Google Real Time Search - How Google is Determining Where to Show Real Time Search

August 17, 2016

A lot of people have been writing interesting stuff and trying to get a feel for what's going on with Google's new real time search feature. It seems that Google is using two key factors in determing what does (and doesn't) get a real-time SERP box:

  • Query Type - This is standard operating procedure for blended search. Google looks at query type in determining when and how aggresively to integrate things like news, video, etc.
  • Twitter Activity - This is the interesting piece, for me: it looks like Google is monitoring (via API or possibly by crawling) the activity of certain terms across Twitter, and integrating twitter results based on the amount of activity they see on Twitter. My methods for arriving at this conclusion are far from scientific, but it makes sense and I'll explain why I think this is the case shortly.

How Query Type Might Be Playing a Role in Real Time Search

As Ken noted yesterday, we're seeing brands fall victim to real time SERP integration. This seems to make sense, as you can easily see where a searcher would want to see some real-time feedback and/or opinions on a specific brand or product. I'm also seeing quite a few news events feature the real time integration:

Obama noble real time search result.

If you take a look at the top ten topics on Google Trends, you'll note they all have real time search boxes:

  1. woods tiger
  2. obama peace prize
  3. steelers browns game
  4. andhra
  5. telangana
  6. copenhagen
  7. brian kelly
  8. salvation army
  9. colt mccoy
  10. heisman trophy

Also, Google seems to infer from hashtags that the searcher wants to see real time search results. While AdWords doesn't have a real time search box, #AdWords is a different story:

#AdWords real time search results.

So Google seems to want to integrate real time search for:

  • Relevant brands
  • News related topics
  • Hash tags (and maybe other "social" queries)

But what about Twitter activity?

How Google Might Be Leveraging Twitter Activity in Real Time Search

A couple things are curious here: one is movie results. If you look at the top ten movies, unlike a look at Google Trends, there's some inconsistency. The only result that generates a real time search box is The Blind Side:

Real time search results for the movie blind side.

So the question is why The Blind Side is real-time-worthy, and not some of the other popular and topical movies on the list?

Let's take a look at another query, SEO:

Twitter real time results for SEO

So why would SEO sneak a listing onto page one? It doesn't fit with the query types that would make sense (news, brands, social topics) and similar acronyms and topics like PPC, AdWords, and SMO or social media don't make the grade for real time search.

What I think is happening here is that SEO is a very popular topic on Twitter (largely thanks to the volume of marketers on the platform), and The Blind Side is either sufficiently more popular than the other movies that are possible choices, or is spiking more quickly. Here is a quick table comparing eleven different queries that I think provide interesting results:

Google real time search results.

It'll take additional time and testing to see what Google does with real-time search results, but early results definitely seem pretty promising for spammers.

Tom Demers

Tom Demers

Tom Demers is Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content.

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