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

Google CEO talks improvements to Google search

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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.

Are Google’s Results Better Today Than They Were 5 Years Ago?
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  • http://www.tracieloeterra.info/ Stellina2012

    I like google very much! ok? bye bye

  • http://www.myjobvacancies.co.uk David

    I personally think google has lost the plot a bit. However, I fully understand that their core business is search and advertising and they will do whatever they have to to drive revenues up. The problem with this is that in order to do this they are pushing out good sites so that they have to buy adwords. Again, I understand their reasoning behind this, they are a business whose focus is on making money. The problem is that they seem to harp on about search quality when this, I don’t think, is their primary concern. I think a few years ago they genuinely were concerned about search quality but that this has now taken a back seat when providing quality serps as increasing profitabilty is now far more important. All that said, they still provide better and more relevant serps than any other competitor and until a “real” competitor comes along who can challenge their dominance in the search market then they can really carry on doing anything they want.

  • http://www.jobsearchonlineuk.co.uk Mike

    I must admit I agree with David. At the end of the day Google is the daddy and there is not a competitor in the search market that can provide relevant results anywhere nears as good as googles. Webmasters will always moan about the serps, there are always winners and losers but the alternative is to use the likes of Bing who really still can’t get it right, they still produce serps full of spam, are unable to index websites at more than a few pages a day and until they can get it right they will never be any serious competition for good old “G”!

  • T. Pierce

    Results are much,much worse now than 5 years ago!
    I guess if Page is just looking at his pocketbook
    He’s right. It’s all advertising .

  • http://www.errolruppconsulting.com Errol Rupp

    Lotta of this stuff comes up without explanation and I for one don’t know what it is or how to use it to my benefit and always afraid that I may log into something that I will be sorry for.Its tough keeping your head above the technical water,

  • Danny

    Results were O.K. until the most recent Penguin update on April 24, 2012. While Google’s Matt Cutts has called it a “big success”, nothing could be further from the truth.

    What sites show up now? 2 kinds:
    1) OLD sites (read: sites that haven’t been updated or done ANY type of improvement in 4 or 5 years). Google LOVES age now (age of links is MONSTER now, etc).
    2) Big National sites – Wikipedia, and other super large sites for most industries crushingly dominate the 1st page of the results.

    The change was not “good content” driven. I can point to MANY examples of how there are sites with ZERO content (all they have is Metas on them), and they rank VERY well.

    And its not “good/relevant” answers for what people are looking. Many of the old sites with REALLY old links coming in…have horrid customer interfaces.

    I’m sure Mr. Cutts is probably correct from his viewpoint that it did clean up spam…but it also completely crushed the life force out of many small businesses that WERE providing the BEST solutions for their niche/industry.

    Side note: I’m sure has been VERY good for Google’s bottom line, as many of those businesses are now doing Pay Per Click to try and keep their business afloat.

    One thing to keep in mind: Lots of $$$ for google is temporary. If the results stay like they are…Google WILL lose people to Bing. Period. And that will drive down revenue in the long run.

  • http://www.coolmonsblog.com Coolmon

    No difference seems the same to me.

  • http://www.roadrunnerflorist.com Tina

    I would say no, google is not easy. If it’s easier than it was 5 years ago I don’t know, I only know it is not easy today. Type in “flowers” in any city in the country and every “order-gatherer” (aka non-florist) shows up, pretending to be a local flower shop. Is that fair? No, it’s not. Only real local flower shops should be listed. Same with locksmiths. Same with plumbers. The consumer is being misled by google. Also, if you type in the name of a business, only that business should come up. Thank you for listening.

  • http://www.door.cc bob gray

    Is Google search better now than it was 1 year, 2 years or 5 years ago?
    Judging by the sites that have moved up to the top 2 pages of organic search results for the term “interior doors” I would have to say definitely not.
    Of the top 20 searches, there are only 2 companies where you can actually purchase doors and have them shipped directly to you. Big box stores take up 3 of the top 10 spots. Large door manufacturers that redirect you to their dealers who do not direct ship, take up 8 of the top 20 spots. The rest are made up of companies that only sell local or not at all. Then of course you have Amazon and Ebay. WOW! what a selection. You have to go to pages 3 and beyond to really find companies that have a decent selection of doors that you are actually allowed to purchase from directly.

  • Chris

    Compared to 15 years ago when I could perform a search with minimal boolean exclusions, today is extremely painful and unreliable resulting in an abnormally skewed results.

  • http://pcmousehouse.com/ pcmouse

    The search results on google are so awful I don’t even use them any more. I don’t know what it is, but I get so many OLD out-dated, horrible pages in the first pages of results it’s just a waste of precious time to sit there and try to dig for something relevant, up-to-date or timeless.

    Even my sister-in-law who is incredibly NON tech savvy – an someone I never discuss this kind of thing with – said at a family gathering recently, “I gave up on that Google search engine. Can’t find anything on there anymore!” And I’ve heard many, many comments like this from others that are just your every day surfers and are left sitting scratching their heads trying to use this new el-stinko google.

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