06
Sep
11

The Perfect Search Engine

Oh Great Oracle! Who has the cheapest airfare?

Do you feel lucky? Well do you, punk?

Over the years, we’ve definitely done our share of bitching about the quality of results returned by search engines. Anybody get teary-eyed reminiscing about the usefulness of Infoseek, Lycos, or Looksmart? Seriously, there was a time when AltaVista created a gigantic buzz by returning a few relevant links to any given query. Still buried in tons of poop, of course. Yet comparatively awesome! Yahoo, Overture, and Inktomi were all  kings, once, even though they deliberately polluted their results with paid-for results. Until Google came along, almost everybody was pretty happy to be disgruntled by web search as a practical way to find stuff on the internet.  (Ask Jeeves? Are you kidding?)

In fact, until Google came along in 1998, the surging size of the web was making the job of indexing and identifying its parts almost comical. Google’s algorithm was so much better that it conquered the search space like Genghis took China, rising from nothing to 80%+ in just a handful of years. Yet even as the best available search engine—the best ever search engine—Google’s search results are somewhat lacking. Full of spam, fake content, and artificially boosted inferior sites. Oops. Our bad.

As SEOs, it seems a bit weird for us to complain about search result quality. After all, we’re part of the reason they suck. We spend a lot of time, money, and resources trying our damnedest to push inferior content into superior positions, crowding out whatever might actually be useful to any given web searcher. It’s a living.

You’re aware, no doubt, that beggars can’t be choosers and parts of the problem aren’t parts of the solution and whiners shouldn’t throw glass stones. Meh. Worst sentence ever.

Anyway, in an attempt to add something useful to the dialogue, here are some attributes that we think would make up an ideal search engine.

  • Ability to rank content by usefulness.
  • Ability to determine contents’ original point of publication.
  • Ability to parse phrases for meaning, instead of treating them as clumps of words.
  • Sophisticated filters and sorts allowing users to choose results by recency, geographic location, commercialty, price, size of site, type of media, and whatever else.
  • Unobtrusive and clearly marked paid placements (if any).
  • Fast.
  • Comprehensive.
  • Current.
  • and SEO proof.

Ouch. That last one hurt. But we think it’s true. Search results would be better—more accurate, more relevant, more reliable—if only the search optimization industry were obsolete.

‘Course, SEO isn’t obsolete, and probably won’t be for some time to come. Until then, we’ll be here, gaming the systems, skewing search results, and helping websites prosper. Whether they deserve to or not.


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