Google: Redefines Quality. And What about Ads?

August 23, 2022

When I was working on The Google Legacy (Infonortics, 2004), I gathered information about Google’s method for determining quality. Prior to 2006, Google defined “quality” in a way different from the approach taken at professional indexing and commercial database companies. Professional organizations relied on subject matter experts’ views. Some firms — for example, the Courier Journal & Louisville Times, Predicasts, Engineering Index, the American Petroleum Institute, among others — were old fashioned. Commercial database firms with positive cash flows would hire specialists to provide ideas and suggestions for improving content selection and indexing. At the Courier Journal, we relied on Betty Eddison and a number of other professionals. We also hired honest-to-goodness people with advanced degrees to work on the content we produced.

Google pops up with jibber jabber about voting, a concept floated by an IBM Almaden researcher, and the notion of links and their value. As Google evolved, I collected a list of what amount4ed to 140 or so factors which were used by Google to determine the quality of content. At one time, Dr. Liz Liddy used my compilation as illustrative material for her classes in information science.

By 2006, Google shifted quality from its mysterious and somewhat orthogonal factors to what I call “ad quality.” The concept gained steam when Google acquired Applied Semantics and worked hard to relax a user’s query, match the query to a stack of ads to which the query would relate, and display these as “personalized” and targeted messages. Quality, therefore, became an automated process for working through ad revenue.

Since 2006, Google has been focused on ad revenue. My personal view is that Google has one stream of revenue: Ad revenue. Its other ventures have not demonstrated to me that the company can match its first “me too” innovation. If you don’t remember what that was, think about the Yahoo settlement related to the “inspiration” Google obtained from the and Overture “pay to play” system. The idea was that those with Web pages would pay to get their message in front of a service’s users.

Where is Google quality now? Is it anchored in editorial policies, old fashioned ideas like precision and recall? Is the Google using controlled vocabulary lists designed to allow precise queries? Is Google adding classification codes to disambiguate terms like terminal as in “computer terminal” or “airport terminal”?

Google’s Planned Search Changes Could Upend the Internet” reveals:

Google is trying to improve the quality of search results and reduce the number of misleading sites, misinformation, and clickbait users are subjected to.

I want to point out that the lack of precision and recall in Google’s approach is the firm’s notion that new Web sites are more important than older Web sites, traffic is more important than factual accuracy, and ad revenue goals are the strong force in the Google datasphere.

Thus, after a certain outfit headed by a search engine optimization crazed advanced the SEO “revolution”, the Google is, according the article:

As part of the change, the company will roll out its “helpful content update” to identify content that is primarily written to rank well in search engines and lower its rank. Sullivan says the update seems to especially benefit searches related to tech, online education, shopping, arts, and entertainment. The company is also working to improve access to high-quality reviews, ones that provide helpful, in-depth information.

Does this suggest that Google will focus on high-value content, explicit editorial policies, and professional indexing by subject matter experts?


It means quicker depletion of the ad inventory and an effort to cope with the fact that those in middle school and high school use TikTok for information.

Google is officially a dinobaby just one not very good at anything other than selling ads and steering its coal fired steam boat away from the rapids in today’s data flows. For serious information research Google is too consumer oriented. Search based applications are what some researchers prefer. The content in these systems comes from specialized crawls and collections.

The quality list? Old fashioned and antiquated. How much of Google fits in that category? SAIL on, steam boat. Chug chug chug. PR PR PR. Toot toot.

But what about traffic to sites affected by Google’s content rigor?

Just buy ads, of course.

Stephen E Arnold, August 23, 2022


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