Google SERPs & the tough choices a search engine faces

If I told you that Google (SERPs division) had it tough, would you agree with me? You’re shaking you head – horizontally. You probably think that Google search engine results pages don’t work right because your website has never made it to the first page or made it to the first page and then was pushed out after a Panda update.

At SMX West, during an evening forum on March 11, 2013, Matt Cutts and Patrick Thomas of Google, reaffirm Google’s aim to provide *quality* results in its search engine results pages (SERPs). They discuss the difficult decisions the search engine giant has to make regarding tough content like race, porn, violence, wars, ¬†suicides, etc.

Thomas points out that there are over 30 Trillion pages on the Internet. Naturally, the process needs to be automated. Programs are used to categorize content. Programs can’t always tell the difference between positive and negative presentation and discussion of topics.

Google does not want to push shocking or offensive content to you unless you want it (requesting it in search box). How do you determine the intent of a search?

Cutts states,

… you can’t scientifically vet everything on the Web…

The discussion moved to the “suggestions” Google provides as one is typing into the search box. Danny Sullivan (moderator from Search Engine Land) asks if there isn’t a list of negative words that can be searched for and suggests that they can just be eliminated. Cutts and Thomas bob their heads in understanding and say that it isn’t that easy, and confirm that there is a level of censorship going on in the suggestion box.

Thomas says,

We try to thread the needle really, really, really carefully…slippery slope…

Google applies some “really narrow policies” for suggestions that are sexually explicit, (some) hate speech, and stuff that can lead to violent content.

It is an interesting and candid discussion with more examples of tough choices (pics of ex girlfriends) and questions and suggestions from the audience. Thanks to Danny Sullivan (circle +SearchEngineLand) moderator, Matt Cutts (Google Рcircle +Matt Cutts) and Patrick Thomas (Google).

Watch the exchange…

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