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On the eve of Google’s launch of an experimental feature that allows users to recommend search results, Blekko, the curated search engine, hosted a lively dinner in San Francisco with journalists to discuss the future of search.
Vivek Wadhwa, a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley kicked things off by saying that Google’s results were polluted and that Google itself was financing the “pollution” through its AdSense advertising network.
Rich Skrenta, CEO of Blekko supported Wadhwa’s claim that Google results were polluted and he said that Google was hiding behind its algorithm and saying it couldn’t do much about the number of spam sites. He also claimed that Google employed thousands of people to rank web sites.
When asked him for the source of his claim about Google’s human ranking of web sites. He said it was well known in the industry and that it could be found on SEO blog sites. This is not a reliable source of course.
Quentin Hardy, Forbes columnist, pointed out that if Google was as bad as everyone was saying then how come people still use it? After all, people used to switch search engines regularly before Google came into being. Remember Excite, AltaVista, HotBot…?
Chris Tolles, CEO of Topix said that it was important to reduce the amount of traffic coming from Google. He said Topix used to get as much as 80% of its traffic from Google but that this was now down to 40% because people come directly to the site which is higher quality traffic.
There was some discussion about how bad Google was compared with asking your social network. But it is becoming clear that internet users will use a variety of search methods to find what they need, one search engine for everything seems like a dated concept.
Jeff Atwood from Stack Exchange said that Google was unable to determine the origin of content and that some scrapers were ranking higher than his sites in search rankings. His users have been complaining about this issue.
It pointed out that Google now has a special tag that webmasters can use to show original and syndicated content but few people use it. However, it seems to me that we should let the search engines optimise themselves rather than have to use no-follow tags, and search optimisation techniques. Content should be optimised for your readers and not for the search bots.
Skrenta said that there is a flood of mediocre content coming. If you go to Mechanical Turk you can find lots of people paying tiny mounts of money to commission huge numbers of articles.
It was a fun discussion although I’m not sure we made much progress on defining the future of search. I heard a lot from Blekko about how bad Google is at search but nothing about Blekko itself.