Search for shoes, search for cellphones, it seems to work alright – mostly pages from Amazon or eBay will pop up in the first few results.
But search for specific information, like news, computer hardware information, or a specific and precise SQL query, things go kaput:
Its all Big Brands, even if the results are irrelevant
For news, first results will be from Reuters, NBC, CNN or Fox News.
For a computer hardware search like “best computer case modification”, amazingly a result from Forbes – an established predominant financial publication website – comes in second listing, in front of legions of well-established, cult technology sites which have detailed descriptions of unbelievable computer hardware exploits of ordinary people. And that search is not even an overly specific search, mind that.
For your intricate SQL query search, numerous results from Stackoverflow come up with the first being semi-relevant and the rest being almost totally irrelevant.
All of these are established, big brands in their areas. Some of them are not established entities even in the areas they are being listed.
Whereas a degree of relevance of search results to your query can be seen in case of news, what relevance was there disappears as your search becomes more specific and concentrated. And that’s even for the first 3-4 result listings – below that, the results become surreal in irrelevance.
So it seems Google is favoring big, established brands in its search results.
But how was it before?
Before, your search would bring exact or near exact matches. And no, we aren’t talking about exact match of title and keywords here – we are talking about content.
For example, your specific news search would bring exact articles matching your search query, even if it was from an obscure alternate news outlet.
Your computer hardware modification search would bring up forum threads from widely known enthusiast forums, matching your exact computer hardware modification search, complete with photos, detailed descriptions and tutorials.
For your specific SQL search, one page from an abandoned 5 page blog of an unknown datacenter technician would come up, and it would be the exact specific and rare case you have been searching for. The guy encountered the same situation sometime, somewhere at 3 o’clock in the morning, and posted the exact solution to his tiny blog. And that would be your salvation.
That all changed in 2011-2012.
“Let’s screw up Google Search”
From 2011 to 2012, Google made a number of algorithm updates to its search. The intent was supposedly to eliminate content-farms, spammy websites and ‘low quality’ websites from search. And show ‘higher quality’ websites instead.
But the result had been elimination of all kinds of alternate content from search results, and pushing of big brands’ websites instead. Note that – big brands’ websites – not ‘big brand websites’. For, as you can see, totally irrelevant big brands like Forbes are listing ahead of big brand websites in their own area – like overclock.net.
That is because Google openly boosted big brands in its search, openly – lets quote Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt circa 2008 (source):
“Brands are the solution, not the problem,” ….. “Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.”
The ‘brands’ he talks about are not websites which are reputable in their own area. It’s not small companies or publications which are reputable in their own area or the internet in general either.
Its publicly traded, Megacorp-type Wall Street brands.
Big Brands like Amazon, Forbes, Wall Street Journal. They include Google itself, by the way, for its also in the same basket with these others.
Incidentally Amazon happens to be a corporation from which Google has numerous (two, at the time of this writing) ex employees and execs on board. (source)
But they sorted out the ‘cesspool’, alright. They removed the innumerable amount of spammy websites which dotted the search from 2nd page and on.
And whoops – they also removed the precise match, extremely informative small sites from the first page of the results in the process. And replaced them with big brands.
Now Google’s search results are mainly big brands and what they have. From amazon to WSJ, dominating first half of the search results. And in case you haven’t noticed, if you aren’t in the first half of Google search results, you aren’t in there at all.
Murdering the independent web
This basically murdered the independent web we had – from alternative news outlets to small to medium size niche companies, a lot of entities on internet went downhill and some went bankrupt because of these changes.
Google’s search traffic accounts for 60-65% of search traffic (source), and a lot of small websites, businesses and publications had been dependent on it.
Not any more, since a lot of them are bankrupt due to immense fall of traffic to their websites. (source)
So now, Google’s search results are little different from the average Newspaper stand round the corner in your street.
Why should Google, a publicly traded Wall Street corporation, send traffic to a small business in Idaho or a small web publication in west coast anyway?
Complicated investment relations in between the companies in Wall Street exist, and even more complicated and overlapping investment relations in between major shareholders of these corporations, exist.
Its much better for Google to send traffic to these major megacorps rather than any well-known specialized internet website belonging to small entities or people. When one of these megacorporations profit, many others profit as well – foremost their combined investors.
And that is leaving aside all kinds of different partnerships that exist in between Google and numerous other megacorporations.
A natural, understandable result of the desire to maximize profit as per the existing economic system.
But it has an undesired result:
Google search sucks now, big time
Whatever you search, you get semi-relevant or hardly relevant results now, since more relevant but smaller websites are being obscured by major publicly traded brands in Google search listings. Yes, there are a few exceptions to that in which some smaller websites appear in some specific search results in every other given area, but the general percentage is extremely heavily skewed towards publicly traded brands at the cost of relevancy.
So, now, you have to search Google for that specific SQL query of yours, get semi-relevant stackoverflow results, and then go to stackoverflow to search there to get to something specific and related.
Or, for your news search, its CNN, MSNBC, WSJ or NYT.
For shopping it’s * gasp * Amazon, Amazon and Amazon. Occasionally eBay.
Why shouldn’t you just go to those websites directly and do your search there instead of searching through the middleman Google is? Isn’t it?
It’s much more logical. Not only you would save time, but you would also get more relevant results for your specific search, and also save reading the semi-relevant Google results you would get.
And that’s exactly what people had been doing.
Google search share declines
People had been doing exactly that, and also moving to other search engines.
Since a long time Google’s search share has fallen. (source) Moreover, other search engines like Yahoo gained on in search share. (source) Of course, this latter one is also effected by the default search engine change in Firefox from Google to Yahoo too. However coupled by the general drop/stagnation in Google search since 2008, it illustrates a picture.
The trend will go on obviously, as long as Google keeps pushing big megacorporations in its search results at the cost of relevancy. In the end, what made Google what it is today were the small websites/publications/businesses on internet at large. Everyone knew how to type in a major corporations’s address into their browser and visit their website circa late 1990s. But Google brought the smaller websites to the people – websites and pages which were exactly relevant to their search. And this is how Google became the search giant it has been.
Since 2012, Google has turned its back to these small websites. Which consist ‘the people’, since they make up almost entire internet. The public, basically – all of us.
For News, social networks filled the gap by bringing us the untold stories and news that the corporate media finds uncomfortable or interest-damaging to report. (source) For specific technical/occupational information, we came to rely on forums and niche websites.
However, circa 2017, Google’s original PageRank patent expires. (source)
PageRank was the original link-based ranking algorithm that made Google search what it is. And probably part of the reason why Google is screwing up its search in the past 2 years is due to that – to make up for upcoming non-exclusivity of the PageRank patent, going pro-big business and corporate-enabling instead. But what can you expect, after having a corporate mentality persona like Eric Schmidt as your CEO anyway.
In 2017, some others may pick up PageRank concept and make it better, instead of screwing it up with ‘brands’ or outright killing it. After all, PageRank worked and brought extremely relevant search results. Spam should have been dealt with separately. Spam always was a problem on internet in every single service, and will always be there. The search of a spam-free algorithm or technical method is vain.