I agree that the [apples] results are dreadful.
...Google "intention engine" misfiring
In general, what I'm seeing is that, instead of being skewed by a keyword in the query like, say, a city name, which might have returned irrelevant sites with cityname authority (eg, civic organizations or the chamber of commerce)... Google results are now also being skewed by a keyword in the query like, say, the word "history", which will perhaps distort intention and give me timeline and book results... even though what I really wanted was the word "history".
I'm exaggerating a little bit, but I think for certain types of queries, Google is in constant beta mode here, using searcher satisfaction, eg, as a calibrator of intention... and Google is also in constant beta mode about how it's measuring searcher satisfaction.
The more user data Google collects, the better the results are likely to get over time. It's very tricky to evaluate intent on competitive searches for words with multiple meanings... and no intent-voting mechanism is ever going to satisfy everybody.
doesn't it drive you crazy that the adsense gutter on the right is dead-on with your search, and yet the left pane is full of intention-garbage?
I'm assuming you really mean AdWords here... and it's always been the case that you could look at the ads to see commercially desirable alternative results. When there are multiple meanings for a word, the ads are generally targeting the variant(s) of the query that don't do well algorithmically.
Search for [windows], eg, and look at who's buying the ads. It's not software companies. I think the serps for many queries like this have arguably gotten better over time. If you had been a local window company years ago, you didn't have a chance in hell of getting on the first page without a lot of adjectives.
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 8:07 am (utc) on Aug 10, 2010]