Rare: Google Admits A Search Result Is Wrong

Oct 21, 2013 • 8:37 am | comments (70) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

google bugIt is rare for Google to admit they are wrong, at least with search quality. Part of the complaints with the Google stock price and questioning if the stock price matches Google's quality product these days... Google's Ryan Moulton admitted Google has a bug with, at least, one of their search results.

Ryan Moulton has been with Google's search quality team for over seven years. He is big into Hacker News and has been responding to Google complaints there for years.

One such complaint was readdressed on the topic of ranking w3schools.com above MDN resources. This is when Ryan famously responded higher quality content not necessarily more useful content. The topic came back up at Hacker News and this time, he admitted there was a bug.

If you search for [html iframe element scripting] you get an MDN result first, but to the wrong answer. Then it is followed by three w3schools results, also with "wrong, or completely useless" results.

Google MDN w3schools bug

To which, Ryan responded:

Thanks for following up with this. There's a real bug here that I'm passing along. Unfortunately, I can't share any of the details, so this will be a bit unsatisfying, but your hunch was correct, there is something wrong going on there.

I wonder exactly what the bug is, of course. But let's see if it does get fixed soon.

Forum discussion at Hacker News.

Previous story: Google Webmaster Tools Link Not Available For Some


Josh Barnett

10/21/2013 01:22 pm

Google has a hard time with technical searches. I've very often searched for issues that I thought were fairly common only to have useless results all over page 1.

Michael Martinez

10/21/2013 01:56 pm

I have documented a number of searches where they have had issues. To their credit, when you report the problems they do look into them. Given that hundreds of millions of people use Google every month, I am sure they produce all sorts of unexpected search results. There will never be a perfect search engine.

Jérôme Verstrynge

10/21/2013 02:14 pm

It is great that Google can admit there is an issue, rather than being silent. It makes them more human, less robotic. Less of a one-way relationship... Let's hope we can develop more of a collaborative relationship !!!


10/21/2013 02:58 pm

"To their credit, when you report the problems they do look into them." What are you talking about ? The basics of User Experience Rules say, that feedback button/form should be easy accessible. Where is this button/form on the SERP ? I never saw something like this. Did you? I believe, that Googlers will be surprised by the results of even very basic "Good/Bad SERP" survey. Just make this button on SERP and watch. Is it a big problem for Googlers? Sure not. But if results of such survey will leak to media, then it can be disaster for Google. Instead of real work on the product, they force me to believe their product is good by the propaganda. We, consumers, are not so stupid as Google want us to be, pretending their machine knows better what we need. "There will never be a perfect search engine." Absolutely. But there are tens of simple improvements can be done for the better user experience, if the Google owners really do care about the users.


10/21/2013 03:11 pm

"feedback button/form should be easy accessible. Where is this button/form on the SERP ? I never saw something like this. Did you?" Yes, it is at the bottom of every Google search page, the link is called "Send Feedback". Well, it's on google.co.uk anyway.


10/21/2013 03:23 pm

Yup, found it finally in the bottom of 50 results list I use. Thanks )

Para Juegos

10/21/2013 03:24 pm

I feel sometimes we are too hasty to conclude what factors that greatly influence the enemy. There is nothing absolute in nature all. Have any of us used up yet google gadget


10/21/2013 03:31 pm

Oh, I just realized I even used it about 2.5 years ago. Sent feedback, didn't get response and forgot about it. This is exactly, what I call poor user experience.


10/21/2013 03:51 pm

Ah so you are expecting a personal responce from a free service? You must be disappointed a lot in life.


10/21/2013 03:55 pm

I posted last week that my niece and I were searching for a diagram of the House of Representatives for a school project (searching from the U.S.). The first page of results is loaded with pages from Australia. To me, this is also a bug. If I am searching from the U.S., I should be shown documents relating to the U.S. House of Representatives. Obviously, we can modify our search query, but for the phrase - diagram of the house of representatives - there is no need to show me something about another country, unless I specify the "Australian House of Representatives".


10/21/2013 03:57 pm

I mean, a diagram from house.gov would have even been a reasonable result, but it's not even in the top 25.


