25 Things I Hate About Google, Revisited 5 Years Later

Five years ago, I wrote a story called “25 Things I Hate About Google.” It went viral, to my surprise. I thought it was worth revisiting that story on its five year anniversary, to see how many of those “hates” have been fixed. So let’s dive in!

It’s actually been five years and a week since my original story, which was written on March 13, 2006. I’d meant to get this finished for the exact anniversary, but it took longer than I expected.

For those who might feel I’m full of Google hate — I’m not. I admire much of what the company does, and my original piece — as well as this follow-up story — are written from the perspective of hoping the company will improve, not to pull it down. Smart Googlers know that my list might be useful feedback to consider, as long-time Googler Matt Cutts has written. Twice.

Matt himself has been nagging me over the years to do an update to my original list, so Matt, this one’s especially for you.

In my story below, I’ll provide what I originally wrote and how the situation looks today. Each section will begin “Hate” if things haven’t changed, “Love” or “Like” if there’s been a fix, and there are some “Mixed” and “N/A” along the way. The overall scorecard is at the end.

#1

HATE: Web Search Counts That Make No Sense

Then:

Why do search engines lie?” has Robert Scoble recently poking at this, on how the reported counts don’t always match reality….

Mars landing sites gives 1,050,000 matches while mars landing sites earth gives nearly double that amount, 1,840,000 listings. It shouldn’t. Adding that extra word should give you a subset of the original query. It should come back with less results, not more….

If you are going to put out a number, perhaps it should be accurate?

Now:

The issue continues, and it doesn’t seem likely to be solved any time soon, if ever. A search for dvds, for example, brings up 179 million pages. But that same search without any pages that have the word “rentals” on them? It brings back 289 million — MORE pages!

Why Google Can’t Count Results Properly is my article from last October that takes a fresh look at the issue and why incorrect counts can even cause Google political trouble. My conclusion from that:

I love data, but it should be accurate data — and these numbers are anything but. Time to retire them, Google. Or after at least five years of the “it’s not our highest priority” mantra, finally make it a priority.

#2

HATE: Google Keeps Serving Up Sites You’ve Seen

Then:

You may not know the name “results clustering,” but you recognize Google doing it. That’s when it sees there’s more than one page from a web site that might match what you are looking for, so it “indents” the second best one below the first. Search for books, and you’ll see this happening with Amazon.

But clustering only happens on a results page-by-results page basis. In other words, look at mars landing sites, and there’s a link to a page at the msss.com domain near the bottom. Say you reject this. Go to the next page, and msss.com is back again, as is the BBC.

If I rejected content from these sites the first time, I want to see something new … Give me the best page from a domain once, then give me some variety, not these second chances.

Now:

If anything, the situation is worse. Last year in August, Google announced that it would allow more results from the same web site to dominate the top search results. Then a few months later, Google further expanded this behavior. The articles below have more about these changes:

This is great for brand owners and marketers. For example, a search on “google” at Google brings up nothing from any non-Google web sites, some of which may have anti-Google messages. Similarly, searches for “mcdonalds” and “bp” are clean, dominated by the content produced by those corporations.

That’s not great, in my view, for the searcher seeking some variety in their search results. I still also think it makes no sense. Imagine I search for mcdonalds and bypass all of this official McDonald’s information on the first page of results (this is what I saw on March 13, from Austin, Texas – others may see slight differences):

  • 4 listings from mcdonalds.com
  • 3 listings of actual McDonald’s restaurants near me
  • 3 listings from the McDonald’s-run listings from aboutmcdonalds.com, mcstate.com and happymeals.com

If I’ve rejected all that official information, then why on earth do I want even more official McDonald’s info showing up again on the second page of the results:

Similarly, how is listing so many official pages for the SXSW conference really helping, when one of them is for the 2007 event and three others were already listed in the “sitelinks” that appeared below the main listing (Again, this is what I saw last week in Austin. Others may see slightly different results):

Meanwhile, the music event — also in the sitelinks — gets shoved into the second page of the results. There’s no logic there. No attempt to produce order. It’s like you’ve vomited a bunch of results all over the page.

I know why you do this, Google. It’s cheap. It’s much cheaper to assess what you’re listing for the first page of results independently of all the other pages, especially when few searchers drill deep into those other pages. But how about assessing everything you show for the first two or three pages of results and giving more variety?

#3

LIKE: Less User Interface Confusion

Then:

Stop confusing people. Pick a user interface and go with it! Google keeps testing and testing various UIs.

If I had the time and energy, I’d take all the screenshots people have posted and put them into a single “Google of the future” page. Then again, they probably wouldn’t commit.

Enough with the testing! Decide on something and go with it, then change it later if you need to. This constant UI testing over the past year has had people wondering if they’ve been hit by adware/spyware….

At least if you’re going to test … tell the small number of people who care this, to save us from a billion people having to blog about the “discovery” of something new.

Now:

Google still does plenty of testing. And we still get messages from people who wonder if they’ve been hit by malware. But it feels like this is happening less. Ideally, the company would regularly advise people of when a test is underway. No, I don’t agree that it would screw up the testing data, which has been Google’s typical objection to posting publicly about test.

Somewhat related, a I love the facelift Google got last year with its “three pane” interface. Things feel much more organized. For more about that, see:

One last thought. Google’s biggest, most important, most profitable and original product was search. Maybe Google Search deserves its own blog, like many other products have? That would make it easier to post tidbits of interest about search changes that don’t quite require telling the world through its main blog.

#4

LOVE: Related Searches Everywhere

Then:

Bring on related searches. Back in 2000 or 2001, Chris Sherman and I asked Sergey Brin during a lunch visit why Google lacked tools to help people better narrow in on what they are looking for. Why no “related searches” option? His response was that unless a lot of people use a feature, Google didn’t want to devote space to it.

Fair enough, but query refinement is important. It can help people, and Google remains oddly lacking in not having it. It pops up as part of the UI tests. Get it out there….

