Google Search has been caught up in a massive tidal wave of generative AI garbage.
It's starting to look like an unrecognizable heap of spam, meaningless search engine optimization (SEO) filler, and dubiously sourced news.
"It’s the worst quality results on Google I’ve seen in my 14-year career," eminent SEO expert Lily Ray told Fortune.
Instead of filtering out scams, Google is seemingly bowing to the pressure and is instead promoting them.
"Right now, it feels like the scammers are winning," Ray added.
Researchers recently confirmed these suspicions, finding that Google is consistently ranking ad-filled spam. In a year-long study, first reported on by 404 Media, a team of German researchers studied search results for thousands of product-review terms and found some shocking results.
The team found an "inverse relationship between affiliate marketing use and content complexity, and that all search engines fall victim to large-scale affiliate link spam campaigns."
In other words, the "search engines seem to lose the cat-and-mouse game that is SEO spam," the team concluded in their paper.
And, as you might expect at this point, generative AI is likely playing a central role in the dissemination of this low-quality content.
"The line between benign content and spam in the form of content and link farms becomes increasingly blurry — a situation that will surely worsen in the wake of generative AI," the researchers write.
Despite seeing some improvement in results since the start of their experiment in terms of affiliate spam, the team still observed a "downwards trend in text quality," leaving "quite a lot of room for improvement."
There's plenty of evidence that supports the theory that generative AI is slowly ruining the internet.
With the democratization of AI-powered tools like ChatGPT, content farms are pumping out vast amounts of badly researched and often entirely unedited content.
And the technology's mutually beneficial relationship with SEO, the practice of tweaking content to increase its discoverability and have it rank higher on search results, is seemingly compounding Google's woes.
That doesn't bode well, considering AI's tenuous connection to reality and inability to tell the truth.
Google's own forays into AI-powered search leaves much to be desired. Its Search Generative Experience, which was released in beta form last year, has trouble answering simple prompts like naming "countries in Africa that start with the letter k" and sometimes gives out wildly inaccurate information.
In short, there's a good reason why users are "sharing their observation that search engines are becoming less and less capable of finding genuine and useful content satisfying their information needs," as the German researchers noted in their paper.
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