Thursday, March 02, 2006

Metric madness causes google searches to be no longer as relevant

The Google search algorithm is a popularity contest of sorts, and Google uses links to the site from other sites as a proxy to measure this intangible attribute.

How Google works

PageRank Technology: PageRank performs an objective measurement of the importance of web pages by solving an equation of more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Instead of counting direct links, PageRank interprets a link from Page A to Page B as a vote for Page B by Page A. PageRank then assesses a page's importance by the number of votes it receives.

Consequently, people who want their sites to get a higher pagerank know exactly what to do - get reciprocal links, get links from the more well-known sites, or write poor quality blogs with every tenth or fifteenth phrase being the topic the webmaster wants to promote.

And thus, the metric is separated from the underlying attribute it strongly correlated to earlier. Google search is no longer as good as it used to be, because the motivation to link to other sites is not solely whether you like the other site's content.

So, why is Google still successful? Other search engines do not have the simple look and feel we have all grown so accustomed to...

Update: I hadn't realized that Nick Carr and the Wall Street Journal wrote about this issue on March 1.