Google’s chief engineer said Google has seen an overall decline in the quality of its search results, but begs the idea it’s just a window on the web, suggesting it could be the entire internet that’s getting worse .
Marissa Mayer, who worked at Google from 2009 to 2012, was a guest on a Freakonomics podcast, where she addressed the top user complaint — the company’s preference for advertising over organic results.
Marissa Mayer, who worked at Google from 2009 to 2012, admitted there has been a decline but suggests the internet is getting worse
She explained that 80 percent of searches don’t include paid URLs, and she believes ads can give users exactly what they’re looking for, even more so than organic.
Google is not blind to the decline either, supplementing its index of one trillion web pages by showing users curated content and providing snippets of text directly within the text, eliminating the need to page through page by page.
Over 80 percent of Alphabet, Google’s parent company,’s revenue comes from ads on the search engine, and 85 percent of all online searches are conducted on Google.
Breaking these facts down by numbers shows why Google is inundated with paid content, but displaying everyone at the top is enough to influence user behavior and earns the company a huge amount of money for every click.
Mayer was Google’s first female engineer when she joined the company in 1999 and actually ran the search engine during her 13-year tenure.
Prior to her tenure, Mayer struggled to make the move to Google.
“The refrain I heard most from people who knew I was considering working there was, ‘Why does the world need another search engine? There are already about a dozen that are good enough,” she said during the podcast.
It wasn’t until Mayer spoke to founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin that she was convinced that Google was the way of the future. The founders told her “that good enough for quest is not good enough”.
And from there, she began her journey with the tech giant.
“When you see the quality of your search results declining, it’s natural to blame Google and ask, ‘Why are they worse?’ said Mayer.
“For me, the more interesting and sophisticated thought is when you say, ‘Wait, but Google is just a window to the web. The real question is, why is the internet getting worse?’
She gave an example of how the ads perform better than organic links, using the idea that someone wants to buy “Madonna tour tickets.”
Mayer praised Google for its ads, saying that sometimes they outperform organic results and that only 80 percent of searches show ads
Companies that pay to have their link appear at the top are more likely to have tickets available for purchase.
However, many users expect to see actual search results when searching for the best hotels in New York City or where to open a savings account, and this is where the problem comes in.
Google doesn’t show organic search results above a section labeled “People also ask,” which is the “fix” Mayer mentioned that gives users a snippet to keep them from leaving the search engine.
“I think Google is more reluctant to send users online,” Mayer said, speaking on Freakonomics.
“And to me that points to a natural tension where they’re like, ‘Wait, we see that sometimes the internet isn’t a great experience for our seekers to move on to. We keep them on our side.”
Advertising wasn’t always Google’s way.
The company didn’t always show them, fearing it would spoil users’ experience. Despite this, Mayer and other Google innovators designed an experiment to put the idea to the test.
In 2000, the team rolled out a trial that showed 99 percent of users ads and 1 percent didn’t see them.
The results showed that people who saw ads performed three percent more searches than those who didn’t.
“Basically, over a long period of time, there was a noticeable difference that people actually liked Google search results better and did more searches when they had ads than when they didn’t, which I think really confirms that.” , Mayer said.
The team shut down the experiment but let the ads flow.
WHERE DOES GOOGLE’S “DON’T BE EVIL” SENTENCE COME FROM?
For the past 24 years, the Silicon Valley giant has placed “don’t be evil” at the heart of its code of conduct to demonstrate that it wants Googlers to strive to do the right thing.
“Don’t be angry” was first included in the company’s code of conduct in 2000 and has been highly touted by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin over the years.
The company devoted several paragraphs to the phrase in its code of conduct.
But that changed with a code update made last month that downgraded “don’t be mad” to a single sentence at the end of the document.
Here are the original paragraphs explaining Google’s “don’t be evil” principle:
‘Do not be angry.’ Googlers generally apply these words to the way we serve our users. But Don’t Be Bad is much more than that. Yes, it’s about providing our users with unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs, and providing them with the best possible products and services. But it’s also about doing the right thing generally—obeying the law, acting with honor, and treating colleagues with courtesy and respect.
The Google Code of Conduct is one of the ways we put Don’t Be Bad into practice. It is based on the recognition that everything we do related to our work at Google is and should be measured against the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct. We set the bar so high for both practical and ambitious reasons: our commitment to the highest standards helps us hire great people, build great products, and attract loyal users. Trust and mutual respect between employees and users are the basis of our success, which we have to work towards every day.
So please read the Code and follow both its spirit and its letter. Always remember that we each have a personal responsibility to incorporate the Code’s principles into our work and to encourage other Google employees to do so. And if you have a question, or if you ever feel a fellow Googler or the company as a whole isn’t doing what we’re committed to, don’t be silent. We want – and need – to hear from you.