What Is Wrong with Web Search? Question Answered

January 15, 2018

I read “How People Search: Classifying & Understanding User Intent.” The article is an extract I believe from a new book oriented to those interested in search engine optimization. I will confess. I am not a fan of search engine optimization.

The write up is important, however. The author makes clear why today’s search returns off point, irrelevant, and ad-related content more often than not.

Quick example: I was running a query for information about a company founded in Madrid, Spain. The company has an unusual name consisting of a single digit and two letters. I assumed that the company name would be unique; otherwise, why would a firm choose a sequence of letters and a number which generated false hits. I also theorized that the company’s location in Madrid, Spain, would narrow the result set.

I ran the query on Bing, Google, and Yandex. None of these systems returned the information I wanted. Bing pointed to some biographies in LinkedIn, Google expanded the query to intelligence quotient or IQ, and Yandex just didn’t have much of anything. I don’t fool with metasearch engines; these just send queries to Web indexes with which they are in cahoots.

What to do?

The solution was not easy.

First, I set up a Spain proxy so I could run my query in Spanish against Google’s index for Spain. One can no longer point to a country’s Google search system. A bit of effort is, therefore, required. Who would want to search outside the United States. Stupid, no?

Second, I turned to my directory of specialist search engines. The one which delivered useful results was iseek.com. I know you probably use this system everyday, gentle reader.

As a result, I was able to obtain the information I needed.

The reason I had to go to such lengths was that the information revealed in the SEO oriented article makes clear that search means delivering what most people want.

You want Minnesota Vikings? Well, you are going to get sports. Forget an easy path to those brave warriors who made life miserable to my relatives in the UK.

Here are some highlights from the article which help explain why advertising and appealing to what the author of Democracy in America pointed out as a path toward mediocrity:

  1. Engineers look at data and shape the system to match the numbers
  2. Quality is conformance to what sells ads and keeps most users happy
  3. Disambiguation is resolved by looking at what numbers suggest is the “correct” or “intended” meaning
  4. You really want to buy something; therefore, pizza is a slam dunk when running a query from a mobile device
  5. Voice search means “I want information”.

If these observations ring your chimes, you are one of the helpful people who have contributed to the death of relevance, the increasing difficulty of locating on points research, and using tools to obtain specific, on point, highly relevant information. Good job.

Stephen E Arnold, January 15, 2018


One Response to “What Is Wrong with Web Search? Question Answered”

  1. Anonymous on January 16th, 2018 4:53 am

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    What Is Wrong with Web Search? Question Answered : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search

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