10/21/2013 04:11 pm

I suppose they asked me for feedback, if they placed this link. And I suppose they should find the way to communicate, if they want me to use this form. Otherwise this is just another misleading statement, that Google is interested in my opinion. Again, this is the basics of User Experience Rules. You see, I just forgot about it when they didn't response. And now I don't care neither about the feedback nor about the lack of response ) Sooner or later I will not be care about Google in general ) Furthermore, statement about "free service" is not accurate. It's not free since I waste my time on it and Google exchanges MY time to advertisers money. I allow to do this, but it doesn't mean the service is free. We just made a complicated deal ) Complicated business model doesn't make it "free service".


10/21/2013 04:29 pm

Yesterday I was in need to translate phrase in German and I was not sure, if it was good idea to use translate.google.com Common sense told me, that it's highly possible, that I would get SERP full of websites in German later on ) You can't know what to expect from this machine )

Scam Cutts

10/21/2013 04:44 pm

Ryan is funny, he refuses to admit that Google manipulates search to make more money. It's hilarious by now.


10/21/2013 07:23 pm

Maybe that's because they don't. I agree they add more ads to their pages, but their core product of organic search is not manipulated, other than to demote sites that try to trick Google.


10/21/2013 07:25 pm

Perhaps house.gov does not have a diagram, or maybe they have not described it well enough so Google can't pick it up.


10/21/2013 07:29 pm

It seems you are determined to call Google a bad user experience, whatever. First you cannot find the button ... "bad user experience". Then you can find it and in fact have used it ... "good user experience" surely, but you cannot say so. Then, because you did not get a response ... "bad user experience" again. Perhaps, if you got a response, you would not be happy with it ... another "bad user experience"?

Scam Cutts

10/21/2013 07:30 pm

Yeah trick Google by making money and not advertising. Take a hike loser


10/21/2013 08:19 pm

true. Although on page 3 of the results, Google does show a page from house.gov that provides a list of leadership (from which you could draw a diagram, although not exactly the flowchart we were looking for). My biggest problem was with the number of Australian results showing up on the front page. Today, I only see 3 Australian pages, which is an improvement over the 8 pages I was seeing last week. Even most of the images on Image Search are from foreign countries. When searching from the U.S., it would just seem to reason that pages that speak about the U.S. House of Representatives should rank prominently. If I want to see results for Australia, I would specify that in my search query or go to google.com.au. The serps need work, but thankfully they seem to be listening to our concerns. It goes without saying that we modified our query to find what we needed; but ultimately, this problem speaks volumes about their "user intent" algorithm(s), because the Australian House of Representatives was never our intent.


10/21/2013 08:37 pm

Wrong. - bad experience soon after the first Panda, 2.5 years ago ; - mad on Google ; - understanding of Google intentions ; - support of Google actions ; - bad experience again ; - support of Google actions ; - more support of Google actions ; - much more support of Google actions ; - bad experience again ; - and again ; - still support ; - and still bad experience ; - end of support and total dissatisfaction about the Google in general.


10/21/2013 08:40 pm

Perhaps ... but how is this the reason to show Australian results instead ?


10/22/2013 01:13 am

all google serp today like it. You can find only what media/wikipedia writes about your keyword, but NOT ANY REAL solutions. google serp is just bad joke since 2012.


10/22/2013 01:14 am

surely it manipulated. With high authority/nonsense vanilla organic serp, with white lists, with penguins and pandas, with adwords and adsense, etc.


10/22/2013 01:16 am

i not using google anymore. if you will search anything about programming for example - you will get compete crap all times. Yes, i really "need" to read wikipedia article what is php when i looking for error explanation. All google serp like it today (vanilla & high authority spam). I unable to understand what the google celebrating with their new birds, serp quality level = CRAP.


10/22/2013 01:19 am

this is because 99% of sites was been penalized by animals, so google can display now only very very broad matches to your keyword.


10/22/2013 01:21 am

google always trying to stay far from webmasters and searchers. forums, top contributors, nothing new here.


