HighlyStructured.com is a blog website run by Mike D'Agostino about search engine positioning, online marketing, php/MySQL, tae kwon do, and various other topics.

The Problem with Google - Part II

December 27, 2005

As I have stated in a previous article, I think Google is teetering on the edge right now of becoming "super famous" and laying the ground-work for a new kind of "super Internet company". Besides lagging (at least I think) in introducing novel search concepts to the general public (forget the Google Labs Ride Finder, Transit, Video search, etc.), I believe there is a more fundamental concept Google and indeed all the major search engines are missing.

As a purely information retrieval tool, Google and the search engines are excellent. The ideal scenario for using a search engine is to find "academic" information on a particular subject. "Why is the sky blue?", "world land speed record", and "highest mountain in the U.S." are all good factual searches. The search engines are efficient and very precise at delivering useful returned websites that contain the answers or facts about these types of searches.

The problem is that the search engines are not necessarily used explicitly to find answers to "scientific" or factual questions. The search engines are used for everything, and are becoming more and more a marketing tool, or a way to find opinionated results. Any "non-scientific" search becomes a contest for the returned websites to rank higher than the next website. If someone searches for a good restaurant in New Jersey, or a good search engine optimization firm, or recommended doctors in central Florida, they are looking for opinions.

Now, I have no problem with competition. You might have the greatest food in the world, but if you don't have a well-optimized website then your restaurant should not rank high on the search engines. What I do have a problem with is inter-mixing these types of "marketing" websites with traditional education websites. It's almost as if there should be a filter, or a radio button selected, when someone performs a search. Are you looking for an academic response or an opinionated response?

This may not be practical, and I think there are some solutions out there that try to deal with this type of situation. Take .edu domain names for example. .edu websites are supposed to be educational, institutional, and factual websites that present us with the first type of "scientific" information. Then there are specialized search engines such as shopping site search engines which focus on retail item searches. But, no one wants to go to nine different search engines or sites to find the information they want, we all want to use one search engine.

The Problem with Google

The problem with Google is that it ranks .edu and .org sites higher, or gives them more credit as having "better" information than other "marketing" sites. Why is this the case? While it might make sense to rank a website for a physics lab at a major university when someone searches for research on particle accelerators, I do not believe these types of sites should be used when determining results for marketing or opinionated searches. Or at least shouldn't be held in higher regards when determining Page Ranks.

Let's say you have a search engine optimization business. You know that Google gives you more "credit" when a .edu or .org site links to your site. Let's say someone at a .edu domain name has a personal page that has a decent Page Rank (presumably because the page resides on a .edu domain) and they link to your business. Why should this be taken as giving your site more credit than bobsmith.com's "search engine optimization links" page? The answer is it shouldn't!

It may be nearly impossible to determine how to categorize "academic" vs. "marketing" searches, and even more difficult for the search engines to determine based solely on site content. But I think something needs to be done. If not, "black-hat seo's" will continue to forge ahead and try to get .edu and .org sites to link to them purely for the increased Page Rank credit Google gives them. This will dilute the relavency of "academic" searches and I believe give those sites with connections to .edu and .org sites an unfair advantage to ranking higher.

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