Google used to be good for you. It may be a noxious monopoly, but it at least used to provide a good product which had democratic tendencies. That is not the case anymore. As long as Google retains its monopoly status, SEO is dead. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t optimize your content for search engines. You still should, not least of which because other search engines exist and are slowly gaining market share. Just don’t bet on it as a business strategy. Why is SEO for Google dead in 2022?
#1 Google and its Constant, Irrational Updates
It’s no secret that Google results have declined in quality over the last few years. Privacy was not the only reason I switched to DuckDuckGo in 2019 (I may now need to switch again, given its move to censorship in the past few days). The results have truly fallen off a cliff since the summer of 2021, however, and they’ve gotten worse at a rapid progression since then. Truly nonsensical results now clutter the search engine. A few examples you’ll often find these days:
- Products for non-product searches, favoring Amazon and big publishers, of course.
- Articles that have most of their content behind barriers.
- Generic responses to questions which often take content from other people.
- Thin content with as little as 50 words.
- Content that only tangentially relates to what you searched for.
- Results that favor Google’s own political causes and worldview.
- Multiple links to the same site on the same page, catering content of the above types.
And these are only the organic results. Google is also littered with ever-more intrusive ads (a good adblocker helps here) and snippets that are designed to favor its own products. The constant, obnoxious YouTube results are the most obvious manifestation of this. These are blatant antitrust violations, but when you’re a trillion-dollar company, why care?
Google is infamous in the SEO community for not specifying what its algorithm favors, but it has clearly updated its search engine on a constant basis along these lines, and there are now major fluctuations in search results every day. Google used to only do small updates in-between larger core updates every few months. Those days are gone. In 2022, there is basically a core update every week, even though Google remains as coy as ever about admitting it.
The bottom line is, as I said in my ebook about building a blog from scratch (which you can get for free by signing up to my email list here), you can be in Google’s penthouse one day (or even hour) and the shithouse the next. This is more literal than ever in 2022, with no recourse whatsoever. You might do everything “right” and then get wiped out by an “update” that favors content of far worse quality than your own, just because.
In other words, SEO, once a crucial building block of an online brand, is now more unreliable than ever.
#2 Google and its War on Site Diversity
Google used to favor website diversity. Only one link to a unique website came up in any given page of search or image results. This is increasingly no longer the case. There are now often multiple links to a unique website cluttering the pages and image results.
One of the reasons why the content is so bad now is because Google increasingly steers traffic to these select websites, which they favor regardless of the content quality. The search results are now littered with Reddit, Quora, YouTube, short Q&A sites, Amazon, and various corporate media or sanitized, generic content mills.
It used to be the case that you, as a webmaster, could usually rank well if you selected a good keyword with a moderate amount of competition and produced good quality content for it. That is rarely true these days. If you are not among Google’s favored websites, any SEO work you do these days is fighting from underneath the 8-ball. The democratic impulse Google used to favor has become an oligarchical one.
The updates Google has done since the summer of 2021 seem dead-set on purging the kinds of niche websites that have the best, most original, and cutting edge content in favor of generic “authority” websites. For example, one comment I came across on an SEO forum mentioned that a few years ago, you could search for something about gardening and come across specialized niche blogs with people that have great content on gardening. Nowadays, you’ll get something like Vogue that only tangentially mentions the search term, but because it’s Vogue, it will rank well, because it has “authority.” This has been true in my survey of results in my own niche, too.
The end result is that I’m down by over 75% on my Google footprint, compared to this time last year. I have been replaced in search results with truly nonsensical competitors. If you aren’t an “authority” site and you’re relying on SEO, you will certainly be, too, unless Google does a dramatic rollback of its “updates” for the past nine months. This is unlikely.
And don’t look for a company like DuckDuckGo to save you anymore, either, not when things like this go around.
Like so many others I am sickened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the gigantic humanitarian crisis it continues to create. #StandWithUkraine️
At DuckDuckGo, we've been rolling out search updates that down-rank sites associated with Russian disinformation.
— Gabriel Weinberg (@yegg) March 10, 2022
And after a cursory glance, it seems I may have gotten swept up in this (which should tell you how accurate it is, given my harsh criticisms of Vladimir Putin’s character and war strategy just last week). I have lost all the DuckDuckGo web (but not image) results that I know of for which I used to rank. The same goes for other search engines which seem to share the same base as DuckDuckGo. We’ll see if it sticks. I’m hoping it doesn’t.
The point is, with few exceptions, these companies will always, always serve their desired narratives, no matter how clumsy and inaccurate they are. If you deviate from the accepted narrative in any way, you have a good chance of being damned according to some preferred emotional label and then censored.
Don’t rely on some algorithm in Silicon Valley to help you. SEO is a dying business model.
Fortunately, I saw what was coming in 2019, and so I prioritized alternate methods of creating an internet footprint. Those methods are paying off now and my traffic has actually increased on average at the same time that my Google traffic has tanked. How can you adapt to this new reality?
- Your email list remains the most important part of your online presence. It is even more important now. Promote it and cultivate it. Make sure you maintain relationships with all your subscribers.
- Twitter is a cesspool, but great for promotions. Make sure you’re active. Joining Twitter Spaces is a great way to get new followers. Follow me.
- Pinterest is a great and easy way to get some traffic. Expanding my footprint there has been a high priority for me this year. Follow me over there and you’ll get a lot of pictures of historical warriors, with brief explanations of their styles and methods.
- Do not neglect Facebook. It’s easier to get a footprint there than any other place. Follow my Facebook page here.
I cover all of these strategies in depth in my free ebook on blogging, which you can get (and more besides) by signing up for my email list. See:
Newbie webmasters tend to think that SEO is the be-all, end-all. I knew it wasn’t, but I often operated like that anyway. You no longer have that luxury. These days, if you aren’t an “authority” site that Google favors, you’ll be lucky to rank for any good keyword at all except for an extremely specific phrase which only gets you a tiny footprint.
Again, I’m not saying you should neglect SEO. You should still optimize your content for it, especially if you’re looking for local search optimization. Just don’t expect much good from it until Google’s monopoly is broken. Who knows when that will ever be?
Search engine changes are a good example of why you need a resilient and far-seeing character. That’s why I knew I would need to branch out in 2019. That action saved this site. If I’d continued to rely on SEO, it would no longer be operating. Yet, I’m thriving, because I could see the trend of censorship and terrible, corporate-based search engine results coming, and knew to steer my ship between this high-tech Scylla and Charybdis.
Now, more than ever, you must be like Odysseus. Make sure that you make your own character and virtue a permanent, unsinkable store of wealth, like I didn’t allow Google to sink me. My book Lives of the Luminaries will help you to do that. Click here to get it.
Also, don’t forget to check out The Fall of the Fated Queen. Chapter 3 is now out! You can find it here: