Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tell Google What You Think About Junk Search Results, Boomers

There has been a lot of talk lately about how Google is changing its search algorithm to get rid of some of the “junk” that pops up near the top of the list in many searches. Take a look at this article on CNN or this one on ZDNet. While some websites are adversely affected by any tweaking Google does, I will certainly welcome this change.

After all, Google made its reputation by serving more accurate search results than those other guys. The company definitely needs to keep up with the times and make sure that it delivers relevant results, or people will flee to search engines that will.

Recently, I searched for something and one of the top five sites listed in the results was basically gibberish. Now that Google made the change, I really wish I had saved the search to compare it to the "new" one. The result web site had the keywords I had searched on, but they were embedded in a sea of junk returns. It was just a waste of my time. I bet you’ve had the same experience and wondered why Google wasn’t doing anything about it.

Well, finally it is.

One of the changes Google made is removing results from so-called "content farms" from its lists. I don’t know if you Boomers are aware of the concept of content farms, but here it is. Some bright soul figured out that writers (and in some case robots) could create "news" articles that would rise to the top of the search listings by looking at what people search for, and then creating an article that includes as many of those key words as possible.

The content farm stories have legit headlines, so people click on them. When you get to the web site, you find content that is very low quality and looks like it was strung together from a number of different places. Kudos to Google for taking on content farms and putting them in their place.

But here's the rub: some "content farms" are better than others. Some publish garbage and others take search engine results and popular keywords and actually use freelance writers to create something meaningful. Here is a list of  web sites that were affected by the change in the algorithm according to Sistrix and reported by ReadWriteWeb

Google has taken another step as well.  To explain this, I’ll have to explain the concept of a web browser. When you get a computer, it usually comes with a program you can use to explore the web. Mac users get Safari preinstalled. Windows users get Windows Internet Explorer. Several other companies offer browsers anyone can download for their computer. Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are examples.

While a browser lets you explore by typing in web addresses, sometimes it comes equipped with its own search bar, powered by a search engine. Most of the time that search engine is Google or you can access Google search by typing in your web browser. Sometimes the preinstalled search engine will be Bing, Microsoft’s search engine. You can get to Bing by typing in  Because Chrome is a Google product, it is particularly well integrated with that particular search engine.

Now Chrome users can get a plug-in, a little program to download from the website, that lets them report back to Google when sites deliver poor content or content that doesn’t match the search query. Derek Gorden says on Search Insiders:

“An important factor in all this is a new plug-in for the Chrome browser that enables users to block sites they feel do not deliver quality content relevant to the search query.  The Personal Blocklist, which is available for free in the Chrome Web Store, shows up as a little red hand icon at the far right of the Chrome browser bar -- one quick click sends a message to Google that you didn't care for the content in a site listed in a search result.”

Certainly, you’ll be doing Google’s work for them, and I know a lot of us think that Google, with its billions, should be smart enough to catch these sites on their own. However, this is a clever example of what is called “crowdsourcing,” getting a lot of data from a lot of anonymous people to improve a product. I think Google’s search can use some improvement. I usually use Firefox as my browser, but I am considering using Chrome just so I can tell Google what I think.

In the mean time, take a look at your search results the next time you use Google. Are they better than they used to be? Are you delighted?  Or are you ready to change to Bing? Go back in time to "Yahoo?" Try out some new search engines like DuckDuckGo?


Greg Katz said...

Search is the core of google's business. They should be working aggressively to keep their results the best.

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