Google Search in Disrepair? Thoughts From Searchmetrics’ Joepen

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horstADOTAS – Vivek Wahdwa’s New Year’s plea for a better search engine has led to a lot of soul-searching by the search community regarding Google’s core function and the content ecosystem. On Friday,  Conductor’s Seth Dotterer kicked off a series of Q&As featuring search pros contemplating if Google’s search engine is broken and what’s next for the wide world of search. Yesterday we queried 15miles President and CEO Mike Flanagan, who argued that Google has faltered in going beyond what it does best, which is search.

Today Searchmetrics CEO Horst Joepen, a regular Adotas contributor, argues that Google is still the best in search, but it’s strayed too far from its simple roots.

ADOTAS: Is Google’s search engine in disrepair? What, if anything, needs improvement?

JOEPEN: Google grew because it offered just what users wanted. By overloading their results pages with map results, video results and instant search results, top page ads can only be distinguished from the organic results below with eagle eyes and a high-resolution monitor. Google has left their original path and makes itself vulnerable to someone offering plain and simple search again — just like Google did with Alta Vista or Yahoo in the “early days.”

How could Google better approach the plethora of spam and lackluster content gumming up the web (i.e., cut through the crap)?

Google meanwhile may be tapped in the history of its algorithm and technology. It doesn’t look like latest technologies such as semantic analysis or the spam filter database technologies from email spam filters (some of which are really good) can be easily integrated into its search technology.

How have SEO practitioners had to adjust in facing this same foe (i.e., crap content and spam)?

Every serious and professional SEO agency today will advise and help clients to first generate good content AND THEN implement all rules known to organize this content in a search-engine-friendly way on their websites. Black hat and spammy methods have always had their source in search engines’ limited capabilities to cut through the crap.

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?

This would go way too far. By contrast, no one else comes close to Google’s search skills and quality. The diffusion from its many initiatives, however, starts to overshadow its core strengths and opens opportunities to contenders.

Are social search engines — including Facebook and Quora — biting into Google’s search share? Will there be a noticeable effect in 2011?

In 2011 we might see trends, but no fundamental change. Not even Facebook on its own will have an impact. If Facebook and Bing continue the play they started together in a smart way, this could create a market share shift of 5%-10% this year.

What are your thoughts on Blekko and its use of slash tags?

Smart idea – however, it might work best for online-related subjects, not for general (consumer) searches. It can easily be spammed (see your questions above) and misused if no strong editorial control/voting mechanism is introduced like in Wikipedia. It looks a bit over-hyped — like Wolfram Alpha last year.

How can search advertisers take advantage of social searching services?

Social media and their intrinsic search functions should simply be viewed as a new marketing channel. Consequently, you can design cross-channel/multichannel campaigns where, for example, a social media search leads to a social media campaign and this in turn to a specific web page.

Are there other avenues search professionals should be exploring?

We only have discussed Facebook — keep in mind there are strong professional networks such as LinkedIn, regional social networks like HI5 in South America, StudiVZ in Germany and so on. They might be more interesting, more focused and less crowded for advertisers’ social campaigns.

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