10/22/2013 01:22 am

where is -1 button on google. i want to click it when i see crap. but i think G servers will overloaded if they will add it.


10/22/2013 01:24 am

sure, google 2012+ = bad experience, dictatorship, crappy serp, ads above fold, white listed sites, high authority spam, etc.


10/22/2013 01:25 am

they are not free, they are dictate rules for us.


10/22/2013 01:26 am

they not cares. Hope soon will panda & penguin for google, so they will understand what has been done in 2012-2013. At current time I wish bing to win! Somebody high authority (politician) get away all top10 ranking on all google money keywords.


10/22/2013 02:32 am

of course it is manipulated.. Knowledge graph is one big manipulation. Doesn't mean they aren't allowed to do it is their search engine. However to say serps aren't manipulated shows you are either out of touch or not trying hard enough.

Gregory Smith

10/22/2013 02:54 am

Can't we all just get along?

Snehal Joshi

10/22/2013 04:58 am

When I am search anything about programming codes, I am getting useless results all over page 1. I think Google has a hard time with technical searches.

Soni Sharma

10/22/2013 05:08 am

There are many other cases like this...See nothing is perfect in this world.. all we are seeking 100% perfection. There are still scope of improvements.. Keep it up Google.

Michael Martinez

10/22/2013 05:31 am

"What are you talking about ?" I urge you to read the article. Pay especial attention to the first part.


10/22/2013 05:41 am

Thank you for the suggestion, but not sure why do you believe, that after reading the article I can't ask you "What are you talking about ?"


10/22/2013 05:47 am

Behold my friends! We're in with yet another update version pretty soon because the "new car engine" is not that EFI-reliable after all!

Sundar Rawat

10/22/2013 08:07 am

Sometimes, we found crowding in results which is annoying for searchers as well. May be, algorithm's spider think that these would be related to the query but in most cases, they don't become useful results. It shows spider is also confused while showing the result. Just found that results are now changed on this above query.


10/22/2013 08:18 am

Really, you are donating you time clicking ads to help out Google and not searching for what you want... really.... Yeah, your argument fails to hold weight and makes no logical sense. That button is for them to receive feedback, not for two way communication. The paid products all the phone support as far as I can see. Nothing said implies they don't care about the feedback you send, just you are expecting a personal response from a free service. A heck of a lot of paid products provide far worse feedback systems.

Nikhil Chandra

10/22/2013 12:24 pm

Even God Google isn't perfect :-)

Michael Martinez

10/22/2013 02:06 pm

I can't help you if you have lost track of the thread of discussion.


10/22/2013 02:14 pm

No, you can't "help" because you can't back up your statement )


10/22/2013 02:29 pm

I told you already, that I don't care if they replied or not. This is their problem how to make people use the feedback form. I'm out because I didn't get enough attention. They have probably thousand who still use this form. Fine. Who cares? I'm dissatisfied consumer, they are satisfied. That's it. People are different. re "Really, you are donating you time clicking ads to help out Google and not searching for what you want... really...." Excuse me, but I have no time to explain you basics of the business models. Study by yourself. Just can tell you, that this service would be free, if it would be free of ads. Wikipedia is free service. Google is not. Furthermore, you can't be serious thinking, that free service can be public company )


10/22/2013 02:44 pm

Wow, do you want to use more logical fallacies or are you content with your current level of mis-logic. You could claim air isn't free by the same argument because you have to spend time breathing to obtain it..... Adverts don't make a service more or less free. If you haven't paid for it, its free. Pretty much that simple. Your just trying to obfuscate the point because you don't actually have an argument because you aren't making any logical sense. "Furthermore, you can't be serious thinking, that free service can be public company )" I think you mean private company, a public company is one owned by the government.

Shazida Khatun

10/22/2013 02:51 pm

It is not new such incident for Google ! they only knows the language of money


10/22/2013 02:56 pm

Would be nice, if it would not be regressive at least. I don't remember such problems with Google 5 years ago.


