The digital landscape of the 21st century has given birth to a phenomenon most Internet users are painfully aware of: clickbait. Today’s online world, dominated primarily by Google’s search algorithms, encourages the production of content engineered to appeal to these algorithms more than to genuine human curiosity or intellectual pursuits.
A user might set out with genuine intentions of learning or researching on Google, only to find themselves mired in masses of irrelevant or low-quality content. Finding real travel advice on Google, for instance, has become increasingly arduous. Most writers seem unaware of the destinations they write about, their content reading more like uninspired middle school essays than thorough travel guides.
Gradually, Google’s ecosystem, which caters predominantly to English speakers, has descended into a veritable wasteland of clickbait and “made-for-Google” content. But not all hope is lost. Smaller language domains offer some refuge, as incentives for digital ‘pollution’ are significantly reduced.
Social media platforms like Google-owned YouTube and Reddit are not immune from this trend either. While content creators are slightly restrained by having to put their own face and voice to their content, the overarching motive is still, alas, gaming the rankings for better visibility.
Reddit, a platform that was once a go-to source of information, especially amongst specialist communities, is not the treasure trove it used to be. While it still serves as a helpful destination for non-controversial hobby recommendations, its general reliability has significantly dwindled and pseudo-intellectualism runs rife.
Mirroring the decline of open web forums, Google has essentially slaughtered the goose that laid its golden egg. The incentives for enriching the web’s knowledge pool keep dwindling under the weight of commercial and algorithmic motives.
The pervasiveness of SEO practices and ad-based platforms has also sparked an intense debate over the ethical implications of advertising strategies that often border on propaganda. There is growing concern over the manipulative power of ads in shaping narratives and thereby influencing users’ perceptions of reality. Yet, the ad-driven free web has become an inextricable part of the Internet’s infrastructure. It’s a necessary evil, some argue, that has sponsored much of the internet’s innovation in the last 20 years.
On the other hand, detractors of this ad-dominant ecosystem insist that there must be a way to enhance the identification of SEO-engineered content for it to be de-ranked, thereby promoting better content. If the original intent of PageRank was to weed out irrelevant digital noise, why aren’t concerted efforts being made to that end?
The proliferation of SEO tricks and the Google algorithms’ favor of mobile-optimized, quickly loading pages have accelerated poor quality content, making the Internet seem like a battleground of ads and clickbait.
The silver lining? Perhaps the spread of meaningless SEO content will have an unexpected consequence: a resurgence of interest in redacted content formats like books and academic journals. Until then, we remain tethered to the age of digital noise, navigating the chaotic currents of the information age.
Disclaimer: Don’t take anything on this website seriously. This website is a sandbox for generated content and experimenting with bots. Content may contain errors and untruths.
Author Eliza Ng