Questions and Answers: Is Google Always Right?
At some point today you have very likely turned to Google to ask a question and get some help. Google is a tricky beast to master, however. Sometimes things go as planned. If I search “pizza” I see images, restaurants and caloric information (ouch!).
A search for “fitness trainer in Melbourne” then shows me a list of all the people who can help me work off those pizza slices. Nothing surprising.
Google processes billions of searches per day. Do they always get it right?
Google has a sense of humour
While most of the 100 billion searches per month are treated very seriously by Google, some simply aren’t. Google tends to leave these in the search results but some may no longer work. They’re still funny for historical purposes.
A few examples:
- “What is the answer to life, the universe and everything” – Google answers with the Google calculator and displays 42. Of course, this is a cheeky reference to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
- If you ask Google for directions from The Shire to Mordor they sometimes respond with the walking directions from the Hobbit. In the screenshot below, they actually include the very famous meme “one does not simply walk into Mordor.” Yes, Google is geeky and has Easter Eggs.
- Google Maps often has these type of funny replies to strange inquiries. For instance, if you ask Google how to get from North America to Asia you may be treated to an instruction to “Kayak across the Pacific Ocean” (estimated at an easy row of just 2756 miles).
It is suggested to always read the directions before starting a project such as kayaking the Pacific.
Google can just be confused
Sometimes it’s not so much that Google is taking a humorous path. Humans are strange and sometimes ask questions that aren’t logical, so Google returns illogical answers or the “best available” answer.
Also, if website owners do not format their websites in a way Google can read, strange results may occur. Here are just a few we’ve accumulated over the years:
- “What color is George Washington’s white horse?” – This very easy-sounding question actually has historical significance. Washington’s horse was actually the literal “old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be.” Asking about his white horse adds a layer to this question that Google simply can’t wrap its AI brain around. What is the result? See for yourself:
- “What car did Jesus drive?” – Well … we all have a pretty good idea that Jesus didn’t drive a car. However, there is a line in the Bible that says, “For I did not speak of my own accord.” Confusing “accord” with the “Honda Accord” and referencing a humorous Reddit thread, Google AdWords decides that Jesus drove a Honda Accord. Very funny but ultimately, no, probably not.
- “When should I go to NYC” – This feels like a straightforward question. The question of “when” triggers the Events search but, since website owners haven’t figured out a way to regularly appear in this box, it’s completely empty. If you only trust in Google you would believe that instead of being the city that doesn’t sleep you may think NYC is at least taking an extended nap.
- “Spices to put in alfredo sauce” – Whenever Google scrapes data they leave themselves open to simple errors. In this case, they’ve listed the ingredients as permalinks, parents and gold. We can be fairly certain that is not a tasty alfredo sauce, though it has the makings for some great SEO link juice.
The religion of Google?
One of the potentially dangerous issues for a very public company like Google is that everyone can see their mistakes (until they’ve been fixed).
A huge mistake seen last year in the SERPs was the use of one religion’s material over another’s as the basis for an “answer” to a question.
Several questions triggered very religious answers that made more than a few people say “holy cow!”
- “Does God love everyone?” – The official Google answer was a bit biased:
Similarly, a question about “what happened to the dinosaurs” (commonly asked by children, perhaps?) returned a possibly controversial answer:
Not all was lost, though. If you wanted to find meaning in your life, the geeky humour came back and Google very clearly answered your simple question. Sorry, Google, that’s the meaning of finding, not … never mind.
Google can answer our basic queries very well, but if you ask it if dinosaurs were colour blind, prepare for the answer to be imperfect. And never forget content:
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