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Can Google beat spam?
January 4, 2011 9:11 AM   Subscribe

"[U]sers ... are beginning to find that when they try to do searches to evaluate or buy consumer items--such as dishwashers, or iPhone 4 cases--or to find a site that will give them some useful answers, that Google's results are awash with spam." Is there "Trouble in the House of Google?" Is Google the next Yahoo? ... or worse? Why we need a better Google, and how Facebook likes, Blekko, and Bing are "changing search." (Previously; more previously)
posted by mrgrimm (67 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Obligatory curmudgeon-comment: I don't use FB, so I don't benefit from those kinds of 'likes'. And even if I did use FB, the kind of people who are prolific Likers in my FB circle aren't the kind of people whose advice I'd trust! I don't have any better solutions for Google's search quality than to inject more humanity into the result-characterization mix, but I certainly don't think that trusting my bozo online acquaintances to vet my search results' quality is the right way to go.
posted by Fraxas at 9:20 AM on January 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


How is Bing changing search, exactly? Other than by running a bunch of obnoxious and loud TV ads about it?

That Search Engine Land page is pretty obnoxious in and of itself.
posted by blucevalo at 9:21 AM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I like askme, because we kill spammers there.

We bought ourselves a new vaccum cleaner for Christmas, and a combination of old asmke threads and Consumer Reports seems to have done the trick.
posted by rtha at 9:21 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's to keep people from gaming facebook just as easily as they game google? I mean, it's not exactly uncommon already, and I can't imagine it going away without some heavy-duty changes to the way FB authenticates new users.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:21 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


the kind of people who are prolific Likers in my FB circle

pro-Likers?
posted by benzenedream at 9:24 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain this "spam" problem? As an example, I entered "dishwasher." I got Sears and Best Buy's appliances sites, useful additional search terms, a useful-looking review site (consumersearch.com?), Amazon.com, Wikipedia's page on Dishwasher, and Energy Star.

How is this considered spam, if I'm looking for a dishwasher?

The real spam problem tends to happen when you search for something that's copyrighted, like song lyrics, but that's because the sites and publishers are playing whack-a-mole.
posted by explosion at 9:26 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think, for shopping and a few other things (like technical advice), there is trouble in the house of Google. Link farms, spam and wholesale duplication of online forums are very common problems and making Google less and less useful.

I don't think, however, facebook is the answer. "Like" does not have the depth of content required.

I also often rely on CR, but they fall short in many areas and have been unable to keep pace with the mad rate of model introductions from most manufacturers (who seem out to confuse us)
posted by Bovine Love at 9:27 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


oh, I should add, I probably rely on Amazon more then anything, even though I can rarely buy from them (Canada). Sure you have to be careful in your reading, but vastly better then Google for products. "support" (searching for an answer) are still a nightmare that is out of Amazon's domain.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:29 AM on January 4, 2011


Google seems to be getting better. For a while the top results for any technical topic were expertsexchange and one of the million sites that scrape tech blogs.

I keep telling people DDG is the new Google, after a while people will believe. I told people that Cinco de Mayo was the new Saint Patrick's day for years and now it is.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:29 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


How is this considered spam, if I'm looking for a dishwasher?

Ah but try 'dishwasher reviews.' The results there are much more spammy.
posted by jedicus at 9:30 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


For a while the top results for any technical topic were expertsexchange and one of the million sites that scrape tech blogs.

Well if I'm going to get a sex change I would hope it would be done by an expert
posted by Riptor at 9:31 AM on January 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


And, once you have narrowed down a model that seems OK in price/availability, now try to find a review of that model. You'll be awash in sites which offer absolutely nothing.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:31 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


So Microsoft has given up trying to convince us that "Los Links" are a problem and is now trying to convince us that search results are all spam. Not unexpected tactics from an also-ran.
posted by tommasz at 9:32 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


thsmchnekllsfascists: "What's to keep people from gaming facebook just as easily as they game google? I mean, it's not exactly uncommon already, and I can't imagine it going away without some heavy-duty changes to the way FB authenticates new users."

I'm skeptical if there is anything that they (facebook) could do. I'm even more skeptical if some software or algorithm will be the answer.

