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Google Asserts Its Search Quality Keeps Improving in Court Filing

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Search engine giant Google recently made some bold claims about its search quality in a court filing responding to an antitrust lawsuit. The company ardently argued that its search engine quality has steadily improved over the years thanks to continuous innovation and enhancements.

This article will analyze Google’s statements on search quality, assess whether the claims hold up, provide context on the antitrust case, and consider what it means for the search landscape going forward.

Google’s Statements on Improving Quality

Google's statements on improving quality

In its filing with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, Google asserted that it operates the highest quality general search engine in the United States. The company stated, “Google’s search engine today is of remarkably high quality – higher than it was 10 years ago, and dramatically better than its peers.”

Google went on to describe having an “unrelenting focus on improving search quality” and highlighted setting explicit quality goals to measure progress each year. Some of the sample annual search quality goals mentioned include improving spelling correction, understanding conversational queries, and ranking authoritative healthcare information higher.

The filing specifically called out innovations like Google’s RankBrain algorithm, Knowledge Graph, intuitive voice searching, and improvements in local search as key drivers of enhancing search quality over time. Google argued that continuous advancement of its search algorithms, along with growing its index of web pages, has steadily made its results more comprehensive, relevant, and useful for those searching online.

Responses to Monopoly Power Claims

A significant motivation behind Google’s search quality assertions appears to be responding to monopoly power allegations. The company forcefully rejected claims that it has illegally maintained its dominant position in the search market, arguing there has been no degradation in quality.

Google stated that barriers to entry are decreasing, not increasing, in the internet search ecosystem. The filing points to search services like Microsoft’s Bing, along with specialized vertical search engines, as evidence that competition continues to grow. Google believes this dynamic marketplace will organically prevent any potential decline in the quality of its search product.

You can read Google´s response Here

Assessing Google’s Search Quality Claims

But does the available data back up Google’s bold claims that its search quality keeps dramatically improving year after year? There are a few ways to evaluate:

  • Benchmarking Studies – Organizations like NIST periodically conduct academic studies comparing Google against competitors on metrics like relevance, freshness, and accuracy. The latest studies give Google high marks but do not show conclusively improving quality over time.
  • User Surveys – Statista Research suggest ~80% of US search engine users rate Google as a good or excellent resource, on par with previous years. Satisfaction and engagement levels appear stable.
  • Webmaster Community Feedback – Sentiment from the SEO community on webmaster forums points to frustrations with certain algorithm updates. But many believe core search relevancy has stayed consistent.
  • Search Analytics – Click-through rates and other metrics indicate Google has maintained its dominant popularity with users, indirectly suggesting sustained quality. But metrics do not show obvious improvement trends.
  • Financial Performance – Google’s ongoing growth in advertising revenue points to a satisfied customer base willing to pay more for clicks. However, revenue expansion alone does not confirm the degree of quality enhancement.
  • Industry Experts – Leading search marketing authorities like Rand Fishkin of SparkToro and Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land agree Google continues to innovate but question claims of revolutionary leaps in quality.

Overall, there are no smoking gun data points validating or invalidating Google’s claims that search quality improves significantly year after year. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle. While innovations occur, Google search today behaves much like the Google search of a decade ago for most queries.

Complementary article: The Economic Rationale of United States v. Google

Evaluating Google’s Market Dominance

Google linking its search quality assertions to monopoly debates prompts deeper consideration of its dominance. Google holds an undisputed leading position in general search, with ~90% market share in the US. Competitors like Microsoft’s Bing have single-digit share.

This dominance forms the crux of the antitrust lawsuit Google aims to appeal. The case alleges Google unlawfully maintains its monopolistic position through exclusionary agreements locking out rivals, violating antitrust laws. But Google claims competition is thriving and anything less than its best quality will lose users.

Most experts agree Google initially gained its commanding position through delivering a superior product. But there are concerns its scale now creates insurmountable competitive barriers, even if challengers build a better mousetrap.

Key points in assessing Google’s market power:

  • Scale advantages in data, infrastructure make matching Google’s quality difficult for new entrants.
  • Lack of portability in search queries/history across engines creates inertia in switching.
  • Google properties like YouTube increasingly keep users within its ecosystem.
  • Billions spent annually on advertising and default mobile deals solidify Google’s reach.
  • Alternative search engines represent thin slivers of market share.

In spite of these advantages, Google does face a long-term threat: The rise of voice search and assistants like Alexa. Over 40% of searches will be voice-initiated by 2022. As the gatekeeper, Amazon holds power in the voice ecosystem, potentially challenging Google.

This emerging dynamic will take years to play out but illustrates the competitive forces still constraining Google from abusing its market power in traditional search. The threat of voice assistants rising further reinforces that barriers to entry may not be as impermeable as critics contend.

The Road Ahead

Image of a road with the words user experience in the back

Google’s forceful defense of its search quality improvements provides an insightful window into its mindset on competition issues. Few would argue Google has not pushed web search technology forward in meaningful ways. But claims of continuous, dramatic gains should be evaluated with healthy skepticism.

Ongoing legal action and regulatory scrutiny of Google’s dominance can be expected. But the clearest test of Google’s search quality will be the daily choices of its billions of users. If Google traffic and engagement wane substantially over time, it would signal a degradation in meeting searcher needs.

Google’s public commitments to improving search quality also necessitate increased transparency. Providing third parties access to evaluate search algorithm updates and releasing metrics on quality KPIs could bolster trust and accountability.

But in the absence of such steps, Google merits the benefit of the doubt that its search team remains dedicated to evolving an engine people choose to use because it makes their lives easier. If Google’s future innovations match its past contributions to pioneering web search, searchers worldwide stand to benefit.

Key Takeaways

  • Google claims its search quality has steadily improved over time but supporting data is inconclusive.
  • Legal pressure around Google’s market dominance contributed to its quality claims.
  • Voice search rise poses a long-term threat though barriers to entry still limit competition.
  • Ongoing scrutiny expected but users’ collective actions will determine if Google’s quality regresses.

The coming years will reveal whether Google can maintain its position that developing the world’s best web search engine precludes being a monopoly. But if search quality truly remains Google’s north star, the future of finding information online appears promising.

Jesus Guzman

M&G Speed Marketing LTD. CEO

Jesus Guzman is the CEO and founder of M&G Speed Marketing LTD, a digital marketing agency focused on rapidly growing businesses through strategies like SEO, PPC, social media, email campaigns, and website optimization. With an MBA and over 11 years of experience, Guzman combines his marketing expertise with web design skills to create captivating online experiences. His journey as an in-house SEO expert has given him insights into effective online marketing. Guzman is passionate about helping businesses achieve impressive growth through his honed skills. He has proud case studies to share and is eager to connect to take your business to the next level.