Google Warns Of “New Reality” As Search Engine Stumbles

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Google Warns Of “New Reality” As Search Engine Stumbles

Google’s SVP overseeing Search, Prabhakar Raghavan, recently warned employees in an internal memo that the company’s search division faces a “new operating reality” with fewer resources, according to a CNBC report.

The memo comes amid concerns over softening revenue and user engagement metrics for Google’s core search product. Recent quarters have seen weaker-than-expected growth in search queries and engagement.

The memo raises questions for SEO professionals and website owners about how Google changes could impact their strategies and online visibility.

Google’s Memo To Employees

In an all-hands meeting last month, Raghavan, who oversees Google’s Search, Ads, Maps, and Commerce divisions, acknowledged that the industry has shifted from the tech giant’s earlier dominance.

Raghavan reportedly told a gathering of over 25,000 employees:

“I think we can agree that things are not like they were 15-20 years ago, things have changed.”

Raghavan cited heightened competition and a more challenging regulatory environment as factors necessitating Google’s adaptability without explicitly naming rivals. However, the company faces increasing pressure from Microsoft and OpenAI in the burgeoning field of generative artificial intelligence.

He continued:

“People come to us because we are trusted. They may have a new gizmo out there that people like to play with, but they still come to Google to verify what they see there because it is the trusted source, and it becomes more critical in this era of generative AI.”

In a move to accelerate the company’s responsiveness, Raghavan revealed that he plans to shorten project deadlines for his direct reports, stating:

“There is something to be learned from that faster-twitch, shorter wavelength execution.”

Google Search: From Ideals to Revenue Machine?

Some critics argue that Google’s current search struggles stem from misguided priorities and leadership missteps, not just external market forces.

In an opinion piece, industry analyst Edward Zitron paints a different picture of what ails Google’s search engine.

He believes the company consciously degraded its flagship product to boost revenue under former ad executive Raghavan.

Citing internal Google emails from 2019, Zitron reports that Raghavan, then head of Ads, led a “Code Yellow” emergency mobilization after Search revenues lagged expectations.

In response, Zitron alleges Google rolled back key quality improvements to inflate engagement metrics – including boosting sites previously downranked for spamming tactics.

Zitron wrote:

“The emails … tell a dramatic story about how Google’s finance and advertising teams, led by Raghavan with the blessing of CEO Sundar Pichai, actively worked to make Google worse to make the company more money.”

Zitron depicts this shift as abandoning ethical principles, where the leadership team disregarded Google’s original mission of providing superior search results.

He argues it set the stage for Raghavan’s subsequent promotion to SVP of Search in 2020 – over the objections of veteran search chief Ben Gomes, who was reassigned after nearly 20 years improving the product.

Zitron’s report states:

“Gomes, who was a critical part of the original team that made Google Search work… was chased out by a growth-hungry managerial type led by Prabhakar Raghavan, a management consultant wearing an engineer costume.”

Under Raghavan’s tenure, Zitron claims the search engine has become increasingly “less reliable,” “less transparent,” and overrun with low-quality content optimized purely to rank well rather than meet user needs.

Google hasn’t directly responded to the allegations in Zitron’s report.

What Does This Mean For SEO Professionals & Site Owners?

For website owners and SEO professionals who closely follow Google’s every move, the tensions brewing within the company point to the ongoing challenge of optimizing for Google’s shifting search priorities.

Sudden product changes could disrupt current SEO strategies, whether driven by immediate financial goals or a philosophical change.

Raghavan’s statement about embracing a “new operating reality” with shorter timelines suggests that Google Search may start updating more frequently.

The intense scrutiny on Google highlights the high stakes involved in any significant overhaul of its algorithms and ranking systems.

As Google evolves its products, how the company balances innovation with maintaining its standards could shape the future of search.

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