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Pre-Google, you would go to a search engine, enter some description words of what you wanted to find, and then have to sort through page after page of results to find what you wanted.
Google came out and it was amazing, the top search results were actually what you were looking for. In no time at all, Google was *the* search engine to use. Why? Because it actually gave users what they were looking for in the most efficient way possible.
This isn't true anymore. Now when you do a search, you get results of a bunch of sites that have a lot of links to them that may or may not be related to what you are looking for.
For example, today I was finishing up some thank you cards to businesses that donated to an event I organized. There were a few that I had to look up addresses for, so I entered the business name and city in Google (who uses the yellow pages anymore?). I knew the companies had websites, but not one of them returned in the results from Google. One of the businesses had a result where they were mentioned in an article on a news site, but that was it. So, just for kicks, I switched to Alltheweb, and guess what . . . the sites were returned on the first page.
As a user, I really don't care how many other sites link to a particular site. I just want to get the information I am looking for.
Yes, website owners can go through extreme contortions and convolutions to trick out their websites to manipulate their Google results, but at some point the responsibility needs to shift to the search engine to return results that are relevant, regardless of the optimization. Google has completely lost this.
If I am searching for a specific hotel in a specific city, I should be getting that specific hotel's website, not a bunch of hotel reservation sites that link to it.
I'll design sites that are Google friendly and that will rank well, but for my own searches, I will forego Google.