Respected American Journalists Ask If Google Search Is Now Significantly Worse

By Barry Schwartz

A few respected American Journalists the other day asked on Twitter if you are noticing Google Search has gotten "significantly worse" than it was previous years. Journalists such as Jesse Eisinger, Chris Hayes and Herb Greenberg all chimed in about this topic and Danny Sullivan, a former journalist who now works at Google, took notice.

Who are these journalists?

  • Jesse Eisinger is an American journalist and author. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2011, he currently works as a senior reporter for ProPublica. (Wikipedia link)
  • Chris Hayes an American commentator and TV news anchor on MSNBC. (Wikipedia link)
  • Herb Greenberg a very highly respected American journalist. (Wikipedia link)

Jesse Eisinger asked on Twitter "Saw something about this on Twitter and then just experienced it myself: Have others noticed that Google search has gotten significantly worse?" Chris Hayes responded "Without a doubt. The recency bias is killer." Herb Greenberg dug into the issues with searching for recent news.

Here are those tweets with Danny Sullivan's responses:

I've been hearing rumblings from big media about how Google Search may be slipping in terms of quality. It sounds like Danny Sullivan of Google is aware and thinks it is about searching for more recent news. I remember the pre-Google Panda days where Google was getting a ton of bad PR around search quality. Panda came out and really fixed a lot of that. But now we are a decade after that and it seems some respected individuals feel Google Search is degrading.

I wonder if any of this has to do with the lingering issue of new pages dropping in and out of the index?

What do you all think?

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Update: Some more on this:

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There may have been a Google search ranking algorithm update on the smaller side on or around October 26th. There was both some limited chatter on that day, limited in that is was more than the norm but less than a huge update. And many of the tools showed elevated volatility on or around October 26th.

The ongoing WebmasterWorld thread had chatter start around October 26th with complaints of ranking shifts in Google Search. Here is some of that chatter:

Traffic was higher and more stable for a while, until today. A jump up in rank is coinciding with a big drop in traffic from all english language countries. Search down 25% at 3pm and direct down 38%. I am not bothering to spend time investigating whether it's because of page layout or # of ads on the page...Google will do what it's going to do and so will I.

We are having one of the most volatile months in terms of (unannounced) updates and serp fluctuations but one of the least active monthly threads.

For the past few days, new posts are not getting indexed, GSC is showing Discovered, but not indexed. sad It's a 5-year-old website with 1M impressions daily(100K organic traffic). Unique content, +1K words, but still...not indexed. SAD!

No, high authority websites were never downranked in my niche until very recently, hence the major shuffle remark.

Again, not a flood of complaints but a number of them that is higher than the norm. And we had a very quiet weekend, which again, is not in the recent norm.

Here are what the tools are showing:


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Cognitive SEO:

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Advanced Web Rankings:

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Have you noticed ranking changes yesterday?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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As you know, Google is rolling out continuous scroll on mobile search. To be honest, in my original reporting on this topic, I covered both the image of Search Console and Google Ads reporting - saying there is no direct impact outside of how user behavior may change. But it seems some are still asking about how this change impacts the performance reports in Search Console.

They really don't impact them directly, here is what was in my original reporting:

John Mueller from Google added:


Here is a more recent tweet from John on this:

And he also spoke about this in his recent video hangout at the 46:57 mark where he said:

But essentially, from our side we're still loading the search results in groups of 10, essentially. And as a user scrolls down on the page, we kind of dynamically load the next set of 10 results there. And when that set of 10 results is loaded, that counts as an impression. So that basically means that kind of the scrolling down, and you start seeing page two of the search results, that we would see is like, well, this is page two now.

And it now has impressions, similar to if someone were to just click on page two directly in the links. So from that point of view, not much really changes there.

What I think will change a little bit is that users will probably scroll a little bit easier to page two, page three, or four. And based on that, the number of impressions that a website can get in the search results will probably go up a little bit. I don't think it'll be like an extreme change, but probably it'll be more the case that if you were ranking on page two, then suddenly your website gets a lot more impressions just because it's easier to reach page two in the search results. And the number of clicks I suspect will remain similar, because people will kind of scroll up and down and look at the results on a page. And they'll click on one of them. So probably what will happen is impressions go up a little bit. Clicks stay the same. That means your click through rate tends to go down a little bit. And if you're focusing purely on click through rate for SEO, then I suspect that will be a little bit of a kind of-- I don't know-- weird situation, because it's hard to determine, did the click through rate drop because this page was shown in this continuous scroll environment? Or did it drop because users saw it, but they didn't like to click on it as much anymore? So that's I think kind of tricky there. One thing that, I don't know, helps a little bit I think is we do this continuous scrolling just for the first four pages. And then afterwards you click on kind of the load more or next page. I don't know what exactly it's called. So it's not something that you would see if you were ranking on page five or six, at least not at the moment.

Here is that video:

So no direct reporting changes because page two is still page two. But if searchers tend to scroll more and click on results from page two, your CTR may change. Maybe...

Forum discussion at Twitter.