Using Google to search. Imagine that.

I use Google a lot, but I usually just use it as a fancy autocomplete bar. I'm trying to navigate to a particular site whose URL I've forgotten, or I'm trying to re-find information that I know is already there. Or I use one of Google's ancillary products such as Maps. But I rarely go to Google and type vague queries such as "mortgage refinancing" to find general information.

Today I actually needed to search. I'm not happy with the service from my local Honda dealer, and I wanted to know if the one in the next town was better. Specifically, I was looking for user reviews of both dealerships.

Going through the first 2 pages of results, I was able to find no useful pages, but a lot of useless alternatives from Google:

  • Sites that list (not review) car dealerships but had no mention of these
  • Content-free arbitrage sites that have nothing but Google ads
  • Lots of other Honda dealers' official sites that didn't contain the word "review"
  • One site that reviewed dealerships but had no reviews for these (potentially legitimate, but useless)
  • A link to a Yahoo search for "Car Dealerships" that also contained nothing of value
  • Numerous links to other search/directory sites with useless queries, filled mostly with ads and containing no content relevant to my query
  • Used-car listing sites that had nothing to do with my query except the word "Honda"
None of these were sponsored listings. (Or at least they weren't marked as such, and showed up in the regular listings.)

I don't perform informational queries on Google more often because it utterly fails every time. Google isn't an index of content, it's an index of all of the spam and ads on the internet. It's constantly getting worse, and Google's search is now completely useless. I'm far better off going to trusted sites and communities such as Wikipedia (highly moderated with reliable information and no ads) or the SA Forums (which is just asking humans, not searching).

One problem is that no other search engines are doing any better.

The more serious problem is that people don't seem to care how badly Google's search sucks. I blame two factors:

  1. The geeks who care strongly about such things are generally like me in their search habits, rarely going blindly to a search engine for broad information because they know it won't work. They don't even consider it as an option. It's like pressing F1 for help: completely unheard of.
  2. Everyone else has grown so accustomed to bad, spammy, useless search results that they just accept the frustration as a cost of trying to find information on the internet. When they can't find it, they don't keep looking. They just give up.
Both are tragedies. The entire web search industry should be ashamed of their awful performance.

Google is not a search company. They're an advertising company, and search is simply a platform on which to deliver ads. This is painfully clear as Google grows and continues to neglect web search.

If anyone wants to step in and compete on the fundamental problem of web search, without worrying about making email and portals and maps and storage and Word and Excel and eBay and PayPal and Craigslist along with it, now's the time.