A week or so ago, I asked Google’s John Mueller in a video hangout if it is possible that the changes in searcher behavior we are seeing are influencing the overall Google search ranking algorithm. We have been seeing a lot of fluctuations in Google search, so I asked if maybe that is why.
While Google does handle spikes in specific queries differently, such as with QDF and of course custom one boxes and other special search boxes – espesially with what we are seeing with COVID-19 searches. Can that influence all queries, even queries outside of the realm of COVID-19.
John Mueller pretty much said no, he said:
I don’t think that would be happening. I mean it’s something where we we always see user behavior shifts and sometimes certain topics become really popular and we try to show the right search results for those kind of things. And this happens all the time like this is one of those things where it probably is a little bit bigger and it’s lasting longer than kind of like the Oscars when when they come and go. But these kind of shifts are things that our algorithms have to watch out for it so it’s not something that I’d say would be specific to this this current situation.
The question and answer start at 57 seconds in:
The reason I am covering this now is because others are asking it:
Great question! Would love to hear this, too.
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) April 6, 2020
And then this as well, “Google always sees user behavior shifts. This is bigger and longer than most, though. But our algorithms have to watch for these shifts all the time.”
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) April 6, 2020
Heck, even Paul Haahr from Google responded:
Interesting speculation, but all I’m going to say is that, yes, we’re seeing a very different mix of queries these days, as you’d expect, and I’m very proud of what our teams have built in Search to get people information about the Covid-19 pandemic. https://t.co/sfvY06aZaz
— Paul Haahr (@haahr) April 6, 2020
Here is the full transcript of the Q&A with John any myself:
Question: So I’ve been obviously tracking how you guys are manually changing the search results constantly… I’m joking. But the algorithm seems to be, is it possible that the tools that are tracking the changes to the Google search rankings, like the 10 listings and so forth, that there’s so much change because of how maybe searcher behaviors changing that Google’s algorithms are adapting to it? Meaning, I mean, if you look at these tool like the past couple weeks, it literally feels like there’s a Google algorithm update every day in terms of how much fluctuations there are in the tools that are tracking and the webmaster saying my rankings are changing. So is it possible that searcher behavior is influencing the algorithm itself?
Answer: I don’t know. It’s, it’s hard, so I haven’t been watching what’s happening with these tools so that’s probably something that you see more. But in general we do try to adapt our algorithms to provide the the information that’s relevant for users at the time when they need it. So that could be something where things are kind of evolving to make sure that people have the right information at the right time. But I imagine that’s more specific to certain kinds of searches. I don’t think it’s like we would just change all of the search results around. So if you’re looking for a manual for washing machines like why why would you change the search results for that? Like things are essentially still all the same. But I do know that there various teams working at Google on improving the search results and particularly around kind of the whole crisis situation where people have higher expectations from search and they want something that they can trust. And that’s probably something where we were trying to provide I don’t know better quality of service or good quality of service at least for for those that are looking for this kind of critical information.
Question: So you wouldn’t think it’s specific a thing like if it’s not COVID related searches you don’t think maybe the way people are searching less for or more for buying toilet paper versus less for going to the movies that would influence how the algorithm maybe adjusts? That makes sense that question like like search or search the search trends influencing the Google algorithm and the rankings around that.
Answer: I don’t think that would be happening. I mean it’s something where we we always see user behavior shifts and sometimes certain topics become really popular and we try to show the right search results for those kind of things. And this happens all the time like this is one of those things where it probably is a little bit bigger and it’s lasting longer than kind of like the Oscars when when they come and go. But these kind of shifts are things that our algorithms have to watch out for it so it’s not something that I’d say would be specific to this this current situation.
Forum discussion at Twitter.