Google - The Intention Engine

Oct 25, 2011 • 9:06 am | comments (20) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Google - The Intention EngineA WebmasterWorld thread has a story about an SEO's wife who complained to her husband that the search results on Google are poor. She asked her husband, "Is something wrong with Google? It seems like the first 6 or 7 results don't have anything to do with what I'm looking for."

This led into a conversation and discussion about the recent changes and direction Google has been heading.

In which the complaints about Google trying to predict your intention, which may lead to inaccurate results...

Tedster named this phase of Google the "Intention Engine," as a play on Bing's "Decision Engine" marketing line.

Reno, a member of the forums summed up his thoughts, describing how this point will be the downfall of Google. He said:

In a few years web historians will begin an evaluation of where Google started to get on the wrong track, or as others have said here, where Google "jumped the shark". I would suggest it was at the point where they announced that they wanted to "know what we wanted before we knew what we wanted" (that is a paraphrase from memory, not the exact quote). Telling me what I want before I "know what I want" borders on insulting, and if in fact Google management began to implement that sort of thinking within the 'plex, then it was the wrong way to go, and the current mediocre query results only drives home that point.

And Tedster, WebmasterWorld's administrator agreed, adding:

I agree, Reno - that whole "intention engine" thing is when experienced searcher began to scratch their heads. And don't get me started on query revisions. That's gone into Crazyville.

Do you feel Google's results are weaker from a year ago? Do you feel Google is acting too smart and giving us results we are not asking for?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Image from mmaxer/Shutterstock.

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Harris Schachter

10/25/2011 01:25 pm

I agree with the prediction of Google's fall from grace in the next few years. For me, the ball really gained momentum last week with the news about being cut off from organic search queries.


10/25/2011 01:31 pm

Typical American Company Downfall Cycle.  Shareholders want more profit... You skimp on quality (in this case try to keep them on your site longer) to boost profits... It works.... People come along with a product that matched your core values from the get go... They start to own your market...


10/25/2011 01:51 pm

That's why I took my profits and sold my Google stock. Some investors are in for a shock in a few years!

Stefan Rees

10/25/2011 01:55 pm

I think just as Google's search has evolved, so has how we search. What I type is now basically exactly what I'm looking for and not necessarily something general. I find myself to be far more specific and Google tends to cater to that. I've not found any issues myself.

Jim Hedger

10/25/2011 02:49 pm

There's an interesting snippet in Reno's comment: "In a few years web historians will begin an evaluation of where Google started to get on the wrong track, or as others have said here, where Google "jumped the shark". I would suggest it was at the point where they announced that they wanted to "know what we wanted before we knew what we wanted" (that is a paraphrase from memory, not the exact quote)."  Note how he says he is "...paraphrasing and missing the exact quote". That's sort of what Google is doing by assuming it knows my intentions when completing results for my query.

Rick Bucich

10/25/2011 02:57 pm

I know few who have been involved in SEO as long as I have and things have improved over time, dramatically in some cases such as local searches.   That said, I was doing some research last night and was a little disappointed in the results. Most of them were article marketing type that gloss over the subject at a high level without the requisite details. Unfortunately, in the industry I was researching, apparently none of the reputable brands wanted to directly tackle any of the the details I was looking for.   There was clearly search volume for my queries but only peripheral quality sites wanted to address them.  Disappointing because it's a missed opportunity for the more reputable players.  


10/25/2011 03:12 pm

I don't think Google is going anywhere. You have to make sacrifices in order to evolve and this Panda/Intention Engine is just another challenge to work through. This has happened countless times before and there are always people preaching the demise of Google, but it never happens. I've wanted Google to faceplant and burn many times before but they have always come out on top. So I'm just gonna derpee derpee derp and collect moneys from Google and let them worry about their business and me worry about mine. Diversify and you won't have to worry.


10/25/2011 03:49 pm

This is a very good thing our friends. If you do not find it in the SERPs, click on ads. How do you think our clicks increased by 28% since Panda? Amit Singhal Matt Cutts

Justin Howley

10/25/2011 07:47 pm

The SERPS are completely out of whack. As an SEO that manages thousands of keywords on a daily basis, I routinely follow the SERPS closely. I find more and more new spam popping up in the top 3 almost overnight in some verticals. It's very distressing considering that legitimate businesses are being hurt. And a few stay at home spammers are reaping the benefits.


10/25/2011 08:40 pm

There are cases where the "intention engine" is indeed a downgrade from where it was before. However, there are a couple of important points to remember. First, we who read and comment here tend to be those who can make Google sit up and dance and get us what we want without Google's "help". Therefore, these changes make it worse for us. For the more general population, these results might actually be helpful. Consider, for example, the poor souls who type in "good digital camera for college" and you get a better feel for who Google is after with these changes. One other thing that is really helpful is that Google (particularly on my mobile devices) has started to assume that I mean "in Denver" when I search. Now, sometimes this is clearly not helpful but on other occasions it is very helpful, including while typing on my phone's touchscreen keyboard. As a savvy Google user, I used to always include Denver  or Boulder or whatever when I wanted local results. Now, I don't have to. That is an improvement and the kind of improvement non-savvy searchers will appreciate. I've also come across the kind of search result where Google just answers my question before it lists links. I'm sure that publishers will be distraught over the loss of pageviews, but I'm much happier that when Google just tells me what channel the Broncos are on instead of me having to click on something first. Finally, and most importantly, Google will not have a downfall or even a down-tick until someone else does it better. For all the gnashing of teeth here, everyone is comparing Google today to Google yesterday, not to Bing or Facebook or whatever other Google-killer you have in mind. In other words, they still do it best.  Until someone starts comparing Google today to a DIFFERENT company, there can be no downfall. Brian ArcticLlama Freelance Writing

