Friday, June 27, 2008

Misleading Google Search Hits

I oftentimes hear people use the following phrase:

I searched for (this and that) on Google and I got 170,000 hits!

The person saying this usually says this to prove his point that the search query is a relevant issue or term. As if 170,000 search results is an unnaturally large number of results.

This can be somewhat misleading.

Google is the biggest and best search engine on the Internet today. If you type in any group of words, you will get lots and lots of results. The words do not even have to be close to each other in the document for Google to pull it up. For example, I typed in "i ate a purple hippo" (without quotes) and got 186,000 results. I type in the search terms "turbid integument" and...um..well...that's not a great example, because those two words only yield 9,620 results. "defenestrated cow" only yields 5,780. JunkMale notes that archaic words are less likely to give massive quantities of results.

Just because someone (who's trying to prove a point) types search words into Google and gets plenty of results does not mean that the point is somehow made more valid. By typing in words that could be related to each other in whatever remote or not-so-remote ways, you will get lots of search results. I type in the words "monsanto safe consumption" and get 249,000 results. Next, I slightly modify the words: "monsanto not safe consumption." This gives me 27,000 results. This does not necessarily mean that Monsanto crops are more safe for consumption. * For control purposes, I searched for "more suicides during summer." This gave me 2,060,000 hits.

Google is just a search engine; it will not reveal all of life's answers, although it could help you find some of them. You have to use your brain when trying to prove a point with Google, not just look at the quantity of results. Are there results on the first page that are even related to your query?

After saying all that, I do concede that if your search query has quotes around it (i.e. searching for exact phrase) and you still find many results for that exact phrase, then perhaps you are on to something. Perhaps.

* - I was prompted to write this post while watching the documentary "The World According to Monsanto," which is why I reference Monsanto search queries.

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  • Birdie

    Next thing you know, you will be expecting people to actually think and use logical deduction and reason, or something! ;)