Lately, there have been several articles discussing how, when someone types “America movie” into Google, the top result is Dinesh D’Souza’s new film “America: Imagine the World Without Her” but it turns out that is not enough. The Google results apparently lack film locations and times, and D’Souza’s lawyers are claiming that Google needs to “fix” this “problem”. http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2014/07/16/google-denies-playing-politics-with-its-algorithms-for-dinesh-dsouza-america/
A Google rep acknowledged the “problem”, stating that their systems “have unfortunately confused the title of the movie ‘America’, because it’s a common term and appears in many movie titles.”
The representative went on to say: “We’ve updated the Knowledge Graph, our database that stores this type of information, but it will take some time to display show times and other details for this movie. We’re always working on improving our systems, and we appreciate the feedback,” the rep explained, adding that the show times are already there; but that the system just hasn’t fully updated yet to display show times when you search for directly for “America 2014 movie.”
Politics aside, this is interesting since it is a discussion about how people search, and what the expectations are. For instance, notice how the Google representative changed it from “America movie” to “America 2014 movie”–quite a different search. The article doesn’t mention this “little” difference, but as a cataloger, it struck me in the face!
“America movie” could be Captain America, Coming to America, Air America, or any of the titles shown on the IMDB http://www.imdb.com/search/title?title=america&title_type=feature, plus bunches more, I am sure. But yet, Google’s algorithms are supposed to “know” that somebody who searches “America movie” wants this latest one. That is obviously why the Google representative said “America 2014 movie” because there is much less ambiguity, although nobody asks how many people would actually search with the date.
In any case, this shows how “Search” has changed and continues to change before our eyes; no less important, it shows how users are expecting more and more. Not only does the public expect information about the movie, but also show times and directions–a staggering amount of information coming from all kinds of places–and if they don’t get those show times, the directors and producers might sue. Quite a change from 20 years ago!
If I were going to make a suggestion to the people who made this movie, I would think they should consult their SEO (search engine optimization) experts, and they probably would have told them to come up with a more distinctive name. Here is an excerpt from some of the latest best practices:
“1. Page Titles
When it comes to optimizing your site pages for optimal SERP (search engine results page) performance, Page Titles are a crucial component that users evaluate when making the decision to click on a search result. This element is also heavily weighed by search crawlers when determining the relevancy of the page in relation to the user’s search query. Guidelines:
– Use the primary keyword at least once, preferably at the start of the title
– Limit to 70 characters or less (longer titles than this will get cut off in the SERP)
– Use pipe symbols ( | ) to divide specific keyword phrases but don’t go overboard. Remember these are “titles” so phrase them that way!”
Incidentally, the movie’s official website does the last part. The title has:
<title>America: Imagine the World Without Her | Official Movie Site</title> (http://www.americathemovie.com/)
I just wonder how long it will be–that is, if it isn’t happening already–that the algorithms that analyze us all day long by reading our emails, and watching what we surf–will determine our political leanings and decide that you really doesn’t want to see a movie like “America: Imagine the World Without Her” and as a result, you will never even know about it.
Or could it turn out that left-wing liberals who search “america movie” and who have entirely different expectations about their SERPs (search engine results page), will then get angry if they see a conservative film by D’Souza as the #1 result? Will they consider this a covert political act, as D’Souza’s people seem to be suggesting by the lack of show times and locations? Only time can tell.
This shows how the Googles are fundamentally different from libraries. It took some time for Google to understand what kind of a company it is: search engine? information? databases? and it finally figured out that it is an advertising agency, and probably the most successful one of all time. These sorts of stories make it obvious.
Can library methods be of help? I don’t know, but when I looked at the <title> above, I also noticed the keywords they had chosen:
<meta name=”keywords” content=”america, movie, dinesh, d’souza, film” />
Those keywords look pretty lame to me. I think any cataloger could do a much better job without thinking at all!