German University Study Looks To See If Google Search Is Getting Worse

A study released by the Leipzig University, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and ScaDS.AI in Germany asked if Google Search is getting worse. The 16 page paper, downloadable as a PDF over here says that Google has slightly improved in some areas but there is still a lot of spammy content within Google Search. This came via 404 Media, by the way.

The study manually reviewed the resulting queries and discarded near-duplicates and queries with artifacts or poor wording, resulting in a final list of 7,392 unique search queries. This was done across Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo. The study was done by scrapping the results every two weeks between October 26th, 2022, until September 19th, 2023. It focused on product reviews types of queries.

Here is a chart showing what it found:

The two conclusions for Google specifically were:

(1) That higher-ranked pages are on average more optimized, more monetized with affiliate marketing, and they show signs of lower text quality.

(2) Google updates do target the spam, they wrote, “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.”

I found this via Mashable. I am just not sure if the Mashable headline matches what the study says exactly?

I am not sure that the actual study says what the Mashable headline says… Did I read the study wrong? It says Google has got better… pic.twitter.com/zwazezI7kQ

— Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) January 17, 2024

Anyway, here is some of the early feedback on this:

Recent study reveals how SEO spam impacts Google’s search results quality. A year-long analysis of over 7000 product queries found a dominance of affiliate link spam, exposing vulnerabilities in Google’s algorithms. pic.twitter.com/99puPMGVot

— Natzir (@natzir9) January 17, 2024

Interesting! I’ve seen the case made, but also evidence both ways, where littler sites w/ unique “experience” get the just benefit. I like the hidden gems direction in spirit and am willing to wait and see. But what’s the opposite of “SEO spam?” “SEO-assisted helpful content?” 😉 https://t.co/FLJO2N9K7t

— Ethan Lazuk 🪬 (@EthanLazuk) January 17, 2024

The question would be are they willing to spend resources on doing this intensive work. What will happen to their profits then.

Probably they won’t. All they want is authority and that’s what you get now. Spam and Parasite SEO on authority websites.

— Kevin Rodrigues 🚢 (@kevinrod81) January 17, 2024

“updates have a noticeable but short-lived effect”

sounds to me like basically an arms race between updates and SEO spammers

in the course of the study there was an update that improved the situation but implicitly it will worsen again over time

— Mike Ryan (@mikeryanretail) January 17, 2024

I think the people running the study should have read my post about the long-term impact of the Reviews Update 🙂 -> A study monitoring product review queries on Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo for a year suggests that search engines are losing the cat-and-mouse game of SEO spam… pic.twitter.com/6E1bu5i3C5

— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) January 17, 2024

Forum discussion at X.

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