The NYTimes printed a piece yesterday titled, The Dirty Little Secrets of Search. In it they detail how J. C. Penney achieved the top rank in Google search results through a black hat Search Engine Optimization scheme. The Times documented 2,015 pages from hundreds of sites scattered all around the Web that each linked directly back to JCPenney.com.
J. C. Penney fired its search engine consulting firm, SearchDex, and spokeswoman Darcie Brossart is quoted:
“J. C. Penney did not authorize, and we were not involved with or aware of, the posting of the links that you sent to us, as it is against our natural search policies,” Ms. Brossart wrote in an e-mail. She added, “We are working to have the links taken down.”
More interesting than the article itself, which tells the same-old, same-old story of the battle between Google and those trying to game the system, is Vanessa Fox at Search Engine Land. Fox worked at Google managing their Webmaster Central and she has a link-rich post that digs a little deeper.
Meanwhile, late last night Michael Arrington let loose with a diatribe about how search still sucks:
It’s been a creeping feeling, growing over the years, but it sort of feels like pre-Google again. Search is a really bad overall experience… We need to see a real competitor emerge in search. If only because it will make Google up its game, and make all of us a lot happier.
That got Don Dodge, who eleven years ago was director of engineering at AltaVista, “the best search engine in the world at the time,” singing the praises of Google search:
Note the maps, address, telephone number, directions, Google Places page, customer reviews, Instant Search, etc. These features weren’t there a few years ago. But, they were added so smoothly and gradually that we hardly noticed the changes over the years. Also note the absence of advertisements. If there isn’t a relevant ad…Google doesn’t insert generic ads.
Some of Google's search innovations are very subtle or behind the scenes. For example, the amazing speed of the search is the result of huge investments in servers and infrastructure. The freshness of the results is attributable to a Google project called Caffeine. It is a new search index that provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches, and the largest index of web pages ever assembled. Google Instant uses predictive text to anticipate what a user will search for, displaying results instantly as you type each letter of a search.
There are so many Google search features you almost need a search engine to find them all Things like weather, stock quotes, sports scores, time conversions, unit measure conversions, language translations, book search, shopping, news, blogs, etc.
For example, do a search for a new movie title like "No Strings Attached". Google instantly knows that while "no strings attached" could refer to many things, there is a new movie by that name, so that is probably what you are looking for. Google also knows your approximate location if you are signed in, so it displays local movie theaters, show times, photos, ratings and reviews. And, they do all this in the blink of an eye…less than 2 tenths of a second. Amazing!
I find Google search pretty awesome. Sure there’s room for improvement, but Google hardly seems to be resting on its laurels.
Now for some comic relief, via Fred Oliveira’s On Search and spoiled bloggers:
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