Why this is even the subject of an article is because I am a search marketing professional. It’s my responsibility to evaluate every new search engine on behalf of my small and mid-size business clients. And They’re continually questioning me about these new resources that they’re hearing such great things about in the mainstream media…
I’m just amazed at how much money must be spent on all these new search initiatives, in the middle of such a flourishing economy (ah sarcasm is such a pressure reliever). I mean, heck – sure I get it that there’s big bucks in online marketing these days. I am, after all, a consultant in this industry.
So fine – you say you want to get some of that market share. And you are sure your proprietary method is going to be able to blow the socks off of users. Okay. Fine. Go for it.
But please – before you roll out your shiny new search vehicle, don’t you think it would be wise to get some real world outside opinions on the quality of it before you announce it to the world? Because you know this isn’t 1999, and thus you can’t just roll out a bag of hot air and expect to be well funded or to be able to go public and rake in billions based on a lie or a snow-job right?
Okay – so we all remember when Cuill came out right? They claim to be “The world’s biggest search engine“. Some of their top management are former Googlers even. Well, right from the beginning, the results many of us found were truly sad, indeed. Sites that had nothing to do with the phrases entered. Images that were obviously not related to the phrase. And the list of problems went on and on…
Well, here we are, a year later, and I figured, I’d see how their site has improved. Or not.
Now, if you recall from reading my last article on multi-site SEO and controlling back links, that one of my favorite topics is mesothelioma right? Specifically mesothelioma attorneys. If you hadn’t read that, it’s simple – one of my biggest clients is a law firm that specializes in the field.
So of course, the first thing I do when I go to a new search engine is to see how well my clients do in the results pages there.
And thus I did a search tonight at Cuil for the phrase mesothelioma attorney. The good news is that some actual law firms that appear from their page titles and descriptions, actually do show up in the Cuil results. That’s nice. The engineers at Cuil must have been working til their fingertips bled this past year. Because it’s gotten better than it used to be.
Except upon closer examination, I noticed that the third entry down is for a firm by the name Clapper, Patti, Schweizer & Mason. Didn’t take me a whole lot to figure that one out, given how it says so in the title AND description. (Chalk one up for my superior powers of observation).
But notice how the image to the right of that entry says “Simon, Eddin, & Greenstone”? WTF? And sure enough, that image links to the Clapper Patti site. And if you scroll down a bit you’ll see what appears to be a list of spelling variations on the phrase. Repeated no less than SIXTEEN times. And the link that’s associated with – I clicked on it.
NO DON’T CLICK ON IT.
Oops too late- it redirects to AdultFriendFinder.com
I could go on and on about the high quality results we now get thanks to the tireless sacrifices of the engineers over there. But that’s enough to illustrate my point I hope, about the quality of THAT endeavor.
FATHER WOLFRAM ALPHA
Fast Forward to spring 2009, and the annoncement of yet another miracle generator, WolframAlpha. This one is billed as a “computational knowledge engine™”. THEIR claim to fame is:
“The first step in an ambitious, long-term project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone. Enter your question or calculation, and Wolfram|Alpha uses its built-in algorithms and a growing collection of data to compute the answer.”
WTF does THAT mean?
Off to the right of the search form there’s some example searches you might want to perform. You can enter a date, a town name, two stock ticker symbols, formulas… Well, I entered my home town of Huntington, NY, a fairly robust town on Long Island where I grew up.
According to Wolfram Alpha (is this frakkin one or two words? They give mixed signals so I am clueless here folks), Huntington has a population of 198,621 people. Okay. So where did that number come from? Clicking on that figure just gives me a little AJAXY pop-up window that is completely worthless, thank you very much, except if I want to copy the text. Which I could have done without their help if they hadn’t made it a clickable link of an on the fly image display. So much for innovation…
Oh – right – so, anyhow, I did some checking.
According to the official Town of Huntington web site, the population is about 7,000 people less than Wolfram claims. Wikipedia, that stalwart of truth, justice and the American version of truth way, shows that the population was around 195,000 as of the 2000 census.
Well, I’m sure glad W/A didn’t use the Wiki site as a resource.
Except wait a minute! What’s that “Related sites” box there? Oh look- the ONLY related link in that box is to….
How nice of them to provide such a stalwart link as a reference for site visitors.
THE HORSES MOUTH
Okay so off to the official US Census site to see if maybe the geniuses at W/A were intelligent enough to go to the source that billions of tax dollars are doled out by each year…
Well, their data shows that the population has hovered between 195,000 in 2000 and 194,000 in 2007. So where in Huntington is W/A getting their data from? A search at Google shows there are a whole lot of sites that quote that number. Except none shows a reference source of any kind, let alone something official. And since the town itself claims no such numbers, that really just puts the whole claim of validity at W/A into question for me.
I also noted that they claim the elevation in Huntington is approximately 135 feet above sea level.
Well, since Huntington is right on the water (Long Island Sound), and the highest point in Huntington is a place called Jayne’s Hill (thank God I moved to the bucolic hills of California – REAL hills…) and Jayne’s hill peaks at just about 400 feet, I would seriously question W/A on anything this highly authoritative new search engine spits out.
