Too lazy to Google. Search vs Social.

I've been wanting to post this for ages, just been waiting for the trigger, which finally arrived in an article on the illustrious GeekList community. Here's the link and here's the money paragraph:
Some investors also worry about Google's ability to keep pace with consumers' evolving use of the web. Say you want to buy running shoes to train for a marathon. Five years ago you would have simply Googled it, looked at the list of results, weighed your options, and made the purchase, perhaps by clicking on one of the sponsored links that accompanied your search. Today you might still do that, but increasingly you might pose the question "What running shoes should I buy?" to your friends on Facebook, or maybe write "Who knows about training for marathons?" on Twitter. By the time shopping service Groupon sends you (and 25 of your friends) an offer for the perfect shoes and registration for a race, you'll probably just pounce on it.
This is a big social, cultural and behavioural problem that Google faces.

Social recommendation is starting to become more accessible, more instantaneous and more trustworthy than search - therefore my friends and online connections now compete with my search engine as a go-to strategy. Am I getting too lazy to Google? If so, that's a frightening trend.

There are a multitude of examples, and make no mistake, it's not like Google is shutting up shop. If anything, they're the perfect company to ride out the upcoming social search threat and you can see they've already started using Buzz to include the social circle on results pages. But where Google succeeds oh-so-well in niche searches, it fails miserably on high traffic keywords.

Looking for real information on LCD panel reviews (to replace yours that may have been stolen, for instance, thank you thieves). The Google search pounds you with irrelevant information, affiliate sites and short keyword stuffed posts that make my eyes sore with the lack of value. Even our good local friend, Chris Mills from iMod popped up on this search. Front page, with his article: Best way to clean and LCD screen. I like to poke fun at 'ol Chris every now and again - but would never take away from his prowess at churning out keyword rich content and generating a ridiculous amount of traffic. This skill has turned him into a top "Blogger" in South Africa (perhaps aggregator is a better word?).

But cleaning an LCD screen and giving me info on the best LCD screen to buy is NOT related. It's rubbish search results. Search for "best way to clean LCD screen" - and now iMod doesn't appear, bested by someone who was willing to invest more SEO time than he was I gather. Cue scream: WHY.

Point is, something smells ladies and gents. Something is wrong with the world of search. I just don't feel like sifting through that kind of crap.

SEO is stuck in a dangerous place. As a content or services site, if you don't have SEO you're saying goodbye to 25% to 50% of your potential traffic. So the SEO companies smile and take your money. But who's looking at the longer term picture. Who says the YOUR content is the MOST relevant for the keyword you're targetting? You?

Well you're biased Mr Company.

And chances are, I'll turn to Twitter and Facebook for more and more of my questions. Especially the ones about buying your products.


  1. I don't agree Andy.

    I think one needs to have a look at what search engines are capable of before passing judgement. Lets use your example.

    "Which is the best monitor?"

    Google is, necessarily, a machine. As such, It dishes out results based on an aggregate set of fixed data points to a given set of keywords. It works brilliantly when asked to supply objective responses to questions such as "How do I clean my LCD monitor?".

    Social media recommendations on the other hand, are, again necessarily, human based. Asking subjective questions of your "social media search" is going to give a subjective answer. In this instance, "which is the best LCD to buy" is going to get the best results from the subjective reference source. Also, given the nature of social media, you're network is likely to be able to give you an even more customised answer to your question. Asking your "Social media engine" for a list of LCD brands and prices on the other hand is certainly not going to get you the results you'd get from a traditional search engine. It's also going to take a lot longer to compile that list.

    I guess I'm trying to say that it's more a case of right tool for the right job, rather than a "This Vs. That" scenario. If anything, it's a question of Subjective Vs. Objective search requirements.

  2. Yes... and no.

    Perhaps it's not me, but I'm not finding I need a lot of objective answers to questions. Take another search I did recently: which keywords to choose for ORM?

    The results require some serious sifting through. Perhaps this isn't an objective question - but it's a RESEARCH NEED - and therefore a search need.

