Paul points it out as a failed dishwasher search. Mike complains about automated content as does RWW. And we all have experienced it: The Google ecosystem is failing more – failing to get us what we think we want. Failing to not frustrate us. Failing at the more complicated queries we are throwing at it. Failing to be the Google that we came to love back when the web was small and Facebook was a way for Harvard geeks to try to get laid.
Now, Google’s ecosystem is ripe for a quick buck – “content farms” that build article pages cheaply to make a quick buck off AdWords. But these articles, at least for a portion of us, don’t really provide the answers we are looking for. (thanks @thejames for the pointers.)
As Paul puts it in bemoaning his fruitless attempt to use Google for a researching a dishwasher purchase:
This is, of course, merely a personal example of the drive-by damage done by keyword-driven content — material created to be consumed like info-krill by Google’s algorithms. Find some popular keywords that lead to traffic and transactions, wrap some anodyne and regularly-changing content around the keywords so Google doesn’t kick you out of search results, and watch the dollars roll in as Google steers you life-support systems connected to wallets, i.e, idiot humans.
Google has become a snake that too readily consumes its own keyword tail. Identify some words that show up in profitable searches — from appliances, to mesothelioma suits, to kayak lessons — churn out content cheaply and regularly, and you’re done. On the web, no-one knows you’re a content-grinder.
The result, however, is awful.
Yes, it often is. But I’m not worried about this. Audiences always route around that which they don’t want, and when something better comes along as a navigational interface, we’ll pick it up, and quick. If Google doesn’t figure this out, someone else will, and the cycle will repeat.
The truth is, we’re asking far more complicated questions of search than we used to, and we’re expecting the same magic we used to get back when the web had magnitudes of order less content. Back in 2002, when we put “dishwashers” into Google, we’d probably find someone’s blog who was talking about his favorite models. Now, we have five hundred or more attempts at gaming the keyword itself, each promising a potential answer, but rarely delivering it – at least not if we have a complicated question in mind. For simple answers, content farms most likely do a fine job. But the truth is, we are not asking many simple questions of search. We’re expecting a lot more.
And in the end, this is a good thing. Our expectations drive innovation, and I can sense a major breakthrough is coming. To my mind, the essential element required for that breakthrough is human in nature. We need a new framework for search, one that allows us to leverage our inherent ability to converse. And from what I can tell, it’s closer than we might think.
2010 is going to be a very interesting year.