Just to be sure though, I checked the weather. At the time of my review, W/A showed the temp to be 63 degrees, with 88% humidity. Uh, really? Weather.com shows 64 degrees and 85% humidity, though that particular data could be due to the fact that W/A is relying on personal updates from Joey Buttafucco, who really doesn’t live on Long Island anymore (and never lived in Huntington actually) for their Long Island weather data.
Either way, that’s two WACKED search engines.
CUIL MEET WOLFRAM ALPHA
Okay – so there was of course, the rollout of bing most recently. Except I don’t need to get into what’s right or wrong with bing, other than the fact that I like bing cherries, some people think it’s great, others think it’s a sucky Microsoft Fail, and I have found that the results are about what they were with Live, except with a nifty hover-preview feature that Google needs to sit up and pay attention to.
Don’t get all upset that I’m not ripping bing apart in this article please. The bottom line reason I’m not is because if I did, then the title of the article would have to change and that would make me really cranky.
Now, not to be out-done by Microsoft, we all know that the same morning of their announcement that Google figured they would try and grab some of that limelight (cherry light?)(bing? get it?) oh never mind – you know what I mean!
That morning Google announced Google Wave™ – which I think is going to just ruin privacy, but that’s another story for another rant article. Because Google Wave isn’t a search engine. Yet. And This article is about search engines and Crack.
CRACK BABIES – A TRUE AMERICAN TRAGEDYWell just when we all figured the dust might actually settle for a few weeks, what did Google do most recently? They announced Google Squared. Of all things. Arnold Zafra (one of SEJ’s Search News contributing writers) blogged about it.
The Meta Description for their home page states:
“Google Squared takes a category and creates a starter ‘square’ of information, automatically fetching and organizing facts from across the web.”
WTF? (These psychopathic search engine people just keep spitting out so much nonsense these days that it causes me to go into temporary dementia as I try to figure out what they mean okay? which makes sense in this case, since Google Squared is brought to us by the nice people at Google Labs, and there must be some passing of the pipe there…)
As best as I can tell from that detailed descriptive, if I need to do a search (can anyone guess what I’ll search for? Hint- it’s not Huntington…) then what I’ll get back is a really pretty Hollywood Squares-ish layout of information. (though it’s probably more like Hollywood rectanglish, but that wasn’t the name of a famous television show) And supposedly, that information will be FACTS (says so right in the description, so it must be true), from around the web.
Well here’s what I got when I performed my test search.
It turns out that there were no FACTS found “across the web” that contained both the word “mesothelioma” and “attorney”. How sad.
Okay – well maybe I tried something that was just too taxing on a GOOGLE database. So I tried something a bit closer to home. And here’s what I got.
WOW – Either I don’t exist in the Google search system even though a regular Google search would allow me to argue that point, or perhaps the nice people in the white coats at Google just know better than to try and force me into a square hole in their heads…
And I’m not the only one who finds Google Squared to be so flaky that you’d think this experimental search engine was born on crack. One of my favorite examples of someone else finding the total worthlessness of Google Squared (hey look- anyone who’s completely addicted to crack from birth really isn’t going to offer much value to society right?) is Svetlana Gladkova over at Profy.com. She was pretty taken aback when she learned from G^2 that Russian President Medvedev is dead. Yep. He apparently died not too long ago.
Well that was really upsetting, even though we all know President Medvedev is not actually dead. But just to be sure, I checked in on the state of health of former US President Jimmy Carter. I mean, he was much further along in age than President Medvedev, ya know? So I figured I’d better see if he had died without me knowing it…
Not yet realizing at that moment that it’s really pointless to ask a crack baby whether a former President is alive or not, I went and put in his name at G^2 and hit “Square it” (the really cutesy instructive that replaces ye old boring “Google Search”, or the even less poignant “submit”)…
Now think about this people. We’re not talking about some obscure figure in American history that was on the scene for a few days, or even a few weeks. This is a man who is still pretty actively (or so I hoped) running about the planet doing good deeds…
Yet amazingly, G^2 couldn’t seem to locate the man at all. Not in the first FORTY results. Although in 45th position there was a square that provides information about the “Jimmy Carter National Historic Site”…
So here’s where all of this leads us – back to the title of this blog post.
It’s one thing to have a vision of a better Internet. It’s another thing altogether to put out a product that is so flawed that the vast majority of people looking for real, valid, factual and ZOMG should I say it? RELEVANT information, will either become totally lost or worse, think that the people who came up with that product are in serious need of 90 days at the Betty Ford Clinic.
So I implore you people, please – for the sake of your customers, your clients, your family, and your friends – don’t embarrass yourselves the way Cuil and Wolfram Alpha have.
And even more importantly, if you somehow do, whatever you are thinking, don’t go out and hook up with each other because the world is filled with enough babies born already addicted to crack.
And don’t forget – if you Sphinn this article, I’ll be your BFF!
Alan Bleiweiss has been an Internet professional since 1995. Just a few of his earliest clients included PCH.com, WeightWatchers.com and Starkist.com. Specializing in SEO since 2001, Alan manages a team of Internet Marketing specialists who currently handle solutions for some 40 clients with PPC budgets ranging upward of $300,000 a year and SEO budgets in the six figures. Follow him on Twitter @AlanBleiweiss or read his blog at Search Marketing Answers.