Now:

I’m surrounded by places where you suggest searches, from right within the search box through Google Instant, to along the left-side of the page via Google Search Options, to the bottom and top of search results — and even via Wonder Wheel. Thanks!

#5

LOVE: Easier Access To All Your Tools

Then:

Give easier access to all your tools. Life at Google is more than web, images, groups, news, Froogle and local. Maybe I want to switch to mobile search, book search, catalog search or yes yes yes blog search with an easy click from the existing query I’ve done. I can’t. I can’t even if I use your toolbar. Many of these services remain in “visit directly” mode….

Now:

The aforementioned search options column makes this much easier. Thank you!

#6

LIKE: Country-Specific Results On Google.com

Then:

Make Google.com show the same results regardless of country. You have country-specific editions. They give people the option to choose if they want a country skew. Given this, don’t automatically skew anyway if someone has chosen to search the entire web. It’s confusing when different people in different countries are comparing results….

Now:

Since Google.com now produces different results within the US, where even the city you’re in can have an impact, I give up on this battle. I also give up because I agree, localization makes sense. Plus, with personalized search results, the new normal is that there are no normal results.

#7

LOVE: RSS For Web Search

Then:

RSS feed for web search. OK, I know the results don’t change much, and I know that RSS feeds of web search that Yahoo and MSN offer are hardly winning over mass numbers of users. Still, why not? Since you offer RSS for news search results and other things, let me monitor web search the same way.

Now:

Google Alerts gained an RSS feed option since my original post. Thanks!

#8

LOVE: Support For NOODP

Then:

You know plenty of webmasters don’t like having their titles and descriptions replaced by Open Directory material. Give them the option to tell you no, on this front….

Now:

You’ve since added support for the NOOPD meta tag. Thanks! Now how about support for a new “YES I REALLY WANT YOU TO USE MY HTML TITLE TAG” tag? Because I’m really tired (and I’m not alone) with you unilaterally deciding what’s the best title for my web pages in your results. More about this, below:

#9

HATE: You Cache Pages

Then:

Stop caching pages: I was all for opt-out with cached pages until a court gave you far more right to reprint anything than anyone could have expected. Now you’ve got to make it opt-in. You helped create the caching mess by just assuming it was legal to reprint web pages online without asking, using opt-out as your cover. Now you’ve had that backed up legally, but that doesn’t make it less evil.

Now:

No change. I still think you should do it. My longer argument from 2006 after my “25 Things” post is here.

#10

HATE: No Guaranteed Web Search Support

Then:

Give us paid web search support: Folks are still obsessing about being listed in Google. They worry they’ve been banned and any number of other problems. Give them a guaranteed support mechanism. Poor Matt Cutts — his blog is going to collapse under the comments of Cuttlets flocking there in lieu of other alternatives.

Now:

It’s like nothing has changed [Postscript: Nothing's changed on Matt's blog, in terms of people who flock there for support despite the huge amounts of support Google offers elsewhere]. Sure, a paid support option might put you under fire that you might be making algorithm updates like Farmer / Panda just to generate support revenue. But others might appreciate a guaranteed route.

If not paid, maybe you could give anyone who registers with Google Webmaster Central one or two free guaranteed express support tickets, so that we don’t have bloggers talking about getting in contact with Google being a “crap shoot” and diminishing the huge amount of resources you do put in to support through Google Webmaster Central.

#11

HATE: No Pick & Choose For Search Advertisers

Then:

Give advertisers the ability to pick and choose in search: It took you years to almost grudgingly give advertisers the ability to pick-and-choose what content sites they have their ads appear on, despite them wanting this from day one. We had lame excuses that you didn’t want to “confuse” or “overwhelm” them with options.

OK, now you’ve done good by giving them choice. Let them also decide if they want to pick-and-choose in the search ads space, as well.

Now:

Unless I’m missing it, it’s still a case that you cannot pick-and-choose which search partners to have ads appear on. You either exclude all of your search network outside of Google, or you have to to take all of it. Why not allow more choices?

#12

LIKE: More Responsive To Click Fraud Complaints

Then:

Be more responsive to click fraud complaints: I’ve heard from too many advertisers who have felt over the years like they’re making something up when they come forth with click fraud concerns. You’re promising to do better. Please deliver. Make them feel supported. Work with the third parties. Help them help you be successful, not sued again.

Now:

It seems like you’ve had only one lawsuit related to click fraud since settling the class action suit back in 2006 — and this 2010 case seems tiny. Click fraud isn’t something I hear many advertisers worrying about these days, either from talking with them or reading through news reports. Sounds like you are being more responsive.

#13

HATE: AdWords & AdSense Confusion

Then:

Make AdWords once again a program that links ads to keywords for advertisers and publishers; AdSense a program that contextually places ads and DomainSense a program that puts ads on parked domains. Having AdWords as the program that puts ads into Adsense For Search/Content/Domains is confusing….

Now:

The situation hasn’t changed. I can’t say that the confusion seems to be harming Google in any way, and perhaps it would be even more confusing to change  now. But then again, these days, we have things like “AdSense For Error Pages.” It still feels kind of crazy.

#14

HATE: Search Revenues Aren’t Broken Out

Then:

Break out search revenues from other types of ad revenues. We can’t know the state of health for actual search advertising — advertising where an ad appears if someone’s actually entered a search term — if it’s lumped in among your AdSense for content revenues….

It’ll hurt you down the line if one channel starts to weaken and the other remains healthy. Failure to breakout means that people will assume all of “search” is having trouble.

Now:

Quick, how much money does Google make from search? Whatever figure anyone tells you, it’s wrong. That’s because we still don’t know. Search revenues remain mixed in advertising overall. Google probably won’t change this, because even with the recent economic downturn, it still didn’t feel it had to break them out.

Nevertheless, if Google wants to avoid being classified incorrectly as a “one trick pony” that’s all about search ads, we need more guidance like we got about mobile and display revenue last year.  What do you earn off of search versus other types of advertising? This will be especially important as Facebook’s “display” ads keep growing.

