New research study asks if Google Search is getting worse


A recently released research paper looked to see if Google Search, as well as Bing and DuckDuckGo, search quality has improved over the past year or so. The study looked at 7,392 unique search queries, generally in the product reviews category, where they scrapped the search results every two weeks between October 26th, 2022, and September 19th, 2023.

The study. You can download the study as a PDF document over here, it was published by the Leipzig University, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and ScaDS.AI in Germany. The study concluded “that dynamic adversarial spam in the form of low-quality, mass-produced commercial content deserves more attention.”

Are search results getting worse? The study aims to figure out if search results are getting worse. And the study concludes that specifically with Google the search results “seem to have improved” to some extent from the start of the study to its completion. But the study said it requires algorithmic updates, constant ones. They wrote, “that search engines do intervene and that ranking updates, especially from Google, have a temporary positive effect, though search engines seem to lose the cat-and-mouse game that is SEO spam.”

“Google started downranking at least some affiliate pages in the last two of our scrapes, starting end of August, 2023,” the study added. But the study wrote “whether this is a short-lived change or a lasting trend remains to be seen.”

The study concluded, “that higher-ranked pages are on average more optimized, more monetized with affiliate marketing, and they show signs of lower text quality.” Adding that “search engines measurably target SEO and affiliate spam with their ranker updates.” “Google’s updates in particular are having a noticeable, yet mostly short-lived, effect. In fact, the Google results seem to have improved to some extent since the start of our experiment in terms of the amount of affiliate spam. Yet, we can still find several spam domains and also see an overall downwards trend in text quality in all three search engines, so there is still quite a lot of room for improvement,” they added.

Last reviews update. The study did not look at the last reviews update, which was in November 2023. Glenn Gabe pointed this out. This study ended on September 19th, 2023.

Why do we care. It seems like the Google reviews update has been targeting some of these spammy affiliate review content, according to the study. But now that Google will no longer confirm reviews updates going forward, it might be hard to analyze the effectiveness of these updates going forward.


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