Has Google felt a little less useful lately? You’re not alone. A few years ago, search engines such as Google felt like miracles. The answer to nearly any question you had was now at your fingertips, as if everything we had been promised by Twentieth Century science fiction had come true.
But lately? Not so much. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) algorithms and monetized ads may be spelling the end of the miracle made possible by search engines such as Google less than two decades ago.
That’s the contention of Jason Pargin, author of the comic horror novel John Dies at the End and former editor of the comedy news site Cracked.com. Pargin took to his TikTok (@jasonkpargin) in a video posted on Dec. 19 to protest the diminishing returns he’s getting from Google. The video now has 507,900 views as of the publishing of this article.
Pargin says he experienced a problem with his iPhone logging into the wrong Wi-Fi network and took to Google to look for a solution. Unfortunately, he didn’t find the quick and easy answer he was looking for.
A paragraph popped up on the first page of the web search that seemed to lead to a page with answers. “But when I click on it, things quickly get weird,” he tells viewers.
Though Pargin, who says he has been using search engines since their invention, specifies in his search that he is looking for an iOS solution for his problem, the linked website’s instructions “don’t make sense for my phone, and none of the screenshots they show match what my iOS looks like,” he says.
Scrolling to the bottom of the webpage, Pargin discovers that the advice in question is 12 years old—hardly of use to his current phone operating system. But why would the first search result direct him to outdated information?
The second search result said there was no workaround for the problem, and iOS would automatically correct itself. The third hit didn’t refer to iOS at all but instead described how to change the Wi-Fi on a Windows PC.
It was the fourth article listed that drove Pargin to create his video. The headline of an article by MakeUseOf, “How to Set the Wi-Fi Network Priority on iPhone, iPad, and Mac,” seemed to fit his needs precisely.
“Some of you already know where this is going,” he admits before describing having to scroll through multiple paragraphs and advertisements before finally being told there is no workaround to his problem.
When did search get so broken♬ 10 minutes ver beat & electric bass stride(1117152) – Aruma
The article continues, though, with more paragraphs reiterating the desirability of being able to set a preferred Wi-Fi network, essentially regurgitating the beginning paragraphs.
“It’s like that thing you did in elementary school when they told you you had to write 500 words on a subject, and you just kept saying the same thing over and over again,” Pargin states.
Describing the apparent purpose of the article, Pargin says, “Your entire job is to just keep people on the page and keep loading these ad units.”
According to Pargin, the final sentence of the article read, “Unfortunately, Apple offers no more explanation on how the iPhone’s Wi-Fi priority works, so there isn’t any more information on the topic.”
The article currently has additional information that instructs users on how to set the priorities from a desktop or laptop Mac, stating, “You can set network priorities there and then sync them with your iPhone or iPad.”
The Daily Dot has reached out to MakeUseOf via its site for a statement.
Pargin ends the video stating that he left writing for the internet behind after doing the job for more than 20 years because “it was all becoming this—how to trick people on Google into coming to your website whether that’s what they’re looking for or not.”
“Your job, instead of creating things to inform people, was purely to try to poison this algorithm,” he concludes.
Most of Pargin’s viewers found themselves agreeing with his negative sentiments.
PaleoJohn (@paleojon) wrote, “Yeah I find that AI SEO has rendered most Google searches worthless. We’re rapidly devolving. The ad-based internet model needs to die.”
“Google seems to have changed their business from finding information to prioritizing advertisers,” another viewer added.
Another wrote, “Google is totally broken. Each new iteration is worse.” While a further stated, “‘Google search doesn’t give answers to anything anymore.”
“It’s making it harder for people to access helpful information online — the core function of the internet,” Insider states.
The Daily Dot has reached out to Google via email for a statement.
Although it doesn’t appear any non-monetized solution to the problem is on the horizon, some of Pargin’s viewers offered one piece of advice that might help someone in need of legit info: adding the word “Reddit” to their search.
Jacob Spencer (@jacobrspencer) wrote, “If it’s any help for future searches, I often include ‘Reddit’ at the end of my search phrases. It works ~ 90% of my searches, and the comments on the posts usually answer my questions right away.”
Another viewer simply wrote, “Typing Reddit after makes Google work.”
The Daily Dot has reached out to Pargin via Instagram direct message for further comment.