wolfgang ziegler

„make stuff and blog about it“

Why does web search suck so bad?

March 7, 2013

At first I was tempted to call this blog post “Why does Google suck so bad?” because they are the company which we all relate to when we talk about web search. But this title could be misleading as it could be understood as being targeted at the company itself. But in a way they are doing their job right because they are making a lot of money with what they do. They are just doing it in a way, which provides poor experience for the actual users of their product – for us using their web search engine.

What does the typical Google web search experience look like today? You enter a search term and get back a gazillion of results. The most prominent among these results are usually some sponsored ads, then there is a small amount of results (quite often really just one) you actually care about and the rest is more or less garbage. Pretty much the same web search experience we had 20 years ago with AltaVista (remember?) or when Google entered this business.

Web search experience has hardly improved over last 20 years.

People are so used to this crappy search experience that hardly anyone bothers complaining about it. But is this really the kind of search experience one would expect in 2013? I don’t think so! Let’s look at a simple example here: the search phrase “cheapest flight from vienna to los angeles tomorrow” is very, very well defined and there is really just one correct answer to it. Looking at the actual results coming back from Google is … embarrassing!


First, I am getting almost 2 million(!) results for a query that should deliver just 1 correct answer. Then, the first 2 sponsored ads are simply wrong, one offering flights to Cairo (WTH!?) and the other one offering cheap flights to Vienna instead of from. The third one is just some generic trip booking web site. The rest of the non sponsored-results are also quite useless ranging from plainly wrong and irrelevant (“cheap flights from Seattle to Los Angeles”) to usual generic results. But among all these results the actual answer to my question is not even closely present.
Again: it’s 2013 – I expect something better!

But what’s the reason for this poor, poor experience? Quite simply, it’s Google’s business model. They make their money with ads and sponsored search results. They need us users to grope around in the dark vastness of the Web and stumble over ads and sponsored results. In other words they need us navigating among irrelevant web sites to keep their business alive. The sad consequence is: Fixing their search engine and giving us the search results we actually care about would put an end to their business model and them out of business. That’s why web search is broken for almost 2 decades now and will stay broken. Quite a sad story

Fixing their search engine would put Google out of business.

The most annoying part about this situation is that Google probably has the data and the technology at hand that could fix their search engine and save us from this crappy experience. They have been harvesting the whole world’s data and invading our privacy for more than a decade now. They do an incredible job processing and analyzing this data to generate revenue based on selling ads. But still, they need us poor suckers clicking on links to web sites we are not even remotely interested in. This yields into a very unsatisfactory situation in which we provide Google all the data they care about but in return do not get back the data we care about.

As long as this situation is not fixed I encourage you all to use web search engines like DuckDuckGo, which do a pretty good job of protecting your privacy and delivering good search results.


Because, as long as we don’t get the data we care about from Google & co. why should we provide them with the data they care about!?