Just How Real-Time is Google’s Real-Time Search?

Brittany Murphy Searches Find Google a Little Behind

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Update: According to reports, it took Google about six minutes to gather it’s "real-time" search results for a San Franciso earthquake.

Original Article: As you have no doubt heard by now, actress Brittany Murphy tragically passed away over the weekend. As saddening as that news was for many, people wanted information about it. As with any other celebrity death or big news event, people scrambled to find updates. This need for fresh info is really where real-time search has its greatest potential.

Google has only recently begun showing "real-time" results in its search results, pulling tweets from Twitter, updates from Facebook fan pages, blogs, news, outlets, etc. The idea behind Google showing such results, is that people can find the freshest info possible that relates to their query.

Have you found Google’s real-time search results useful for finding fresh information? Discuss here.

Real-time search is generally thought of as providing results as they are posted online. In its truest sense, that’s what it is, but Google’s so-called real-time search may not be as real-time as initially thought. It’s close, but not quite there.

Danny SullivanSearch industry expert Danny Sullivan followed Google’s real-time search coverage of Murphy’s death closely. He found that Google’s real-time results were "wildly out of sync" with the results on Twitter itself. He noted that while Google’s most recent result would say that it was 2 minutes old, Twitter would have 700 more results rolling in.

"In fact, I found that Google’s real time results often simply stopped scrolling for minutes at a time," says Sullivan. "To get them to restart, I’d have to reload the page."

But is Google’s "real-time" results being slightly behind real-time necessarily a bad thing? As Sullivan says, a lot of this no doubt has to do with Google’s own filtering, and he didn’t notice any spam getting through. There is a pretty good chance that those 700 Twitter results contained plenty of spam and/or redundancies (although Sullivan did find a few redundancies in Google’s results too).

Matt CuttsGoogle’s Matt Cutts commented on Sullivan’s report, weighing in on the search engine’s handling of alleged real-time results. According to him, the news of Murphy’s death was broken at 1:37 PM, and first tweeted about at 1:40 PM. He says Google’s real-time results began two and a half minutes later, noting tht this was "entirely algorithmic."

"I think Danny makes fair points about better tools being needed to search the real-time stream and to highlight the important links/stories," says Cutts. "At the same time, the real-time stream worked as intended to highlight a breaking story and to show the flavor of how people are reacting to the event. The rest of the search results are also there to help give important news and context. And even the Google real-time results did a fair job of highlighting news articles, not just tweets."

That said, Cutts does acknowledge that Google can do better, but thinks they’re doing a pretty good job for a first-time test of real-time search. Would you agree with him? Share your thoughts here.

Related Articles:

> Tips for Getting Found in Real-Time Searches

> Google Makes a Second Real-Time Search Announcement

> Yahoo Rolling Out Something Kind of Like Real-Time Search

Just How Real-Time is Google’s Real-Time Search?
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  • matobaro

    l saw the prophecy given by a nigerian, Prophet T.B joshua through EMMANUEL T.V exactly the way he said it ,he saw the death of a young woman – famous all over the world – that she died suddenly of heart failure.

  • http://www.bidangle.com TR

    …is one rude dude!

  • http://www.discovernsw.com.au NSW

    Wow – if 2 minutes is going to affect you – you probably need to get out more. Besides when has Twitter ever shown anything remotely interesting or relevant?

  • Greg Bogdan

    About one week ago I typed “SEO” into a Google search box and then proceeded to tweet about SEO. I was quite amazed that 36 seconds later my tweet appeared on the Google search results page.

    I do hope that Google adds some sort of algorithm to filter out those that might use this phenomena to spam search results on trending topics. Perhaps something like “klout” could be used to evaluate twitter micro-content at least. The real-time “stream” will become polluted eventually and the fact that this steam is occupying even a small space on the main Google search results page makes this not a small matter.


  • Stupidscript

    If I read another article on WebProNews about how Google is handling “real time” search without some comparison to everyone else who is claiming to have “real time” search (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Bing, etc.) then I will believe that WebProNews has been taken over by the oompa-loompas at The Register.

    Without comparison, your articles/complaints/musings are occurring in a vacuum. Context is REQUIRED. Please try a bit harder. Thanks.

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