Google Updates Search to Filter Out Low-Quality Spam Sites

Google is adjusting its search engine to filter out spam-filled websites meant to game the system and land at the top of search results. The aim is to elevate original content over web pages that seem to be designed for search engines rather than people.  

Along with updating its search algorithm to elevate better-quality sites, Google is changing its spam policies to keep sites “repurposed as spam repositories” out of its search results. It wants to filter out a new wave of zombie sites — once defunct websites that have been resurrected and are now limping along with generic, AI-generated content.

In a Tuesday blog post, Google said these new tweaks will reduce the amount of low-quality, unoriginal content in its search results by 40%.

On Google’s radar are bad actors who use automated systems, including AI generators, to create content that appears to answer specific search queries but fails to provide meaningful information, frustrating search users, according to Google.

The tech giant said it’s also going after reputable websites that host low-quality content from third parties. This kind of abuse aims to leverage the site’s good name to get the third-party content to rank higher in search results. In these instances, readers may be duped into reading a low-quality article from what seems to be a trusted source of information. Google is giving a warning to websites now, and said it’ll begin enforcing ranking for reputable sites on May 5.

Google has long been waging a war against people who try to trick its system and profit off low-quality, ad-filled sites. These sites use Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, techniques to artificially inflate the value of their webpages and rank higher in Google search results. The goal for these actors isn’t necessarily to answer the questions people are asking, but instead rake in clicks for monetization.

It’s led to a degradation in search, with some people lamenting the breakdown of Google results. A recent study found that Google Search results are now more likely to feature lower-quality text with aggressive SEO, monetization and affiliate marketing. Researchers warned that search results will only get worse as AI-generated spam proliferates. To work around the spam, people have, for example, been tweaking their queries with the word “reddit” after a question to help filter in more relevant human-written results.

Google, which makes most of its revenue from ads placed against search results, needs to find a way to improve its process, especially as people begin looking more toward AI engines like ChatGPT to answer questions directly, instead of having to scroll through a feed of blue links.

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for further comment.