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Ask HN: Google useless for shopping / product reviews?
40 points by blobbers 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 29 comments
Whether searching for best dog scissors or hot sauces, I get a front page full of SEO’ed fake top 10 lists with affiliate links.

I can include site: to search a specific reviewer or Reddit, but that basically turns google into a local search. Has the time of google for product reviews now past? Is there a replacement that downranks these terrible SEO’ed fake recommendations?

Yes, it's about as useless as relying on Amazon reviews.

Affiliate marketing and SEO optimization have pretty much destroyed the usefulness of searching for product reviews.

I usually just add "reddit" to the end of whatever I'm searching. It's the only way to read what real, mostly-unincentivized people think about something.

I wish Google had a way to "downvote" results. Sure they would have to mitigate artificial manipulation, but what they have currently doesn't work well.

> I usually just add "reddit" to the end of whatever I'm searching. It's the only way to read what real, mostly-unincentivized people think about something

I wish this was true, but I think companies are fairly wise to this now. It wouldnt take much effort to add fake positive comments about a brand or product. The technical word for it is “astroturfing” [0].

In my opinion there is no good unbiased source for consumer product reviews, maybe Which? in the Uk would be an exception though I’m not too familiar with it.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing

At least on reddit it's a little easier to spot astroturfing, compared to Amazon reviews or Quora or other single-purpose sites. Just click on the profile of the user who wrote three paragraphs extolling the virtues of Brand® razors. Does it look like a man with a varied set of interests, or did it just spam reposts of funny memes for karma in large subs?

I'm sure astroturfers will soon adopt text generation en masse to create human-looking profiles and add credibility to their recommendations, but I don't believe that's standard yet.

This is not always that easy to notice, as some accounts will have huge gaps between promotional posts. A (very well known) company I briefly worked at had an entire department dedicated to 'web reputation management' – every employee there had dozens if not hundreds of aged reddit (and any other forum/site you can imagine) accounts registered from different locations (proxies) and using unique browser agents. They spent non-insignificant amounts of time (my impression was 10-20%) creating new accounts, karma whoring and posting/commenting on front page subs, until someone monitoring their target subreddits discovered anything even remotely related to the product they were promoting or the company itself.

A complete side note: the way these reputation managers aligned themselves almost perfectly with the company's official statements/position was what made me disillusioned with SpaceX and Musk in general, since I saw exactly the same things happening there

You can’t not give the name of company or product! We must know

'maybe Which? in the Uk..'

I would argue that Which is no longer a reliable source of unbiased information. They have affiliate links and the number of products tested for each category is suspiciously low.

Office chairs is one recent example where the one you are thinking of is not even listed, although a much cheaper version from the same company is cited as the best buy, (Herman Miller Verus Triflex).

That is an interesting idea for product reviews, if you could have people up/downvote and that would be an alternative to Amazon reviews.

I've been experimenting with https://kagi.com/.

For technical questions, they prioritize official documentation and SO. They don't serve you all those copy-pasta blogs that plague Google results.

For product reviews, they prioritize reddit and other forums by default. It's still far from perfect, but at least they're trying.

I’ve been using Kagi for months. Before Kagi, I used DDG and would often have to switch to Google. With Kagi I almost never switch to a different search engine.

Kagi does a great job returning results with less SEO spam. It’s fast and has a great interface. Big fan.

I like your description but it has a login wall so hard no. Cool concept!

Behind that login wall is a free trial. Search is apparently pretty expensive, so I imagine they’re just trying to prevent spam.

Bot spam is a very big problem. Very hard to prevent, and if you're using cloud compute or SaaS APIs it can get very expensive.

Hey I love when I see you post on here. Thanks for all you do.

Few free searches to show case your product is probably better.

Chatgpt3 will fail if they close their free access.

It takes money to make money.

Both Kagi and OpenAI offer free limited access, and I believe both require an account to use the free tier.

It's a Catch-22 - Any service trusted by consumers will inevitably be targeted by malicious actors. The ones cited as potentially "better" are generally too small to matter, hence they have not yet been targeted in a significant way.

Reddit or (a very small number of) youtubers are pretty much the only sources of truthful and good-faith product reviews. Almost all of my recent purchases are due to recommendations by hobbyist subreddits like r/mechanicalkeyboards, r/photography, r/bifl, etc.

Google automated ranking, using totally random pagerank algos, which was their downfall. Reddit and youtube, in general, rely on crowdsourced ranking, which is harder to game (not impossible).

I have the impression many Reddit subs are overly commercialized.

/r/mechanicalkeyboards being a good example - they’re kind of nice, but not worthy of the veneration they receive.

Yeah, I tend to use a site:reddit.com in my searches.

Does this imply there is some simple filtering methods that should be done on all google searches to provide a "filtered" internet that is better?

If you're just indexing things that you trust, search might not be that hard.

With Google, I often struggle to even find the official manufacturer’s website.

Yes, Google is just SPAM now. Kinda like Amazon.

In Germany, there is test.de which is funded by its subscribers. They tend to do pretty objective reviews (but in German).

There has to be an incentive for someone to write an authoritative and unbiased list in order for such a list to surface via web search. For the two examples you give, it's just not going to happen. For other products, I agree with the frustration but, again, who is going to provide this information for no reward?

I'm no apologist for Google but I'd be willing to bet that if you wrote such a list and it was truly authoritative and unbiased then it would be very easy to find.

I think the original web did not have incentives such as the ones you give. Some people just want to be influencers, or get the word out. If you remember the first 10 years of the WWW before ecommerce, before big advertising, there was definitely people touting products without shame.

Besides, some people do it just for their side hustle. You write a book on finance, you want people to buy it, so you publish financial information on an ongoing basis. There are plenty of ways to indirectly reap the benefits of being trusted.

This is where "real life" is helpful. Ask other people who use these things which one they like. People at the dog park, salespeople at well-curated pet stores for the dog scissors and other people who like hot sauce or gourmet cooking stores for the same. Coworkers, friends of friends, etc. If you don't interact with others for whatever reason, look on large retailer sites for reviews - and read the bad ones. Sometimes a common problem with the product will be commented on a few times. Well known/established brands can be a guide (vs no name garbage from amazon/china).

Search engines are pretty useless these days - any answer I'm looking for regarding anything is not found and instead I get AI/bot pulling non-answers/keyword driven paragraphs into a click seeking website.

At some point what could have been a great tool was taken over by capitalism and adtech. It's a shame.

Try Youtube. There are affiliate links there too but not as much.

Yep! These days we just trust influencers... at least they've got some skin in the game (as in their reputation).

Reviews in general are not reliable. I have been paid about a dozen times/offered the item for free to write a positive Amazon review about some product.

Do you mind sharing how much?


I'm not sure what your point is. I thought at first that the "Die ersten.... zu Leben" text would appear on each of the referenced web pages but I tried five, two came up 404 and the text didn't appear on the others. So what is your point ?

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