How you and Google are losing the battle against spam in search results

Earlier this month, my friend Rebecca Skloot replaced her hulking big-box TV – I can vouch for its girth, having moved it once – with a flat-screen no thicker than an iPad. She turned it on and, horror of horrors, the picture was lousy.Displeased, she turned to Google for help. What the search engine delivered was a mess, a collection of spammy sites riddled with ads. So she turned to Twitter, posting: “Old TV died, got newfangled LED TV. Shocked how bad/fake movies look! . . . Others have this prob?”

One tech blogger, the well-known iPhone app developer Marco Arment, wrote a post about “Google’s decreasingly useful, spam-filled web search.” Another blog offered a piece titled “On the increasing uselessness of Google.” Yet another headline spoke of “Trouble in the House of Google.”Data seem to back them up. Google’s success rate, as measured by the percentage of users visiting a Web site after executing a search, fell 13 percent last year, according to Experian Hitwise, which monitors Web traffic. Microsoft’s Bing search engine increased its search efficiency by 9 percent over the same period.

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