Some unscrupulous people are always going to try game the platforms of information [ask metafilter, facebook, or search engines like google] so their product/website is seen by more users, even if it's not very relevant to the end user. Just look at the entire SEO industry.
posted by fizzix at 9:32 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been feeling this lately as well. Google has, in approximately 6 months, turned a hard core fan into a doubter looking for alternatives.
posted by dozo at 9:33 AM on January 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


things I think would be useful:
(1) Does the page "feed back" search results into many links?
(2) Is the site registered to the same entity as sites that have been reported for spam?
posted by boo_radley at 9:33 AM on January 4, 2011


Honestly I think Google could cut down on a lot of the useless results if it could identify pages that say things like "be the first to write a review for this" or "no reviews found" or the like. It manages a similar thing when dealing with forum pages (x posts, y authors - last post: z).
posted by jedicus at 9:34 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I had never heard of Blekko until this thread.
Not sure what makes it special but those "seo" links are kinda nifty.
posted by madajb at 9:38 AM on January 4, 2011


@Ad Hominem: DDG?
posted by rouftop at 9:40 AM on January 4, 2011


Can someone explain this "spam" problem?
The problem has become quite common for technical advice (as noted by Bovine Love above). Actual answers are buried among thousands of pages scraped by spammers from legit forums, filled with ads and sneaky stuff and that no longer point anywhere.
posted by elgilito at 9:41 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some unscrupulous people are always going to try game the platforms of information [ask metafilter, facebook, or search engines like google] so their product/website is seen by more users, even if it's not very relevant to the end user. Just look at the entire SEO industry.

Oh man, believe me, I know. I try and eke out an honest living building websites, and nearly every small business owner is BAT-FUCKING-CRAZY over SEO because they read some blog post about it, or their friend hired some guy to linkfarm their site. I've lost at least a few potential clients for refusing to participate in that sort of thing.

Saying that a company will fail because it offers an automatic service that is gameable is like saying society will fail because some people can get away with breaking the law. Google actively goes out of its way to update the algorithm to minimize the damage. It's not perfect, but it's better than anything I could get from FB.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:43 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


duck duck go
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:44 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Once you become large enough, you are now an ecological niche for parasites. Just ask the ants. Maculinea rebeli caterpillars and Ophiocordyceps fungi. Google is big, so Google gets exploited. Nobody designed anything for Cuil, although it may have been susceptible to more generalized parasites that exploit search engines in general. Anything big which arises will be faced with this particular problem because people want to exploit it and we know that it is hard to autogenerate Internet-transmissible tasks which are solvable by humans alone, which means you cannot trust if the link or the Like was put there by a human who cares or by some mindless script which has barfed a thousand comments across blogs and Google Places in the last minute alone.

Decentralized, trustworthy authority is hard.
posted by adipocere at 9:44 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


DDG = DuckDuckGo.com.
posted by inigo2 at 9:46 AM on January 4, 2011


And God yes, getting rid of eHow and such is a huge leg up. I'm dependent on google for its unrivaled index of the academic literature, which is really born for pagerank once you can understand citation formats.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:48 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Google's results are awash with spam

Quoted for truth. I am having no end of trouble finding reliable, objective information about which penis enlargement and weight loss pills are right for me.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:50 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree, Google is becoming worthless for local business searches. If I enter "Jim's Body Shop, My City, and a street" I get returns on the first page of me too yellow page services. They all are imploring me to sign up and edit my data if I am the business owner. It's getting frustrating, so frustrating that I'm considering looking around for a phone book to keep at my desk.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:53 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think between expertsexchange and something called, I think, bigsite or biginfo or something doing technical searches is getting harder. I gave up trying to do consumer research via google, it's just impossible.

Google seems to be suffering, on their search business, anyway, from that "we're so fucking huge we don't give a shit" issue that ultimately gives newcomers a chance to bring them down. It's also interesting to me that helpers like "optimize google" that people write to try and fix the problem don't seem to last a week before they're (deliberately?) broken by Google.
posted by maxwelton at 9:56 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I agree, Google is becoming worthless for local business searches.

Yelp is a lot better for local business searches. And on a smartphone with location services, it is amazing.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:57 AM on January 4, 2011


That's because you're sending mixed messages. Surely your enlarged penis will cause you to *gain* weight.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:58 AM on January 4, 2011


I feel the technical advice search pain, but for rage at the machine try looking up a phone number or address for a doctor office on google.
posted by forforf at 10:01 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Decentralized, trustworthy authority is hard.

