Awesome Extended Google Result

I’ve spent a lot of time on these pages criticising Google. I figure that’s fair enough, but you have to give them credit for some of the really fantastic stuff they do – often without comment.

I recently watched the excellent Horror Europa series on BBC3 (which you might be able to catch on iPlayer if you’re quick about it). In it, Mark Gatiss described a fabulous French horror concept about a plastic surgeon who murdered his patients and removed their faces  to attempt to transplant them onto his own disfigured daughter. The film was made in the 50s, but try as I might I couldn’t remember what it was called.

Hopelessly, I went to Google to search for ‘french horror films’. This was the result:

Fabulous!

I get some cool visual references – clearly designed with finger swiping in mind – along with all the information I need. Best yet, a couple of results in and here’s the very thing I was after: Eyes Without a Face:

Instantly I see all the information I need – some images to remind me how cool it looked, the name of the film, when it was made, who made it and a bunch of other stuff.

It’s a salutory reminder that where Google arguably has shortcomings in the shopping and social spheres, they are still peerless when it comes to meta searches of this kind.

This is my favourite Google innovation of the last year.

Random Tuesday thought: eBay is a better search engine than Google

Tuesday’s random thought: once you’ve worked up close and personal with Google for a while – particularly if you’re interested in trying to frig the rankings in your favour – you start to really appreciate the flaw with Google as a model in itself.

Firstly, it was built as a scientific tool: hence its historic reliance on links. Scientific papers reference each other as citations and thus the link became a proxy for citation in Google. A scientific paper that is referenced a lot is clearly important and thus, theoretically, so is a website or domain.

As we all know, that model fell down the second that people realised that Google rankings were monetisable. Hence, we are in year 14 of the link building wars.

But, browsing eBay for Christmas shopping at the weekend really brought home to me flawed Google is in other ways.

  1. eBay stock is categorised by its sellers when it is added to the site. Thus, there is no need for them to try and reverse-engineer a gimcrack categorisation system after the fact and try to force advertisers to enact some abstruse, incomplete technical standard.
  2. eBay search can be organised in several useful ways that Google doesn’t particularly have an analogue for:
    1. Cheapest product first – self explanatory
    2. Cheapest product including delivery – equally self explanatory
    3. Distance to seller
    4. ‘Buy it now’ prices
    5. Time remaining on auctions
    6. Most reliable/top-rated sellers

Combining your search term with these things make it a relative breeze to find the right thing on eBay. Better yet, it’s all done within one interface. If you click 10 results on Google, you will find yourself faced with 10 different sites, with different logos, navigation systems etc etc. We all know that even for relatively sophisticated web users it can be a nightmare finding your way around an unfamiliar site.

eBay is also truly a level playing field because there is no algorithm trying to assign weight to all this stuff – it’s just some relatively simple database querying. If you are the cheapest, you can be found by those motivated by price. If you are the best in terms of customer service, you can be found by those who want the security of reviews. If you are selling locally then someone nearby can find you.

By trying to build algorithmic proxies for these things into what was originally built as a citation engine, Google has gotten just plain bad at an awful lot of stuff because it is trying to imply structure on a web that is fundamentally unstructured.

I’ve averred before that I would never now go back to Google to book a hotel now that I’ve got a great app to hand (although I might use it for ancillary information about the location of the hotel in relation to nearby attractions). It’s also fairly obvious that you might use Google as a conduit to finding insurance prices, but that the actual action will ultimately happen on a price comparison engine and once they’ve captured your details, will you really go back to Google to start again next time?

Should you build a website to sell online?

My sister in law was asking me recently about getting a website built for her to sell her handmade jewellery. I told her not to bother, because the cost of having a site built would be one thing, but actually getting it turn up in Google and thus generate business would be another story entirely.

An eBay store would effectively cost her a fraction of the price – most of which would only be paid after the fact on actual sales. She could also compete fairly on reputation and price and not through buying into some bullshit link building scheme that she wouldn’t even understand (and shouldn’t have to) and that could burn her business to the ground at some point even if it was successful in the medium term.

More seriously and pertinently to my own interests, if you search on Google for used cars of various makes, you’ll increasingly see the likes of Friday Ad and Gumtree cropping up. With the best of intentions, unless you’re actually know something about cars, the very last place you should buy one would be from some Tom Noddy on Friday Ad or Gumtree. Yet – and on the basis of domain strength or brand or somesuch nonsense, Google are happy to serve up those sites up.

New Google AdWords Format?

I’m possibly being behind the times here, as I don’t keep bang up to date with all PPC developments any more, but this definitely interested me. Don’t ask me why I was searching for a bouzouki.

I’ve seen image ads before – particularly for eBay – and have dabbled in them myself by pulling images and individual stock items into the ads through from a Google Products feed, but this is clearly something entirely different (shopping results are also in the results, but inserted midway through the regular organic positions, in the same way that local/news results are).

This is an entire block of ads with imagery and product details pulled into the ads without going through any intermediary such as Google Products. It’s a very interesting model and I’d love to see it rolled out to the car sector, where my interests currently lie!

Naturally, it’s a further distraction from the organic results. As I mentioned above, Google Product results are also injected into the middle of the regular SERPs meaning that with this ad block and the other Google properties on display, there’s very little space for the SEO-led Bouzouki retailer in the UK (now that’s a niche!)

Anyway, no time to give this any further thought at the moment, but if you see anything similar cropping up I’d be interested to hear about it.