FREEDOM TO SEARCH



This coming January, Google will have been in existence for twelve years. Ten years ago, it was incorporated. Four years ago it went public. Two years ago it ventured into offline media sales with the purchase of dMarc. Just last year, they acquired DoubleClick. Today, Google commands seventy two percent of web search activity in the US and manages hundreds of products in information, communication and media channels.

Search, however reins over the Google Empire. Seeking personal relevance in its rankings, the search giant relies on hundreds of signals to generate relevant query results, while battling SEOs that attempt to manipulate results and disruptive sites that rely on cloaking to draw traffic.

Google will eventually win these battles and will move on to refine search in ways that we cannot yet imagine, sometimes relying on an empirical basis for ethical theory. Near-term, look for movement away from keywords. In an attempt to capture true user intent, semantic search will displace keywords.

How far can Google go before relevance is distilled down to a single relevant result, and in doing so limits potential discovery choices? When a query result or an Adword link is returned to me because it’s “relevant” isn’t the search engine opting to reveal what it “thinks” is best for me? Somewhere between focused relevance and freedom of discovery is where I want to be.

Are we taking the potential ROI from razor sharp results too far at the expense of the consumer’s ability and freedom to explore potential alternatives? Imagine a magazine with ads and editorial content that was only relevant to your perceived interests as a subscriber. A very thin copy delivered to you while at the newsstand, the same non-directed issue had four times the content.

Are we backing ourselves into a society that needs to think less? Every school-age child carries a calculator and a digital time device. Yet few can do the math themselves or read an analog clock.

1 comment:

Geoff said...

A magazine with ads and editorial content that was only relevant to your perceived interests as a subscriber? I would love that.

I think google will always give a choice in search results, and I'm sure they will do it in clever ways that we have not yet imagined.

Wow, look at the time! The big hand is on the two...