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When OK Is Good Enough




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.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    Great post Janet. I think Google decided its search was good enough, a few years back. It seemed that once they solidified their #1 status, they turned their attention to other products. They’re still tinkering with search, but they have no pressure to make it a priority. Yahoo, MSFT, AOL and Ask.com are a different story. ;-)

  • Burgo

    “But because consumers think that the engines are doing a good job (heck, a better job than HOSPITALS!), there‚Äôs no demand for the engines to provide more relevant results.”

    To be fair though, hospitals have an all pervasive image of not even doing “OK” jobs… so I’m not all as surprised by the fact that SE’s rank ahead of them as you seem.

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  • http://www.brianchappell.com Brian Chappell

    @andy Couldn’t agree more. That is very evident in what they have been doing lately; monetizing and increasing share holder value wherever possible, (universal search, devaluing paid links, etc. etc.)

  • http://www.thevanblog.com Steven Bradley

    Andy I think you nailed it with Google. There isn’t any reason for them to improve search at the moment. Most people already think their results are the best and until someone else convinces people differently good enough will be good enough for them.

    Janet I think part of the good enough syndrome is that it depends on your competition. If people want widgets and you’re the only widget producer out there you have little incentive to make a better one. Once others start producing widgets your incentive to make them better increases.

  • http://blog.dreambuilders.com.au Liara Covert

    Thanks for that post. The more prospective clients reflect on the “good enough syndrome,” the more they influence their susceptibility to and justify marketing plans. When it comes to business perception of successful marketing plans, well, that comes down to individual perception of goal-setting.