Last week, a new Harris Poll indicated that Americans feel that search engines are doing a good job at serving consumers. Search engines ranked second, falling just behind grocery stores. Search engines outranked hospitals, banks, electric and gas utilities and telephone companies.
What this tells me is what I’ve long suspected is true of the search engines — OK is apparently good enough.
In the beginning, many businesses start with the best of intentions, essentially trying to create a better solution. But as businesses grow, they often lose sight of the initial company goals as new goals take over. For instance, when a company becomes public, one of its primary goals must be to consistently increase company revenue. It’s one of the main concerns of many small businesses as they grow. Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop, wrote about this conundrum in her 1994 book Body and Soul. Her challenge was to create a company that was earth-conscious, and keep that mission as the company became a global megacompany. As new goals arise, a company’s initial purpose can be reduced in priority and complacency can set in — and OK becomes good enough.
I think that many major companies, including the search engines, have fallen victim to this issue. But because consumers think that the engines are doing a good job (heck, a better job than HOSPITALS!), there’s no demand for the engines to provide more relevant results. Do SEMs think the engines could do a better job? I think most do. But it doesn’t matter what we think — it matters what the consumers — the users — think and how they react to the engines. Until then, OK will likely be good enough.