In an era where the Google search engine has become a fundamental element in almost everyone’s life, being used billions of times a day, we are witnessing a worrying decrease in the quality of its results. Lily Ray, Senior Director of Search Engine Optimization at digital marketing agency Amsive Digital, states, “This is the worst quality of Google results I have ever seen in my 14 years of career.”
This degradation manifests with a proliferation of pop-ups, dubious product ads, and links that seem to hide malware. While these issues are common on the Internet, one would not expect to find them among Google’s results. However, with billions of searches per day and countless websites, Google can only catch a portion of these cheaters.
The problem seems to stem from an update to Google’s algorithm, aimed at promoting user-generated content in search results. The goal was to further democratize the web, reducing the power of gatekeepers like news sites. However, this led unscrupulous sites to exploit this new policy by inserting spam links in positions favored by the algorithm.
A recent German study confirms these observations, showing that the highest-ranked pages tend to have lower-quality texts and numerous affiliated links. Google still outperforms its competitors in terms of the quality of results and mitigation tactics, although scammers continually find new ways to circumvent them.
The so-called “SEO parasites” latch onto legitimate web pages to take advantage of affiliate links, a common online practice that allows a website to earn commissions for products sold via its links. Therefore, achieving high positions on Google can be very lucrative. The problem is exacerbated when reliable sites lease space on their domain to third parties for sponsored content, exploiting the reputation of the host site to promote affiliate links.
This approach exploits gaps in Google, which finds itself in a continual battle against these tactics. AI, warned from its early days as a potential tool to facilitate scams, has allowed scammers to produce junk content on a large scale, further complicating Google’s search results.
Google is working to address these issues, likely through updates to its user policy and algorithm. Despite the challenges, Google continues to provide higher-quality results than competitors and is committed to improving.