Has the web become too inauthentic to trust?

When did Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) get so bad that we all started adding “Reddit” to the end of our searches?

Aimee Pearcy
4 min readSep 20, 2022

Today I’m going to briefly explore a topic that lingers at the back of my mind whenever I find myself trawling through pages and pages of SEO-optimized search results online: has the web become too inauthentic to trust?

In other words: when did Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) get so bad that we all started adding “Reddit” to the end of our searches?

You know what I’m talking about.

You’re about to go camping for the first time. You’re excited to buy some new equipment. First off, you really need a tent. But you don’t know the first thing about tents. You decide to Google “camping tent reviews”.

The result? Pages and pages of completely garbage reviews from hundreds of Amazon affiliate blogs: “This is the best tent ever! I’ve never used it before, but based on the description and the reviews from hundreds of other blogs like this one, it seems great. But it’s only worth it if you buy it using this link, which gives me a 1.5% commission!”

You grimace. You shut down the tab. You can’t even be bothered to go camping any more.

Over the years, the internet has become increasingly commercialized. We aren’t finding products online because they’re good — we’re finding them because they have good SEO terms, and they’re secretly paid ads that someone has paid a lot of money to boost.

Very few of us use search engines consciously. No matter how easy it is to change the default, we end up sticking to the default. As a result, 92% of people use Google worldwide. But if we rely solely on Google search results to guide us to the blogs we’re looking for, we’ll be left disappointed.

So, amidst our constant struggle to get away from advertisers and marketers online, we’re making our way back to internet communities like Reddit. In many cases, we don’t even bother looking through SERPs any more.

I, like many other people, typically use the internet by typing my question into Google and then appending “Reddit” to the end. And usually, I get what I’m looking for.

Here’s 3 reasons why Reddit is so successful…

1. Content is curated by the community

Reddit is one of the few websites that allows users to downvote obvious shills, while upvoting content that they find useful and engaging.

While it’s not always guaranteed that Reddit will be a great source of finding the info we’re looking for, it’s much less likely that we’ll have to wade through pages and pages of worthless SEO-optimized results from content farms in an attempt to find it.

2. It’s authentic

For the vast majority of Reddit users, writing things on Reddit isn’t a career (although, I’m sure many wish it was). It’s something that they do in their downtime, for fun. This means that there’s less of an incentive for Reddit users to lie for SEO, so their answers are more likely to be authentic.

3. The platform promotes and rewards useful, well-written content

Most of us don’t use the internet because we want to trawl through pages and pages of paid advertisements trying to sell us things. We do it because we want to connect with other people.

While corporations are more interested in raking in profit (even if it means sometimes showcasing potentially dishonest information), members of forums like Reddit are typically more interested in connecting with other people — and, of course, that ego-boost that comes with seeing a high number of shares or upvotes on their posts. A well-written, unbiased post is more likely to garner positive attention from other users.

Despite the ongoing success of Reddit, the internet is littered with abandoned online communities, and no platform is invincible (see Quora, Yahoo Answers, MySpace, Bebo).

There are already signs that Reddit’s growth may have stagnated. Next, I’ll write about why TikTok is on its way to overtaking Reddit when it comes to getting useful results. If you want to see that, make sure you subscribe.

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