Is Google getting too Spammy?

11 Jan

Recommended Reading

Why We Desperately Need a New (and Better) Google, by Vivek Wadhwa on TechCrunch.com.

The Decline and Fall of the Google Empire, by David Worlock on Themediabriefing.com.

***

I booked a ski trip to Colorado in February ((hooray!) and needed to purchase a ski-bag for travelling by plane. So I googled “Ski bag,” “Women’s Ski Bag,” “Padded Ski Bag” etc. until I had a few tabs with search results.

Even using Google’s shopping channel, the results were horrible. I was taken to sites like eBags.com which produced 25,000 results of diaper bags, tennis bags, reusable shopping bags and maybe about 25 ski bags. There was no effective way to sort through the 25,000 results by price or style. I also hit a few other unsavory-looking e-commerce sites before switching over to a brand or store-based search on Google. I searched for REI, EMS, BackCountry and other trustworthy e-commerce retailers that I knew were in the ski business. Have you noticed that search has become a lot more spammy and difficult these days?

While reading Wadhwa’s and Worlock’s blog posts I realized I was not alone.

Wadhwa says:

Google has become a jungle: a tropical paradise for spammers and marketers. Almost every search takes you to websites that want you to click on links that make them money, or to sponsored sites that make Google money. There’s no way to do a meaningful chronological search.

Worlock had a similar experience while searching for a paper shredder:

“And I read more advertising, dodgy reviews and spam than I had ever imagined…”

Worlock posits that social search might be the next step:

I think that Facebook and its successors become the consumer research environment. Search by asking someone you know, or at least have a connection with, and get recommendations and references which take you right to the place where you buy.

Wadhwa’s piece centers around a newer search engine Blekko.com and how this engine allows users to create more relevant, chronological searches by using the information in page “slashtags” (i.e. http://www.webpage.com/keyword/date).

Website slashtags generally read like an index and Wadhwa finds slashtag-based search results return more relevant results than keyword searches. Blekko.com also crowdsources to determine whether a result should be voted up or down for a particular search.

The culprit behind spammy search results is the junky SEO-laden content that e-commerce sites and spammers use to win the Google Wars. Have you ever been to a web page where the content just sounds like it was spun together with poor syntax and lots of keywords. Many of these types of pages are populated with content from big content farms (which is why I never write for those kinds of companies).

About content farms, Wadwha comments:

Content creation is big business, and there are big players involved. For example, Associated Content, which produces 10,000 new articles per month, was purchased by Yahoo! for $100 million, in 2010. Demand Media has 8,000 writers who produce 180,000 new articles each month. It generated more than $200 million in revenue in 2009 and planning an initial public offering valued at about $1.5 billion. This content is what ends up as the landfill in the garbage websites that you find all over the web. And these are the first links that show up in your Google search results.

What’s The Takeaway for Online Marketers?
As an e-commerce retailer, or any type of online business, you don’t want people to come to your site and leave because they find the content irrelvant or spammy. Online marketers need to invest in creating real content that’s elegantly tied to relevant SEO search words and phrases. If you want to find a ski bag and the landing page shows you diaper bags, how is that helpful? A spammy, irrlevant search experience also makes me think poorly of the offending website or company.

Maybe the good companies are not doing enough SEO and the bad companies are are doing too much SEO?

Looking Ahead…
I have found myself relying more and more on the Google page rank widget lately to tell me whether pages are credible or not. I also tend to go to Amazon.com whenever I need to buy something online: from books, to kitchen ware to ski bags!

Perhaps I will start using Blekko, to see if that returns better results? Have you been experiencing the same uphill battle against spammy sites and search results? What do you think needs to change?

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