#15

HATE: Self-Serve AdSense

Then:

Put the brakes on self-serve AdSense. We knew AdSense was on its way to replacing Amazon’s affiliate program for generating crap content when the first “earn millions on AdSense” guides came out. A search for adsense on Google even gives me an ad for someone selling over 100 “adsense ready” content sites that people can buy.

Is this what you want to fund? An economy where everyone and their brother and sister shoves up the same content, which you then index, which is essentially the same thing?

I know the self-serve program has helped you dominate the contextual space. But you fuel so much junk! Can’t you be more selective? Give more money to the people who are really working to produce information rather than just ad revenues.

Now:

It’s still an issue. Google fuels an incredible amount of garbage on the web. Google’s lately been reassuring that if a site is banned from Google’s search results, that takes out their AdSense account as well. But why do this after the fact? Why can’t you choose to spend more time figuring out who to reward with your program ahead of time?

Seriously, you have cars that drive themselves, you embarked on some giant project to figure out what makes a good boss, but you can’t figure out how not to accept scummy sites into your ad program?

Worse, it’s disingenious for your CEO Eric Schmidt to be complaining that the internet is full of garbage when his own company funds that (see The Google Sewage Factory, In Action: The Chocomize Story).

Finally, look at that “Category” illustration over there on the right. That’s from within Google AdSense. It’s a way that publishers can block certain types of ads.

See the fourth category down, “Get Rich Quick?” You’ve figured out a way to automatically identify ads that make these types of claims which, let’s face it, aren’t going to get anyone rich quick. But rather than block them entirely, or block them by default, you instead enable them by default to show across your entire AdSense network.

I think we know who is getting rich quick off those ads.

#16

N/A: Blogger Being Free

Then:

Stop giving away Blogger for free. It’s just full of junk. Junk, junk, junk. If you let anyone have it with no barriers, surprise, some are going to take it and do bad things with it….

Charge people even a token amount ($1 even), and that will be a big barrier. Who’s going to ding you for charging a $1 start-up fee that you can levy through Google Payments? If you must give away for free, find a better, more trusted mechanism to partner with schools or others. Or make all Blogger blogs banned from being spidered for the first 30 days and open them up after that upon review.

If that’s not perfect, then figure something else out. But do something.

Now:

Blogger remains free, and it probably still helps pollute the web. But I’ve seen fewer complaints about the issue and seem to run into fewer junky Blogger-hosted site, so this is a non-issue to me these days. Well, less of an issue.

#17

HATE: Reporting Copyright Infringement On Blogger

Then:

Act fast on copyright infringement at Blogger. The worst thing about Google Blog Search is that it makes it even easier for me to see who is stealing my content. And many of them are doing it via Blogger.

If I have time later, I’ll document the Byzantine process it takes to inform you of copyright infringement. Then after a week, you eventually ask for a lengthy DMCA request to be filled out.

I don’t have time to do one of these every five minutes that you allow someone to infringe my content without barrier on your service. Have some humanity. Use some common sense. Have someone actually look at what your told.

In about 30 seconds, you can generally tell the crap site reported for stealing is indeed a crap site you should remove. Shut them down under a terms of service violation rather than running for cover and helping no one on the DMCA route.

Now:

Reading what I wrote five years ago is pretty scary, because it all seems applicable today. In fact, I covered the same sorry situation just over a year ago, when I wrote Case Study: How Google Hosts & Funds A Copyright-Infringing Web Site. Someone on Blogger had taken one of our stories, and I found it a nightmare trying to figure that it was hosted on Blogger and then trying to report it.

Looking back at that more recent post, I see problems remain, such as:

  • Some Blogger-hosted blogs still don’t have to have a standard nav bar with the “report abuse” link
  • The “report spam blog” form still doesn’t ask for any details

I remain happy that the “Ads By Google” text with your ads does lead to an awesome policy violation reporting tool. But you continue to bury a link to this at the bottom of the “What Are Ads By Google” page, under you pushing AdWords and AdSense.

Enough. Seriously, enough. That page should primarily be designed to educate consumers. Any advertiser or publisher worth anything to you isn’t going to discover your ads through those “Ads By Google” links. Get the priorities on that page right.

#18

LOVE: Gmail’s “On Behalf Of” Problem Fixed!

Then

Fix Gmail’s “custom from” problem. If you’re going to let me send things as if I have my own mail server, then actually ensure that people really believe I have my own mail server.

Your “Custom From” problem that I cover here is causing people to think they have to send now to both my “real” domain and my Gmail address….

Charge me if you have to, but fix it.

Now:

You fixed it! Thank you!

#19

N/A: Let Gmail Show More Than 100 Items

Then:

Let Gmail display more than 100 items. After archiving 50,000 messages 100 items at a time, I really wished for the ability to view more than 100 items per page. I still want that when I’m having to review about 300 spam items per day. This can’t be that hard. Can’t we have it?

Now:

It still seems like this should be possible, but I’ve long since given up trying to review my spam items for false positives, as you do a great job. So I don’t need this so much, now.

#20

HATE: No Blacklists In Gmail

Then:

Let Gmail have customized blacklists. You do a good job catching spam, but you’re not perfect. I have no way of filtering out what you are missing, to help you get better. I explain more here. Work with Mailwasher, and I’ll especially think you rock.

Now:

I still can’t do this, short of creating a filter for particularly annoying spam. That works, but I wish I could push a button that did it.

I know you’ve got the “Report Spam” button, but that doesn’t immediately do anything. I want it to create a filter that I can see and for it to begin working from the moment I push it.

The button is also useless for those of us who still use Outlook — and yes, there are plenty of us.

#21

LOVE: Clickable Referrers In Google Analytics

Then:

Give me a list of all my referring pages in Google Analytics and make them clickable. C’mon. WebTrends has offered stuff like this since, I dunno, WebTrends 1.0?