Authority is hard. Trustworthy authority is intractable (see politics). Decentralized authority is a brainfuck (see signed email, parenting). Decentralized, trustworthy authority is an intractable brainfuck - i.e. pretty much impossible.
posted by Fraxas at 10:06 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Please memail me your problematic google queries and I'll see what can be done.
posted by jewzilla at 10:10 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I agree that it's become more difficult to google up reviews of consumer products in general. I suspect part of the problem is that for a lot of products there simply aren't that many reviews out there on the interwebs, outside of Amazon. Didn't epinions.com used to pay people to write reviews?
posted by exogenous at 10:21 AM on January 4, 2011


I've felt a "permanently remove this site from my search results" in google would greatly help. Sure some of them are very domain-mobile, but quite a few of the repeat offenders aren't. And the aggregate analysis of removed sites would be revealing. A little crowd-sourcing (with human review).
posted by Bovine Love at 10:22 AM on January 4, 2011 [22 favorites]


The number of people attempting to spam/seo/trick Google is much larger than the number of people at Google who can work on the problem, in fact I'm sure that it's much larger than the number of people at Google, period.

That said, if you look at the quality of spam filtering that Gmail does, it's extremely good, it's just that the web is a much harder problem.

Actually, one part of the solution might be to change how web advertising works. Currently, sites get paid for impressions, so if I can lure you to my site, I make money. If advertising changed to a click-through model, then link farms and forum dups are less valuable.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:23 AM on January 4, 2011


Over the past year or so, Google has really downgraded the importance of SERP or organic search results - perhaps they don't care about the spam.

Instead, Google has really started to emphasize "paid" search results. For example, if you Google "dishwasher review", the organic search results (as everyone noted) suck. However, the paid results (in the pink box at the top, and on the right-hand side) are generally pretty relevant.

There's a paid link to Consumer Reports, plus some other sites I've never heard of that seem to offer fairly detailed dishwasher reviews. The ads that appear on my search results page also seem to be aimed at my own locality (British Columbia), which is no surprise, since Google has also decided to focus on local search and mobile search.

Google has also stated that "long tail" search results are supposed to be more important these days. Basically, from what I understand, Google seems to think that you should already know something about what you're searching for.

For example, "dishwasher reviews" may be too vague, and Google may be expecting people to search for "Consumer Reports dishwasher" or "CNet dishwasher reviews", rather than using generic terms.

As an SEO guy, however, I'm always surprised that useless sites like eHow or scraping sites can rank so high, while "article marketing" sites like Squidoo or Ezine Articles do not. I'm happy that the latter sites do not usually rank on the first page, because they're crap
posted by KokuRyu at 10:27 AM on January 4, 2011


What technical searches are you guys doing?

dereference pointer c++

stellarator manufacturing techniques

and

amateur rapid prototyping

All have great google results.
posted by poe at 10:27 AM on January 4, 2011


The number of people attempting to spam/seo/trick Google is much larger than the number of people at Google who can work on the problem, in fact I'm sure that it's much larger than the number of people at Google, period.

It definitely is. It's a whole industry now. Thousands of companies run shady SEO firms out of india.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:27 AM on January 4, 2011


With the death of net neutrality, maybe Google can work out a revenue-sharing scheme with Verizon to charge people for access to NuGoogle. It's a smarter, faster Google, now with 27% less spam!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:28 AM on January 4, 2011


> I keep telling people DDG is the new Google

DDG is the new Google only in the sense that it is exactly the same as Google. Top links in Google for "dishwasher review" are spam. Top links in DDG for "dishwasher review" are spam.

Top two links are, in fact, exactly the same spam.

DDG may be better on privacy, and have no ads, but it doesn't solve this problem.
posted by FfejL at 10:30 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok, how stupid are you that you have to google for iPhone 4 cases? Look outside, it's harder to find AIR. Throwing a rock would be overkill. Look, over there in the bushes, with the pink rhinestone zebra stripes...is that what I think it is?
posted by sexyrobot at 10:31 AM on January 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


I've felt a "permanently remove this site from my search results" in google would greatly help.

Is there some way to create a script/extension for this? Something with a crowdsourced blacklist, similar to AdBlock?
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:57 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


forforf wrote "I feel the technical advice search pain, but for rage at the machine try looking up a phone number or address for a doctor office on google."

Searching for Dr. Lastname City phone number returned my doctor's name, address, phone number and a map to the clinic as the top search result.

Likewise, the top results in the example searches from the Guardian article actually gave me useful dishwasher review information.

