The folks over at LifeHacker, A Gawker Media site for techies, recently posed the question, “Have Google’s Search Results Become Less Useful to You?“. Contributing editor Kevin Purdy states, “Search-optimized sites stuffed with pseudo-content, affiliate links, and overwrought ads fill many popular results…it seems like nobody on the web has a straight answer for you that isn’t built to the hilt with search-focused text.” Purdy asks readers whether they have experienced similar, and poll responses seem to affirm this.

More than 77% of readers responded that there has been at least a small shift toward the useless, with a full 33% responding that there has “absolutely” been a noticeable difference. Commentators noted issues in particular search spheres; phone numbers, “quick capital” products such as anti-spyware tools or electronics, and generic or phrase match searches were mentioned among others.

So, in the name of experimentation, let’s run a few tests!

Test 1

Phone Number, Search for the number of a pizza place down the street (“949 916 5000″)


Google: Three junk listings before we get the real listing on the page.

Google Results Page for Test One

Bing: #1 result is the restaurant, followed by reviews

Bing Results Page for Test One

Winner: Bing

Test 2

Product, Search for “best lawnmowers”


Google: ConsumerSearch, Popular Mechanics, Consumer Reports…not bad Google, not bad.

Google Results Page for Test Two

Bing: Some repeats but two questionable authority blogs in spots two and three.

Bing Results Page for Test Two

Winner: This one goes to Google

Test 3

Generic/Phrase Match, “What dvd storage options are there”


Google: An example of phrase matching at work; Storage Units? No thanks.

Google Results Page for Test Three

Bing: Relevant sites to the query.

Bing Results Page for Test Three

Winner: Bing

Overall Winner: Bing

What do these results say about search in general, and what do they mean for SEO efforts? Obviously this quick experiment does not constitute empirical data by any means, but it does serve to further the question. And, judging by the response on various articles on the topic, others are asking themselves the same question. Like many things in life, there is likely a delicate balance to be achieved. One can only optimize a site to fit the system so much before the system will fail. In refining our own SEO techniques therefore, we must be conscious of these limitations and focus on producing better content and on more accurately targeting our audiences. Monitoring your search term bounce rate with a tool such as Net Application’s HitsLink Web Analytics can be an important step towards determining whether your visitors are finding relevant content on your site.

What this shift means for consumers remains to be seen. This may be a matter of using more refined search methods such as advanced operators when we search for content on our own, or it may mean the rise of alternate engines or methods of research. If you have noticed changes in your search results recently or notice particular search categories with more spam than others, let us know in the comments below.

2 Responses to “Is the Quality of Google Search Results Declining?”

  1. ALL are getting convoluted and destressed in the “helping” department. I get the distinct impression all are getting cut-throat. If it goes that far…this piece of internet will fall. I use the I/n to stay in touch and informed…not to listen to thieves commercials. What I see is a new bunch of money hungry hackers.

    [Edited for length/relevancy- admin]

  2. Dan White says:

    I do a lot of web promoting of our business. The one thing I have learned is; “your web site has to be real and loaded with genuine content that is completely related to the topics related to the search. The harder I work at genuine content, the better my rankings…. the old days of pretending you are real, or not supporting that you are real with huge content are over.

    Thinking that in this day of the information age, you can just put landing pagers that give you leads…. means you will join the dinosaurs.

    Simply stated;” Ya gotta make it real, man.”

    Dan White

Leave a Reply



© 2011