thoughts on “Lost the Intent?

  1. JG says:

    Google is actually so right about this one. So completely right. I absolutely agree with what Google is doing here, and really do not understand where all the complaining is coming from.

    Google’s job is to provide search. Search isn’t just a one-shot process. Search can be, nay should be, a session process, i.e. multiple iterations. Refining and improving one’s original query has been part of the information retrieval experience for over 35 years, ever since Rocchio’s work in 1971.

    Exposing the “site:” search refinement query operator is a crude way of implementing search sessions, and I actually fault Google for not going further, sooner…for taking so long to implement something as trivial as this. But critics of this “new” Google interface should realize that Google is well in line with known/established information retrieval techniques.

    Now, if the main source of the outrage is because there are ads next to a refined (second stage) query, then I have to just point out, as I did a few days ago, that the root problem is the fact that ads appear next to your query at all. That is Google’s main problem, and has been since 1999.

    But if one is willing to swallow an ad next to one’s first iteration in a query session, then one should be willing to swallow an ad next to one’s second iteration in a query session. To not do so exposes one’s own fundamental misunderstanding of what an information retrieval system is all about.

    Google is not to blame for those folks’ misunderstanding. Google is acting consistently, and well in line with decades-old information retrieval practices.

  2. Ygor Valerio says:

    John, I know of at least 1 law suit in Brazil originated from a similar search feature.

  3. Perry says:

    @ JG
    The post wasn’t intended as a rant at all – it was a comment on the rule changing implications of this shift. I actually agree – there is a logical progression of the SERP to a whole host of innovations which change the dynamic of result navigation and refinement.

    That being said, there are underlying implications the industry hasn’t addressed, and many search marketers seem ignorant to the impact. I think it’s completely valid to expose the fact that a retailer who naively assumes that they get all the benefits of the exposure that Google brings, and does not understand the ways in which their content can be used to drive traffic into a market with Google as the market maker/manager.

    The rules of engagement are beginning to shift – this is somewhere between the naive misunderstanding of the participant and the stretching of an implicit agreement between content owner and search engine.

  4. JG says:

    The post wasn’t intended as a rant at all – it was a comment on the rule changing implications of this shift.

    Well, I hope I didn’t come across as ranting, either. I just have strong opinions about certain topics, and enjoy discussing. Ok, so maybe that’s the definition of a rant ;-) But what strikes me about this is when you say that there are “rule changing implications of this shift”.

    I didn’t know that there were these sort of rules.

    Google has from the beginning said that it wants to index all the world’s information. That’s the only rule I really know.

    I think it’s completely valid to expose the fact that a retailer who naively assumes that they get all the benefits of the exposure that Google brings, and does not understand the ways in which their content can be used to drive traffic into a market with Google as the market maker/manager.

    But that’s kinda my point. From the moment Google showed its first AdWords ad, web site owners around the world suddenly became co-opted into a system in which their content was used to drive traffic into a market with Google as the market maker/manager.

    That issue has always been with us…since 1999…since Google showed their first ad. Someone who created a web page in 1994 and then did not pay attention to the rise of Google would find themselves in the same exact situation in 1999.. in a marketplace in which their web page became co-opted and used to drive traffic into a market with Google as the manager.

    So all that is really different now, the only “rule” that has changed, is that a Google search can be arpeggiated. Rather than executing a “site:” operator in parallel, a user may now execute it in sequence.

    That’s not a loss of intent, nor is it a rule changer. It’s the same thing that has been going on for 9 years now. Google is the manager of a market in which content is being co-opted for Google’s sake.