In Google Analytics, I have to go to Referral Conversion, then see individual URLs rolled up under sites, then cut and paste things if I want to go to the page that sent me traffic. It could, and should, be much easier.

Now:

You added it in 2007, thanks!

#22

LOVE: An End To Overwhelmed Product Launches

Then:

Stop opening products to everyone, then getting overwhelmed. The story is getting tiring. Everyone’s invited to use Google Web Accelerator, then you pull it down. Come get Google Analytics, then you shut it down to newcomers to demand. Come get Google Page Creator, then it closes….

You know whatever you roll out is going to get overwhelmed. Figure out another way to open it up. The demand is no longer making it seem like your products are hot. It’s making it seem like you are lame and can’t anticipate or handle the rush.

Now:

It’s been ages since I recall this being an issue, so thanks for fixing it!

#23

LOVE: That You Charge For Products

Then:

Charge for things! Seriously, I’m getting frightened. I love that anyone can get free analytics, email, you name it from you. But I’m fearful that people also can’t get support for when things go wrong. I think this guy’s still trying to get an official response on what happened to his lost Gmail account.

Meanwhile, I worry that companies I want competing with you, to keep you on your toes, can’t do so when you use advertising to underwrite everything. It just feels anti-competitive. Plus, aren’t you kind of sick of shoving ads at us everywhere? Don’t I have enough ads on the floor of my supermarket already? Can’t part of Google’s mission be to help reduce advertising in places where I don’t need it?

Now:

When I ran out of space with Gmail, a credit card got me more — and solved a number of other issues. I gladly paid it. And I’ll gladly pay for other essential services, if you’ll improve them, too.

#24

MIXED: It’s About Search, Not Selling

Then:

Remember it’s not about selling. Google Video started with searchable TV content. That got dropped when the new video sales began. OK, the official line is that you’re working with providers about bringing back the TV content. The unspoken truth is you can’t cut those deals to sell TV entertainment shows without dropping the taping. But do work on ways to bring it back.

Yes, there’s a reason why video search is closely related to video shopping. But being able to keyword search across things like news shows or popular references in entertainment content was informational.

And that’s your mission, right? Organize the world’s information, not just sell TV shows. Similarly, as you begin to sell books or build out the Google Base content, don’t just become an Amazon or eBay alternative.

Now:

It’s weird reading what I wrote above, given that Google Video abandoned hosting and selling video content. YouTube has taken over. But perhaps that was a harbinger of the careful line you walk now.

Is Google Books a store for buying books or a guide to books everywhere? If the former, you risk enraging the “search neutrality” folks who claim you’re favoring yourself.

Similarly, what will happen as you bring more paid content into YouTube? Will Google Video, which covers video content from around the web, favor YouTube rentals? Will the TV search feature within Google TV favor TV content on YouTube?

When the cloud-based Google music selling service finally arrives, people are going to weigh that against iTunes and Amazon. Do you list them as part of your search mission?

One challenge is that if you don’t become involved in some of these areas — sales of movies, music, and other content — you risk being a weaker competitor to Apple, and everyone risks there being no counterbalance to the Apple iTunes / iOS ecosystem.

Another challenge is that if you don’t build some of these destinations, as happened with YouTube and Google Books, there’s little content to ultimately search.

Still, Clicker managed to produce a great guide to TV content without hosting a thing. That’s what a search engine was supposed to do, be a trustworthy neutral party pointing to the best everywhere. Sure, monetize those links to trusted providers, but that’s different than being a provider yourself.

#25

HATE: Fix The Philosophy

Then:

Fix the philosophy. I’ve written before about how your philosophy page has a big disconnect with reality. It feels even further disconnected these days. You’re doing 100 different things rather than “one thing really, really well.”

As for “you can make money without doing evil,” you know that’s not so when you yourselves created an evil scale to decide just how bad bowing to Chinese censorship would be for you.

Give us a realistic philosophy, one that doesn’t give you so far to fall from lofty heights. We’ll like you more for it, rather than the excuses and spin when you can’t do what you say you should do.

Now:

Your philosophy page was last updated in September 2009. Some of those updates failed to reflect reality then, and the page is even more outdated now. Some comments:

“Focus on the user and all else will follow.”

I know you believe in this. I’m glad you believe in it. I also believe if often does guide many of your decisions.

But identifying “Get Rich Quick” ads and still allowing them to run isn’t focusing on the user.

Pushing that we don’t need net neutrality in the mobile broadband space, I’m sorry — I still don’t see that as working for the user.

Not finding a way to work with Facebook apparently because using Facebook Connect might give Facebook too much visibility into your system? That’s working in your own interest, not the users.

Don’t get me wrong. I think you DO believe not working with Facebook is in the users’ interest. The problem is you get into a mindset where you believe that Google knows best for the user. Google doesn’t always know best.

And also don’t get me wrong — in the whole Facebook dispute, there are heaps of issues I have with Facebook. But Facebook never has seemed to make much pretension of working in anything but Facebook’s own interest. They didn’t set a high standard that they fail to meet. I’m glad you have those pretensions, but maybe they need to be more realistic.

“It’s best to do one thing really, really well”

You left doing “one thing really well” behind so many years ago that it’s embarrassing to still be staying this.

“Democracy on the web works”

Except it doesn’t, because then you wouldn’t have to fight things like people buying links, nor have to roll out new changes to stop low-quality content from getting top rankings or algorithms to catch bad merchants. Indeed, since your results have been more and more personalized, there’s arguably less “democracy” in them. That’s not necessarily bad — but the philosophy page doesn’t reflect reality.

“You can make money without doing evil.”

This isn’t 2001, and you can’t claim — as you do on the philosophy page — that not being evil is proven by avoiding pop-ups or “flashy” ads.

You understand that you have advertisers running “Get Rich Quick” ads but don’t stop those? That’s kind of evil, don’t you think?

