Google's Matt Cutts in a blog post compared a "search time capsule" of search results he saved from Google's index in 2000 of 40,000+ queries to google.com to the search results in Google today. He cited an example of [buy domain name] query, "Google's current search results aren't perfect, but the page returns several good resources as well as some places to actually buy a domain name," Cutts said.
Google in 2000 looked great in comparison with other engines at the time, but Google 2011 is much better than Google 2000. Google has tremendously improved in terms of spam and search quality. "In 1999 and early 2000, search engines would often return 50 results from the same domain in the search results. In Feb'2000 Google introduced "host crowding," which only showed 2 results from each hostname. Just a few months later people were creating multiple subdomains to get around host crowding. Google later added more robust code to prevent that sort of subdomain abuse and to ensure better diversity. That's why it's pretty much a wash now when deciding whether to use subdomains vs. subdirectories."
In the end, here's what Cutts says:
Improving search quality is a process that never ends. I hope in another 10 years we look back and say "Wow, most queries were only a few words back then. And we had to type queries. How primitive!" Mostly I wanted to make the point that Google looked much cleaner compared to other search engines in 2000, but spam was absolutely an issue even back then. If someone harkens back to the golden, halcyon days when Google had no spam--take those memories with a grain of salt.
[tags]search results,search quality[/tags]