Mobile

How search spam could ruin the Google Glass experience

google-stomp

Search Spammers are a blight on Google’s reputation.

When Google introduced its Panda algorithm update in 2011, the company’s goal was to weed out and punish low-quality sites that had manipulated their way to the top of search results. 2012’s Penguin update tackled the same issue but from a different angle. This time Google was targeting bad guys guilty of over-optimizing their sites with tactics like keyword stuffing and intentionally created duplicate content.

Google’s desires here should be pretty clear: It’s an advertising company, so the better its search results are, the more ad revenue it can pull in.

But while improving results is obviously helpful for web search, it’s far more important for the mobile world, where all of the problems with search spam are amplified.

“With mobile devices, search quality is a far bigger issue than it is on the web,” Ian Lurie, the CEO of Internet marketing company Portent, said.

Basically, when you’re dealing with smaller screens, every little bit of screen real estate is hugely important. This means that companies have less margin for error — especially with search.

Google Glass

Above: Sergey doesn’t want bad search results to ruin your Glass experience.

Image Credit: Chris Chabot/Google+

Mobile also affects searchers’ patience for crappy results:  You may be able to tolerate a few unhelpful spam links while at home, but that restraint goes out the window while you’re flicking through search results on your smartphone. On mobile, accuracy matters.

“With mobile, I want the number one, two, or three result to be what I want,” Lurie said.

This reality obviously puts a lot of pressure on Google, which makes its money by giving searchers fast, useful results and selling advertisements against them. Every false, gamed search result is a tiny failure for Google’s search algorithm. It’s death by a thousand spammers.

These pressures are even worse for products like Google Glass and Google Now, which are part of “ubiquitous and embedded” future of search, as Lurie puts it.

Both of these products take Google’s search finesse to a new level: Glass is literally about seeing the world through Google, and Google Now is about giving you relevant, accurate information before you even realize you need it.

Neither one of these products will have a particularly high tolerance for crappy spam links or inaccurate search results of any kind. Just imagine making a search on Glass and getting a result that a spammer had manipulated to the top of Google’s results (or, heck, even a search that returned an unhelpful result). These kinds of situations would completely destroy the experience of using Glass, which is supposed to be simple, seamless, and largely invisible.

If the tolerance for bad search results is tiny on mobile phones, it’s nonexistent on Google Glass: As the interface options disappear, the acceptance for bad search results also vanishes. (Let’s call it the Law of Search Frustration Tolerance.)

All of which should make it very clear that Google is sure to get increasingly tough on search spam as the mobile web, Google Now, and Google Glass become more important. Google has to kill search spam before search spam kills it.

 


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