Telling your publishers, as you do, to put more ads on their pages — you don’t think that interferes with reading like those pop-ups you’re so worried about? And have you seen a typical Made-For-AdSense web site, where the actual “content” is often tiny, surrounded in a fog of your ads? That’s not kind of evil?

The famed “Don’t Be Evil” mantra doesn’t actually appear on your philosophy page (instead, it’s in the corporate code of conduct). But the philosophy page talks about not “doing evil,” and that still rings to my ear as if Google assumes that everyone else is evil.

How About, “Aim For Good?”

Everyone else isn’t evil, and no one likes that being implied. I really appreciate that Google has lofty goals, but how about flipping things around. “Be good.” Or even, “Aim for good.” You’re not always going to hit that goal, but it’s easier to forgive imperfections in those who already seemingly admit to them.

Scorecard!

50/50

Still reading? Good for you! Just scrolled down to the end? I understand. I’ve gone deep for those who want background, but here’s the summary, grouped by Hate, Love, Like, Mixed and N/A:

Hate

  1. Web Search Counts That Make No Sense
  2. Google Keeps Serving Up Sites You’ve Seen
  3. You Cache Pages
  4. No Guaranteed Web Search Support
  5. No Pick & Choose For Search Advertisers
  6. AdWords & AdSense Confusion
  7. Search Revenues Aren’t Broken Out
  8. Self-Serve AdSense
  9. Reporting Copyright Infringement On Blogger
  10. No Blacklists In Gmail
  11. Fix The Philosophy

Love

  1. Related Searches Everywhere
  2. Easier Access To All Your Tools
  3. RSS For Web Search
  4. Support For NOODP
  5. Gmail’s “On Behalf Of” Problem Fixed!
  6. Clickable Referrers In Google Analytics
  7. An End To Overwhelmed Product Launches
  8. That You Charge For Products

Like

  1. Less User Interface Confusion
  2. Country-Specific Results On Google.com
  3. More Responsive To Click Fraud Complaints

Mixed

  1. It’s About Search, Not Selling

N/A

  1. Blogger Being Free
  2. Let Gmail Show More Than 100 Items

That’s only 11 “Hates” left out of an original 25, so call it a 56% “success” rate on fixing things. However, of the 14 “fixed” items, two became non-issues and on one, I have mixed feelings. So for “success,” I’m counting all the things marked “Love” and “Like” — 11 in total. That makes it even, in my books — 50% of the things I hoped to have fixed were. And I’m pretty happy about that.

Here’s hoping that fixing the other half won’t take a further five years. And for a wishlist looking forward, I’d love to see Google do things like provide more accurate date-based searching across all of its properties (dates can be and are a mess), and ombudsman to look at issues raised with Google and for Gmail to pretty-please let me toggle conversation view on and off without having to dig into my settings. If Outlook 2010 can do it, I’m sure Gmail can.

And hey, if you liked this story — “Like” it on Facebook with the button below, share it on Twitter with the Tweet button, Buzz it on Google — you know the drill!

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://www.lead411.com tomblue

    Danny: #2 always bugged me. For example recently when I have been doing searches for people I would find that the first 4 results are from facebook and the next 4 results from linkedin. The worst part about it is that half of the results wouldn’t even be for a person with that name. For example, I searched for Kyle Soladay and 2 of the facebook results would be a profile for Jane Doe or Larry Smith. Same would go for linkedin. Useless.

    But here is the big issue. I was doing these above searches in chrome in which Google has all this browsing history saved for me… I assume they know I have been to linkedin/facebook a lot. I tried them in firefox/ie and I was only getting one result for facebook/linkedin. I cleared all my history in chrome and we are back to only one result per company. Great! but what happens when the history builds up again.

    What is ironic is that knowing more about me has hurt the search results.

  • s_syedali

    One more thing I noticed recently was classification of content pages as video pages if you have a video embedded in them. I have seen a lot of cases where you rank at a decent position but as soon as your pages are classified as a videos they are grouped under videos usually showing at the bottom of the page. And in that case you have to block google video bot to get your rankings back which is not great.

  • http://www.qaqn.com Daniel M. Clark QAQN

    Good list, good updates. My #1 thing I hate about Google that I know they’re not going to change (and I know you touched on this in #’s 24 and 25) – I hate that Google has to have its fingers in *everything*. They’re competing in spaces that they have no business (so to speak) being in. If their mission is to organize the world’s information, how does Google Docs, Google Voice, or creating a self-driving car further that mission? I have a real problem with a company as powerful as Google owning content or acting like they own content – YouTube for the first, caching pages for the second. How does owning an affiliate network further the mission? Not to mention that owning an affiliate network has tremendous potential for serious conflicts of interest with other products of theirs.

    Google might have a “don’t be evil” mantra now, but that doesn’t mean they always will. All it takes is for the wrong group of people to rise to the top of the company – it’s a flip of a switch from “don’t be evil” to “take all we can”.

    If 1990′s Microsoft had even *thought* about trying to get away with even *half* of what Google is doing today, the DOJ would have split them into a hundred smaller companies in a heartbeat. I’m always amazed that Google hasn’t come under the same fire that MS did.

  • http://internetmarketingremarks.com Randy Pickard

    Danny – Great review. It seems to me that there is almost a dichotomy between the Google search and Adwords engineers. It’s my perception that the search engineers basically wear white hats and are working hard to deliver results that match the intent of my searches. The Adwords engineers are a bunch of money grubbing black hats that constantly manipulate the algorithm to suck ever more money away from their advertisers. Adwords’ abysmal customer service provided to small advertisers demonstrates how little respect Google has for their advertising clients. Their recent move to make display URL’s of root domaims lower case, despite the objections of major advertisers, shows an arrogance of a firm that has the pricing power of a monopoly.

  • http://www.planetc1.com/ Michael Dorausch

    This is a serious list. I can see how you may have gotten behind trying to get it out. Very cool you could go back and resurrect an archived post though.

    On Web search counts, I don’t think I even notice them anymore, had to actually do a search to see that they still appear.

