Is it me, or does Google kinda stink now?

Finding what you're looking for on a search engine feels more difficult than ever.
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Illustration by Greg Storey

All I want is a site where I can upload my own image and, after payment, receive said image back as a framed and mounted 8-inch 10-inch print. Simple enough, right?

I assumed that’d be the case, as part of my effort to decorate the new home office—so, naturally, I went to Google.

  • custom image framed
  • 8×10 upload framed
  • print custom image frame
  • custom 8×10 image
  • custom framed 8×10 mounted upload

And that’s all part of the process these days, right? If you’re looking for something specific enough, not only are you searching for your actual desired result, but you’re searching for right words to even attempt to make it show up on the page.

Ohhh, and then there’s that search result page itself.

You have all kinds of ads. You may have videos. Images? Sure. Maybe some news mixed in towards the top should the algorithm call for it. It’s grown so overwhelming that folks have developed plugins and browser extensions to strip away the excess.

And then there’s what happens after you, a consumer looking to buy a product, leave the page—whether you’ve found the result you were looking for or not. Google fires off your data to anyone who will take it, and now you’re seeing photo printing ads on every social app you use.

Is this…pleasant? Is this what we want? Is it helping?

I may be alone, but I’m finding diminishing returns every time I head to Google and look for anything beyond the obvious.

The top-ranking results aren’t the most helpful or most relevant—they’re the sites that have effectively gamed the system the best. They’re the companies who have paid the most for ads or SEO consulting. And, very frequently, all of the above are serving up content that isn’t what I’m looking for.

So I go elsewhere. I ask on Twitter. I for sure go straight to Yelp for any local business. Straight to Youtube for anything that might be an explainer. I text my friends. I ask my family.

For bloggers, the folks we work with, it’s worth being mindful of your own search experience and how that’s going.

Very frequently, we receive questions on SEO rankings, which are warranted—but they may come from one of the largest law firms in the world and a lawyer asking why they don’t rank higher for something like “corporate antitrust lawyer” or “data breach attorney,” as if that’s how folks find legal help for extremely serious matters.

Could it be beneficial? Sure. That’s why there’s an entire economy built around SEO.

There are many, many talented folks operating in this space, but there’s also quite a few who fire off waves and waves of spammy emails like this:

Screen-Shot-2021-08-05-at-11.14.33-AM

I don’t have any profound point to make on this front, only leaving it at this—if you’re a lawyer or law firm chasing SEO above all else, consider a few things:

  • First, what do you make of your own recent search experiences? And do you think this is how you would find someone who can help you with a sophisticated legal matter?
  • Second, if you do bring someone on to help with SEO or “engagement,” do you know what they’re doing? Are you okay with them firing off cheesy meme-laden emails on your behalf?

So what’s the right approach on this front? Honestly, same as it always was—write stuff people want to read.

Write insightful posts that are organized/indexed appropriately and titled accurately and the rest will take care of itself.

As Publisher at LexBlog, Colin leads the Publishing team and guides LexBlog clients and community members on blogging digital publishing strategy. A professionally-trained journalist, he’s applied the trade by helping keep LexBlog at the forefront of blogging and digital media trends for more than a decade—split up by a four-year stint helping lead the Seattle Mariners’ digital marketing efforts. He’s a fan of those M’s, the Green Bay Packers, Seattle craft beer, pinball, jogging and ebikes.

Photo of Colin O'Keefe
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