The End of Google Search Relevancy
Google Search Size Matters not Content
At a high level meeting of senior Google business strategists in April a crucial decision was taken to change the way Google search works in order to “encourage” people to pay for placement in search results. “From now on we only want big sites to feature at the top of SERP. We will no longer list links to highly relevant content if it’s a smaller site. Owners of big sites are more likely to pay us for Google Ads and after all profit is what we are all about, not what people want”.
No I’m not a fly on the wall at Google HQ, and this hypothetical meeting probably never took place, this decision was probably never taken! YET!
But the average search engine user may well believe this happened, with good reason. The world’s most used search engine is no longer the reliable tool to find relevant information. Since mid 2015 major changes to the search algorithms means results are now less relevant and more dependent on, in Google’s words) the size of the website.
Larger Sites Favoured Regardless of Content Relevancy
Google has been very close-mouthed about this change in policy. At first the powers that be behind Google search denied any major algorithm change had been implemented. Eventually however in response to large numbers of webmasters’ questions on SEO related forums and Google’s own discussion pages Google admitted their direction had changed.
What this means for the average searcher is more irrelevant links at the top of search results. Often the first 3 pages of Google search results have little or no relevancy to the search term. It’s interesting to see just how irrelevant these top “organic” results can actually be to the search term.
Google Search Results Irrelevant to Search Terms
It’s not unusual now to do a Google search and find the top 30 links listed on the results pages have very little relevancy to the searcher’s request. One may see any or all of these examples in the first 30 or more links;
- A single word from the search term in the description – when you visit the page you find there isn’t even a single word relevant to the search.
- A couple of the words in the search term, not together as a phrase, but scattered around the description sentence(s). Again, visiting the page one is lucky to find anything relevant to the search request.
To find a link to a page where the words in the search term are all included one may need to go much deeper into search results, maybe page 10, 20 or even further down the order – Who today bothers to go to page 4 of search engine results let alone page 10 or deeper?
But Plenty of Paid For Ads
What does stand out on Google search results page is the number of paid adverts. Not only a couple in position 1 or 2, and a list down the right hand side of the page. Now there are also several, usually 3, ads at the bottom of the listings…
Now we all know that paid adverts don’t really need to have relevancy to the search term. There doesn’t have to be any relevant content on the page to get placed in Google Ad results – that’s how low content “squeeze” pages get featured. All one needs to do to feature in Google Ads is buy placement for chosen search terms – the more you pay the better placement you get and the more often your page (or pages) get listed in results!
Not Good for Searchers, Not Good for Site Owners
What this means for internet users using Google to find information is poorer, much poorer, results. We can no longer type in a search term to Google search and expect to find links to high quality, relevant information. We will now have to wade through page after page of low relevancy links hoping to find the information we want.
For site owners the change in Google search means a lot less traffic to their websites. Many sites have reported a drop in traffic of 75% and more. For small businesses this is a disastrous scenario. After spending good money to build a site to present their products and services to potential customers, many small businesses may now start wondering if having a website (and all the cost, time and work involved in keeping it updated) is worth while.
What Alternatives to Google Search
There are other search engines out there. At this time search engines like Bing and MSN are returning much more relevant information than Google search. Sadly the Microsoft group of search engines are poorly configured. These search engines seldom index all the pages on a website, selecting on an ad-hoc basis the ones they “think” are the “best”.
Not so long ago the results from Bing and it’s sister search engines were nowhere near Google for quality of results. Without any changes to these tools the situation is now reversed; Google search has become so poor other search engines have gained a massive advantage in the quality of results stakes.
For webmasters Microsoft’s search engines are a nightmare. These search bots generally ignore robots.txt rules and crawl anything the want. The crawl rate is heavy and can severely impact site operation for sites on shared hosting and others with limited resources. Fortunately one of the few robots rules these bots do obey is crawl rate so the impact can be mitigated.
Other search engines: There’s a rash of less well-known search engines e.g. Duck Duck Go. In the past none of these have been worth using. Perhaps it’s time to start using these smaller search tools, hopefully encouraging their developers to improve the way they work.
Golden Opportunity for Competing Search Engines
The current poor quality of Google Search is a golden opportunity for other search engines to gain ground in their share of users. Search engine users need to make their feelings known by making more use of alternative search tools. Google has become an arrogant giant no longer concerned with its users. They have forgotten what made them the most used search engine in the world today – quality of results.
The company has become a typical corporate giant where the only thing that matters is profit, hence market share and stock price. Product quality has been lost in favour of short-term financial gains. We (internet users) need to send a strong message to this monolith that we will not use it simply because it used to be the best.