Does the average user have to dig to page 2, 3, or beyond to find what he or she is looking for? As someone who uses Google Web Search every day, I seldom find that to be the case--whether I'm looking for tourist information, reviews of digital cameras, help with software error messages, or advice on Draft Q cordless widgets. In the overall scheme of things, Google Web Search works about as well as it ever did--or possibly better in some cases. (A few years ago, it was almost impossible to find a hotel's Web site amid a flood of boilerplate affiliate pages, for example; nowadays it's likely to be in the top few results, behind the "user reviews" at TripAdvisor or VirtualTourist.)
As for the "crazy quilt" effect, there's always been a "crazy quilt" of results in Google Web Search, simply because (like most search engines) it uses an all-purpose, one-size-fits-all index. Historically, a search on "widgetco wc-1 digital camera" might have yielded results for:
- The Widgetco, Inc. product page for the WC-1;
- Reviews of the WC-1 at several major review sites;
- A press release or trade-magazine article about the WC-1;
- A forum thread about the WC-1.
At least any Google News or Google Images results that may be displayed will stand out from rest of the page, making news or image results easier to skim over if the reader is just looking for information to help in making a purchase.
If Google is moving to classify "types" of Web sites and search terms, that may be a good thing, especially if that encourages users to learn better search techniques. Let's say that Joe User wants to buy the Widgetco WC-1 camera that I mentioned above. Once he learns that adding the word "buy" or "dealers" to a keyphrase will deliver e-commerce results, he'll be less likely to just type in "widgetco wc-1 camera" or "chronotronique watch" or "inhalex vacuum cleaner" and take potluck.