Saturday, January 31, 2009

Americans turn to BBC when Google says "this site may harm your computer"


Today Google broke. For a short while the search engine warned that any and every site may harm your computer.

It's not surprising to see this making Google's own hot trends. We can see the surge of interest from users, turning once again to Google, to try and search for a solution.

Many people would have found this to be a rather circular solution - as any sites matching their Google search would have also been marked "this site may harm your computer".

Google's Hot Trends is currently only available with USA demographic data.

In other words, the hot trends list - where "google this site may harm your computer" reached number one almost immediately - only shows what people in America where searching for.

An interesting twist is revealed by Google's related keyword grouping in the specific hot trend report.


In the related search suggestion we can see that both Yahoo and the BBC appear.

The hour or so while Google was broken may have been Yahoo Search's most popular hour in many years. Most likely, [yahoo] appears in the related search because people hit Google to look for Yahoo.

The presence of the BBC is probably due to Americans looking for a BBC news report on the Google breakdown.

An alternative theory is that Google uses its synoym or broadmatch keyword technologies to suggest keywords that are related to the headline search term. It is possible that Google suggests Yahoo as an related alternative to Google - both are search engines. Does that rule apply to the BBC? It seems less likely.

Update: Google's response on the issue is here.

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