    For multiple results and indented results from a single domain, I have to admit that I love seeing 4 listings or more when it’s my domain, but not always so much one I’m searching something of personal interest.

    On the SXSW query, I like those results very much, especially since they include YouTube, twitter, the schedule, and even pages similar to (like Coachella). As a user, that feels like a useful set of search results.

    On user interface confusion, I haven’t noticed much change on that either, except when Barry Schwartz is doing screenshots and sharing them in posts. I have to say that the constant changing of the logo for holidays and such, kind of bugs me, but I can live with it.

    AdWords and AdSense confusion. I still get these mixed up. I wish Google would have completely different terms for the two. Ad$ense would remind me this is the one I use to earn revenue on my website, and Ad(Would you advertise with us?)ords is the other one.

    Blacklists in Gmail. I would love that. I mark so much e-mail as spam it makes my index finger hurt. I still sift through the spam folder to make sure I’m not missing important stuff, and I wish I could block spamming domains so I never see them.

    The love-hate relationship continues. For me, I’d have to say I still have a lot of love for Google, hoping the relationship continues to improve.

  • http://www.fluxresearch.com Flux Research

    “Web Search Counts That Make No Sense”

    Wow, I’ve totally blocked those numbers out of my awareness and I use Google all the time!

    But I remember being in meetings for a certain half-assed company where this guy used to use those numbers to prove arguments. I couldn’t say anything about it because I would be perceived as negative and, even if I could, management didn’t have the attention span to listen to even a brief explanation.

    Those numbers are just dumb. You’d think an engineering dominated culture would see that but, once again, engineers fail us!

  • SpookyAction

    Good list, but one I still think should be in the “hate” category is #12, click fraud. Google has done more to protect advertisers from click fraud in AdWords, but mostly at the expense of AdSense users. I’ve read countless stories from content publishers having their AdSense accounts suspended because of alleged excessive clicks coming from their sites or hosted content, like YouTube videos. Google doesn’t provide AdSense customers any tools to protect themselves and when an account is suspended, keeps any money in the outstanding account balance and bans them from AdSense. If Google can detect fraudulent clicks that result in the suspension of AdSense accounts, then they could just block them or provide AdSense users tools to prevent them. Not only is it completely unfair to AdSense users, it leaves them completely vulnerable to competitors and bad players generating fraudulent clicks for the purpose of getting a publishers account suspended. Plus, the suspension policy only targets small companies or sites and independent publishers, the ones that rely on AdSense the most, not major advertising partners, which are exempt. Another point that I feel should be added to the “hate” category is Google’s use of and lack of contribution to open source software. Google makes extensive use of Linux, both internally (all Google’s servers run Linux) and in their products (Android, Chrome OS) but contribute very little back to the open source community in comparison to other companies in the Linux world like IBM and RedHat.

  • http://content4chiros.com Joseph Doughty

    Danny,
    Thanks for this post. 5 years later and Google is still here. 5 years is an eternity in web speak. Found #25 the most intriguing. (Yes, I read the whole post.)

    Philosophy guides action in life as well as business. As Google continues to grow and its tentacles stretch around the globe it will be harder and harder for them to live up to their Don’t be evil motto.

    Perhaps some of their short comings aren’t overtly evil, but it does shine a light on their hypocrisy. They came down kind of hard on Microsoft when they themselves have engaged in similar clandestine behavior.

    Oh well, unti someone comes along with better search we will all most likely be using Google. At least they made some changes.

    The interesting post will be the one you do 5 years from now that speaks of Googles downfall because social media search and semantic-web have usurped the antiquated Google search box.

  • http://ninebyblue.com/ Vanessa Fox

    OH COME ON! You “hate” that Google still has no site owner support? You wrote the original article in March 2006 when Webmaster Central didn’t exist (the Sitemaps UI launched in August 2005, but it primarily contained error information about Sitemaps and by March 2006 was still called Sitemaps and had only a few more options).

    Sure, maybe no paid support option exists (nor could it ever because that would be equivalent to paid placement because whoever could pay would get extra help – I can’t believe that you, who know as much as you do about search, would even suggest such a thing).

    But you haven’t moved the needle on liking the support that Google does provide when since March of 2006, they’ve added:

    -Huge expansion of the discussion forum from being Sitemaps-specific to encompassing all organic site owner topics
    -A new position at Google called “webmaster trends analyst” that did not exist in March 2006, intended entirely to answer discussion forum questions and watch the web for issues site owners have (and they continue to hire more people into this role all over the world)
    -A repositioning of the blog to be sitemaps-specific to encompass all organic questions site owners have
    -A completely revamped and expanded help center
    -A spam report form
    -A reconsideration request form with feedback on processing
    -A message center that lets site owners know of problems, including some violations
    -A completely new URL removal tool
    A way to tell Google whether your want to be indexed as www or not
    -A way to tell Google what country your site should be associated with
    -Malware alerts and reinclusion process
    -Ability to slow down or speed up Googlebot crawl

    Not to mention all the non-support, but high usefulness data features that webmaster central provides about query data, crawl errors, links….

    There’s lots more but my flight’s about to land.

    I know for a fact that Google looked very closely at how to best provide scalable support to every single site owner on the web because I helped create all of those support options. I can’t even fathom how someone could say that Google’s support for site owners hasn’t vastly improved since March 2006.

    inconceivable!

    (And yes that word does too mean what I think it means! ;)

  • http://googlemonopoly.eu googlemonopolyeu

    There is less and less to like every day about Google.

    This 25 list is a good read. I think it could be expanded to include the other Google properties and products. Looking forward to such :)

    First, Google was about search, but now they seem to be about ad placement only. Plenty examples of them hawking their products above search results. Places is the best and ugliest example of Google stealing content and using it against publishers feeding their search.

    If Google was soooooooo good at search then 97%+ of it’s income wouldn’t be coming from ancient old dumb media advertising model, would it?

