Why Google is so powerful – and so poor at results
January 24, 2010
In just a few years Google has gone from quaint to total dominance and now it’s for-geeks-only if quality information is required. That may sound strong but let us explain.
Google now performs trillions of searches. But Google is also thousands of times more used than any other search engine. This presents huge problems. The first issue:
- quantity not quality
This presents itself most often when you try a “simple” search. For example, a generic search for art gallery in London returns 46 million results. Now London is a thriving capital city but there are definitely not 46 million galleries there. Even trying to narrow the search by making the term explicit by enclosing in quotes – “art gallery in London” – returns 2 million results.
In contrast, using a phone directory returns an enormously more accurate result of 695 entries. This brings us to the next issue. If the information is of low quality, why is Google so successful? The answer is:
- Google exists to make money, not provide accurate information
Other search engines in the market also exist to make money but the other 9 of the top 10, combined, only manage one third of the searches undertaken by Google. The other contenders are so far below Google that we can almost discount them. In December 2009 comScore reported the number of searches as (MM):
Therefore everything that Google does in the web space is enormously important. But also, the results are increasingly biased (pay per click) or irrelevant (spam and scam trickery within sites). Many estimates say the level of spam in emails is around 80 percent. Perhaps the same is true of website search results.
Those various factors mean we can now put the two main issues together:
- Google needs huge numbers to make money, for itself and its clients
The shift in power to Google is not their fault, however. The public has been weaned off quality information by the bias and dumbing down of newspapers and TV channels. The funny thing now is those same news media companies are the ones complaining about the power of Google.