Has Google Lost the Plot?

With the help of MSN, recently I've been reminiscing about the Google of old. Remember those days? When you could take a good quality site, add a few keywords, get a few incoming links and bada-bing, bada-boom, it'd be #1 on Google? Remember the old days, pre-Florida, pre-sandbox? The days when we, as search engine optimization specialists, didn't feel like a private schoolgirl smoking in the bathroom? When we didn't feel like the iron fist would come crashing down at any moment? Yes, those were the good old days. And MSN has finally brought them back, though on a much smaller scale.

Google hit it right on the nose back then. Search results were almost never irrelevant - venturing to the second page of results was an event that drew gasps. There was never, ever any reason to leave Google and search for the same query on another search engine. Satisfied users the world over, it was the search engine of choice almost everywhere searches were conducted. I myself never strayed from Google, I was loyal and I was rewarded for my loyalty with consistently relevant results.

But has Google taken their quest for perfection a few steps too far? Case in point: http://www.jimmylerner.com - this web site is the official site of an author. Search on MSN for his name, "jimmy lerner" and his web site is the top result. Now, try the same search on Google. The top results are pages devoted to reviewing his book, book stores selling his book, a press release I sent out to announce his new site and a few times I've even seen sites show up in the top ten that simply have a link to his site from theirs and are completely unrelated. His site has been jumping from the second page to the first and back again.

This begs the question, optimization or no optimization, what, exactly, is the problem with a quality, informative web site reaching number one for a search query that is probably conducted specifically to find that exact site? Has the focus and aim of Google changed from offering relevancy to satisfied searchers to simply impeding the progress of SEOs? Is Google's main concern now, to stop individuals from helping a site reach number one? It can seem that way, can't it? And I can only say one thing about it. Bad move, Google.

I've heard a few people say that it's just a transition period. That all web sites are in the same boat, everyone's waiting to see the fruits of their optimization labour. Perhaps this is true, and perhaps over the next little while we will see changes at Google that make our jaws drop, impressed at the level of perfection we never thought possible. But I think maybe Google needs to re-focus their energies. Take the focus back to the user, not the SEOs. Get back to the near-impeccable relevancy level before I start using MSN to learn about all my favorite authors.

Courtney Heard is the founder of Abalone Designs, a search engine optimization company in Vancouver, Canada. She has been involved in web development and marketing since 1995 and has helped start several businesses since then in the Vancouver area. More of Courtney's articles are available at http://www.abalone.ca/resources/

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