Some times, I get linkfarmed crap. But most of the time the Google works just fine for me. Especially if you make use of the ratings (low star ratings are sometimes listed higher than better ranked sites lower on the list) and the on-hover previews that show you the site itself without opening it. It gets even better if you use some of the search tools available in the sidebar.

tl;dr summary: Yes, there is a potential problem. No, it isn't as big as the articles are making it out to be. And I sure as heck don't think Microsoft is going to do them one better anytime soon.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:22 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Vanity,vanity, all is vanity:

On every site that I post to I put my blog as my homepage, which used to keep it at the top of the Google results if I searched my username. Now that link isn't even on the first page.

Google's algorithm seems to have degraded when I search too: it takes longer to find things amongst the linkfarms.

Optimization seems to have become such a complicated and cryptic art that only spammers and large institutions can hire enough expertise to keep themselves at the top.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:24 AM on January 4, 2011


DDG is the new Google only in the sense that it is exactly the same as Google

For a DDG search for C# DateTime the top two results are StackOverflow and msdn.

For Google the top two results are from dotnetpearls.com which are ok but I would rather have msdn.

I think Goog is getting better though, a while back it seemed like the first two pages were always expersexchange and spammy sites.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:25 AM on January 4, 2011


For product name or place name plus 'review' on Google, most of the time I get a blizzard of links, most of which in preview are indistinguishably mediocre or spammy.

For electronics, I'm likely to get 30 - 70% tech blog wannabees that have copy and pasted the manufacturer's PR presskit into a post.

I don't know if the results are quantifiably better, but I feel more confident and more efficient looking at reviews on Amazon or Yelp than I do on Google.
posted by zippy at 11:52 AM on January 4, 2011


OptimizeGoogle is a Firefox extension that will let you filter search results, blocking results by url patterns.

It's the successor to CustomizeGoogle.

A collaborative blocklist timilar to AdAware would be brilliant, but I haven't seen anything like that yet.
posted by formless at 12:15 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Used to be you could enter a phone number and google would gve you the business or person who owned that number. Now you get tan pages of crap sites like whoiscallingme.com. So for some things google is broken.
posted by yesster at 12:30 PM on January 4, 2011


Optimization seems to have become such a complicated and cryptic art that only spammers and large institutions can hire enough expertise to keep themselves at the top.

Eh, it doesn't take a whole lot to get decent results. Google skews the results towards people who use semantic HTML, have faster page load times, and don't have a ton of duplicate content. That said, they do highly value incoming links, especially from high pagerank sites. If they catch you linkfarming though, you can get blacklisted.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 12:47 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Search is a hard problem, but it can certainly be done better than the way Google is doing it at the moment, where we mere humans can tell just looking at the URLs for the first page of search results that the results are going to be crap.

One of the ways that SEO companies are gaming Google at the moment is by hiring writers off of online employment and freelancing sites, getting out-of-work writers to write huge amounts of material, emphasizing quantity over quality, for extremely low rates. Nearly all the ads in those categories on these sites end up being SEO. It's almost impossible to find more legitimate work in those fields. It's the kind of thing where I would actually rather work delivering pizza than help advance the cause of such evil in the world, but there are plenty of other struggling writers who don't see it that way, or are desperate enough for money that they'll do anything.
posted by JHarris at 1:24 PM on January 4, 2011


I've lost at least a few potential clients for refusing to participate in that sort of thing.

Trust me, you're better off without them.
posted by DreamerFi at 1:46 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


to find more legitimate work in those fields. It's the kind of thing where I would actually rather work delivering pizza than help advance the cause of such evil in the world

It's actually possible to make a decent living doing SEO (ie, a living that pays significantly better than delivering pizzas), but the trick is emphasizing quality over quantity. For small businesses, 90% of the time "SEO" means implementing basic SEO best practices (as identified by Google itself), rather than pursuing some mumbo-jumbo linkfarming or content-scraping strategy.

At the end of the day, working hard to provide and add true value to a customer's offering will always earn you a descent wage.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:53 PM on January 4, 2011


caution live frogs: "Searching for Dr. Lastname City phone number returned my doctor's name, address, phone number and a map to the clinic as the top search result."

