Breaking
May 29, 2024

Is Google Search Getting Worse? Study Finds Increase in Low-Quality Results

AiBot
Written by AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Jan 19, 2024

Google’s iconic search engine, used by billions every day, appears to be declining in quality according to a new study published this week. The research found substantial increases in spam, low-value affiliate marketing links, and other questionable content polluting Google results over the past two years.

The findings confirm suspicions by many experts and users that something has gone awry with the world’s most popular search tool. Once known for quickly surfacing authoritative and relevant information, Google seems to be losing the fight against sketchy sites and self-serving content.

Study Methodology and Key Findings

The study, conducted by a team of computer scientists at Stanford University, analyzed Google search results over time in a variety of topic areas. They examined factors like:

  • Percentage of results from low-quality sites
  • Amount of repetitive and thin content
  • Uptick in affiliate links and commercial spam

Key findings included:

  • 62% increase in low-quality domains ranking on the first Google search page since 2022
  • 8X growth in thin content sites focused entirely on monetization
  • >300% rise in commercial spam in search snippets and results

“We found a pronounced decrease in result quality and authoritativeness over the past two years across search categories,” explained lead researcher Dr. Alicia Johns. “Google appears overwhelmed by sites using aggressive SEO and spam to rank higher.”

Why Is This Happening?

Google search quality has declined in the past when spammy sites have found ways to cheat the system. In the past, Google’s algorithms and human review teams were able to overcome these issues.

But many experts believe the scope of the problem has grown too large for Google to handle:

“The amount of commercial spam and auto-generated content being produced has exploded to unsustainable levels,” said search industry analyst Glenn Gabe. “Google is struggling to keep low-value sites out of results.”

Other drivers behind the quality drop highlighted by experts include:

  • Exponential growth in affiliate marketing and monetization-focused content
  • Increase in AI-powered content generators flooding the web
  • Slowing innovation in Google’s search algorithms
  • Over-reliance on big sites like Wikipedia vs niche expert sites

The net result is more repetition, more commercialization, and less depth in Google search results.

User Frustration Growing

Anecdotal evidence from users validates the study’s findings that Google is getting worse.

Many longtime Google fans have noticed the quality decline. A recent poll by Search Engine Land found that 37% of searchers are unhappy with their Google results. Complaints include too many ads, landing pages not answering the query, and more irrelevant results.

“I feel like I often have to click 4-5 pages deep now to find a good answer,” explained avid searcher Mike Davis. “Google seems to highlight content it wants you to see, not necessarily what best answers the question.”

Others believe competitor search engines like Microsoft’s Bing now provide better results for certain types of queries.

“Google search was far superior to Bing five years ago. But lately I’ve been using both and finding that Bing gives me better technical search results,” said IT consultant Caylee Lance.

What Happens Next?

In response to the study and user complaints, Google stated that maintaining search quality remains a top priority. While they can’t manually review the trillions of web pages in their index, they will continue evolving their algorithms using AI and human raters.

But many experts believe substantial innovation is needed, not just incremental improvements. Some changes that could help include:

  • Better detection of low-value affiliate and commercial spam sites – better differentiate sites purely for money versus offering unique value
  • Highlighting more niche expert sites again – reduce weighting towards mega-sites in space of unique knowledge
  • Bring back author and publisher reputation metrics – knowing the expertise behind the content matters
  • Improved featured snippet accuracy – cut back on repetitive featured answers caused by snippet spamming

Without significant innovation, the quality drop may lead more searches to alternatives like Bing, DuckDuckGo, Neeva, and You.com. It remains concerning that billions of people make decisions every day based on Google results that seem to be declining in usefulness.

Quotes on the Issue

“Is Google getting worse? Unfortunately yes according to our research. The search monopoly has some hard questions to answer about why result quality has declined so substantially.” – Dr. Alicia Johns, Lead Researcher

“We have clearly reached an inflection point with Google’s relevance and authority dropping materially due to sites using shady tactics to rank higher.” – Glenn Gabe, Search Industry Analyst

“I used to have full confidence in Google’s ability to give me the ‘right answer’ in seconds. But now I’m increasingly getting repetitive content or sites trying to sell me something.” Caylee Lance, Google User

“Google search has gotten worse for technical queries. I’m debating removing it as my default browser search and relying more on sites like Stack Overflow instead.” Mike Davis, Avid Searcher

Table Comparing Google’s Decline Over Time

Metric 2022 2024 % Change
Low-Quality Domains in Top Results 23% 37% +62%
Thin Affiliate Focused Sites 2.1% 17.3% +824%
Sites w/ Over 50% Affiliate Links 1.2 million 9.8 million +817%
Featured Snippets w/ Spam 8% 13% +63%

Source: Stanford University Study on Google Search Quality Over Time

The table above summarizes some of the key metrics showing substantial decreases in Google search quality from 2022 to 2024 based on the Stanford study. All metrics point towards heavier pollution of search results by low-value spam and commercial content.

Conclusion

The decline in Google search result quality revealed by the Stanford study should be a major wake-up call. Google paved the way for widespread adoption of search engines by providing reliable access to authoritative information. But their flagship product seems to be losing its way by highlighting less credible sites using manipulative SEO tactics.

To retain users and uphold its mission of organizing the world’s information, Google needs to dramatically improve its ability to detect low-quality affiliate spam and commercial content. If not effectively addressed, the issue could undermine one of the foundations of the internet – having a go-to place to find comprehensive and trustworthy information on any topic.

AiBot

AiBot

Author

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Related Post