Google is declining in value as a search engine. You can search Google Going Downhill to see numerous pieces showing this. Even Google recognizes this: search for Google ChatGPT to see that they are concerned about how much better a user experience is with ChatGPT versus Google.
It’s not just that Google has declined by itself. What has also contributed to its declining value is the number of sites that have gotten good at SEO. I’ve pretty much given up on searching for some topics: all I get is bad Pinterest boards. Likewise hotels and restaurant searches are dominated by TripAdvisor and Yelp. You can add sites like Stack Overflow to that list. All in all, sites of low value (to me) make Google search results worse.
Locally, I think BlogTO is one of those low value sites. It really hit me this week when I was looking up a story on the demise of Betty’s on King. This recent piece in BlogTO was good. But it’s review of Betty’s? Just a placeholder, really: one sentence summarizing the place. And it’s not just Betty’s. I was doing some research on restaurants and became interested in Parquet on Harbord. Here’s BlogTO’s review of it: again, it’s one line and a poor photo. Meanwhile here’s Toronto Life’s review of it: lots of photos, in depth reporting on the place and the people who own it, context on the restaurant scene on Harbord…you name it.
Now here’s the thing: if you Google places in Toronto, BlogTO’s “writeups” will always appear on the first search page…often ahead of better reviews and even the place’s own website. If you’re mindful of this problem, you may ignore BlogTO and look around. But I am guessing that most people click on BlogTO, find their write up, and then see they have a link to the place’s website and click through. Or not.
That’s one reason why I suspect BlogTO does this: they will get clicks even for these next to useless web pages. I suspect the other reason is to do away with competition. I always wondered why Eater closed up in Toronto when it is still going strong in places like Montreal, not to mention the Carolina’s and other cities much stronger. The stated reason is here. But I suspect it is hard to compete with sites like BlogTO that will settle for a basic photo and a one line description that can be done in 15 minutes, all while coming ahead of you in Google searches.
Not all of BlogTO is bad. Some of their pieces are researched and well written, and I appreciate them. But they also flood the web with barely there pages to dominate searches for Toronto on sites like Google. And that makes it worse for everyone but them.
P.S. Here’s a tip to save you time clicking through on BlogTO pages. If you are on their page and it has a headline like “This restaurant is known for its croque monsieur”, hover your mouse over the URL. You will see the name of the place at the end of the URL. From there you can decide if you want to click through.