Are Google’s Results Better Today Than They Were 5 Years Ago?

    May 27, 2012
    Chris Crum

According to Google CEO Larry Page, you’d be astounded by how bad Google search was 5 years ago.

Do you think Google is significantly better than it was five years ago? How about two years ago? One year ago? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Google has done a whole lot in the past five years. In the past year and a half or so, they launched two major algorithmic changes in Panda and Penguin, designed to surface higher quality content and reduce the clutter of webpsam. There have been a lot of complaints about both updates, but Google seems to think they have been successful.

Page spoke at Zeitgeist 2012 this week, talking about a number of things, and wearing the famous Google glasses (or glass, if you prefer).

“I think that’s a really big area of focus for us,” Page said, regarding search. That’s good to know. Google is still focused on search (in case you’ve been distracted by fancy future glasses, cars that drive themselves, and that sort of thing).

Page spoke about the ways Google is getting better at search (though I’m not sure everyone completely agrees on that, based on many of the comments we see on a daily basis).

“It’s an area where, you know, I think if you used Google from five years ago, you’d be astounded by how bad it is. Or how bad it was,” Page said. He then talked about things like Google’s Search Plus Your World personalized results and the recently launched knowledge graph.

Search Plus Your World would be referring to Google’s big personalized search push, launched earlier this year. It draws heavily on the user’s Google+ connections, as well as various other social connections (though missing valuable personal data from networks like Facebook and Twitter).

Knowledge Graph is what Google a launched last week, designed to help users find the things they’re actually looking for without having to click over to other sites (and to distinguish between queries with more than one meaning – such as Tesla the scientist vs. Tesla the car company vs. Tesla the rock band).

While we’ve seen plenty of complaints about Search Plus Your World, I can’t honestly say I’ve seen many about Knowledge Graph.

“Search has gotten a lot better,” said Page. “You don’t always see it, because we change it every day, and we try not to distract you too much with changes, but I think one of the things I’m most proud of that we did recently is that I have a friend at Google named Ben Smith, and that’s a very common name in the U.S. You know, Smith’s the most common last name. And it was very difficult to find him before. But now actually, with Google+ and with our understanding of all that, when I search for ‘Ben Smith,’ I actually get the Ben Smith that I know, and he actually appears in the search box. There’s a little picture of him, and if that’s not the Ben Smith I want, I can, you know, delete him, and put a different one in. But I’m actually searching for that person, rather than the sting – the combination of letters, and that’s a really big deal for Google.”

He says they’re calling the Knowledge Graph boxes “knowledge panels.”

“What we’re really trying to do is get to the point where we can represent knowledge, and we can do much more complicated types of queries,” said Page. “What are the 20 deepest lakes? What are the highest market cap companies? Whatever. Things like that. Things where we really understand what that query means, rather than just give you the exact text that matches best on some webpage somewhere, and so we’re really looking at synthesizing knowledge, and I’m incredibly excited about that.”

Synthesizing. Perhaps the Moog doodle on Google’s homepage this week was more symbolic than anyone thought.

Interestingly, since the Knowledge Graph was introduced, there seems to be less emphasis on Google+ content from Google’s SERPs in some cases. For example, before, with Search Plus Your World, a search for “music” might have brought up the Google+ profiles of random artists in a box on the side, but now, that query will bring up knowledge graph results for people. From there, you can click on the artist you want, where you’ll be directed to a different SERP specifically for that artist.

When you are on the SERP for a particular person, however, you might see Google+ profiles. This is the case with Mark Zuckerberg, for example.

Some users have complained since SPYW launched that there is too much Google+ in search results now, but Google also made an algorithmic change in March that may have toned that down a bit too.

Google is tasked with quite the balancing act in trying to use its properties to grow Google+, while not sacrificing search relevancy in the process.

Do you think Google’s results are the best they’ve ever been? Do you think they’ve improved in the past five years? Let us know what you think.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.