Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

Washington Post staff writer: Google search sucks

The Washington Post’s Michael S. Rosenwald discovers what many of us have known for some time: Google search sucks and frequently fails to provide relevant answers or useful information:

Earlier this month, my friend Rebecca Skloot replaced her hulking big-box TV – I can vouch for its girth, having moved it once – with a flat-screen no thicker than an iPad. She turned it on and, horror of horrors, the picture was lousy.

Displeased, she turned to Google for help. What the search engine delivered was a mess, a collection of spammy sites riddled with ads. So she turned to Twitter, posting: “Old TV died, got newfangled LED TV. Shocked how bad/fake movies look! . . . Others have this prob?”

Solutions to Skloot’s technological melodrama rolled in. Fix this setting, turn this off, shazam! A few hours later, she posted: “Thx 4 fixing my TV today! It’s example of how Google=in trouble. Googled 4 fix, got spam sites. On Twitter answer=asap.”

Skloot’s story seems ever more common these days. Google is facing withering criticism from tech bloggers and search engine experts who say the world’s premier gateway to digital information is increasingly being gamed by spammers. Google, they say, is losing.

Google has been losing the battle against spammers for years in part because it doesn’t care about quality assurance in its site results. The company’s evangelists and spokesmen will say otherwise, but actions speak louder than words.

Daniel Brandt, who runs Google Watch, noted years ago (back in the early 2000s) that if you add to a search query, it improves the quality of results dramatically. That’s because most spam sites use the .com TLD (top level domain).

Many of the spam sites or content farms Google has failed to eliminate or deprioritize in search results display Google ads themselves, and spy on their own users using Google Analytics. Google has no incentive to weed out these sites, because that would hurt its own bottom line.

Data from Experian Hitwise, referenced in Rosenwald’s article, confirms that Google’s search engine is headed downhill. Google’s success rate declined thirteen percent last year, while Microsoft’s Bing rose by nine percent.

Lackluster quality assurance is just another reason why people should Leave Google Behind.