Monday, November 09, 2009

How Long Will Google Remain "Relevant" For Information Searches?

There seems to me to be a straightforward conflict of interest in IT, with Google as a prime example, between advertising and information.

Google, and most of the rest of the web, aim to derive viability through targeting advertising at users who seek information. Search on Google for something non-commercial and the results are good. Search for something with a commercial inerest and the results are simply adverts, and sometimes entirely unrelated to the search criteria.

Sooner or later this conflict will surely begin to manifest as users steer away from the medium for commercially related interests.

However, let's not overlook something quite fundamental. Which is that how one searches determines the results returned.

Most users are lazy with their search terms, often posing a search in a form of words that are close to natural language [as you might ask a friend or colleague], and when they do search like that they indeed get ads and all sorts of other irrelevancies returned to them.

Do a more complex search [on Google] using regular expressions and/or exclusions - such as

"my search string" AND "my other search string" -blog*

.... and you cut out all the blogs and any references to them. You also don't get many ads either.

Statistically, not many users explore their advanced search options, or even know about such things as regular expressions.

An interesting experiment can be to think of a search query .... and then try to find at least 10 different ways to 'ask' the same question.

Economically, it's not in Google's interest to educate its users too much about complex searching, but the capability is there. As are specialist tools like Scholar

I guess if you're looking for something which is available commercially, you'll expect to deal with a commercial organization. In the old days of hard copy directories there was still a bias towards advertised services. As a potential customer I tend to think that organizations which advertise are more likely to want my business .... and will therefore give me better service than those that don't. Plus they may be making enough profit to reinvest some on advertising so are (yes, a perception) less likely to go bust on me.

If people steer away from the medium, they will steer away to something more productive and efficient. And it's hard for me to visualize something more productive and efficient than what I have in front of me right now.

So I think the show will run until the next generation of searching.

To summarize, I think advertising and information can be one and the same thing.

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