Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Google search --- is relevance being compromised?

Everytime Google does an update to its algorithms (and now we are living through Jagger.), the world goes ga-ga over how it is trying to continue to improve the relevance of search results. It almost seems like we are continuing to live in the past; and we are taking improvements from Google for granted. Not surprising because it's a search engine that has over the years won us over completely--- but hey, take a step back and watch it. I don't know if Google's updates are now more of an excercise in 'scaring' SEOs or if it is a genuine attempt to improve the quality of search results. I say this not because I have an axe to grind against Google-- but I strongly suspect there seems to be something really wrong happening out there in its search results.

Let me give an example--- in the course of some research for an online retailer based in the US, I did a search for 'lingerie' on Google (just a couple of days ago). And guess what the 3rd search result was ---- an electronics retailer from Australia. There was nothing in the title or description that showed that had the keyword 'lingerie' on it. Curious, I actually checked out the Australian retailer's website to see if there was anything on the page that it was pointing to, or for that matter, anywhere on the site. Absolutely no mention of the word "lingerie" anywhere; and absolutely no relevance of any manner whatsoever to the content on the site. Products on the site were various electronics goods(to be fair to Google, when I checked it again the next day, things were better). But that was not a solitary example, this was just one that happened a couple of days ago.

It seems to be a similar story with the content match ads on the distribution network--- I have found absolutely irrelevant ads being displayed on sites that have signed up for the AdSense program. For example, do you expect to see a 'Starhub Mobile' ad on a blog about some property in Italy? Obviously the geo-targeting worked in the sense that the ad was being shown in Singapore; but the site it was being shown on was absolutely irrelevant to the advertising message. If I were to click on that ad for whatever reason, wouldn't that have been an absolute waste of a click for that advertiser?

I believe advertisers that are using PPC marketing need to take a very close watch on their content match ads --- at least in terms of the spend, because in the absence of knowledge where these ads are actually being distributed/shown, a lot of money could really be going down the drain (of course, it could also mean AdSense publishers--- and that includes us stand to benefit just as Google does; That's probably something for another post)

The point I get back to is of relevance--- is the powerful Google search algorithm losing its power in its quest to do too many things? And who is paying for this lack of relevance? It's time users got this feedback across to Google.

Manoj Aravindakshan
On Target Media & Marketing

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