Almost two years ago I re-launched a website (Anecdotage.com) featuring 50,000 anecdotes (mostly funny stories about everyone from ABBA to Zuckerberg) and my site is still the 500th result for "anecdotes". Google's top 10? Nine semantic results (definitions of "anecdotes" etc) + a TechCrunch story about a software company called Anecdotes.

My SEO is decent, I have 17,000 backlinks, & when a smaller version of my site was running 10+ years ago, it was the top result.

Google's algorithm rightly favors pages with backlinks from reputable sites, which explains my site's poor ranking for a broad search like "anecdotes." But what about a search for something rare, like "anecdotes about relativity"?

Google reports: "No results found for anecdotes about relativity." That's odd. Anecdotage features 25 stories about relativity (including Sir Arthur Eddington's explanation for his delayed response after being told that he "must be one of only three persons who understands general relativity": "I am trying to think who the third person is!") but Google opted to reject these items, and thousands of others, from its index. Looking for "anecdotes about robots"? You'll get half a dozen mediocre results, each an article whose text happens to contain the phrase "anecdotes about robots." But the Anecdotage page, whose TITLE is "Anecdotes about Robots," does not appear in the results, even though it was added to Google's index. And there seems to be no method to the madness. Google added my page of coffee anecdotes, but not my page for coffins. Corpses are in, but corn is not. Coins are ok, but coincidences aren't...

I've been trying to contact Google about this for six months. I even sent a physical (paper) letter. Today, I chanced upon an Atlantic story that mentioned Google's Public Liaison, Danny Sullivan. I found him on LinkedIn ("Help the public better understand Google search & Google better hear public feedback and improve") but when I tried to connect I got a popup asking me to enter Danny's email to prove that I know him. Am I living in a Kafka novel?

Expand full comment

I just had a back and forth with the owner of a financial site geared solely for SEO to get Google traffic which formed the focus of my article at https://emergingmarketskeptic.substack.com/p/how-google-ruined-financial-writing-chapgpt-ai - I linked back to this one and an Atlantic piece...

Let's just say that if you actually know something about investing or personal finance (or probably any other given topic...), you won't get any writing work etc from sites like these. This may sound counter intuitive, but its not e.g. the site owner I interreacted with basically said he needed "subtly biased" SEO content and was not yet focused on "milking traffic" long term with sticky content readers want - just getting clicks from Google... He figured any writer who knows something about the topics his site covers would also not follow directions or be hard to manage... 😀

I also have a bunch of useful resources and pages for investing in emerging markets at http://www.emergingmarketskeptic.com/ - granted, more of a niche topic. Google hates aggregators and probably views me as a link farm rather than having content useful to humans... Plus, with alot of links to a variety of resources across the ideological spectrum (e.g. Zero Hedge etc), I no doubt have links to "naughty" sites on some of my ADR and ETF pages that Google does not like e.g. so-called state sponsored media (as if the MSM is not state sponsored etc)...

As I noted in my piece, Google is constantly changing the rules and forever moving the goalposts. I think old fashioned word of mouth and email marketing are the only things that are not completely broken right now...

Expand full comment

Just wait for the AI bots to start replying and generating on reddit.

Internet article search is going to get exponentially worse. Published books (with editors, screening, and errata) will be the only legitimate game in town for advancement. The rest will be filled with noise, ads, and “influencers.”

Expand full comment

Nice take. 👌

The point of weakness of Reddit is that it's not multilingual site. Even if it becomes somehow the #1 search in anglophone sphere, still there are billions who not speak English.

And when Reddit eat big enough share of the market, we will see old fashioned problems like bots moderation, censorship, the moderators authority...and as one of the hackernews commenters on your post wrote 👇🏼

> The Reddit trick is increasingly less viable as marketers are astroturfing Reddit*.

I add: see for example "Howitzer . co" and "Gummy search" although I don't say these products are bad per se, but you get the point.


Expand full comment

Search results at Google also deteriorated greatly after the company decided that its new mission was to "fight misinformation". The algorithm tweaking also unintentionally damaged any search whose results could marginally possibly come from sources with information deemed "misinformation".

I don't recall ever asking google to be our nanny...

Expand full comment

How many shares of Reddit is Paul Graham selling when it IPOs?

Expand full comment

Great article, I enjoyed

Expand full comment

This is striking: "filetype:mp3" returns no !!! hits ???

Another example demonstrating that google is long dead since at least 2018:

"shakira.mp3" returns actually NO !!! shakira.mp3 sites, only a bunch of unrelated clickbait music streaming engines.

Expand full comment

I've been using google since it first appeared.

I notice the first searching problem in 2011 after that it only got worse ...

Expand full comment

google is a shitty company with their riddiculous pc bs which is the root of all causes! google search, with tons of ads... failed stadia, failed google+, their shitty "workspaces", bloggr, ... tons of failed software products. full of bugs, shitty support or no support, shitty policies, shitty marketing ... disappointing!

Expand full comment

Appendix 7 linked post is a 404. Or is that the joke?

Expand full comment