I Wish We Had Google Understand Not Google Instant Search

Earlier this week Google launched the latest iteration of the SERP’s, Google Instant. While I, like everyone else, had fun playing and finding some of the holes in it, it’s really not a product that I think will succeed. To Google’s credit, I can’t ever say that I’ve heard people complain that Google takes too long to serve them results. What I do hear and personally experience is that I wish Google understood what I was looking for …

Google didn’t learn that all this complexity isn’t what people want from the failed Google wave and Sidewiki experiments …

 I understand why Google launched a product like Google instant search: they feel that, because they are smart enough at predicting what you are looking for, they can interpret your query after a word or two–or sometimes after just a few letters. They think they know you so well that they can guess what you want without being told. Without getting too involved in what’s going on behind the scenes, Google is using previous search volume to predict the most likely term(s) you are looking for. It’s a sophisticated leap forward in technology to be sure, but it’s not something that solves a problem I hear people complain about. (As a side, this does give a lot more context to the bizarre statement Eric Schmidt made a few weeks ago: “They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”)

The problem that I have is getting Google to understand what I meant by that query. I work with search engines all day, so I like to think I have some expertise and can form queries that will get me the right result after one or two tries–or at least help me figure out what I should be searching for. Recently I was searching for a way to import an accountant’s file into Quickbooks on a Mac, so I started with [import accountants file quickbooks mac]. It turned up all sorts of lovely sales pages for the Mac version of Quickbooks. A few tries later I found that the combination I needed was [quickbooks mac accountant’s copy]. Now, if Google was able to figure out my intent and serve up the results for the second query and save 15-20 minutes of digging around, that would be a great product, but serving me the wrong information faster via an ajax interface doesn’t solve my problem and doesn’t help me as a user. Oh–and for the record, at the time of this post’s writing, you can’t create or import an accountant’s file in Quickbooks for a Mac.

by using search volume as a predictive indicator, Google is almost always going to be showing the highest dollar advertising …

Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist nutjob, but what we’ve really got going on are the two wrong problems being solved. Google engineers and developers are smart people, and they want to do cool stuff and need to feel challenged (see users vs developers) . However, they move at pace much faster than most of the world and think that, if the rest of the world would just catch up with them, everything would be better. So we’ll just opt everyone in to this new advance we made. No need to thank us. Google opting everyone in without asking is pretty much standard operating procedure. It’s how they have decided to drag everyone into the future.  Secondly, by using search volume as a predictive indicator, Google is almost always going to be showing the highest dollar advertising first. I get it, NO ONE at Google will ever say that profitability has anything to do with user experience. Eric Schmidt says some bat shit crazy things on a predictably regular basis, but even he won’t say that out loud. They will all just realize it without it needing to be said.

Personally, I don’t think it’s useful. In fact, I think it’s distracting, like your annoying, nerdy, know-it-all nephew who answers your questions before you finish speaking. However, Google didn’t learn that all this complexity isn’t what people want from the failed Google wave and Sidewiki experiments. I can tell you that if I wasn’t an SEO, this would push me over to Bing … I suspect I’m not alone …

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