ADOTAS – We’ve had some bright lights in the search space — Conductor’s Seth Dotterer, 15miles’ Mike Flanagan, Searchmetrics’ Horst Joepen and BrightEdge’s Jim Yu and WebMetro’s John McCarthy — discuss what’s going on in with Google search as a growing chorus wails that big G ain’t what it used to be. Our last entry in this series comes from SyCara Vice President of Strategy Fionn Downhill, who says the last year has witnessed a dreadful decline in search quality.
ADOTAS: Is Google’s search engine in disrepair? What, if anything, needs improvement?
DOWNHILL: The results are now strongly influenced by link spam. Google had done an excellent job of only allowing relevant links to influence their results. In the past year, in particular, they seem to have dropped the ball on this. Now, it’s relatively easy to rank in Google with very low quality, link spam that would never have been allowed to influence their results one year ago.
How could Google better approach the plethora of spam and lackluster content gumming up the web (i.e., cut through the crap)?
Google’s focus on brands to differentiate in the “cesspool” has received far too much importance. It has caused them to drop the ball on the quality of their overall results.
How have SEO practitioners had to adjust in facing this same foe (i.e., crap content and spam)?
They have had to become part of it or lose their clients to the SEO companies who participate in the spam.
Do you feel Google’s myriad initiatives (i.e., display advertising, mobile, social media) have caused it to drop the ball on its core competency, search?
Yes. However, as a business model, search doesn’t make them money so it is understandable that they are focusing more on their revenue.
Are social search engines — including Facebook and Quora — biting into Google’s search share? Will there be a noticeable effect in 2011?
Yes. I believe that Google will not see the growth in search they have seen in previous years. You cannot ignore the shear magnitude of Facebook and the time that people are spending there that used to be spent on Google.
What are your thoughts on Blekko and its use of slash tags?
Strictly for geeks. I would be very surprised if it receives any widespread adoption outside of the technical community.
How can search advertisers take advantage of social searching services?
As the numbers using Facebook grows, it is possible that social search services may take searches away from Google. I can definitely see them taking advertising dollars away from Google.
Are there other avenues search professionals should be exploring?
The use of blogs for good quality, long tail traffic. Using tools to manage mundane tasks, therefore freeing up time for strategy, Keeping up with an industry that is now changing more than ever on a daily basis.