Salvatore Surra

10/25/2011 09:57 pm

I think the results vary for queries. There are some really bad ones that I scratch my head and wonder how they got these results, and others that I find relevant and useful.  However, I also agree with the post and forum admin that Google is taking a wrong turn with the 'Intention Engine' and I'm often offended when Google tries to put in what they think I want when they clearly don't know. I started to blog about this when instant search first came out. I couldn't believe that Google was actually trying to figure out what I'm typing with every character that I type.  There were times when their instant was pulling up completely off-the-chart stuff than what I wanted and I got annoyed by it.  I do think Google is opening themselves up to competition and that there will be some new players coming along doing something completely different. I wonder when it will be Hammer Time.  MC Hammer is working on a search engine that is supposed to be centered around topical searches, but little details are revealed about it right now and it's still in development. Wouldn't it be funny if it's an engine from Hammer that knocks Google off the top spot?  I can almost hear people screaming, "please Hammer, don't hurt'em".  Hammer's reply, "You can't touch this!"


10/25/2011 11:03 pm

I believe that "intention engine" is good for majority of people who use Google. I'm involved in development of vertical search engine and I know that when you guess the user intention, in 90% you significantly improve search results, but in 10% you make it significantly worse.


10/26/2011 11:51 am

Very nice post even i would say that whole blog is awesome. I keep learning new things every day from post like these. Good stuff!


10/26/2011 12:30 pm

"Telling me what I want before I "know what I want" borders on insulting" Wow. Isn't that Apple's whole product model right there in a nutshell? Seems to work for them :) Seriously though, they've been touting this intention to make predictive leaps for a while now and, on one level, good on them! Predictive results will add a new challenge to the search market that does have the potential to lead searchers to unexpected and very interesting places - if done properly. I haven't noticed any decrease in search relevance for my searches from here in the UK, but I will keep an eye on it and see what happens in the next few months. Rich

Kyle Hart

10/26/2011 09:24 pm

It's important to note that this focus has been the focus all along, Google makes it very clear to webmasters that it's goal is to become as human as possible. Keyword search is an interesting thing to watch because of the nature of the idea of 'keyword'. When you use a keyword that is also a brand name it triggers far different results than say keywords more related to geography or education or shopping on a general scale. This is why in my opinion, it will be more and more important for Google to make very tiny adjustments to their philosophy moving forward instead of large scale revisions.  Large scale revisions like that of Panda, cause enormous swings and therefore have users (I'm not talking web masters here) wondering if they were the cause of the change in results. 'Was my request somehow not clear?' They then begin asking Google through their queries for better results (by adding more and more keywords or syntax, + - "" etc.) or they get frustrated and go try elsewhere. The large scale revision is also slowly modified back to a more harmonious state in small increments which in my opinion causes even more confusion and potential for error or lackluster results. Results like we see regularly today for brand search.  I'm seeing spam in the brand queries actually rebound with the change to the site link method. Companies with worthwhile sub-domains being shown as independent results now just had those resources cut down to step-children of their brand in site links. In my opinion that's very unfortunate.


10/26/2011 09:39 pm

I've been thinking for a while that Google is simply trying to do too much.  They are "fixin' what ain't broke" as we say down here Texas.  I call it the shaving razor problem.  Once you put 3 blades on a razor you've basically got the best razor possible...but what do razor makers do?  They add more razors!  They haven't made their product better, only added more stuff.  I think Google has reached that phase and are heading toward the next phase, where the amount of stuff they've added is so much that it depletes the overall value...overkill.


10/27/2011 12:23 am

Google is the Grand Theft machine stealing their way to record profits as the economy crashes.


10/30/2011 08:19 pm

Just did a manual rank check of a client and the forced query revision was... "interestingly inaccurate" showing some random crap that has the same letters kinda. This was not instant search where the change kept updating with each letter. My query was changed to the algo's best (wrong) guess after I completed my typing and it was up to me to change it back to what I intended.  A bridge too far or what?Query revision can only be driven by some nefarious plan to get more advertising revenue, as it stands. Making search less effective compared to 200 days ago does not aid users! Many users will not even notice - and then wonder as noted in the article, why does online search suck? Then they will click on an ad. This is the most wanted response on a serp from G's view. My opinionated and increasingly cynical view is "Search sucks more today solely because it makes the lidless eye more money ." Make ads more relevant in comparison to search results and the link clicked is changed. A new, habitual shortcut decision making action by users starts to take hold... They are doing this - no doubts. Big companies operate like this. Yet how does society ensure that an increasingly core service like search not become over-run by greed? 

Long-time Google User

11/04/2011 07:39 am

Thanks for writing this article. I couldn't agree more. Google's searches are becoming less and less accurate as time goes on. In fact, even the "amount of results returned" is often incorrect. The next time you see "500,000 results returned", go ahead and click on page 10. You may be surprised to see that only "200 results" were found. The bugs are becoming worse and worse.


10/18/2012 07:19 pm

I get annoyed with Google guessing at what I'm searching for when I've entered exactly what I want. Annoying that using double quotes doesn't necessarily mean Google will treat it as you'd think. It also seems inconsistent at times, so you can't necessarily phrase it in a way you think Google will understand. I remember around 2005 being able to find exactly what I wanted with a well considered search string (working in tech and searching for very specific things).

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