Google Search Quality Under Attack

John Lister's picture

A software engineer has sparked a controversial debate with the claim that "Google Search is dying." Dmitri Brereton says he is talking about the quality and relevance of results rather than the number of people using the tool or the revenue it generates for Google.

Brereton's claims were sparked by a post showing the number of Google searches for the discussion site Reddit are steadily increasing. He believes this isn't because the site itself is becoming more popular but rather because people are using Google but restricting the results to posts from Reddit to get more useful information. (Source:

He goes on to claim that while the average users gets decent results when they search Google, that's misleading because people have learned not to use Google for the types of searches that get irrelevant results. (Source:

Health Results Slammed

Brereton then quotes other tech experts who argue the problem is Google concentrating on getting good results for 80 percent of searches at the expense of offering anything useful for the remaining 20 percent. One lists "health, product reviews [and] recipes" as subjects where Google's top results tend to be useless.

According to Brereton, three main factors are causing what he sees as a decline in quality. The first is Google feeling increasing pressure to pay more attention to advertisers than users, even if that makes the search rankings less useful.

The second factor he cites is Google having less success combating people who try to "game" its algorithms to get their sites to the top of the search rankings even when they aren't genuinely most relevant.

Google Overthinking Searches

Finally, Brereton believes Google tries to hard to figure out what people are actually searching for, to the point that users who type in exactly what they want don't get it. He pointed to searches surrounded by quote marks, which are meant to match the exact phrase only.

That led to an exchange with a Google representative that suggests how the search engine handles punctuation marks within "exact match" searches may affect the results in an unpredictable manner.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you feel the quality of Google results has declined? If so, what do you think is the main cause? Have you found a search engine that gives you better results?

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Average: 5 (9 votes)


Slick's picture

I have never used Google Search. I used to use DogPile exclusively but switched to Ecosia 2 years ago. All searches plant tress.

Bob's picture

Google Search is under attack? No surprise to me. There was the comment: "users who type in exactly what they want don't get it."
Very correct. I agree completely. A massive amount of 'bait and switch' going on.
And not just Google.
I was on Amazon earlier. I put in a search for a Beet Leaves supplement. I even included the supplier company name in the search line. Amazon showed me 50 or more offerings for beet ROOTS supplements. If I had wanted ROOTS, I would not have clearly and specifically requested LEAVES.
On eBay, one is able to filter out wrong hit words with a simple minus sign in front of the unwanted.
Is Amazon afraid of loosing sales? Big Bear is running scared?
Well, they lost another sale, again.
Putting in the same request at, and up came exactly what I wanted.

doulosg's picture

I've had a vague sense that the algorithm has been tweaked incorrectly. I've noticed that quotes around a search term are not only less helpful than before but do move me farther from my goal. I miss the minus sign as a way to exclude terms. And, I agree with "Bob" that Amazon searches are becoming less productive. I sometimes use Google to search Amazon, as if that made any sense!

Years ago I learned with Word that I did NOT want Microsoft trying to think for me; I felt like laying out a document was an argument with another developer.

It is not surprising though. Google succeeded initially as the "outsider" "looking in" at the internet of - what - the 90's. They are now the insiders of the internet of the 20's. They are probably too close to the beast that they are responsible for.

buzzallnight's picture

and only received a catalog of things to buy.

It does seem like the answer to all searches
is something to buy.

I still use it though, I just don't buy anything.

pctyson's picture

I have mentioned that Googles results are becoming useless to MANY of my family memebers who, in turn, have expressed the same frustrations I have with the Google searches. I used to be able to help family & friends find things better on Google by instructing them to use quotes, minus signs, etc... It is pointless now and I just have to tell them that I don't know what to tell them. If Google keeps it up, I hope out of neccessity, competition will arise causing Google to become irrelevant.

P.S.: Thank you Dennis for bringing this article and discussion forward and out in the open. The problem has become agregious. I suspect that it is rarely being discussed en masse due to fear of the power of Google.