Search engine results are getting worse, research confirms

German researchers have confirmed that search engine results are deteriorating due to the proliferation of SEO-optimized and affiliate link-laden content. Their year-long study of over 7,000 product review queries across Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo revealed that pages with higher rankings tend to be more monetized and show signs of lower text quality. The study also highlighted an inverse relationship between the use of affiliate marketing and content complexity.

The research team from Leipzig and Bauhaus universities, along with the Center for Scalable Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, found that search engines struggle to combat large-scale affiliate link spam campaigns, with Google’s countermeasures being the most effective yet only temporarily so. The advent of generative AI is expected to exacerbate the issue, as it enables the rapid creation of low-quality content.

The paper does not offer specific solutions but suggests that search engines should be more discerning in promoting content from high-volume sites. Janek Bevendorff, a research assistant involved in the study, acknowledges the complexity of the issue, recognizing that while affiliate marketing contributes to the problem, it is also a vital revenue source for many legitimate sites. The battle against SEO spam appears to be ongoing, with no easy resolution in sight.
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