Is Google faltering? Reduced quality of search results, according to a new study

By Consultants Review Team Friday, 19 January 2024

For a very long time, Google has ruled the online search industry. But a recent study raises the possibility that the industry leader in search may be falling short in terms of offering consumers high-quality results.

After a year-long study, researchers from Leipzig University, Bauhaus-University Weimar, and the Centre for Scalable Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence analyzed search results from Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Google. The study focused on product review searches, which are a growing source of worry. The findings support what many regular searchers have observed: a growing number of low-quality results from websites that aim to game search algorithms appear in the top results for product inquiries.

The problem is mostly a result of affiliate marketing's growth. Affiliate links are a major source of revenue for online sites. The referring website gets paid a modest compensation when consumers click on one of these links and make a purchase on Amazon or another website. Quick-hit product reviews and roundup pieces that focus more on generating affiliate traffic than insightful content have proliferated as a result of this business model.

The new study's authors examined over 7,000 product search phrases and discovered that pages that Google ranked highest for had a higher likelihood of having affiliate connections and lower-quality content than other pages. In essence, websites that prioritize search engine optimization (SEO) over publisher value are emerging victorious in the competition for visibility.

In response to these SEO manipulators, Google has retaliated by continuously modifying its algorithms to identify and remove low-quality affiliate content. The researchers stated, "SEO is a never-ending battle and we see repeated patterns of review spam entering and leaving the results as search engines and SEO engineers alternately adjust their parameters."

The study did discover, nevertheless, that these adjustments only produced brief gains. Eventually, the SEO spammers figure out new ways to get over the system.

Although the study's findings are dismal, there is one positive development for Google. Despite losing ground on rivals Bing and DuckDuckGo in product searches, Google still outperformed them. Over the trial time, Google's product search quality also got better.

A Google representative acknowledged the problems with affiliate content prominence when the report was presented, but they maintained that the findings didn't accurately represent Google's overall search quality. In a statement, they informed Gizmodo that "this particular study looked narrowly at product review content, and it doesn't reflect the overall quality and helpfulness of Search for the billions of queries we see every day." The representative emphasized that Google answers billions of requests daily on a vast array of subjects. They think Google's results are still the best in class overall.

However, increasing studies on declining product search quality is consistent with a wider body of expert opinion. Numerous analysts contend that because of Google's scalability constraints, the quality of search results has declined recently.


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