10/22/2013 03:00 pm

OMG ... This is what I have been talking about - you don't know the basics of business models ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_company

Yo Mamma

10/22/2013 03:09 pm

Ryan Moulton: You are sir, no Craig Silverstein

Yo Mamma

10/22/2013 03:10 pm

You give the Google of the past few years credit? Credit for what? For hoodwinking all its loyal SEO supporters? Keep your kind of credit all to yourself!

Yo Mamma

10/22/2013 03:11 pm

I want my HEMI back


10/22/2013 03:13 pm

There is a little gear icon in the right corner of search results, click on that and then click on location settings, and make sure yours is set to your state, or city. The results shouldnt have Australia I would think.

Yo Mamma

10/22/2013 03:13 pm

Maybe at least one ardent Google support will make a good excuse. Like "We all make mistakes". Like the surgeon that removed the wrong leg. Ha ha ha ha. Just not so funny.


10/22/2013 03:18 pm

"The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject." There is a reason wiki isn't used for reliable references. The whole world doesn't use that terminology. It even says it at the top of the article and explains the differences. What you are referring to is a public limited company or publicly traded company. From your statements so far, I'm 100% sure that I'm more familiar with the Google business model than you are! Particually since you don't understand the difference between 'free' and 'paid for'


10/22/2013 04:03 pm

Have to remind you, that Google is the US company. And I'm referring to "Public company" - terminology used in US. If Wikipedia is not reliable enough for you, then see Library of Congress : http://www.loc.gov/rr/business/company/public.html Pay attention to the paragraph of SEC (Securities & Exchange Commission) requirements to the Public companies. No doubt this is all about free services ))

Michael Martinez

10/22/2013 10:12 pm

Dude, your comments make no sense whatsoever.


10/22/2013 10:58 pm

Dude, if my comments wouldn't make sense, then you wouldn't reply ) If you reply, then obviously you find the sense )


10/23/2013 12:57 am

search for 'bad credit personal loans'. Page 3, a hacked webpage from Berkely.edu ranks. It is an immediate redirect. Lame.


10/23/2013 03:11 am

Oh man, you always find something ....... Why do you go to page 3 ? Just stay on page 1. " Strong vs. Bold " is more important problem right now : http://www.seroundtable.com/google-strong-bold-tag-17552.html


10/23/2013 04:59 am

Hacked sites is other issue, the stuff mentioned here is pure algo fault :)

Gracious Store

10/23/2013 05:16 am

I have always known that Google is not infallible, they are human and capable of making mistakes even when they don't admit it openly. It is just that people rely on Google searches for everything and it is unthinkable to get a "wrong " search result that is that the result that came up for your search is something you never anticipate will come up.

Rahul Trivedi

10/23/2013 05:48 am

Here is another example: I search on "Find your IT Partner" and it shows me to find your life partner. How funny it is :)

Michael Martinez

10/23/2013 08:17 am

Nope. My replies don't confer any sensibility on your utterings. The universe just doesn't work that way.


10/23/2013 08:32 am

Ah yes, because clearly the US is the only country in the world.....

Jon Celeste

10/23/2013 09:12 am

Wow nice to see them come clean.


10/23/2013 11:54 am

That is a ridiculous statement.


10/23/2013 01:05 pm

I'm far from such sentiments.


10/23/2013 01:15 pm

This is not about mistakes. This is about domination. Google wants to be the Internet. However its own main product (search) is of very poor quality lately. There were no such sentiments five years ago. Everyone acknowledged Google's leadership, even Google also did mistakes. But its main product (search) was best of the best. Conclusion : work on yourself (own product) first to be the leader.

Yo Mamma

10/23/2013 05:03 pm

The sex industry wouldn't survive without Google's love

Rahul Trivedi

10/23/2013 06:37 pm


Gracious Store

10/23/2013 08:19 pm

Yes Google has dominated the search and can afford to lower standard for himself because he has no competitor. If he has competitors that match him, definitely the search results cannot be as bad as you said. People prefer Google to Bing and Yahoo for their searches as such giving Google the dominion over the results they get for their searches. If people begin to shift their searches from Google to Bing and other search engines, surely Google will improve the search results in no time. All Google need to give people better search results are good competitors.

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