I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about what I would like to see from the search engines. It seems that with every new change in policy, every new backroom deal, the search engines are looking more to profit than customer satisfaction. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against profit and I believe the search engines should be making money for the service they provide. But with that profit comes some responsibilities to the customer, along with some other changes just to improve overall service. Here is my list of what I want for Christmas from the major search engines.
1. Build Your Own Technology, Don’t Just Backdoor Another Search Engine’s Results Into Your Own.
This year has seen the implementation of Google’s results on Yahoo, AOL, and Netscape search engines. Each engine, supposedly, puts its own spin in the results pulled from Google, but a comparative look show virtually identical results. Why can’t AOL, Netscape and Yahoo build their own technology and compete against Google? One would thing that strong competition would bring not only more searches but also more profit.
2. Easy Spam Reporting.
Each engine should have a clear link and/or form for reporting spam, with clear indications on the process to what happens once a site is reported for SPAM. I would not even be opposed to having to pay a small fee for reporting SPAM. The fee would both cover the costs of researching if the complaint is legitimate AND deter people from falsely accusing their competition just to get their site dropped. One a site is reported, or considered to be SPAM, the site owner should be notified and provided a course of action to fix their site. Multiple violations should result in permanent removal.
3. Clear Definition of SPAM.
If you don’t know what SPAM is, don’t feel bad, I don’t either. I certainly know certain things that ARE spam, but there are many tourniquets that are in the gray zone, acceptable on one engine but not on another. Each search engine should provide a simple page outlining what they consider to be SPAM. This service would not only increase the number of relevant pages in their database, but also scare off spammers from submitting their junk. Let us know what is not acceptable so webmasters will avoid trying to trick the engine but focus more on providing relevant information.
4. Don’t Sneak Advertisements Into Search Results.
Recently the FCC, because of a law suite against the search engines, provided a list of recommendations for the search engines to label their paid content as such. I believe they need to go a step further and REMOVE their paid content from the general search results. This is where Google trumps all others. They have colored boxes, two at the top and several along the right side of the screen, that clearly indicating these are sponsored links. Why don’t all search engines do this? I’m sure clearly labeling their sponsored matches as such would cut into profit, however it makes certain that searchers would be well informed of where the results are generated from.
5. More Pay-For-Inclusion.
I am a big fan of pay-for-inclusion (PFI). Unlike PPC (pay-per-click) when you submit a page through a PFI system, you are not given any preferential treatment in the search results, but you are guaranteed to have the search engine visit your page on a regular basis. This still requires you to have relevant content for the terms you wish to target. PFI allows the search engine to both make money AND continue to provide quality-unbiased results.