Top 5 Weaknesses of Google Search

Google Search is the king of search engines. However, for all its dominance and awe, this storied search engine has flaws. Not that another search engine is likely to replace it any time soon, but its deficiencies leave room for niche competitors. Below

on February 01 2011 7:26 PM
  • 1. It's all about attention
    Google seeks to deliver the most 'relevant results.' However, what they actually deliver is the most attention-attracting results. Usually, attention and relevance is the same thing. However, sometimes it's plainly not. The most infamous example is the New York Times' story of Vitaly Borker (left), owner of a website called DecorMyEyes. Borker sold designer eyeglasses online. Instead of striving to provide good customer service, he was intentionally rude and abusive. As a result, customers would complain about him on various websites. Each complaint was a mention of (and at times a link to) DecorMyEyes' website. As a result, they actually boosted the website's Google rankings. So when people would search for specific brands of eyeglasses, Borker's website often showed up on top. Users of Google obviously want reputable sellers. What Google gave them, however, was Borker because its algorithm couldn't distinguish between positive attention and negative attention. Since then, Google claimed it has fixed the problem of merchants being rewarded for receiving negative attention. However, they haven't proven their ability to generally distinguish between good attention and bad attention across all types of websites. Update: A search of "Christian Audigier glasses" still has DecorMyEyes as the top result, as of February 2, 2011. US Marshals service
  • 2.  Commercial websites clutter query for information/facts
    When people just want facts or background information on Google, they are often inundated with commercial websites, i.e. websites trying to sell things. When users type in the word "forex," for example, forex brokers make up a bulk of the top results. (If people wanted forex brokers, they would have typed "forex brokers.") Google has been taking tentative steps to address this issue. For example, when users type in "dollar to pound," the search engine automatically displays the conversion rate between the two currencies. Google also offers advanced options/techniques and expert users can usually filter out the results they don't want. However, most users are not experts and ease of use is one of Google's key selling points. In the final analysis, Google is lacking in this area, especially compared to alternatives like Wikipedia.
  • 3. Rankings are open to manipulation
    The manipulation of Google rankings is called Google bomb or Googlewashing. Perhaps the most infamous example is the manipulation of the search term "miserable failure" to show the White House's Biography of George W. Bush as the top result. Generally, the more off-topic the key phrase is, the easier it is to manipulate. Google eventually catches on to the prominent cases and methods of abuse and successfully counteracts them. However, in many cases, the damage (or humor) is already done.
  • 4. It's a search engine
    Google is a search engine and it's the best in the business. However, that doesn't mean users won't ditch it. Years ago, Yahoo! was the portal of all portals. Today, it's still number one. Nevertheless, many users have moved on because they want something else. Google Search, to strip its functions to the most basic form, uses algorithms to return a list of results when users type in search phrases. As technology develops, users may now want more than that. Qwiki, for example, returns an interactive video for search queries (the company calls it an "information experience"). Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, gives users results based on interactions with their friends and other human beings.
  • 5. Spot news is given too much attention
    Spot news, or news with a limited shelf life, sometimes receive undeserved attention on Google's search engine. The top two articles for "federal reserve decision" are daily market commentaries on what investors are doing shortly before the decision was announced. One article was dated November 2, 2010 and another September 23, 2009. It's doubtful that users typing in "federal reserve decision" wanted those articles as the top two results. Google Search also favors recent spot news. That is, when one wants to find spot news or background information on past events, Google usually serves up quite a few not-so-relevant recent spot news.
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