    Social results are powerful because they have the human element and weak because of it. The same LCD question got me 4 or 5 different brands/answers, and I had to choose based on the personality doing the answering. But it certainly got me on the path quicker. Humans curate opinion and shared experience.

    I couldn't be bothered to work for my answers (modern human condition of lack of time and lack of patience with technology?). And I have to work harder on Google than I used to.

    In my opinion, it's because of SEO. One human thinks his affiliate link or crappy blog post is better than anothers and spends more time SEO'ing it.

  3. Just wanted to tell you about this awesome Firefox Greasemonkey script that also searches Twitter every time you search Google. I find myself clicking on the Twitter results almost half the time.

  4. Agreed.

    However, my point is that you need to decide on which tool will give you the best results for a given situation within a given time constraint.

    Do you want a fast, off the cuff answer, or do you need something more considered? Those are two very opposite ends of the same research requirements spectrum. To solve them, the one requires a machine the other a human. Your second question to google is absolutely a subject one. "ORM keyword guidelines" would have been something more appropriate to ask of Google.

    SEO is only an issue if you're expecting a subjective response. objectively, it's bias is negated as it simply adds to the list of results.

    Are you perhaps saying you'd want something which combines the two methodologies into one engine?

  5. A combination method would be nice - and also interested in what you think of "human powered" search projects like

    We're almost on the same page :) SEO effect is negated because it just adds to results. THAT'S my exact problem. It adds to results, making more lists of link that I need to go through to find the info. The ranking of that list isn't by actual relevance, it's by SEO prowess. Hence the utility is becoming harder to see.

  6. 1. From your latest Slideshare - "Google indexes Twitter'

    2. Google tries to use "authority" as a mark of importance. Twitter uses every idiot with an opinion

    3. Trying to follow real time updates on social media for a question 'Should I buy product X or Y?" might throw you in a loop of never buying. "Buy X, buy Y, buy Y, buy X, hey did you see Z?..." Do you listen to your followers? Are they actually awake to respond to your request if you want that answer NOW?

    I dislike SEO just like any other guy because it is gaming the system, but isn't "value" subjective?

    What might be interesting if SE can add time into the equation. If you question relates to current events or topics, search results are more social orientated. If your question needs a more objective answer, you use a longer history. But I am just thinking out loud here.

  7. FIRST OF ALL: If I wanted to find reviews for LCD TV’s, I wouldn’t type “LCD panel reviews” (2300 search volume per month) like he did. I would type “LCD TV Reviews” (70 000 search volume per month) and Voila, number one in Google is - PERFECT!!! Full of reviews – just what I needed.

    Yes, from time to time, keyword rich unrelated articles will appear in the top 10, however, these will easily be identifiable and you simply skip and move on the the next one 0 which is right below it. If you search for LCD TV reviews, and you see and article on how to clean and LCD TV, DON’T CLICK ON IT!

  8. Apologies if my previous commentg came across like a rant. Wasnt meant to, just thinking out loud :) everything said with respect to everyones views.

  9. I believe that the "Social Footprint" of your website is becoming more and more relevant. Google builds a picture of the importance of your site in the results based on lets call the "Citations" for now as I no longer mean links. I am specifically referring to social media. Therefore any SEO worth their salt will be considering the broader footprint of the linkgraph.

    So I do believe that Google will serve up the most relevant results for some time yet!

  10. @AJK - the twitter results in google are fascinating and bloody scary. How on earth do you think they measure authority? Hope it's not number of followers. I did a search for "FNB +paypal" a couple of months back and the FOURTH result was a tweet - some okes opinion.

    That gives me pause!

    Interesting thought on improving the SE algorithm - and I bet google is thinking about stuff like that...

  11. @SupaDave I think you kinda make my point for me. Digital natives are inherently lazy, and the thing that made me write the article was that I found myself have to "work too hard" to find good search results - mostly I thought because of SEO.

  12. @BadTom - yup, you're probably right...Can't happen too soon though!


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