Google gets it VERY wrong

On Friday I spoke about the trust that can easily be generated just by having a top ranking in Google for a relevant search term.  The findings of a recent survey showed that by having a top ranking, people assumed that you were an expert in your field.  What this means is that people are effectively outsourcing the decision making of who to trust to a third party (Google) which, frankly, is pure madness!

Why, I hear you cry, is madness? Google is respected for being a leader in technology and innovation, known for employing the largest number of PhDs in the world and generally held up to be one of the most clever companies in the world. Why wouldn’t you trust their judgement?

The answer is because they sometimes get things very, very wrong.

For example, I was speaking with my good friend Jim Connolly last week about some search results relating to his website and the appearance of the site links in google.com and google.co.uk.  You may know that Google has recently tested some new sitelinks and currently searching for Jim’s name on .com and .co.uk shows different sitelink layouts (see below).

google.com sitelinks

google.com sitelinks

google.co.uk sitelinks

google.co.uk sitelinks

One of the sitelinks was called ‘Pedro’ which took us to this blog post about building your Twitter network.  Jim immediately asked: “Who on earth is Pedro?”.  After a quick search we found that Pedro was one of the commenters on that particular blog post.  For some completely obscure reason, Google decided to take the name of one of the commenters and instead of using something normal like the title tag, or the h1 tag or word which occurs the most, it decided to take a totally random comment (which looked like a pretty spammy comment to me) and use that as the sitelink for the post.

Pedro's comment

Pedro's comment

WHY?  Google claims that it wants to index the web and provide the best results but I’m pretty sure that even I could do a better job than that!  I can’t think of any software program that would decide that the name of a single commenter in a post with over 100 comments in it would be a great title for a sitelink that’s going to appear in the #1 position for a search!

Yet people are blindly trusting technology that throws up such stupid results!   I guess that if they choose to place their trust in Google then that’s up to them and it’s their fault if they get burned but I do feel that a little bit of education is required.  Please note: Google doesn’t always get it right!

This isn’t the only example.  Patrick Altoft recently blogged about Google’s appalling local results.

Both of these examples are related to Google’s core service of search.  Google does some very clever things, but I would suggest that you use your own brain to work out who to trust rather than letting Google do the work for you!