    These are my comments on #10 HATE: STILL No Guaranteed Web Search Support

    I believe Google has become too big to care. This is most evident from an ongoing recent thread over at Webmaster Central Help, “Think you’re affected by the recent algorithm change? Post here.”.

    A Google employee started the thread and hundreds of people impacted by the algorithm change described what was is wrong and how they were smacked by the change. Google’s staff, senior management, etc? Totally absent, non responsive. Google won’t touch the thread, won’t comment. Total #GOOGLEFAIL.

    As for Vanessa pointing to her work on Webmaster Central, I think that area for website owners is mediocre at best. There are plenty of bugs and things that don’t work like they should. I’d tell Google so they could remedy them, but every attempt I’ve ever made to reach a human has been met with an infinite black hole, containing no human (or at least one that responds in kind).

    For a company that is pulling in over $1 million per employee, Google can and should be able to afford a support team. Many issues arise normally that require elevated attention and responsiveness on Google’s part.

    Google’s approach is to tell us software is adequate in lieu of humans and mostly provides forums where Google doesn’t typically respond. Instead of Google employees, SEO types and others with useless misinformation respond. It’s a giant disaster zone. You wouldn’t accept public forums as means of support if your house was on fire, if your child was sick or many other reasons.

    Google fails to recognize that many people are NOT some shoeless teens toying around in the basement. Most folks demanding Google act responsibly are business owners, and entrepreneurs. These folks would never treat their customers how Google does or they would be out of business.

    Somehow all this logic evades the brains in charge at Google. Has to be that they believe their monopoly position means they get to dictate the rules even if they offend everyone else’s common sense.

  • http://about.me/jamiemills Jamie Mills

    Unnecessary statistics, especially when they are inaccurate or open to interpretation, breed distrust.

    Another example, adding to those listed above, is a search for “ipad2 european launch”. On encrypted.google.com, the number of search results is “about 2,960,000″. Browsing through the 43 results page, one wonders how 3 million pages will be displayed, with there are ten hits listed per page… a max of 430 results?

    It gets worse. Although on page 35 you still see that there are 43 pages, page 37 shows that there are now only 42 pages in total. Page 38 changes this again to a max of 41 total pages. Page 41 is the last page, and it states that there are 401 results.

    Including omitted results doesn’t improve it any further – it shows 51 pages, again 10 results per page which as page 51 shows 5 hits, should be 505 results. Way off 3 million.

    The average user has no concern as to the number of results returned so long as the spread of results is adequate to their needs. The inaccuracy of the results diminishes faith in the product.

    Adding further distraction is the fact that encrypted.google.com and http://www.google.co.uk display a different number of results also. 3 million cf 17 million.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Thanks for all the comments!

    On site owner support, Vanessa, I said I hated that there was no guaranteed support. When I originally wrote this, you’re right — there was no Webmaster Central. I love that Google has this now. But I still hate that even with it, there’s no guarantee that people will hear back if there’s an issue. Like I said, this means you get people like the Cult Of Mac editor complaining that getting support from Google is just a “crap shoot” when it’s not, and when Google puts substantial resources — as I also said — into providing support. A guaranteed option would help. When I wrote this originally, I though a paid route would be good since we had no options at all. Since then, I addressed that this could potentially still happen but just as you wrote, it would probably be controversial. So instead, I’d hope they’d find a way to perhaps give anyone registered at least one promised guaranteed response for free, as part of the registration process

    SpookyAction, thanks for sharing about click fraud. As I said, it’s not something I’ve heard many complaints about, so it’s good to get that feedback.

  • http://buzzintechnology.com Buzz IT

    Nice work. Just wading the list of 25. But could not stop myself commenting on the very first one on ” Web Search Counts That Make No Sense”. It has driven me nuts as well. When I first found this out I thought I was the first to discover and went all crazy :)

    The thing you did not mention (probably did before) is that if one is patient enough to go through the last results page for a query, Google corrects the number of results automatically.

    I thought all Google wants to do is save time/computation in serving results users by coming up with an estimate (even if its is grossly wrong). Given ample time as one goes through results page, Google can correct the results, Why not give the estimated count as a link and give us the correct results if a user clicks on it. Here is my amateur page complaining about the miscount.
    http://buzzintechnology.com/2010/03/bugs-in-google-search-results-count/

    I want to add one more thing on the same flavor as 1a. Google results miscounts on Google News. I have never understood why Google News has to give wrong counts. Its is not that it is searching the entire web to give us the news.

  • http://webdesignworkplace.com malmilligan

    I think Danny the way you began the “Now” part of the “Guaranteed Web Search Support” item with the phrase “It’s like nothing has changed” that got Vanessa angry enough to offer a slap down. Wow. Focusing on the fact that there is still no general pay per incident service I’d re-evaluate the hate and wonder if something like that could even be managed. But I see paid support for Google Apps, numerous things I can control about the sites I have verified in my WebMaster Tools account: like being able to report spammers, and I got timely responses after restoring a couple of sites that had been blocked due to a SQL injection I had previous to their block been unaware of. So a lot has changed including manageable paid support in some areas… like Google Apps. Best Regards – Mal

  • http://daggle.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I meant nothing had changed in terms of how people still flock to Matt’s blog looking for some personal advice — and yes, that nothing has still change if you want a guaranteed answer.

    I didn’t mean for that to take away from the huge amounts of support that Google offers now, and that I highlighted at the end of that section. I’ve added a postscript to the section to better highlight this.

    Bottom line. Google has greatly grown in the support it offers site owners since I wrote this, and I love that support — and I’ve written about that many times over the years. But some people still believe there is no support, sadly — and part of that is probably due to there being no guaranteed option. I think Google could at least experiment with this.

  • http://mainspring.tv/ MainSpring Video

    Thanks for the article, and for all your research. This was an interesting read. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how the Google video search function will evolve and improve over the next 5 years… the search toolbar on the side has evolved nicely so far, though, I agree!

