Remember when it was fun to use Google Search?
Call me nostalgic, but I remember a time when searching Google for information felt a lot more empowering. There was a creative angle to the search queries you entered, and a sense of ownership in the results you found. While your parents wasted hours sifting through broad keywords like “used cars,” you knew it was more efficient to type “used cars + zip code” to find the best matches. Search back then was an art form, and you only got out of it what you put in.
Over the past few years Google has dumbed-down its search engine to capitalize on expansion and revenue. The result has turned a once innovative service into a manipulative information monger, whose top priority is to steer searchers through a series of profit funnels. Not only has this approach effectively blocked some of the most pertinent information on the web, but it has also killed the spontaneity of using Google to find golden nuggets of data.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the trend yourself. How many times do you see blocks of ads, YouTube videos, and other Google properties covering the top positions of search results? Are these the results that interest you most? Perhaps it is just me, but I prefer researching on my own instead of being force fed information from Google’s “most relevant” interpretation.
It seems, though, that the rest of the world wants to use search engines the same way we used the old yellow pages. In those times, it was the biggest ad on the page that would yield the highest number of phone calls for advertisers. Google wants to monetize public information in the same manner, and it appears to be working quite well. So I guess this means the most innovative search engine will soon be known as the most innovative paid directory. If the public is content to click on the first ad they see, then my notion of actually searching for unique information is certain to die a slow death.
Some might argue that SEO and market competition has killed the spontaneity of search. The fact that companies can manipulate the search engines has forced Google to take over as many content sources as it can. There is some logic to that, but is the crowding of search results with Google properties the answer…or the excuse? If Google is smart enough to rank websites based on 200+ indicators, is it inconceivable for them to exclude those who abuse the system?
There has to be a better balance, but I don’t believe it will come from Google. They are in too deep at this point, and the expectation has been set for them to produce revenue at an absurd rate. Maybe this is where Yahoo and Microsoft can make an impact. Indeed they have their own revenue goals to pursue, but at least they aren’t directly connected to YouTube, Google Shopping or Frommer’s. If those three sites alone had to compete on an even plain, instead of automatically earning top rankings, the balance of search would improve dramatically.
At the end of the day, users like you and I do the voting. Where we search, and the results we click on will determine the future. If you are happy with the current state of search, then feel good knowing that nothing is going to change anytime soon. But if you’re like me and know that the World Wide Web is comprised of more than 10 websites, then you might think about taking your searches elsewhere. There are alternatives, but don’t be surprised if it takes you a few searches to find them 😉
About the Author:
Geoff Beers is a freelance writer and contributor at http://internet.inmyarea.com.