As a board member of SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Association and a multilingual internet marketer, I need to weigh in on many things when I consult my clients and one of them is what search engine to choose to market through.
As a SEMPO board member, I also need to be aware of things such as the FTC’s investigation into Google and this prompted me to think “how can an organization like Google be reviewed, how can a company that relies only on its IP (intellectual property) be examined without having to yield and explain their algorithm and what is then left when the chef has given the secret spice in the award winning recipe?” Not much.
There are so many search engines out there including Yahoo!, Bing (now powering Yahoo! in many locations around the world), Ask and some regional ones such as Baidu in China and Yandex in Russia. You are actually likely to find literally hundreds of them.
Why then do most of the internet users around the globe start their online searches with Google? What makes Google better (or worse) than its competitors? What is it that makes Google so special that even in languages that are considered hard to crack, such as my native language Icelandic, is Google superior to home-made engines that should at least give Google some contest and a run for their money?
In simple terms, Google gives the people the answers they are looking for – it may be the latest news, information on a product or process, or the sellers of merchandise or services – but Google has everything in its massive database, everything needed to fulfil the needs of the user and they return, in most cases, the most relevant results based on my experience and tests conducted regularly at my company.
Google algorithms actually seem to understand what the users have in mind and do return relevant and excellent search results. But how does one define excellent search results? Perhaps, you can wind back to 1996 when search on AltaVista and Ask Jeeves comprised short tailed queries. You had to search manually through pages and pages of results before finding anything that made sense for you. It was Google that changed all that. Thanks to its superior search algorithms, you rarely need to go beyond the results of first page for any search.
Companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo have been gunning for Google’s level of search relevance for years. Certainly they do have access to talent for developing great algorithms but still Google continues to rule and is the favourite search engine for all.
There is a lot of hard work that goes behind Google results you are so accustomed to. The search engine makes up to 500 changes to search algorithms every year where each change aims to give better and more relevant results to users. It knows that users come to search engines to help them sift through all the information on the web and not every site can appear at the top of the results.
Certain websites complain that frequent changes in Google algorithms cause them to lose their ranking and traffic. But Google does provide huge information to websites on the techniques to improve their own performance through tools like the Google Webmaster Tools.
Google has also impacted technological innovation in positive ways. Its well-known Android mobile platform has sparked new improvements in mobile devices. Also its web browser Chrome helped to initiate innovation in the otherwise inactive browser domain.
Google’s search quality team has worked hard to develop algorithms that give better visibility to small and local business home pages. It was observed that web pages of small and medium business enterprises got buried or lost amidst big brand names on the web. But with Google publishing results based on local searches, they have better chances of reaching the top of search results. The search engine leader keeps small businesses in mind while improving and testing its new algorithms.
The biggest problem that small businesses face is that they do not have a website to reflect in results. But even they get the required support from Google through features like Google Places and Google Maps. And Google’s new “Getting America’s Business Online” initiative is helping bring even more businesses online. This initiative actually interests me and I hope that they roll it out in more countries.
Based on what I have experienced and seems to be Google’s only consideration is to give the best answers to users’ queries – without any political viewpoints or advertising dollars. Indeed it also claims that free organic listings are clicked more often than PPC ads.
Sometimes the best answer to a query may be among one of the traditional “ten blue links.” But there are instances where it can also be a news article, sports score, stock quote, flight timing, video or a map – and Google can place it above other results if that is what the user needs!
The bottom line is that no chef will give out their secret ingredient nor should they be forced to. The secret behind Google’s global success is that they serve their users in a simple and straight forward manner the right relevant results and while they do that they have the upper hand.
The user is wise enough to distinguish between relevant and non -relevant results.
Kristjan Mar Hauksson
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