Google Has a Major Reddit Problem

In June of 2022, Charlie Warzel wrote an article titled “The Open Secret of Google Search“.

In that article, he explained that he had an emergency plumbing problem and virtually all the Google results were “unhelpful”.

He said, “Virtually everything I found was unhelpful, so we did the old-fashioned thing and called a professional.”

As he dug into Google search further, he found that many users were appending “Reddit” to their search queries in order to “hack” the search results to find direct information from others.

The PR nightmare that quickly ensued for Google following this article was enormous.

Twitter, Reddit, and other social platforms lit up with users agreeing or disagreeing that Google Search had become broken and unhelpful.

Although never confirmed, Google released a MAJOR update called the “Helpful Content” Update in September of 2023, likely in response to this article and the growing negative PR surrounding it.

People were appending Reddit to their Google Search queries because Google wasn’t helpful (according to many).

So, what happened in the Google Helpful Update? Well, Google gave Reddit a big boost!

(According to SEMrush, Reddit’s organic traffic from Google has gone from about 180,000,000 million visitors a month to about 275,000,000 visitors a month since the update last month).

So, now when you query something on Google, you are much more likely to see Reddit at the top of the results…without even having to append “+ Reddit” to your search!

This update feels like something rolled out in response to the negative PR Google has received over the past year.

Problem solved, right?!?!

Well, not exactly.

Is the world a better place now that Reddit is ranking so much higher than individual bloggers?

Reddit Threatens to Block Google

And what does Reddit think of all this attention?

Well, turns out Reddit is not too concerned about Google.

In fact, just last week, Reddit threatened to BLOCK Google from crawling their site!

According to an anonymous source from the Washington Post, “Reddit can survive without search.”

What does a world look like where Reddit doesn’t show up in Google? I don’t know, but it puts Google in an awkward situation.

Google had a negative PR situation on its hands, so it gave Reddit a boost in the SERPS (at the expense of many hard-working, individual expert bloggers).

Now Reddit is threatening to leave the SERPS completely.

Google has a major Reddit problem.

Reddit Users Are Another Problem

However, the problem with Reddit goes way beyond that.

Reddit is a place where usually anonymous individuals post comments to questions in order to gain upvotes. Sometimes their comments are well-intentioned and accurate. Other times Reddit users spout nonsense for upvotes, to be funny, or just to be deceptive because they felt like it that day.

So, instead of bloggers that are typically well versed in their particular niche ranking in Google, we are left with anonymous clout seekers sometimes trolling Reddit and Google.

For example, if you were to do a search query on the “Best things to do in Seattle”, Google will serve you a Reddit thread in the 4th position.

Near the top of that thread, you’ll find recommendations for committing lewd acts. Also in that thread, you’ll find recommendations to do drugs, “throw quarters at hobos”, and other activities that I’m sure Google isn’t a fan of.

(Here’s a discussion on Twitter about this).

But here were are.

Google responded to a PR nightmare by giving anonymous Reddit users a boost in the search results. As part of that “helpful content” update, MANY highly skilled and knowledgeable bloggers have seen their traffic and rankings (in Google) tank by 50% or more.

Does Google want clout chasers providing the answers of the internet?

Or does Google want bloggers who have often been experts in their field for many years to provide the answers of the internet?

One thing is for sure, Google still has a major Reddit problem.

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