  • http://ninebyblue.com/ Vanessa Fox

    I’m not angry. I just disagree. I feel as though Google offers a lot of guaranteed support for site owners that didn’t use to be available, including a URL removal process, penalty review process, crawl speed change process, etc.

    Many of the things that Google *can* guarantee support for, they now do.

    While it’s true that a process by which each reconsideration request is reviewed is not the same as a process that would enable site owners to find out why their penalty isn’t be lifted, the review is something they can guarantee. There are lots of reasons why they can’t guarantee an explanation.

    And I remember Matt’s blog comments in 2005 and 2006. I think the amount of support requests that go through there have been GREATLY reduced since then.

  • Adrian

    @Vanessa I think Google offers some good support and has made great strides in many ways. The Webmaster forum is wonderful for the simple (and not so-simple) questions and requests. But sometimes there are issues that only a Googler can answer, or where a user would genuinely benefit from direct access to Google. It would be nice if there was a way to pick up the phone to 1-800-Google and get personalized help. And yes even for a fee. Sometimes a discussion thread or filling in a form does not work on complex issues. Even real-time chat support would be awesome. I know the likeliness of this is slim, (due to the volume Google would face), but I am sure there is a revenue stream available from willing customers to pay for personal service. Its not evil to charge for direct premium support when the customers want it. Its not an attack on the team or what Google has done or offers. There is an obvious need being left unfulfilled.

  • Sruli

    Wow. This was absolutely amazing. Danny, you have truly enlightened me.

    @tomblue – ever since i started using chrome, I have found that Google search results absolutely suck. In fact, I started using Bing shortly after I swtiched to chrome! (that ended when i got super annoyed that I couldn’t search bing directly from the search bar) I didn’t put it together then, but the fact that Chrome ruins the google experience is mind boggling.

    I couldn’t agree more with your statement “What is ironic is that knowing more about me has hurt the search results.” I would take it one step further. I feel that personalizing search results the way Google has completely frustrates the entire purpose of searching. The whole point of seraching is to get the most accurate, reliable result. Prioritizing them based on your likelihood of clicking through is absolutely useless in that regard. (But I just realized, this makes google more money – which exactly echose parts of #25 above.)

    Btw, is there a way to search using old algorithms?? I am very curious if searches from years ago produce better more useful results then the current algorithms.

  • Chris Ewing

    I know you get a lot of: “But what about…”. It’s kind of like George Carlin’s Things you can’t say on TV…
    Google Business Places drives me insane. Not that the interface, which has gone through a few changes, is any problem, but the verification system literally drives me insane.

    1. The phone verification won’t work with an automated phone system (please press 1 for customer support….)
    2. The mailing of a postcard is random for some reason. If you have the option given to you to do a phone verification, but can’t use this option, the postcard option is no where to be found
    3. SMS verification???? What does this have to do with a business phone number? If there is an automated phone system, how does an SMS option help?

    Someone needs to seriously look at this and completely re-do this whole thing. It’s insane…

  • http://www.glynndevins.com B Hodges

    Couldn’t Google also help cut down the amount of spam email? After accidentally falling victim to an address book raid that sent an offer for some enlargement to all my contacts, it occurred to me that GMail should have been able to stop it. Surely GMail knows I don’t typically send (read: never send) emails with only a link to my entire address book. It should have the ability to quarantine such emails until they are confirmed with CAPTCHA.

  • http://blogs.telestream.net/wirecast Craig Burgess

    Great in-depth article, as usual Danny. Thanks for pointing out the inconsistencies. I’ve participated and watched this space (SE) since 1998 and I’m always amazed at how quickly things change….and don’t.

    I’m a heavy user of Google services, and am glad they are around. But this is a good reminder how even the best meaning companies should check-in to Hotel Reality, at least once every 5 years.

  • http://whoisBID.com WHOIS BID

    Hi Danny,
    It is good to see you still around. I remember viewing your posts on my small screen using Windows 95 or 98 (can’t remember now) which seem totally irrelevant to everyone but who cares. It is me speaking!
    Last year I was frustrated with search engines but now I am seeing something worse and it is millions of bots being used by supposed social networkers on Microblog services. After seeing the horror, I am would not want search engines to jump too quickly into giving social media too much power simply because many of these socialites are not actually spending time on the net. They are sleeping or going out and getting pissed while their bots do the work for them. This is so sad and I wonder what Google think about it.

  • http://www.howtomakemoneyonlines.org/how-to-make-money-online-blog/ James Sanders

    Hello Danny,

    I’ve been following you for many years, I’ve been online since 1997 when I started my first website. Although I know adwords are a great way to make money online, I can honestly say not a single one of my website properties even promote them to this day. In what you say about the “don’t be evil” and the perpetuation, you are completely correct.

    How is it not evil when a company collects information without knowing they’re doing it? That was one of Google’s claims, a while back, relating to signals they intercepted. Obviously, they knew the potential signals they’d intercept, so why didn’t they attempt to regulate what they collected and recorded? The adsense and adwords perpetuation is just the iceing on the cake in my humble opinion. Let’s also not forget how they wanted to infringe everyone’s copyrights through the book program.

    The way they’ve helped millions of get rich quick schemers litter the internet is atrocious. It’s part of the reason I created the website in my name link because of trying to educate people about the absurdities Google helps perpetuate through that “get rich quick” category alone. Trying to compete with all the other unethical internet marketers out there to be heard over the noise and educate people about the absurdity is next to impossible. Let us not forget that most of these programs include ways to “game” Google to begin with, and that’s just another area where Google eats it’s own tail.

    Anyways, I’m glad you seem to have Matt’s ear, to a degree, and I hope that many more of the things on your list see the light of day and a fix. I think one of the biggest ones relates to the not being evil and the get rich quick category though. That’s the first one I’d like to see go away. Then at least it might not be so hard to educate people in ethical ways to do something honest, providing value to the internet instead of perpetuating garbage, while helping the dishonest get rich in the process. Maybe one day Google will see it’s evil ways and stop doing them, get back to their roots, and be what they once were to many of us.

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