A tweet that Google no longer delivers helpful results struck a nerve with others who felt likewise, causing it to go viral. The tweet received over 42,000 likes and nearly 6,000 retweets from others who are unsatisfied with Google.
The tweet compared Google to decrepit shopping malls where you can’t get “what you came for.”
The person tweeted:
Google search is becoming one of those dying malls. You still go there out of habit, but once you get there, none of it is what you want. You can remember when it was a useful place to visit, but now it’s weirdly hollow and you leave without getting what you came for
— Emily Velasco (@MLE_Online) October 25, 2022
Others Felt the Same Way About Google
May others on Twitter felt the same way, perhaps explaining why the tweet went viral.
Some felt Google has recently become worse:
Sure- it’s just weird how it’s gotten so much worse in like the past month or so. Feels like a shift in strategy on Google’s part.
— Becky Renewed (@BeckyRenewed) October 25, 2022
Thank god for this thread and this retweet, I thought I was losing my mind.
— Egan Reich (@jeganreich) October 26, 2022
I’ve noticed this too. Weird websites that look like they were generated with content from somewhere else
— Thor Lindberg (@thor_lindberg) October 25, 2022
Some People Are Happy With Google
Not all the responses were from people who were displeased by Google:
Maybe I mostly scratch technical things but it still seems to be excellent
— Xiao Wang (@xiaowang1984) October 26, 2022
Yeah I keep seeing threads like this and I have no idea what they are talking about. Google still gives me almost exactly what I want the vast majority of the time.
— Derek Clark (@clarky07) October 26, 2022
But those expressing contentment with Google’s SERPs were overwhelmingly the outliers.
Most of the responses agreed with the original tweet, receiving over 42,000 likes, signaling that perhaps more people are unsatisfied with Google than are delighted by it.
Google Forcing Intent on SERPs
One of the trends in that discussion is that Google is forcing their interpretation of the search query.
But Google altering the intended meaning results in wrong answers.
This forces the user to try to reformulate their search query.
Those people complaining about this may not be imagining it.
A recent study by SEMRush discovered that almost 30% of search queries have to be reformulated.
The SEMRush study noted:
“There’s a great deal of keyword refinement at play here.
If we combine the number of Google clicks with the number of keyword changes, we see that almost 30% of people are either refining or extending their searches in some way.
…27.6% of searches eventually undergo some form of query refinement…”
Some of the forced intent can be explained by Google erroneously applying geolocation to the search query, interpreting a query as a local search.
The person who started the tweet also suggested that users should not be forced to use quotes or advanced search operators.
Some of the quote tweets are saying things to the effect of “if you know the tricks, it still works,” which misses the point.
1. A lot of the old tricks don’t work anymore
2. We shouldn’t have to try this hard to trick a search engine into giving useful results
— Emily Velasco (@MLE_Online) October 25, 2022
Many people on Twitter agreed that Google SERPs are forcing the wrong search query interpretation.
I was just thinking the other day about how much less useful it has become. It seems like you can no longer force search terms but instead are stuck with related phrases Google thinks will be helpful.
— Rabi Abonour (@rabonour) October 26, 2022
I use it for researching some really really obscure things, so its determination that every search result must somehow have something to do with my current location in the middle of Pennsylvania is a bug not a feature.
— Verna 12-foot sKaleton (@vernakale) October 25, 2022
I was trying to check import rules as an American returning to the U.S. from Canada, and because I was in Canada, it INSISTED on telling me what Canadians needed to travel to the U.S. or could bring home to Canada.
— Eastern Hellbender (@CorynWolk) October 26, 2022
Poor Quality of Sites in Google’s SERPs
Another trend in the discussion spawned by the viral tweet is that the SERPs are polluted with scraped sites, bad recipe results that force users to scroll past useless content to get to the recipes and content that is generic and not helpful.
Scraped Sites in SERPs for Coding Queries
Yeah I’ve noticed this too with coding results – scraped GitHub issues pages and stack overflow threads that sometimes outrank the original thread
— shriphani (@shriphani) October 25, 2022
just one of many examples.
anything on coding: results infested with warmed over and blended old stack overflow answers.
And now the bots have taken this content to auto-generating thousands of youtube videos with text to title cards plus speech synthesis.
— Justin (@Trumpery45) October 25, 2022
Bad Recipe Sites
Has anyone tried to read a recipe website that is optimized for Google? “First, here’s the history of pepper”…10 paragraphs later you get the recipe
— neal boren (@neal_boren) October 26, 2022
SERPs were described as so unhelpful that the experience was compared to walking through weeds:
I was thinking about this yesterday as I searched for something and knew full well that I would have to scroll through the weeds in the hope of actually finding anything helpful.
