Is Google getting worse? Why critics say ads, spam pages kill search

Is Google search getting worse? From viral TikTok videos to posts on technology forums, frustrated users seem to think so.

They say that Google’s search results are increasingly filled with paid ads – and claim that spam sites are getting better at pushing themselves up in the search results by playing the company’s algorithms.

The end result is that Google’s search is gradually deteriorating, critics say, and becoming less helpful and more annoying, even though it remains the primary tool more than 4 billion people use to search the Internet.

“If you’ve been trying to search for a recipe or product review recently, I do not need to tell you that Google’s search results have gone to st,” wrote Dmitri Kyle Brereton, a software engineer and author, in a blog post that rocketed to the top of The influential Silicon Valley forum Hacker News in February. “Google is dead.”

Ads and spam

For example, imagine someone working from home looking for a new laptop.

If they go to Google and search for “the best laptop to work from home”, ads for Microsoft, LG and Capital One will fill the entire screen. Scroll down past yet another ad for Dell and they reach the first non-sponsored link to a bizarre site called

Google search results
Google’s search results for some queries are crowded with ads.

The article, written by a faceless author named Patricia and in itself is crowded with advertisements, seems to have played Google’s algorithm by repeating keywords over and over again, including the phrase “laptop” 155 times, “telework” 14 times and “work from home” 10 times.

This process – called search engine optimization or SEO – can result in awkward robot phrases that repeat key phrases.

“Working from home is more common than ever before, and it requires a high-quality laptop,” the article reads. “Their prices range from hundreds to thousands. So how do you find the best laptops for telecommuting?”

The second, third, and fourth Google search results are also unnamed sites that use keywords over and over again. While the products on the sites are real, there is not much to suggest that the articles were created by real authors with a goal other than to drive traffic by playing Google’s system.

“The first few non-ad results are SEO-optimized sites filled with affiliate links and ads,” wrote Brereton, the Google critic. “To be fair, this would probably be a problem with any search engine, but you would expect Google to come up with a less playable algorithm.”

In addition, critics claim that Google is increasing the number of ads that appear in search results.

“They have called [ads] up to the maximum recently to squeeze every last cent out before their inevitable collapse, ”he said.

In a statement to The Post, a Google spokesman claimed that “the quality of Google Search has improved dramatically over time.”

“Every year, we make thousands of improvements to Google, and our tests give us clear evidence that these changes really make Search better for people,” the spokesman added. “Over the last seven years, we have reduced irrelevant results by over 50%.”

Google also said it has made improvements to how it ranks search results, including product reviews, and said ads have not appeared on 80% of search results pages on average over the past four years.

Even Brereton admits that Google searches for factual questions – such as “what was the population of London in 1700” – are “absolutely amazing.”

“They’ve built the best question-and-answer system ever,” Brereton told The Post. “But for everything else, like regular web results, that’s where the problem is.”

Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, foresaw advertising problems when they first set up the search engine in 1998.

“We expect advertising-funded search engines to be inherently biased toward advertisers and away from consumer needs,” Page and Brin wrote in a 1998 paper, while Stanford University PhD students warned against the model’s “mixed incentives.” . ”

Still, Page and Brin started selling ads along with their search results in the year 2000, and Google’s advertising business has grown ever since. Ads across the Google Network – which include YouTube and ad placements on third-party sites – brought in a whopping $ 54 billion in revenue alone during the first quarter of 2022.

Critics say search engine optimization techniques and ads have made Google search worse.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

Save your

Some frustrated Google users have found a way around spotty results: adding “Reddit” to the end of their searches.

The name of the popular forum often pops up in Google’s search suggestions box – and a TikTok video about the trend received more than 100,000 likes in April.

“It’s the only way to avoid trying to find the answer in a blog post filled with ads,” reads the top comment on the video.

“I thought I was weird for doing this,” said another top commentator. “I did not know that so many others did.”

Save your
Some users say that adding “Reddit” to the end of their Google searches helps them get better results.
SOPA Images / LightRocket via Gett

“It literally gives better answers than google,” said a third.

Brereton claims that adding “Reddit” to searches helps filter out “fake” parts of the Internet, such as spam pages. Google searches that contain the word also often have fewer ads.

“SEO marketers who play their way to the top of all Google search results may just as well be robots,” he wrote. ‘Everything is commercialized. Someone is always trying to sell you something. Whether they are a fine or a human being, they are decidedly false. ”

And while Reddit posts may be lying, people can at least reasonably assume they come from real people.

“How can we regain authenticity?” Brereton wrote. “You are adding ‘reddit’ to your query.”

Reddit spokeswoman Courtney Geesey-Dorr, who was reached for comment, declined to comment on Google, but said Reddit has upgraded the search options on its own site.

Asked about potential Google alternatives, Brereton told The Post that Bing and DuckDuckGo suffer from many of the same issues as Google, such as algorithm game spam and ads. He said the most exciting new alternatives are sites called Neeva, Brave and

But Google’s vice-like grip on the search market makes it difficult for a competitor to show up, he added.

“The alternative can not just be twice as good, it must be so much better that it’s worth the inconvenience to switch,” Brereton told The Post.