January 10, 2012 will go down in history as the day that Google “Jumped the Shark”. In introducing it’s new “Search Plus Your World” search results it ignored the very thing that made them the world’s best search engine – RELEVANCE. Personalized results are now integrated into the new “Search Plus My World” results into Google Search Results as the default results.
Personalization based on a searchers previous search behavior generally improves search relevance and improves search results. But, personalization based on my Google Plus Connections is for the most part ridiculous and irrelevant.
2011 saw leaks of Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines and they were pretty informative in understanding Google’s ideals for what search results should look like. According to the leaked document their are 3 basic search query types:
The problem with Search Plus My World results is that appears that they don’t really improve results based on search query intent and their relevance has more to do with who I’m connected with on Google Plus than on what I’m searching for. For the most part they ignore those search query types listed above and ignore fulfilling the searcher’s intent with relevant results.
A few examples:
A search on “cat food” yielded a Search Plus My World result shared by Monica Wright about writing PPC Ad Copy.
I follow Monica for information on Search Marketing. I’ve met her once personally at SMX Advanced. As you can see from her comment attached to her posting of the article “Disclosure: I hate cats”. This post is hardly contributing to my results on the search query for “cat food” but Google now thinks my following her for her wisdom in search engine marketing is a good enough reason to put into the default results of what they want to show me on a search for “cat food”.
I’m even getting Search Plus My World results from searchers NOT in my world. A search for “compact cars” reveals results from someone I don’t follow on Google Plus and have never even heard of. They say it’s a result from a “Suggested Connection”.
The result shown isn’t even a specific post, its a link to the home page of the blog aboutalternativecars.com. Not really a targeted result and not a helpful search result that is meeting my needs as either an informational query or transactional query. This result isn’t relevant to what I’m looking for and isn’t relevant to anyone that I follow – yet they think it’s important enough to put it in the top ten results of what I see on a high volume keyword.
Perhaps the worst result I’ve seen since the introduction of “Search Plus My World” is a search on “Mexican Food”. This query should yield both informational results (perhaps recipe results) and transactional results that show websites for my local Mexican restaurants. Those are represented on my results but so is this post from Todd Mintz that shared a little too much information about his intestinal distress after eating Mexican Food and even did so in the number 4 result:
But that’s not all that’s wrong with my results on “Mexican Food”. I live in the Charlottesville, Virginia area. But I’m getting results shared by someone I follow for a Mexican restaurant over 2,700 miles away in Sacramento, California. This is not a quality search result that is meeting my searcher intent at all. But, this is the default result…
It is possible to change your default settings on Google to not show the personalized results as the default and you can easily toggle back and forth between personalized on non-personalized results. Both of these steps shouldn’t even be necessary if Google just provided its best results up front. It’s my hope that Google takes into consideration how many people abandon these results to see the non-personalized results and then start to learn from that behavior.
I’ve been a Google user since the start because the results were the most relevant – now they seem to have forgotten what got them where the are today as a multi-billion dollar company. Pushing these new (not really relevant) results isn’t providing the searcher much in the way of Quality. I question if their Quality Raters are able to see results like these that are so heavily personalized – if they can the ratings of effectiveness have got to be terrible.
Apparently, I’m not the only one upset with the reduction in quality of the new Search Plus My World Results. It’s Rumored that several Google Employees are not happy with the changes. Sarah Lacy reports:
I’ve heard from several Googlers who are embarrassed and unhappy with the company’s silence the last two days as the core of the company’s values have been called into question. Chris Sacca has Tweeted that three Googlers have emailed him about new jobs and adds, “Keep em coming. Believing in your work matters.” Henry Blodget, too, wrote about the sad musing of a former Googler calling Search Plus Your World, saying that doctoring search results would have been “unthinkable” at the Google this person knew. Another insider said that after the issue blew up on an internal company-wide email list, employees were instructed not to discuss the issue in writing.
But as we in the blogosphere know, silencing angry or disappointed employees is a lot harder than that.
Now, a source tells us that CEO Larry Page, who seems to be hell-bent on competing with Mark Zuckerberg whether it’s the right thing for Google or not, had this to say to employees at a Friday staff event after the Search Plus Your World launch: “This is the path we’re headed down – a single unified, ‘beautiful’ product across everything. If you don’t get that, then you should probably work somewhere else.”
I’m sure the engineers are of the opinion that the search results are their masterpiece. But, Search Plus Your World has replaced their Mona Lisa with Matt Cutts collection of Cat Pictures.