Google’s web search is an invaluable tool for millions (or possibly billions) of people, but searches for popular questions and topics can be littered with unhelpful results. Google is now attempting to fix that with an upcoming update.
Google revealed in a blog post today, “starting next week for English users globally, we’re rolling out a series of improvements to Search to make it easier for people to find helpful content made by, and for, people.” The company used a search for a new movie as an example, which can often include pages that are simply “aggregated reviews from other sites without adding perspectives beyond what’s available elsewhere.”
Google’s main target appears to be content generated (at least partially) by artificial intelligence tools, which often take text from other sites and switch around enough words to seem like new content. There’s an entire industry around generating articles and guides with AI tools, and even though Google has pushed back against computer-generated text for years, it’s a never-ending battle against rapidly-evolving AI.
The pushback isn’t limited to automatically-generated articles, though. Google is targeting any content that “seems like it was designed to attract clicks rather than inform readers.” The company also specifically mentions “suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed,” of which there are many examples currently on Google Search.
The Shift Away From Google Search
Google Search has had problems with spammy and automatically-generated results for years, so why is this changing now? It could be due to the problem finally reaching a tipping point, or more importantly for Google’s bottom line, more people are seeking out alternatives.
Google SVP Prabhakar Raghavan said at a conference in July, “in our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search, they go to TikTok or Instagram.”
Many of the people still using Google Search have resorted to extra parameters, in the hopes of filtering out unhelpful results. Specifically, adding “reddit” to the end of a query to highlight results from Reddit has become more popular over the past few years.
Google Search is still by far the most popular search engine, especially since most of the competition (Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.) don’t include all sites and pages indexed regularly by Google. However, if the current spam-filled experience continues to become worse, even more people will start looking for alternatives. That means less advertising revenue for Google.
We’ll have to wait and see if Google’s updates provide the intended results — no algorithm is perfect, after all.
Source: Google Blog, Google Developers