By Harry McCracken | Friday, January 21, 2011 at 1:18 pm
Is the quality of Google’s search results deteriorating? Lately, there’s been lots of discussion of that question. The founders of search-engine upstart Blekko, which has features designed to block spam and content-farm pages, contend that Google’s results are now riddled with junk.
In my everyday use of Google, I haven’t noticed a problem. The results have seemed as relevant as they’ve ever been–not perfect, but pretty darn good. Certainly solid enough that I haven’t been tempted to flee to Blekko, Bing, or another Google alternative on a regular basis. (The topics I tend to search for may help–I can’t imagine why a spammer or other sneak would want to create pages that show up high in the results for, say, Sargent Shriver.)
But for Google, the perception that its quality is in decline is dangerous–and if it really is suffering, it’s potentially disastrous. Its reputation for running a really well-done search engine is the foundation of everything else it does; if it loses that, everything else is at risk. In a worst-scenario, it might be like the sad story of Dell, which–perceptionwise, at least–went from being synonymous with excellent tech support in the 1990s to a byword for mediocre customer service in this century.
So it’s interesting to see Google spam fighter Matt Cutts address concerns in an Official Google Blog post today. He says that the company has noticed a “slight uptick” in spam recently, and that it’s heard “loud and clear” that people are concerned about low-grade content generated by content farms. (Cutts doesn’t mention any content farms by name, but Demand Media–the parent company of eHow and other sites–and Yahoo’s Associated Content are two prominent ones.) He also denies that the fact that spammy and low-quality sites often exist primarily to serve up Google ads has anything to do with their prominence in Google results.
And he says this:
The fact is that we’re not perfect, and combined with users’ skyrocketing expectations of Google, these imperfections get magnified in perception. However, we can and should do better.
So how satisfied are you with Google’s search results these days?