Graywolf’s article on the how Google gives bad Wikipedia pages privilege got me thinking. So did Demerzel’s “Future of Google Search Results.” When I’m analyzing the SERPs for a specific keyword I increasingly note that Wikipedia’s hogging the first position, even its doesn’t really have much to say. Youtube’s up there as well. That’s cool for casual searches, but when someone’s looking for serious information, 90% of the time Youtube’s going to be a bit too wacky for the job.
Can Google resolve a fundamental conflict between providing functional SERPS and its interests in Web 2.0, including Blogger, Youtube and (at some point) Knol? Google has demonstrated the ability to step in when things really get out of hand (Blogger-driven splogs aren’t the problem they used to be) but the fact remains that SERP 1’s getting clogged and it doesn’t look like we’re going to run out of new 2.0 venues any time soon.
I entered the Internet when everyone was talking about it being the ultimate leveller, and user-generated, social and other buzzword-friendly content superficially appears to fulfill that promise. The irony is that to navigate it we rely on linear, “vertical” rankings even though the content comes from a “horizontal” demographic of anybody and everybody. Google’s seems to almost apologize for the conceptual dissonance between the “level” content-generating environment and the SERP ladder, like somebody’s saying: “We know ranking’s a bad indexing form for Web 2.0, so to compensate we’ll chuck your LOLcats video up a few notches.” Great.
We can hem and haw about how Google’s algorithm needs this tweak or that. That’s not wrong, but I think the essence of the problem is really a clash of values. Forcing a non-hierarchical conversation into a hierarchical system will always have this problem. Is there a better compromise? Is it time for Google to experiment with threads, channels, clusters and other alternative ranking schemes more vigorously? I think this is inevitable, and from an SEO perspective, it’s going to be very exciting — but for now, we’ll all climb the SERPÂ ladder.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a wacky Youtube video to make.