Wine, Google, & Zagat
Google plays a centerpiece role with wine enthusiasts searching the web for quality wine content. Google is not always efficient though, since wine sites figuring neatly into the search engine’s algorithms are too often commercial content aggregation sites. It’s predictable and annoying. These sites are more suited to sell you a wine than tell you what you’re trying to find out about it. Because of ongoing content aggregation and new offering updates, these sites build authority with Google and dominate page one returns. Search Monbousquet and see what I mean.
Guys like Doug Cook hint at solving this challenge, working on behalf of the greater wine community with his ablegrape vertical search project. His site distills the valuable from the commercial. So if Google’s algorithms can’t and don’t, and continue to challenge wine enthusiasts by understandably returning content rich commercial sites, what is going to happen now that they are in the wine business?
Last month, in case you missed it, Google acquired Zagat. Zagat has just announced their new wine club. Will this commercial venture, and the wines they sell, figure “preferably” into search returns? Google denies AdWords clients receive preferential organic search treatment to reward their spend with the search engine. I have seen strong examples to challenge that claim, yet it is impossible to prove. Some media experts suggest Google might have big ideas about the content business and the Zagat deal feeds their progress. Is it so crazy to also speculate about tainted organic wine search results in the instances where it might benefit Google’s new commercial wine venture?
Wine clubs don’t sit well with me in the first place. I’ll pick my own wines, thank you. They get in the way of personal preference and touch that figures into the unique organic growth of my cellar. With Zagat now in the Google portfolio, is the opportunity to sell wine to the world of internet users large enough to further obfuscate the discovery of relevant wine content on the web? Between the plethora of commercial seller content added to the web every day and now Google’s (first?) commercial investment in wine, will the best wine content suffer from deeper organic search suppression when it benefits Google economically?
Google controls the largest online shopping center in the world. I have to believe that I am not alone contemplating Google’s investment in offline commercial ventures like Zagat and their new wine club might be unfair to competitors, content creators, and consumers reliant on organic search discovery? I can’t imagine Google would undermine their search experience to sell a few extra bottles of wine, but would anyone ever really know? Certainly, the one thing I can do in response now that Google is in wine business is to boycott their Zagat Wine Club. Not only because I hate wine clubs in general. For me, it’s a satisfying way to register my complaint about the weak search experience that already exists for wine content searchers and creators before they decided to get into the wine business themselves.