Where in your results doe the actual web site for your doctor's office appear? All I get is info from healthgrades.com/ucomparehealthcare.com/vitals.com/adinfinitum.com that if I'm lucky give me the address and phone number. The biggest issue is that these aggregation sites don't include the information provided by the doctors on their website for their patients (office hours, forms, email addresses, etc). The second, more minor, but still irritating issue is I don't want to give impressions to these companies because they are noise to the signal I'm looking for. On more than one occasion I've given up trying to find my particular doctor's web site and used one of those SEO crap sites to get the phone number so I could get their web address.
posted by forforf at 2:54 PM on January 4, 2011


The real problem here is that people obviously don't know what they want. Let's take the cited example some dude was whining about on Twitter: a Google search for "dishwasher reviews."

First we get three sponsored results:

1. Consumer Reports, the gold standard of reviews for everything.
2. Lowes, a respected national brand and a place to buy dishwashers.
3. ShopCompare, a shopping search engine which lists prices for dishwasher models.

Those seem legit to me. And of course Google makes it obvious that they're sponsored results, so most people probably blow right past them.

Let's look at the search results:

1. A site dedicated to dishwasher reviews. I clicked around a little, and the info seems pretty valid. I don't know from dishwashers, but this looks like they at least have a lot of detailed info on models.

2. A site dedicated to consumer reviews, kind of like Yelp but for stuff. I've used this site before with good results.

3. The relevant part of CNET's reviews library.

These six sites are relevant to the search, they seem to be valid, and they have a ton of information on dishwashers.

If getting these results back in a search leads dude to think that "To a first approximation, the entire web is spam when it comes to appliance reviews," then I have to ask WHAT WILL MAKE THIS GUY HAPPY.
posted by ErikaB at 3:06 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bovine Love: "I've felt a "permanently remove this site from my search results" in google would greatly help. Sure some of them are very domain-mobile, but quite a few of the repeat offenders aren't. And the aggregate analysis of removed sites would be revealing. A little crowd-sourcing (with human review)"

The strange part is that this feature used to exist. They used to have a [x] thingy next to each link in the results page, that you could click on to deep-six a crappy result.

I thought it was brilliant at the time; a total win-win: I, as a user, could get rid of obnoxious results that were likely to come up at the top of queries that I knew I was going to make over again, and Google got valuable data on what pages users don't care about. Presumably they have to do some filtering to keep people from gaming it (taking out competitors' sites, etc.), but it seemed like a step in the right direction.

They killed it. It was there one day, basically gone the next. No idea why, it just disappeared. It seems like a huge missed opportunity on their part to me.

The other odd thing about Google is that, given the amount of information they have on everyone, you'd think that they could do a lot more optimization of search results based on the person conducting the search. I mean, they know all sorts of crap about me — they probably have the most detailed marketing profile of me of any company, anywhere. They know what sites I prefer to get information from, which ones I'm registered to (based on email in my Gmail account), which one my friends (via Buzz) use, they know where I am (by geolocating against IPs and Latitude/Maps). They could do a lot with that data that they don't seem to be doing. It's only very recently that generic searches have started returning local results (e.g. if I type in "sushi", I get a map and some local results in addition to web hits). With what they know about me, they ought to be sending me cached results before I type in the freaking queries by now.

There's a huge amount of room for optimization. My search results shouldn't look like your search results which shouldn't look like your Mom's, etc., unless you're explicitly using anonymous/private browsing or something.

But an explicit "this is good" or "this sucks" buttons would be obvious ways towards that customization, and I was stunned when they got rid of the baby step they'd made in that direction.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:01 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


1. A site dedicated to dishwasher reviews. I clicked around a little, and the info seems pretty valid. I don't know from dishwashers, but this looks like they at least have a lot of detailed info on models.

The first search result I had was dishwasher-review.com; it looked pretty lame so I checked it out. The first review I looked at was for the GE Profile 4. The average score listed is 4.5 stars, yet nearly every review is complaining HARD about the product, including the 5-star reviews. I don't know about you, but I kind of expect a site that's entirely devoted to reviews to figure out how to correctly reflect the ones it has.

So I guess WHAT WOULD MAKE ME HAPPY is a review site that has useful information, instead of a useless turd sitting there at the very top of my search results.
posted by stefanie at 5:17 PM on January 4, 2011


They killed it. It was there one day, basically gone the next. No idea why, it just disappeared.

