If it sometimes happens to you, or happens to you more and more frequently, that you feel that Google results are not the best, or are worse than before, you are not alone. It’s not just the fact that many users are getting that idea, it’s that Google has had to pay, and very recently, historical fines in Europe precisely for not giving the best results to favor their pockets instead.
Things like this make some people capable of saying things like “Google search is dying“. It is at least the title of an article published by DKB, and that has generated an intense discussion on Reddit, Hacker News, Twitter and other parts of the internet where we like to go to discuss. DKB believes that “the most popular search engine today is Reddit” and that Google has started a decline that could end up killing it. It’s more than interesting and worth looking into, because a lot of what he says makes a lot of sense, even if his prediction never comes true.
The SEO bubble full of ads
The reasons that can contribute to Google results losing quality can be summarized in some that might seem somewhat obvious, but that go unnoticed by habit:
- Google encloses us in a bubble: they have been accusing it of this for years, how Google adapts the results according to our habits and what it believes are our preferences and ideals. This makes it tend to offer us the results they think we want to see to give us a perhaps false sense of security and not the “best” instead.
- Ads: “advertising revenue often provides an incentive to deliver low-quality search results.” This is a direct quote from an academic paper written many years ago by none other than Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page, the founders of Google.
Brin and Page said things like “The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users…we expect that ad-supported search engines are inherently biased towards advertisers and away from the needs of consumers”. Doesn’t this sound like exactly what Google has been doing for years?
- SEO witchcraft: Google’s algorithm is quite susceptible to being manipulated, so it is constantly being updated, but that doesn’t stop lots of specialists who are dedicated solely to optimizing websites from leaving to that first page of the search engine. This is how we have millions and millions of sites writing for Google and not for people, which causes a decrease in the quality of the results. There is the case of Pinterest, which basically “hacked” the results of Google Images and that is why they are so annoying.
Ads on Google that look like search results and vice versa: the visual changes that can lead to deception
We’ve run out of “human” results on Google
This is where the issue of communities and DKB’s Reddit argument comes into play. Unlike other social networks, Reddit seems to still not have reached its “peak”. The site has been growing steadily for over 10 years and its popularity has not dropped. However, DKB argues that its popularity as a “search engine” is, in fact, the one that is growing the most.
You’re not the only one who will Google stuff but add the suffix “reddit” at the end. This may not translate as well outside of the US (although Reddit is becoming more popular in the rest of the world as well), but it’s basically the equivalent of looking for hot opinions on Twitter or information written by people in communities like Forocoches. .
To be clear, we are not talking about all cases, but we are talking about some particular ones, such as when searching for products or product reviews on Google. Let us remember that the EU fined Alphabet more than 2,400 million euros precisely for removing visibility from the competition when comparing prices, even when the competition offered better offers to users.
When we search for products on Google, the list of results is not only flooded with ads and the search engine’s offer comparator, but also with “organic” results (ever lower) that seem to have come from a factory of written sponsored notes by robots. Those days of googling reviews on, say, a mobile and finding small or low-authority personal blogs written by enthusiasts, it’s absolutely dead.
uBlacklist: the extension for Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari that lets you block any site from your Google results
You are more likely to get links to sites that are completely unknown but optimized to the latest power in the magical arts of SEO, or worse, websites that are dedicated to copying content like this, character by character, and that for things about how it works Google, end up higher in results than original work written by a human and not copied by a bot.
It is normal then that many users, although surely a small but noisy niche for now, are opting for solutions such as searching on Google, but directly in communities where there are more possibilities of finding humans talking about real experiences. And, search Google, because ironically, other sites’ search engines tend to be worse at finding their own content.
Google is absolutely alive… but
Despite everything, Google remains basically synonymous with online search, and none of this means that the search engine is “bad”, or that it no longer offers good results, much less that Google is in trouble as a company (they win more money than ever).
What you are talking about is a problem of quality and trust. It is increasingly difficult to find quality results in various segments, and this lack of quality generates a loss of confidence in the search engine.
Whether this situation will go more or less over time remains to be seen, but there is quite a bit of interest in the topic. And if the increasing numbers of comparatively tiny search engines like DuckDuckGo are any indicator, change could come, very slowly, but it’s a possibility. That of losing people’s trust sooner or later plays it to you, but Facebook says it, losing users for the first time in its history and sinking in the stock market.