Is Google’s Search Quality Declining? An In-Depth Analysis


In recent years, there has been growing concern among users about the deteriorating quality of search results in Google. This decline is often attributed to the increasing volume of search-engine-optimized but low-quality content, a phenomenon that has been under-researched until now.

The Rise of SEO Spam

SEO spam has become a significant issue for search engines. A longitudinal study conducted on Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo over a year using 7392 product review queries revealed that all search engines are struggling with highly optimized (affiliate) content, which is more prevalent than it should be based on a baseline retrieval system on the ClueWeb22.

The dominance of affiliate marketing, particularly Amazon Associates, and an inverse relationship between affiliate marketing use and content complexity were observed. The study suggests a worrying trend of large-scale affiliate link spam campaigns affecting all major search engines.

Quality of Search Results: Google Vs. Others

The investigation shows that Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo all exhibit problems in filtering out low-quality, SEO-driven content. However, the extent of these problems varies. 

The analysis highlights that pages with better rankings are more repetitive and readable, suggesting they are of lower quality, potentially mass-produced, or even AI-generated. This trend is worrying as it points to a decline in the quality of content that ranks high in search results.

Impact of Ranking Algorithm Updates

Google’s efforts to curb SEO spam have been somewhat effective. Ranking Algorithm updates, especially from Google, have had a temporary positive impact. However, the study suggests that search engines are losing the cat-and-mouse game against SEO spam in the long run.

Websites adversely affected by a Google Algorithm Update should start by getting their website audited by a professional. 

Affiliate Marketing and Search Quality

The relationship between SEO and the use of affiliate marketing in product reviews reveals a strong positive correlation. 

Pages with affiliate links are significantly more common on commercial search engine result pages (SERPs) compared to non-commercial search engines like ChatNoir. 

This implies that commercial interests, driven by affiliate marketing, are influencing the quality of search results.


The analysis concludes that while Google and other search engines are making efforts to fight SEO spam, the overall quality of search results is declining. This is a result of the complex dynamics of SEO, affiliate marketing, and the ongoing battle between search engines and SEO engineers. 

The study calls for more attention to dynamic adversarial spam and the need for robust web IR systems capable of handling such challenges.

Download the PDF Report here. 

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