The Death of the Search Engine

/ 5 Fructidor 231
3 minutes / 528 words

In the early days of Google and Yahoo the best hack for getting your website to the top of rankings was Keyword Stuffing. You’d make the font blend in with the background and jam in as many relevant (or in many cases completely irrelevant, depending on your intent) keywords as you possibly could. Your users couldn’t see them, but search engines could, and they’d push you up the rankings, since with so many keywords the website in question must be super relevant to what you’re looking for.

This no longer works. Search Engines have become far more sophisticated then they once were; people no longer even search for keywords, instead pontificating full questions to Google - “what, pray tell, is the best polenta recipe?” - But people are just as desperate to tune their websites to the whims of the parsers. High rankings on Google are more important then ever, clicks drive ad revenue and ad revenue drives a websites profit.

People may no longer be inserting the keyword “sex” on a white background to drive clicks, but the bad actors still dominate on search rankings, more so than ever. Algorithmically generated content now reigns supreme. Search for “best desk” and the top option is Amazon Affiliate Link spam. Search for “mac and cheese recipe” and read a 2000 word essay about how much the author misses their grandmother, and how this recipe was inspired by her - a story necessary for you to spend more time on the site, see more ads, and make the food blog more profit - in many cases, I doubt anyone involved with the article has even made the dish in question.

News Headlines are now hardly even written for human eyes - keyword stuffed to the brim (the last place this still works) to beat out their competitors. Google prefers “fresh” content over old - so companies are now incentivized to delete old content, no matter the quality. The result of this? People are no longer capable of finding what they’re looking for.

You may not be aware of the changes to search engines directly, but you’ve already begun to compensate for it. Ask yourself, when you search for something, how often do you have to append “reddit” to your query to find a good, relevant answer? You’ve begun to automatically filter out garbage without even realizing it.

This, beyond anything else, is why ChatGPT has grown so quickly. Focusing in on its proclivity to errors is useless, because even at its worst it is better at summarizing information then a Google search.

This is the beginning of the death of the search engine as we know it. Don’t search for “best crib”, ask the question in a mom’s Facebook group. Don’t search for code snippets - you’ll just see plagarized medium articles anyways - and chatGPT can get you close enough. The “free media” market is drowning itself, and good riddance.


Afternote

Good things are happening on the alternative search engine front. If you’re still using Google, try switching to one of these:

  1. DuckDuckGo
  2. Kagi

You can even affordably roll your own search engine, specific to your needs, with Lieu.