Is Google Search Getting Worse? A Detailed Analysis

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Google Search Getting Worse | Blonde woman looking through a pair of binoculars - Juan Rojo Design Toronto

Google search getting worse is nothing new in the world of SEO. Over the years, many users have expressed concerns about the declining quality of Google search results. Above all, this article explores how the once-reliable search engine has shifted its focus, putting more emphasis on paid ads, which now dominate the search results pages.

Google getting worse | Search results page for WordPress Developers Toronto - Juan Rojo Design Toronto

In the image above (June 4, 2024), paid ads dominate the 1st four spots of results, followed by three map listings. In other words, you won’t find the 1st organic result until you scroll seven (7) positions down the page. No amount of search engine optimization is going to help you outrank them.

The Rise of Paid Ads in Google Search Results

In the early days, Google’s search results were primarily focused on delivering the most relevant organic results to users. However, in recent years, paid ads have taken over a significant portion of the search results. For instance, ads now appear at the top, middle, and sometimes even at the bottom of the first page.

According to data from WordStream, the average click-through rate (CTR) for Google Ads is around 3.17% across all industries. In other words, businesses are heavily investing in ads, and Google is giving them prime real estate on the search results pages.

Screen shot of Google search results in 1998 - Juan Rojo Design Toronto

The image above shows what search results used to look back in 1998. Notice that most of the sponsored links are not part of the main content, which is not the case in 2024.

Organic Results: Losing Visibility

One of the most significant impacts of the increase in paid ads is the reduced visibility of organic search results. In addition, these organic results often get pushed down the page, sometimes not even appearing in the first four results. This shift means that users have to scroll past several ads before they can find the organic content they are looking for.

A study by Search Engine Journal found that over 50% of all search clicks go to the top three organic results. However, with the proliferation of ads, these top spots are increasingly hard to come by for organic results.

Forum Responses Outranking Traditional Content

Similarly, forums like Reddit have started to appear more frequently in Google’s search results. While forums can provide valuable user-generated content, they often outrank well-researched articles and authoritative websites. After that, users may find themselves sifting through anecdotal responses rather than finding the definitive answers they need.

This trend is partly due to Google’s algorithms prioritizing fresh and engaging content, which forums often provide. However, this can lead to a decrease in the quality of information, as forum responses may not always be accurate or reliable.

Why is Google Search Getting Worse?

Several factors contribute to the perceived decline in Google search quality:

  • Monetization: Google’s revenue model heavily relies on ads, which means more ad placements and fewer organic results.
  • Algorithm Changes: Frequent updates to Google’s algorithms can sometimes prioritize content that isn’t necessarily the most useful.
  • User Experience: As Google’s user base grows, the search engine tries to cater to diverse needs, sometimes at the expense of search quality.

In Conclusion

Is Google search getting worse? Many users believe so due to the increased presence of ads and the prominence of forum responses over traditional content. In other words, the search experience has shifted from providing purely organic results to a more monetized and ad-heavy model.

What Should we do now?

Should we stop trying to optimize our content for search engines, and more specifically, for Google? In case you had forgotten, there are still other search engines out there, which provide a ‘cleaner’ experience than what Google is offering right now. There’s DuckDuckGo, which is a web browser built with privacy in mind. In addition, the browser offers a streamlined search engine, which actually shows organic results the way Google used to.

DuckDuck Go shown on a laptop and a smartphone screen - Juan Rojo Design Toronto

Bing has been trying to rebrand itself as the AI-powered search engine. However, in similar fashion to Google’s search results (depending on the query), all you’ll see are directory results (i.e. Clutch, Bark, Glassdoor, etc.).

As you can see in the image above, the first four (4) results for the search term ‘wordpress developers toronto’ are all coming from big directories. What you don’t see is the rest of the page, which was filled with more directory results. How is that any better than Google?