Blog, Myths and realities

MYTHS and REALITY: Number-crunching with Google

Google keeps releasing new (little) functions and refining those already in existence. This is all fine and good, but perhaps it is time that it cleared up few matters regarding what has been in place for quite some time. I find it interesting to highlight the problems commonly encountered during web searches (plus it’s fun to put King Google through the wringer 🙂

Theoretically, when we search in Google, we insert a couple of words, without quotation marks, without paying attention to the order. The system should apply a sort of AND between the two words (which then shifts to OR depending on the mysterious formulas applied). It seems, however, that this doesn’t actually occur and that the number of results are simply an approximation.

In fact, if I search for Angelina Jolie, Google tells me that there are approximately 47,100,000 results, while if I search for Jolie Angelina, for no apparent reason, the results are cut down to just 7,660,000. Perhaps this is due to the fact that most people use the first search method (first name followed by the last name). But this still doesn’t explain why: if I search for Jolie Pitt, I get approximately 1,820,000 results, while if I search for Pitt Jolie, I get approximately 8,620,000… And not only: because if I search for Angelina AND Jolie, the results decrease to 40,400,000, which is neither logical, nor intuitive (although it is possible to imagine what Google is doing behind the curtains…) and if I search “Angelina Jolie”, the results are similar to the very first search.

Similarly, the vagueness of the query suggestion assistant is baffling: I inserted the name “Brad Pitt” with the query suggestion assistant turned on, and I saw approximately 28,100,000 results. But, as I completed the query, the results became 23,400,000.

A suggestion for a Google: seeing as though almost no one goes beyond the first two pages of results, why not simplify and just write “more than 1,000 results” or “more than 10,000 results” in these cases? Or, as an alternative, they could copy Yahoo! and actually make the numbers match the different search variants.

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