Is Google Broken?

June 22, 2006

Topics: Google.

Everytime anything changes with Google’s algorithm, there seems to be a cacophony of calls that Google is Broken. With the latest update, it seems these cries have been going on longer than average – and there’ve been indications of problems which are rather more unusual than the average "dropped from SERPS" reaction, as well. In the past couple of weeks, three threads have popped up at Cre8asite Forums discussing different Google issues:

The common threads in most conversations seem to be that 1) Google displays data that shouldn’t be indexed, 2) Spammers have gotten through Google, and 3) Google isn’t putting my site where it used to be!

I’d like to just go on the record as saying that Google isn’t broken. They have no obligation to index what you want them to. They have no obligation to rank your site where you think it should be. From a webmaster or search engine marketer’s perspective, the recent Google fluctuations have created new challenges for optimization. There are new issues, sites may have fallen, but others will have risen. This is the ongoing process of search strategy – constant effort is required to maintain a quality site, because you never know what your competitors may be doing.

Yes, I agree that Google should not be indexing binary files. However, this is not something which will greatly effect most users. I agree as well that "t1ps2see", a now-famous spamming technique should not have gotten through Google’s algorithm – but it did. This is not because Google is broken, but because the thousands of brilliant minds at Google can not compete 100% with the billions of minds out in the rest of the world. It’s the infinite monkeys paradigm – an infinite number of users (or spammers) can accomplish anything. It will always be the case that there are as many or more people attempting to use Google for illegitimate gain as there are people trying to prevent that activity – and both parties will win their share of battles.

I think it’s important to think of Google from a user’s point of view at all times. Did your site not come to the top? Well, what did? Are these useful sites? If they are, then Google is doing it’s job. Again, it is not Google’s responsibility to support YOUR site – it’s their job to find quality, relevant sites. If you aren’t making it to the top, then you need to change your strategy.

There are particular searches which will never produce great results – these searches are too general, too basic, or too popular. I read an blog entry recently from Evan K Roberts complaining of a flawed search. His search was for "exotic hotels", and his complaint was that Best Western came up as the 11th result.

Sorry, Evan – but that’s not a good enough search. You searched for exotic hotels – but where? Considering the open-endedness of the search, I’m not the slightest bit surprised that a massive hotel chain with a huge website came up in your results. I think it would be wonderful if Google, or any other search engine could automatically understand our search intentions – but they don’t.

Any given search using Google, Yahoo!, MSN, or any other search engine is merely a snapshot in time – the results for this hour, this day, this data push, this index, this data center, this algorithm. Each company is constantly tuning their results and attempting to bring better results to their users, because that’s what their business depends on. Sometimes an update won’t work quite right – but as often as not, this is dependent on the perspective of the user.

The responsibility of a search marketing consultant is to make certain your site maintains the traffic, search engine results, and conversions you want, and to continue encouraging them towards growth. The responsibility of a search engine is to provide to a searcher the best possible results for their search. The fact that you think your site is the best does not mean that the search engine will.

I haven’t dealt with the serious problem of "made for adsense" sites. This is, to some degree, related to Google’s problems. Results are swamped with problems Google has created through the low-bar to entry of their advertising program. This is not something that should necessarily be corrected with an algorithm; instead, it needs better oversight.

Okay, that’s enough for this little rant.

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1 Comment to “Is Google Broken?”

  1. Im getting alot of problems with the password section of the google, 7 times over the past week ive had to replace the password because the password ive put in has disappeared & doesn’t recognize the password. ive write the password ive use 7 time so im put the password in, but google has broken something because having to reset my password 7 time is a bit of a p**s take now.