The consensus on the web is that Google Search just doesn't work as well as it used to. Put in a search for "pipe burst what to do," and you'll see a slew of hastily generated, cookie-cutter websites choked with so many repetitive buzzwords that they are virtually unreadable. Frustrating and unhelpful as you are watching water stream down your walls.
So what has changed? Why all the spam and ads? The reality is that Google makes its money off of these paid listings. In 2020, the company earned $147 billion in revenue from ads alone, roughly 80 percent of its total revenue.
Another problem is that Google's algorithms aren't able to catch the spam pages as well as they used to. Add in that entire industries that are devoted to gaming search results have arisen, and helpful information doesn't show up until page two or three. Even then, it takes time to weed through AI-generated pages designed to help a website's SEO before you can find the correct information.
This dynamic is affecting more than just Google. Facebook, for example, has expended enormous resources to refine its newsfeed, so that spammy, hateful, inflammatory, and fake news content doesn't get promoted — but how successful it's been is still up for debate. There are streams of articles written about worthless products filling Facebook ads, along with spam quizzes and leading headlines designed to gather your personal information (What was your first car? The answer is usually a security question response spammers can use to hack your online accounts).
The same issue plagues Twitter, Spotify, Pinterest, Instagram, and more. The more automated software determines what we see, the greater what we see becomes shaped by the demands of that software.
The solution? Reddit to the rescue
Many people bypass Google's mediocre results by appending "Reddit" to the end of their search field. As Charlie Werzel of The Atlantic states, by using this method, "clever searchers get lively threads with testimonials from real people debating and interacting with one another."
While most of those who use the Reddit hack do so for better results, a small group are using the method to protest against SEO (search engine optimization) and online advertising. They want an internet that feels more human and less AI.
Google is working on it
Google is well aware of the decline in its reputation for search engine quality. As a result, the company is continually tweaking its AI to focus on areas of "consequence." Google uses quality rather guidelines to judge content and determine authenticity. One such effort, titled "Your Money or Your Life," applies rigorous standards to any pages displayed when users search for medical or financial information. This means results will likely be from reputable sources like the Mayo Clinic or the Wall Street Journal.
Another way to search
If the Reddit hack isn't something you want to try, you might change the way you search by forgetting about keywords and entering queries as if Google is a person, not a machine. Younger users search like they are talking to Siri or Amazon's Alexa – with complete questions such as, “When is the next Flying Squirrel’s game?” or, “How do I cook a turkey?” The results may produce fewer ads and more helpful websites.
Other search engines that may produce better results
If you are looking for more specific results that focus on specific topics, here are some search engines to try. Some may appear to be very similar to Google, while others might show you your search from an entirely different perspective.
As you browse, 80 percent of Ecosia's ad profits are diverted into programs that plant trees in Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Indonesia, and Peru. Read through its FAQs; you'll find them opening up about the project, depicting the success and the progress of their planting programs.
Qwant is much more visual than Google and allows you to create visual boards through bookmarking pages. The search engine also utilizes Microsoft Bing, which means that your privacy when browsing never has to come at the cost of the robustness of the unfiltered search that you enjoy.
This search engine is favored as it doesn't save any of your personal information, or your search history. It also delivers a clean design and a fast, unfiltered internet search, brought to you in the form of little preview cards.
Boardreader is an unbiased search engine that covers online forums and bulletin boards. If you search a topic on Google, the top search results are mostly polished articles from mainstream magazines. The best places to get thoughts and opinions from real people, however, are online communities. So, if you want to get information through the grapevine and see about what people are talking about, use Boardreader to delve into the rabbit hole of forum discussions.
Kiddle is a family-friendly, filtered search engine that weeds out results that are not age-appropriate for them. It is more robust than Google's Safe Search option, and it uses images, fonts, and big thumbnails to engage kids and make the results easier to understand.
If you're a cord-cutter and want to discover where your favorite shows are hosted and what's new on every streaming platform, this site's unfiltered search results will be able to provide you with the full disclosure.
If you are looking for just the right gif or emoji, this is the search engine for you. Your kids and grandkids will be impressed.
All things NASA. Search through a treasure trove of more than 140,000 NASA images, videos, and audio files from across the agency's many missions through history.
What do you think? Are you finding your Google search results less than satisfying? Let us know!
Sources: The Atlantic, The Toronto Star, MUO