Google is broken

July 4, 2006 at 11:55 am 1 comment

Recently I posted about issues I was having with Google and search ranking for our website. I was glad to discover this posting in my RSS aggregator this morning: Google is Broken. The posting points out how bad google’s relevance has become when returning search results. Indeed, Yahoo, MSN and Ask are all returning results with much greater relevance than Google is. Part of the problem is that Google is compromising their results in an attempt to combat spam. However, there are a number of side notes here. To begin with, Google’s techniques for determining spam don’t always make sense in terms of web development and design. For instance, Google particularly looks for hidden text or cloaking techniques used on pages. However, sites developed with a strong inclination toward using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to keep moving with current web standards are often scored down because they have to make use of these techniques if they want to make the site usable for all visitors. For instance, many of the sites that I create have a paragraph of text hidden by CSS compliant browsers, just to notify users of non-css-compliant browsers that the layout or design may be suffering as a result of their browser. I also hide certain things like <hr/> tags to help separate the layout for text based browsers (I’m a frequent user of lynx/elinks, and like to prettify things accordingly). Hidden text in the form of comments in the HTML is also useful for debugging purposes, or just as notes to other techie people who may want to understand something about how you’ve done something on your site. I’m a great believer in sharing, so to discover that Google treats this sort of behaviour as something negative really gets my back up.

Another intriguing approach by Google is to score down sites that make use of cross-linking techniques to improve their web traffic. This is a lot closer to what one might consider a spam technique. However, Google loses its credibility on this argument on the grounds that it sells its own marketing tool in the form of Adsense. Basically, Google is saying: its okay if you spam websites through us, but we’ll score you down if you use anybody else. Or if you choose to simply swap links because you think that sharing links is cool. As a result, your own marketing techniques are hampered because Google decides how you are allowed to market your site. Its frustrating to think that the design of a search engine is impacting how developers and marketeers are able to work. If Google had never placed so much emphasis on cross-linking in its approach to search relevance, the problem would never have come into existence.

All in all, I must admit that I’m disappointed with Google lately. Many of the results I get are not relevant to my queries and certainly since I started this blog it seems that there is nothing I can do to get this site indexed. Yahoo, happily complied months ago. Much against my tech-instinct, I’ve finally succumbed and changed my default search engine in Firefox to Yahoo. I hope one day Google slows down on all of its side projects and gets back to what it once did really well.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Benjamin L.  |  July 10, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    Excellent post — I hadn’t heard of this change in their page indexing, but I’ve noticed some very odd results lately as well.

    Reply

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