— Craig Behenna (@CraigBehenna) October 25, 2022
One of the saddest responses is that a sense of discovery is gone from Google:
I used to find the most interesting obscure pages on the web, searching on Google. It was a treat, helping me learn & discover new perspectives, but now I mostly get sponsored & paid-for corporation websites that lead me to commercial products or very vague generic information.
— Western Prodigy (@WesternProdigy) October 25, 2022
Is that Google’s fault? Or is it the fault of the content that’s online?
Part of the blame could be Google because it long ago appears to have decided to de-prioritize content from forums, which are communities where real people talk about topics of interest.
SERPs Filled With Content But Not Human Insight
Google has never explicitly said that it de-prioritized ranking content from forums. But as a forum community manager and someone who knows others who manage forums, it certainly feels like Google has pulled back from ranking content generated from real people.
A common complaint is that Google tends to rank content but not insights from real people.
I find myself including ‘reddit’ or ‘wikipedia’ in every search because that’s the only way to find relevant information written by human beings.
— Peter (not pictured) (@ThePeterShep) October 25, 2022
The old forums were all killed off by Facebook groups apparently as well. Entire dedicated communities are dormant or nonexistent. The internet is becoming less useful overall while connecting everyone better with video streaming. Data limits are really annoying too.
— IndustrialEngineeringDisrespector (@jdubrocketshirt) October 25, 2022
Some of the blame is thrown at the SEO industry for pumping out content written by writers but not necessarily experts.
There are tools today that scrape the SERPs and generate content briefs, outlines for writers to essentially rewrite content that is SEO optimized.
There’s an SEO theory called the Skyscraper strategy that promotes taking stock of competitor’s content and then researching the topic and rewriting it so that it’s ten times bigger and (hopefully) better.
Those tools and strategies encourage and help non-experts to write content and people are noticing.
The only time I ever even use Google search anymore is if I need to find some song that I couldn’t Shazam in time.
Because when I need actual answers all I find anymore are garbage articles written by people who know as little as I do. Or Reddit.
— Riko’s Maker Machine (he/him) (@themakermachine) October 25, 2022
So many articles that read like they were randomly generated by my search input 🙁
— Mare (@PrimalNight) October 25, 2022
The Perception that Google is Dysfunctional or Corrupted
Lastly there is the old complaint that Google is motivated to shove ads in users faces and is corrupted. This complaint has been around since Google started showing ads and increased after Google went public.
Whether it’s true or not, the perception that Google is corrupted continues to this day.
No, they had that.
They also had a functioning search engine back then.
Nothing Google makes is functional, anymore. If it’s making ad revenue then they don’t care.
— Sidney Rutledge (@hs_doubbing) October 25, 2022
Thanks for the image, expresses very well what I’m thinking. It’s painful because it’s in a way a self fulfilling prophecy; Google abandoned its original mission of organizing the world’s information in order to become a virtual mall, and killed the Web as we knew it.
— Carlos Ribeiro (@carribeiro) October 25, 2022
Too much emphasis on selling ads plus too much SEO gaming the system, I think
— Emily Velasco (@MLE_Online) October 25, 2022
What Is Your Experience of Google?
Days before the viral tweet was published I too felt discouraged by Google search and posted about it on my Facebook feed.
“I just had to reformulate my search query in Google several times. Google kept insisting I was searching for something else.
And then had to resort to adding negative searches in order to stop Google from insisting I was searching for something else and finally I thought this is just silly.
So I went to Bing and I found what I was looking for with one search.
This does not happen every single time I search. But it seems like I’m increasingly having to reformulate my searches because Google keeps insisting I’m looking for something else.”
Chuck Price (LinkedIn profile), an expert search marketer, responded to my Facebook post, writing:
“I’ve been experiencing this for a few months now. When I asked here on FB awhile back if people found themselves using Bing more often, it was a resounding no.
Old habits die hard, but you can’t rely on Google any longer for the “best” search results.
I frequently find myself referencing Bing and even Yandex when I need answers.”
In my experience Google seems fine and even able to provide amazing results for queries that resemble questions posed to a human.
For example, Google shows the correct response (Cemetry Gates by The Smiths) for the query “what is that song about friends meeting in a cemetery?”
What is your experience with Google lately?
Do you have to reformulate your queries?
How often are you forced to use quotes in order to force Google to show the right results?
Whatever the reality is about Google Search, it’s notable that a simple complaint about Google Search failing a user tapped into a nerve and caused the tweet to go viral.
Featured image by Shutterstock/Jihan Nafiaa Zahri