Google’s Search Results Have Gotten Worse: My Take

Frank and I don’t do these posts on any sort of schedule (clearly…), we just wait for inspiration to strike. Sometimes it strikes in sort of tangential ways, like when Frank sent me this link to a Daring Fireball post about the declining quality of Google searches. The topic isn’t totally unrelated to our usual shtick though. Internet searches are a common part of many jobs and if they aren’t as effective or efficient as they could be, neither are the employees conducting them.

As always, John Gruber makes some good points but my personal beef with Google searches of late has less to do with how the results are presented and more with how purveyors of affiliate-link driven clickbait are increasingly being allowed to run roughshod over the whole thing. Search for damn near anything these days and you’re likely to get a flood of results that fit a close variation of this format:

“The [number] best [search term] for [year]”

(e.g., “The 7 Best Mouth-Noise Removal Plugins For 2021!”…for the dry-mouthed podcasters among us).

I’ve taken to adding “-best” to many searches to filter some of this out but it’s a crude solution at best.

Now…yes, there are parallels between the format of these affiliate “articles” and my earlier rant about listicles. No, I can’t say for certain that I don’t just have an irrational fear of enumerated lists. But next time you’re trying to solve your kid’s struggles with diaper rash and you’re swimming through “Top 5 butt ointments in 2021” links, I bet you’ll think of me.

I mean, I’d rather you didn’t associate me with butt ointment but I guess I’ve brought this on myself.

Anyways try it now. Go google “webcams” and you’ll see what I mean. Even if you’re in the market for a good webcam for your next Zoomathon, do you really want to take the advice of someone whose goal is to guide you toward the options that pay them the highest affiliate commissions? ‘Cause that’s what you’re gonna get, not the real answer you need to find which is that all webcams are terrible. Go dig a dusty old iPhone out of your drawer and use that with an app like EpocCam or Camo, take the $60-$250 I just saved you and donate it to a worthy cause or something.

Results from a Google search for Webcams
Ok fine, I googled it for you

I actually switched my default search engine from Google to DuckDuckGo, as Gruber suggests in his post, a couple years ago but the same issue is just as prevalent over there. I get that this is a bigger problem and I’m not saying it’s the responsibility of search engines to fix it. But I AM saying that any search engine that does will likely have a bunch of happy new users, however janky the presentation of their results might be.


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