Has Google Jumped The Shark?

This morning, April 25, 2012, many of us woke to some really strange and poor search results in Google. Yesterday, I wrote about some experiences that I was seeing throughout the day here and here, but overnight it just got worse.

At least one of my sites which I know has good quality content (my visitors tell me so, not a search engine bot) seems to have taken a major dive in search engine results at Google. I’m still seeing some pretty weird results – and even seeing Ezine articles now ranking again for some search queries. Another property which seems to have gained is Squidoo.

But Google has really messed up on some things. And it is has affected webmasters around the world. Domains that have no content whatsoever are ranking for the #1 spot for some search queries. Google has also ranked sites for search queries that have no relevance whatsoever.

It’s quite bizarre obviously the quality of search in Google has decreased considerably. Having a bit of a headache today, I searched for

headache remedies

and up comes a very spammy website; the type that Google claims it is trying to eliminate: tons of ads above the fold and the content, and ads all around the content.

Thus far in my observations, Google’s “success” in dealing with ranking for EMD’s (exact match domains) is spotty. I’ve seen very good sites get demoted, brands that are not ranking at all, and poorly crafted sites with an EMD promoted.

It just doesn’t make sense. Surely Google staff realize just how poor of a job this latest update, which reminds me of Altavista results over a decade ago, is.

What are your thoughts?  Are you considering switching to DuckDuckGo (DDG) or Bing? I have to admit I am seeing results I like much better on those two engines, and I like the fact that DDG has a much better privacy policy than Google does. Would that also be something that is important to you?

Google, Wake Up!!

So Matt Cutts tweeted about a new Google product today, Google Drive. I have no clue what Google Drive is, and right now, I don’t really care. As much as there have been some neat, cool, and awesome products out of Google.. someone has to tell them, “Wake up guys! You were the best at search… and in your attempts to be good at everything else, you’re now becoming average at everything.”

When you first arrived on the scene, you were a search engine. And it took a wee bit of time for people to switch from Altavista, Hotbot or whatever other search engine they were using, but through really good quality results, you managed to do that. It was great!

But in the past few years, in your attempts to be everything to everybody, your quality in everything has just gone way down hill.

Heck, earlier in the year when you did a Panda update, someone searching the term:

fly fishing

saw the “The Flying Fish Restaurant” as one of the search results. Ummmm.. can you say Altavista, 1999?

That kind of search result lasted for a good month, and then there was another update.  Now you get search results that you’d expect if you searched

fly fishing rods

– many of the general information sites about fly fishing in general have been relegated to Page 4. That does not make sense. If I search for ‘fly fishing’ on Google.ca, why am I getting some part time fly fishing instructor’s website, located in Shelburne, Ontario as one of my top five results? It makes no sense. You ask for “quality” yet you are providing results that are brand oriented, promotional and non-informational.

And that is just one example – I could go on with many other search queries, where Google has obviously dropped the ball.

Look, stop trying to compete with Facebook and all the other stuff. Get back to what you did really good at when you first began. Your “Google +1″ thing, along with your Google attempts at providing “Social” are crappy. They slow down my browser, are just totally unintuitive to most people (including me, and I’m pretty good at figuring things out rapidly), and just a pain in the neck. Google, you were a search engine, and a damn good one at that.

Today, everything you put out is average at best in your attempts to be everything to everyone. You are no longer amazing at what you do.

Someone has to tell you.




Google Mayhem

In some corners, you’d have been forgiven if you thought that somehow Google controlled the stock market today. There was so much activity, the appearance of panic, and lots of swear words uttered and being typed out as people watched almost as if watching a stock market ticker tape, the weird results Google was pumping out in some of its searches.

I myself have seen some really strange results over the past few weeks. While Google has been going on about quality – well, they might want to take a look at themselves a little deeper. Seriously. If I do a search on the term ‘fly fishing’ – I don’t think I’d be expecting to see “The Flying Fish Restaurant” – an establishment that has nothing to do with the sport of fly fishing – highly ranked for that term. That is something one might have expected in the old Alta Vista and HotBot days, but hasn’t Google supposedly matured search so it returns more relevancy? Sometimes… and quite often, not.

To give Google credit, The Flying Fish Restaurant seems to have disappeared from the search results for the search phrase ‘fly fishing’, but still, some of the higher rankings are a bit skewed in my opinion. If I’m searching for ‘fly fishing rods’, I’d expect branded results to be highly ranked – but searching the more generic phrase of ‘fly fishing’, I’m expecting general information and articles about the sport. If I’m an angler that has never done any fly fishing before, and want to learn more about it, getting results that include different manufacturers fly rods isn’t helping me.

I could go on and on about some other similar weird search results, but those that know me, know fly fishing is one of my passions, and easy to talk about.

But there was more today.

Wil Reynolds of the highly respected SEM firm, Seer Interactive, had totally lost ranking for a search on their brand. My own quick search found them on Page 3 near the bottom of both Google.COM and Google.CA.  What was that all about? Lots of comments, suggestions, musings, and discussion – with some others offering to help out if they could which was nice to see.

