You know when someone writes a post entitled ‘On the increasing uselessness of Google‘ that all is not right in Web Land. Citing another blogger who ran into all sorts of junk when searching for a new dishwasher:
Google has become a snake that too readily consumes its own keyword tail. Identify some words that show up in profitable searches — from appliances, to mesothelioma suits, to kayak lessons — churn out content cheaply and regularly, and you’re done. On the web, no-one knows you’re a content-grinder.
The result, however, is awful. Pages and pages of Google results that are just, for practical purposes, advertisements in the loose guise of articles, original or re-purposed. It hearkens back to the dark days of 1999, before Google arrived, when search had become largely useless, with results completely overwhelmed by spam and info-clutter.
Well said, dishwasher-seeker. The first page of Google is no longer the clean, clear landscape it once was. Too many companies have realized that finding consumers with AdWords alone is like fighting a dragon with a dull-tipped sword, face on. Best to sneak around from behind and attack from a better place: hence, the raging popularity of so-called content strategy in online marketing.
It’s not just SEO anymore, clearly. With content farms run by Demand Media and sketchy link-buying techniques, everyone is in a race to own keywords, and they’ll do it any way they can. But what are consumers doing? That’s right, they’re getting wise and giving up. People are no longer looking on Google for answers, writes the Washington Post. They’re using (gasp!) Twitter and (another gasp!) Facebook, putting out queries and requests for recommendations from friends — and getting exactly what they need.
So here’s my proposal. To companies: Follow the consumer; find an authentic way to reach them via social media. To consumers: Know how to filter out the junk in Google results, and don’t rely solely on your “friends” to solve your problems. To that next group of bright-eyed engineers or MBAs leaving school: build the framework for a series of vertical search engines, and put them in a central directory until everyone knows the destinations by heart. Searching for a new dishwasher? Then go to the Kitchen Appliance Search Site. Sometimes it’s better to completely reinvent something — using a tried and true concept — then fix what’s broken.
The Post notes that Microsoft thinks the next big thing is going to be social search — scouring data from user accounts to show up in basic search. Okay, that might work. But I think there’s still a market out there for qualified advice, for “real” articles written by scholars, field experts, and yes even marketers and salespeople.