I wasn’t going to post this until the very issue popped up here on Qt3.
Evidently quite a few people have been noticing that the content farms are winning, including our own wumpus:
(Of course Bing is not likely to do any better, before anyone jumps on me due to my being Bill-employed.)
Is this the end of algorithmic search? Are friend recommendations – real ones – the only hope? Is Amazon secretly funding Demand Media because they know Google’s death-by-spam will drive more customer traffic back to Amazon? Discuss, pleez.
I read a couple articles about this today. Apparently Yahoo and Bing do return better results in these cases. I’d imagine for the same reasons viruses are almost exclusively a Windows problem - market share. Google has so much of it, no one is bothering to game other engines’ algorithms.
I’m not clear on whether the problem is that content farms are drowning out the real signal, or if they’re just shitting up the search results in areas where there isn’t much signal to begin with.
Google–and other search engines–are worthless if you’re looking for information on what iPhone case to buy, or which refrigerator is the best. I’m not certain if the Internet has any good sites that answer these questions, however.
In contrast, if you look for information about digital cameras, dpreview.com will almost certainly come up as one of the top hits, with oodles of high-quality information. There are just as many scammy sites trying to sell you a camera as there are for refrigerators, but dpreview beats them all out. (Top hit for “digital camera reviews”, second hit after Amazon for “d5000”.)
It’s true that Stack Overflow has often been preempted in Google search results by one of the billion sites that scrape its content and republish it with added ads. The situation has improved over the past year, however, and I suspect that the problem will be a short-lived one. Remember when Wikipedia scrapers consistently ranked over Wikipedia itself? That’s not the case any more either.
Google consistently finds what I’m looking for, but as others have told me, my “google fu is strong”. I’m pretty good at knowing how to phrase my searches to find exactly what I’m looking for.
But the comment from the OP puzzled me:
Anecdotally, my personal search results have also been noticeably worse lately. As part of Christmas shopping for my wife, I searched for “iPhone 4 case” in Google. I had to give up completely on the first two pages of search results as utterly useless, and searched Amazon instead.
Out of curiosity, I did this search and it presented me with exactly what I expected… a bunch of links showing a ton of cases for sale. What was the author expecting to get? What did he want?
If you want reviews, just add that to the search, and it links to a bunch of reviews… want reviews from a particular place, like cnet? Add that to the search.
I’m just not seeing how Google failed here, unless he expected it to make a subjective evaluation for him, based on zero information, and present him with the ultimate case.
IME Google search is still consistently the best out there (even if other engines beat it in narrow areas), but I have certainly noticed that it usually takes me longer to find relevant links than it used to. It is no longer uncommon for me to have to click 2 or 3 pages deep in a result set to get what I’m looking for… “I’m feeling lucky” used to be pretty viable but I haven’t clicked that in a long, long time.
Also, I’ve noticed Google tries to outthink me a lot more than it used to on things like quoted string matches and stuff like that. My “Google Fu” used to be much stronger, now Google tries to infer what I mean a bit too much and tends to fuck up my results in the process. It is possible what they are doing actually helps the average user out, but IME it now punishes people who attempt to do very precise searches.
I’ve had decent luck lately using the Xmarks tool that ranks search results based on how many users have bookmarked them. It’s a nice complement to Google and often brings useful stuff to the forefront that Google buries.
It is probably true that you need to be more creative in your googling these days, but then that’s only to be expected when there’s an increasing amount of content on the web. I remember back in 1995 I had the only site on crocodiles on the entire internet (it’s true!), but now I’m lucky to find my site in the first few pages, but the relevant (and unique) information is still in the top few hits if you filter your search better.
Still, once you start turning off new features in a product, it’s usually a bad sign. Instant search, I’m looking at you.
Sadly they do, but they have their own issues with relevancy. It’s a real shame. For a spell, Google was providing exceptional results. Now they keep trying to slip in stuff we didn’t ask for, like instant search and local results, that I feel is mucking everything up, among other things. I’ve gotten more and more infuriated with Google over the past couple of years, honestly, because of this crap.
This. Oh, so much this. Stupid google, if i typed three exact words, it’s because i want a page with these three words, not two of them, and don’t skip the special characters (underscore, dots, etc) in the second one!
I was at Univ. Bristol in 1995, so I was taking advantage of their excellent E1 (I think it was) internet connection. In 1994 I was using Lynx, but found this amazing thing called Mosaic in late 1994. I can’t remember what search engine I was using with it back then, not sure if it was Alta Vista or something earlier.
 Oh, hold on, I’m getting my years mixed up. Lynx/Mosaic was 1992/3.
My own take is that algorithmic search is still waaay better than having to rely on social connections. You just can’t get the deep knowledge Google has if you restrict your sources to facebook friends only.