Danny Sullivan at SearchEngineLand has written “The Myth of Great Search Engine Results”. He is of the opinion that search engine results are getting “worse”, but he can’t quite say why. We can.
Google search results are getting worse for hard questions. Google is trying to correct for more user errors. Google used to insist that all the words of the query appear in the result. They’ve backed off on that; you now get some pages that Google considers important even if some words are missing. You can insist that a search word be present by quoting it. It’s easier to get answers to simple questions now, but the user has to do more work on hard ones.
Google also has become much more aggressive about spelling correction. This is a problem when your query has a word that is “close” to a common word. Again, quoting a single word forces an exact match. Google also considers synonyms now.
Most search queries are very dumb. Look at Google Trends to confirm this. That’s where the market is, and that’s what Google is targeting. It’s a reasonable business decision from their perspective.
Search in more adversarial areas, where “search engine optimization” is practiced, have a different set of problems. When a search engine operates perfectly, it makes no money. If Google takes a buyer directly to the seller’s page, Google makes nothing. If Google organic search directs the buyer to a site with Google AdWords, or produces search results sufficiently irrelevant that clicking on a search result ad looks promising, then Google makes money. It’s thus not in Google’s interest that organic search be spam-free.
Which, of course, is what SiteTruth is for – search with less evil.