Subsequent to all of this, remember the case study I referred to about Negative SEO and it’s possibilities? It involved Dan Thies and I believe two of his websites. Well… the results are intriguing. Here’s the report and the discussion that followed, with Dan Thies also jumping in and suggesting some things.

What’s one to do right now? Well, I’m reminded of some very good advice given to me by a good friend a couple of years ago, that when things get all weird, “Be like an Eagle.” I didn’t quite understand it at first, but essentially – what does an eagle often do? It sits.. and watches… and watches.. and watches. It doesn’t react to the first ruffling of grass it sees – but takes everything all in.

Many people depend on Google at this point for their livelihoods, but Google does not care about that. The company claims that it wants to provide “value” to its users, and has become so ubiquitous, that most of its users “think” they are getting the best value from Google. Those of us who watch and experiment know this is not always the case.

I believe Google has become too big for it’s own boots. In wanting to be all and everything to it’s users, it has really forgotten what it was once very good at, and in trying to “correct” some things, has actually hurt quite a bit of what they were once known for doing well. There seems to an almost sort of “pompous” attitude from Google; they provide some “direction” on what they want to see, yet when you deliver that, it is not what you end up being rewarded for. Then they try to “correct” their own mistakes and take out so many others without apology for the collateral damage that has been done.

Sure, I believe in free markets, and I don’t want to see anyone regulating Google. And they are right, it is their search engine and they are free to do with it as they will. I absolutely agree with that. At the same time, I absolutely agree that they need to be held accountable by their users and the very people that use their services, click on the ads they serve up that helps to finance their gig.

In my opinion, they have become no different than any other big corporation that says, “Trust us. Here’s how we will help you” and then when you complain, they reply, ” “. Yes, with nothing… and this continued attitude by Google will only see them lose their search market as others discover new competition that recognizes the fears people have and the fact Google is perhaps becoming too complicated in their algorithms for their own, and their users good.

Yes, it’s been an interesting day in search engine land. Google should be careful – too many of these types of days means more promotion of other search engines such as http://duckduckgo.com (in spite of its funny name).

Don’t forget, Google was once a “new kid on the block” too.



Will “I Ducked It” Make It Into Our Everyday Vernacular?

As Google began to win the search engine wars some years ago, it became a common expression to say “I googled it,” or to ask, “Did you google it?” It may be way to early to tell, but with a new search engine gaining in some popularity, we might be saying something like “I ducked it” in the future.

duck duck goI’ve been playing around with the search engine, DuckDuckGo. And I really like the results it provides for the search terms I’ve typed in. Although the number of searches per day is no where near the number that Google processes (I believe one report says that the number has grown to just over 1.5 million per day for DDG – whereas Google processes hundreds of millions of queries per day), more and more internet searchers are using DuckDuckGo (Or DDG for short).

There are many reasons for the interest in DDG; one of which is a major concern among many that Google just knows too much about what you search for, and privacy concerns abound. As well, as Google has grown, search results have sometimes become cluttered and confusing.

DDG’s slogan seems to be “Google Tracks You. We Don’t,” and indeed, there is nothing to log in to. Although there is some advertising on some of the search results, they are not as many as what you will find on many of Google’s search results pages.  Another nice feature of the results that a searcher will get is that DDG doesn’t try to guess at what results you might like or are looking for. In other words, the results are really and truly organic.  Organic search results are those that appear due to the relevance of the search terms however Google is now trying to “customize” search results – which in my opinion means that organic results in Google are not really all that organic anymore.

As far as the results themselves, I quite like them. For a couple of reasons:

A search for ‘fly fishing’ for example provides a wider range of results in the first ten than what I get doing the same search on Google. The results that appear are a mix of informational websites as well as a couple of commercial sites that sell gear – whereas on Google, five of the top ten results are for websites such as Orvis, Sage, Bass Pro Shops and other retailers. To me, if I was looking for those kinds of sites, I would be searching for something like ‘fly fishing gear’ or ‘fly fishing equipment’.

Another reason I like DDG is that all of our web properties that we manage actually rank better or about the same in DDG than in Google, for the most part. So that’s a personal observation that of course, I’d want to see.

In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Founder of DDG, Gabriel Weinberg, reported that less than 0.1% of their traffic came from the US, with half of all their traffic coming from Europe.

As I played around with DDG, I discovered that while it may not capture or store information about searches, it does know where I am based on my IP address. I typed in ‘Orangeville weather’ and it knew to provide me with the forecast for my hometown of Orangeville, Ontario and not any of the other Orangeville’s that exist in North America.

The one thing I don’t like about the search results is that they are displayed in groups of 25 – and to get more, you just scroll down (or there is a setting to provide a “page break” line) and the next 25 results will appear. I would prefer personally if the search results were on multiple pages. I find it easier to see the results in smaller groups than the way it is designed right now.

Other than that, I quite like DuckDuckGo. I doubt I will use it for all of my searches and completely abandon Google – Google still has features that I use and like.  However, there are a number of features on DDG that I do really like as well and want to try out a bit more.

So will we be saying, “I ducked it” anytime soon? I don’t know – it’s hard to say whether DDG will rival either Google or Bing in use – but so far, it’s showing potential.