I'm glad you posted this, because I was literally starting to wonder if I dreamed it, or if it was the result of some add-on I was previously using, or what. Man I miss this feature...
posted by inigo2 at 6:50 PM on January 4, 2011


I played around with that feature. It only killed that specific result, not the site. Going in the right direction (though turned off, as you note), but not there yet. The natural evolution, if they want to do "social", is to share a networks blacklist (possibly your social circle, possibly something more ad hoc). But I would settle for a personal kill list.
posted by Bovine Love at 7:07 PM on January 4, 2011


Image searching is where I notice the worst degradation. The stock photo places have basically taken it over. Used to be you'd get a wide variety of images from many sources. Now you often get the same handful of images over and over again even 16 pages deep.
posted by Mitheral at 7:31 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


They killed it. It was there one day, basically gone the next. No idea why, it just disappeared. It seems like a huge missed opportunity on their part to me.

I'll bet you anything that SEObot scripts were clicking that sucker on competing results at a rate of millions per second. If Google's aim was to improve search results generally rather than just allow you to optimize for yourself, it would have been poisoned this way almost immediately.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:22 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Most "thin" spam sites monetize with Google Adsense, so when they make money Google is getting a cut. And it's to the site's advantage to not be useful.

If you're a useful site then the person finds what they are looking for and they move on. If you they don't find what they are looking for then there's a chance they'll click one of the Adsense ads hoping to find their answer somewhere else. Cha-ching.
posted by imabanana at 12:53 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I came back to this thread because it just took me four searches to get the official website of Saturn Cafe in Berkeley to show up in the first page of results. (I knew there were several restaurants, so I alternately tried the local location and the generic name.)

saturn berkeley restaurant
saturn restaurant berkeley (on second look, it was near the bottom there)
saturn restaurant
saturn cafe berkeley [worked!]
saturn cafe [would have also worked]

Really, google? If I say restaurant when I mean cafe, that's enough to throw you off?
posted by salvia at 8:05 PM on January 15, 2011


If you REALLY want a good example of Google crap, try a search for a driver or updated software for an older electronic device (say, a printer or the Olympus W-10 digital voice recorder in my case). Horrible. I gave up after a few pages.

Blekko told me in the first link what I needed to know: that there is no driver for Windows 7, according to Olumpus. The second link was spam, but they have a way to flag it. When I did, the link disappeared, replaced by this:

you have marked the site software.informer.com as spam. it is now dead to you.
you will never see it in your search results again. allow a moment to update. undo


Works for me.
posted by msalt at 3:37 PM on January 16, 2011


You kind of get the impression that the marketers are the people with final say at Google now. Maybe they always have been, but it seemed to be better a few years ago.

I made a comment in a thread ages ago about the GOP search thingy or whatever it was, and one of its fundamental flaws, and how that flaw would never be removed because the marketing people in charge would never even accept that it was a flaw.

It's happened on project after project I've worked on. Hell, it just happened to me at a meeting on Thursday, and I got a long email about my lack of dedication because I hadn't watched a video that, frankly, the vast majority of real visitors to the page aren't going to watch either.

It's like a website with an intro video. First, no one wants to watch the damned video, just get people to a page where they can find what they're there for. Second, if you have to have one, SKIP needs to be damned prominent. Third, try to remember that they've been there before and never show it to them again.

However, the video cost money to make. To the people in the company, it's incredible. Everyone will want to watch, and they'll think it's cool! Who the fuck would want to skip it? Hell, it needs a replay button instead!

If sanity is completely thrown out, you end up with an unskippable video which you have to watch every time you get to the site (bonus points for examining the referer and redirecting outside visitors to the video page). At lesser stages of madness you get videos that you can skip and the base level of sanity is an option from a normal page to watch a neat video explaining your product.

I feel like Google must know "expertsexchange" and "bigresource," the million wikipedia aggregators and "dishwasher.reviews.shitblog.com" are a bad thing. They're bad searches and frustrating for the user. I've had numerous novice users tell me they can't find what they want on google, and they're right, it takes some tricks these days. But I'm sure the marketing droids in google LOVE that every site in the top ten serves adsense ads and even if they're crap content, people go to them and then click on the ads in desperate hope that they'll lead to somewhere useful.

When this sort of stuff happens, I always feel like it's going to be a matter of time before the thing I used to love using is the thing I no longer use at all.
posted by maxwelton at 6:09 PM on January 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I always feel like it's going to be a matter of time before the thing I used to love using is the thing I no longer use at all.

See also: Firefox.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:04 PM on January 18, 2011




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