Over the past year or so, the quality of search results on Google has decreased significantly. This is, in part, because of websites that create no useful content but are able to game the Google Search algorithm to appear higher in the results. It appears that Google has figured out that people are unhappy and has committed to making changes to improve search results by lowering the ranking for true clickbait results.
The problem with SEO
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process by which websites try to produce content that Google (and other search engines) will consider more reliable. It also includes processes and data availability to let the search engines know what the page is about. This data is also used to create answer boxes, such as the quick hit answers that show up at the top of the search results, including reviews, recommendations, etc.
As we always say, when you create rules you create a game, and when you create a game you will always have people who play that game better than others. That is exactly what has happened with SEO - some players have gotten better at the game than others. The result is that their content moves higher up the search results than others.
Of course, this is exactly what we all want - our content to show up at the top of search results. Avram and I spend a lot of time making sure that what we provide to the world is both useful and relevant to our readers, and ranked well to show up in search results. However, not everyone cares about that first part, and that is where the problem comes from.
The solution for gaming the system
Google Search has announced that it will be rolling out a major update to its algorithm that is intended to prioritize content "made by and for people" rather than content generated by bots or content scraped from other sites and then optimized for search to outrank the original content. This update will be similar to the change the company made last year in order to reduce results from review aggregation sites.
The company described the change saying,
For example, if you search for information about a new movie, you might have previously seen articles that aggregated reviews from other sites without adding perspectives beyond what's available elsewhere. This isn't very helpful if you're expecting to read something new. With this update, you'll see more results with unique, authentic information, so you're more likely to read something you haven't seen before.
Google's dangerous position
Now, of course this update could provide a lot of value for users. However, it could prove problematic for Google itself. The company is under antitrust litigation from the US government because of its position in search. The government claims that Google has abused its position (92% of all search is done with Google), but Google has claimed that their position is simply a symptom of the quality of their search results, not aggressive behavior.
The problem, of course, is that Google has openly admitted that their search results have been gamed and that customers have been unhappy with their experience. The company can claim that they were simply trying to improve the results beyond their already superior position, but the move did throw a wrench into the works.