Search Experience – More Now, Part Three

Updated October 29, 2010

Doc Sheldon

Moving along in our series, which began with Search Experience-Then, Part One, followed by Search Experience-Now, Part Two, we’re going to cover a little more ground in the “Now” arena.

A few relatively recent developments have attracted a good bit of attention, and some have caused concern in one market area or another, as well.

Google Instant raised many eyebrows and the blood pressure of many that bid for advertising from Google. Speculation ran amok about the possible cost impact to impressions by this addition to the Google bag of tricks.

Personalized search had already made life quite a bit more interesting for SEOs and site owners, by creating different SERPs for different users. The target had already been moving, but now it began zig-zagging.

SXO Microscope

The most recent addition to the mix, Quick Scroll, angered many, yours truly included, by dropping pop-up windows onto a site, obscuring much of the above-the-fold content, in an attempt to direct the user to a specific part of the page.

Aside from the less than pleasing effect this could have on conveying site information to the user, it angered many, for a few reasons. The gist of a few comments I saw on Bill Slawskie’s blog, SEO by the Sea:

  • Who the hell does Google think they are, to squat unbidden on someone else’s website?
  • Why would Google think it’s okay to make such a silent change, and defaulting the feature to “on”? Has Schmidt been taking a page from Zuckerberg’s book? This should be opt-in!
  • Why wouldn’t Google make this release known with some sort of notice to users?
  • Since the pop-ups don’t display the Google name, will users blame this annoyance on the website, rather than the search engine?
  • If Google finds pop-ups annoying on their site, what makes them think it’s okay for them to put them on our sites, without permission?
  • Will Google honor my invoice for them using space on my website?
  • Is THIS their idea of “Do no evil”?

To add still more salt to the wound, from Google’s own help pages:

Google does not allow pop-up ads of any kind on our site. We find them annoying.”

Guess what Google? So do WE! Especially when someone wasn’t even invited. Don’t crash my party and then start rearranging my furniture to suit yourself!

The point is, there have been a number of new search capabilities unleashed, some of which may turn out to be beneficial, on the whole. People will resist change, it’s true, and many SEOs are as prone to knee-jerk reactions as anyone else (some might argue, moreso).

But there is also a right and a wrong way to implement things. How many more such changes have been snuck in “under the radar”, while we were distracted by Eric Schmidt suggesting we change our names or move, if we don’t like Google’s actions?

We’ve come to expect this sort of zinger from Facebook, after so many arrogant violations of trust. But for some inexplicable reason, many of us seem to have been caught off-guard by Google pulling a Zuckerberg on us. Shame on us?

My point, somewhat delayed by my rant, is that search has, indeed, become synonymous with Google. They have managed to harness previously unimaginable amounts of information, and make it available to anyone with an internet connection. That is nothing short of fantastic! But I call your attention to the verb I have used there… HARNESS.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines harness thus: to control something, usually in order to use its power.

Making information available to others doesn’t necessarily take away the power that information has to offer. On the contrary, it can make that power employable.

Information retrieval has developed to a degree that is exciting. We may well be on the cusp of a truly Semantic Web, or at least as close to achieving it as is possible. Microformats and the more powerful RDFa technology promise to make search still more efficient. Ctags could conceivably all but put a stop to webspam.

We’re in for some exciting times ahead. In all probability, we’re in for a few more annoyances like those that have been served up recently, too. Who knows what’s next?

I guess ya take the good with the bad!


  1. Wow. Great post, Doc!

    I agree, I don’t really like Google Instant. I don’t believe it has changed anything. I use Google Instant like how I use the old Google.

    Google putting pop ups on other people’s sites? Wow. That’s really annoying.


  2. Hi, Gloson – Thanks for stopping by!
    Yeah, I don’t like it much either. The distraction is bad enough, but I’m finding that it’ll often hijack me even though I’m typing something else. Fortunately, I usually catch it right away, because I’m watching my screen. But for the folks that type hunt & peck style, it’s likely to cause a lot of frustration.
    Which, in my book, doesn’t equate to a better user experience.
    And the jury’s still out on what the effect will be on folks’ advertising budgets. If people start getting hit with spurious charges for impressions, there’s gonna be some backlash!