Internet Marketing Tips, Suggestions, & Ramblings

Search Quality Observation No. 1 (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Google)

Good computer security strikes a balance between security and usability. For example, a fifty character password might be more secure than one with less characters, but it would also be an impediment to usability. Not having a password could be easy, but it would also be unsecure. Rather than either extreme, a compromise should be made between what is secure and what is practical.

In internet search there is a similar dynamic. It involves usability and usefulness. There is an impetus for usability but there is also a question, will this come at the expense of usefulness? This is an example of where it may:

North County, San Diego, is within the Public Education Zone of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Because of this, the Yellow Pages there have nuclear emergency information and include a diagram of nuclear evacuation zones. The diagram shows a map with several concentric circles emanating from the station and each circle represents a different emergency response plan.

Nuclear Emergency Information
Nuclear Emergency Information

According to Wikipedia, there are 8.5 million people living in the area and who may also wish to see this information. Some have already sought it out and put it online, such as Danny Sullivan; serendipitous. To find it, or to find similar information from other areas, one might do a Google Image search.

As of September 24, 2011, a Google Image search for the phrase [nuclear evacuation zones] yields no such results. Instead, the search results are fully saturated with images of something else, a current event, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Literally one hundred percent (100%) of the first page results are directly related to this, instead of anything else. It is as if it were the only nuclear event or nuclear evacuation zone to ever have existed. Nevermind that there are 8.5 million people who live within fifty miles of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, who might be looking for different information.

It is at this point that Google may eventually become less useful. Where diverse search results would help expand and refine searches they are now being funneled into channels and constrained to topics, automatically; which works well, except for when it doesn’t. Further attempts to refine the previous search continue to show this.

A search for [nuclear evacuation zones -japan], that is, the same search without references to Japan, still yields results from Fukushima, Japan. What’s more is that the search quality actually seems to have been degraded. Page two becomes a no man’s land, not worth scrolling past. There are pictures of a dog, iconography, a stranger, and a comic book frame.

Perhaps this search needs to specify a location, like San Diego. A search for [nuclear evacuation zones san diego] yields fifteen pictures from Fukushima and one from San Onofre. Maybe San Onofre will work better as the location. Does it? Yes, it does. A search for [san onofre nuclear evacuation zones] yields fifteen pictures of San Onofre, several of which are evacuation zones.

Nuclear Evacuation Zones
Nuclear Evacuation Zones

The initial search entirely related to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, by default.

Nuclear Evacuation Zones -Japan
Nuclear Evacuation Zones -Japan

An unsuccessful attempt to revise the search and omit results related to Fukushima by excluding results related to Japan.

Nuclear Evacuation Zones -Japan Page 2
Nuclear Evacuation Zones -Japan Page 2

The second page of a revised search is still showing results related to Fukushima and other results immaterial to the search.

Nuclear Evacuation Zones San Diego
Nuclear Evacuation Zones San Diego

A revised search almost entirely related to Fukushima yet done by specifying another geographic area.

San Onofre Nuclear Evacuation Zones
San Onofre Nuclear Evacuation Zones

Fourth times a charm. An acceptable search result.

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In this scenario, the results were polarized by a particular topic. It took persistence to shape the search into something useful -beyond the topic it was constrained too. This is one example of how the impetus to streamline search may be coming at the expense of encumbering some others. There are probably other examples too…

What’s good is that this is all happening faster. What’s bad is that frustrated users are giving up faster. Would it not stand to reason that if Google provides this rich of a search experience in 0.09 seconds then in 0.18 seconds they might provide one twice as rich? No, but people might not mind waiting for better results.

About Garry Grant

Garry Grant is a veteran expert in search engine optimization and the digital marketing industry. With nearly 20 years of experience, Garry has successfully built a multi-service operation at SEO, Inc., developing proprietary technologies through complex strategic solutions. He has extensive experience in key initiatives and operational responsibilities grounded in information technology and performance management.

Garry’s expertise and esteemed reputation, coupled with SEO Inc.’s impressive client success record has earned him such accolades as Entrepreneur Magazine's 2005 Hot List for the Hottest Internet Property, Inc. 500 2007 Honorary award for Fastest Growing Private Company in America, an Inc. 500 top 50 Company in San Diego, and interviews with The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, Entrepreneur and The Huffington Post.

Garry Grant began his online career in 1993 creating strategic Web and e-business solutions for Homepage.com, The Rush Limbaugh Show, Premiere Radio Networks, Clear Channel Communications, EarthLink and Artisan Motion Pictures. Today, Garry and SEO Inc.’s highly skilled digital strategists develop proprietary technology and strategic digital marketing direction for Fortune 500 companies including, SC Johnson, McAfee, Entrepreneur.com., Inc Magazine, IGN, Tacorri, LPL Financial, National Kidney Foundation, G4 TV, Fuel TV and Sony, just to name a few.