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Why Does Search Suck?

danielrluke [PersonRank 0]

Monday, May 21, 2007
12 years ago2,976 views



Why does search suck so bad? Considering what companies like Google could be, the available information is not very well exploited and developed to serve one of the internet’s main functions which is to facilitate commerce. Search companies like Google’s offer what is really a non-solution to this problem set.

If you think about the main revenue model of Google and its imitators, not only is it not innovative, it is downright regressive and almost fascistic.—static text blandly describing something with very few words. I don’t think advertising has ever been so bland. I mean, I thought the whole point of advertising was to show a little flair. The Google advertiser is permitted neither any either audio or visual tools! Why in the world is this the case? The reason that a text ad in a magazine doesn’t talk to you or show you moving images is because it can’t. If you could invent something that would allow a magazine to do this, you’d probably be on to something. So, even if you look at Google’s model for what it is, it is not difficult to imagine improvements. The reason Google chooses something like this is because they’re essentially a monopoly. Also, allowing greater freedom of expression would require a bit of extra work that they are apparently unwilling to do. It’s quite a shame that every one sees fit to copy them. I cannot fathom why everyone is so afraid of them. If you look at their product and think for two seconds about what the internet user wants, it’s very easy to come up with something better. They money in search is directly related to people going on to the internet to buy things. But what does a buyer get from Google? Not much in my opinion. If you could improve this information, which shouldn’t be hard to do, then the buyer will use your service.

Yes, Google provides information about information, but this is merely the honey pot, the way that all the free information on CL is just there so that advertisers can be charged a fee. But even here there is vast room for improvements. Google attempts to answer the search question from only one dimension. They only ask “what”, when they should also be asking “why”. They “why” is arguably more important than the “what” because even if people don’t know what they’re looking for exactly, they know why they’re looking for it. By allowing users to describe the dimensions of “why”, better results would be returned.

Imagine you need a plumber because your kitchen sink drain is clogged. You go on to Google local search and type in the search string “plumbers your city” As you know, the top results that are returned are for plumbers who might have managed to do well within Google’s convoluted ranking system. Maybe some of them hired an SEO consultant, and maybe some of them just lucked in to it. What ever link you are tempted to click on, the information you have right now is of extremely low value. You still have not the faintest clue as to whether one plumber or another does good work and charges a fair price, arrives on time, brings a tin of cookies to share, etc.

Imagine now, an alternate Google which does not currently exist. You type in the same search string as before, but now, instead of getting 300,000,000 SERPs, the engine requires you to narrow your search a bit more based on whether you are looking for information, (as you might be a DIYer) or whether you are possibly interested in transacting business by hiring a plumber to fix a problem. Since you don’t particularly care to fix the problem yourself, you make a selection which indicates you are interested in transacting business. From here, you are able to describe your problem or what you would like to have done based on categories that already exist but were created by prior users. If what you want to have done is not in one of the categories, you create your own, if you please. If you do not know how to describe the problem, you select this option. When you hit your submit button, your query goes out to every single plumber within your area who has chosen to receive it. From your standpoint, the more the merrier. The plumbers who get the message then act on it in real time by inputting information in to a common proposal which you get to view as it is being created. You then get to make your selection based on very relevant information. If you want to communicate, you indicate this, and a conference call begins over which YOU have control for once. It is recorded, and after it has finished, a copy goes out to whoever wants it. So it goes down like this:

It is revealed that John’s Plumbing is the most highly rated plumber. He has 4,000 satisfied clients. However, his bid comes in at the high end. Additionally, because he is in such high demand, he won’t be able to come out until next Tuesday which is four days out. The price John charges you is also a bit higher than it otherwise would be because you do not have perfect user rating. Albert’s plumbing, on the other hand, is not rated as highly, but he charges much less. He can be there in an hour. Price is agreed on and transacted. The search engine that helped put all this together takes a small cut.

One might be tempted to draw a comparison with eBay, but eBay is way to slow, and it doesn’t handle services. People want what they want when they want it. Because everything is still so clunky right now, much less business is transacted on the internet than would be the case if it were more intuitive, instant, and personal.

Yes, what I propose presumes a reputation system, but there are plenty in operation that work reasonably well, the one used by eBay being but one example. This transaction takes place in real time, or over time, depending upon preference. No one would ever have to worry about indexing, page rank, etc. It would level the playing field. Buyers would be delivered directly to sellers with the important information they need to make an informed purchase. They both get the relevant information they need. It would be fair, and would not depend on arcane, ridiculous algorithms that really don’t make a whole lot of sense and tend to be somewhat arbitrary. It would be arbitrated by something much more effective. It shouldn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that this would be far, far superior than what we have now with the Google that does exist.

Heebie Sudoku [PersonRank 5]

12 years ago #

Search results need to be kept clean. Start bombading the user with audio and video ads and no-one would use the site.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

> The Google advertiser is permitted neither any
> either audio or visual tools!

Actually, image ads are available as part of AdWords/ AdSense (though website owners can enable/ disable them). And Google's also getting into audio ads for radio...

> Also, allowing greater freedom of expression would
> require a bit of extra work that they are apparently unwilling to do.

Yeah, I'd love to for instance show the text in a different font (say, Times New Roman instead of Arial). Don't know why they don't allow this, it's hard to imagine the reason for this would be "difficulty of implementation."

> As you know, the top results that are returned are for
> plumbers who might have managed to do well within
> Google’s convoluted ranking system. Maybe some of
> them hired an SEO consultant, and maybe some of them
> just lucked in to it. What ever link you are tempted to
> click on, the information you have right now is of extremely
> low value.

This is a problem with some search results – possibly some subject areas in particular (like hotel reservations and what-not) – but it's not as big a problem as you make it out to be, IMO, and certainly not turning "what ever link" into a low-value link...

> Imagine now, an alternate Google which does
> not currently exist. You type in the same search
> string as before, but now, instead of getting
> 300,000,000 SERPs, the engine requires you
> to narrow your search a bit more based on
> whether you are looking for information

Actually, this sounds a lot like what Google has trying to start with Google Co-op for health-related searches, as well as many other topics:
blogoscoped.com/archive/2006-1 ...

But yes, the way you describe how Google might one day ask questions and then carry the transaction down to its very end (making a commission) is interesting... also see:
blogoscoped.com/videos/googleb ... [WMV]

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Saying search sucks is naive. Every major search company utilizes the state of the art in machine learning to provide you with an intuitive search experience. These systems learn based on user interaction. Search engines don't have glizty user interfaces because that's not what the market wants. It's not what users what. Users want The Straight Dope. I get tons of information out of result snippets alone, never clicking through to the site. If you think search sucks, try becoming a more astute user of search engines!

Inferno [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

I wonder how I could find this site without a search engine. Maybe by brute forcing the browser's address bar :P

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