Fun With Google Autocomplete

Back in June of 2010, Google announced Caffeine. While this was a new way of indexing and ranking sites on a real time basis (rather than in layers as they did previously), it set the stage for several features we see live today. One of the bigger features is Google Autocomplete.

What is Autocomplete? I’m glad you asked!

Ever notice when you search on Google and start to type, that it shows a dropdown of possible search queries which start with the characters you typed in? This is exactly what autocomplete does.

While composing an article about semantic SEO, I did a lot of research of question-based search queries to confirm that Google is in fact getting good at serving up SERPs against user intent, and not just keywords.  While doing that research, I found that generic search strings – i.e. question-focused verbiage with no real keywords included – can serve up fascinating autocomplete suggestions.

If Google is suggesting those terms, there is clearly some search demand. Let’s review a few of them to see what types of searches Google thinks are common enough to put in front of me.

Google Autocomplete Samples

When Is The…

Google Autocomplete: When Is The

If you are like me, you’d figure this is a common way to start a search. It looks like Google took a high level guess of what I’m searching for with the “next full moon” result. The other two are perplexing since they are both in the past. “First day of spring” makes sense since it just passed, but I would expect “NFL draft” to show heading into April. The Superbowl was nearly two months ago!

When Did The…

Google Autocomplete: When Did The

Interesting mix of possible results. Apparently a lot of students are studying the civil war this semester, since that came up at the top. It certainly wasn’t personalized, as I’ve never searched for that string. I would guess the Titanic question rises significantly in popularity every time there’s a movie or book released about it, so that makes sense. And where better to figure out when the internet first started than on the internet?

How Did…

Google Autocomplete: How Did

This is an interesting one. When I started typing it, it was a surprise to see Bob Marley and Adolph Hitler death causes as two of the top three autocompleted strings. I suppose a lot of people look for that information. The middle item is a bit perplexing. How in the world would a search engine know what “this” is to tell us how it was made? Who searches for that phrase?

How Can I…

How Can I

On this one, I figured the list would include something about self improvement. There’s a darn good reason the weight loss niche has been popular since the inception of Affiliate marketing – the demand is certainly there. Judging by the other two suggestions, many of us suffer from “stuck in the head” syndrome with songs and have no idea how to get it out of there. Either that or there’s a rabid cult of singers who can’t seem to stop performing everyday tasks to music. If you can actually sing, keep singing! If small animals cower when you start crooning, please ignore that last sentence.

What’s The Purpose of a…

What's The Purpose of A

These are decent options on first glance. Just last week, my kid asked why we have box springs, so it’s far from surprising to see it. Anyone who has had an appendix removed can tell you why you don’t want to have one rupture (very bad), so it’s logical to ask why we have it in the first place. No big deal on the middle name question either, so let’s just move on to the next one.

In What Way…

In What Way

Now we have some good ones! Who’d expect to see a comparison between DNA and a book, aside from genetic scientists and the like. I was curious so I clicked through, only to learn that this is a common analogy between how DNA holds information about our genetic makeup while books hold information as well. Not an effective analogy to me, but one people use nonetheless. It’s good to see a Shakespeare reference, but this one suggests that a lot of kids still don’t understand what the heck his writing means. It’s also good to see that people are looking to understand their rights better, particularly in reference to peaceful demonstrations. That’s an important topic these days, as there are real discussions going on in Congress about free speech, censorship, and the Internet.

Who Killed…

Who Killed

Two suggestions I expected, and one that caught me off guard. So, after our 35th president and the most important civil rights activist in the history of the USA, Tupac is the next most searched for assassination? Even with a movie about Abraham Lincoln hot off the presses? One word: wow.

Who Started…

Who Started

Now they started getting interesting. If you are like me, you tried to stay away from Harlem Shake videos as much as possible. Looks like we’re in the minority, because that’s the hottest query for “who started” on Google according to autocomplete. I’m not surprised to see “the KKK” as an option, although it seems silly to pin such a massive hate organization on only one person among many. And American History classes look like they are getting to the early 20th century around this time of year, which explains the WWI suggestion.

Who Wants To Start…

Who Wants To Start

The first one on this list threw me off for a brief second. Then I clicked through to the SERP, only to learn that it was the title of an episode of “New Girl” that released in October 2012. Whew, for a moment I thought there was an underground movement against video game facilities. As a musician and an entrepreneur, I just about expected the next two options. Moving right along…

Why Can’t I Find…

Why Can't I Find

Interesting mix of autocompletes. Luckily, we have a very low unemployment rate here in Austin. But the economy continues to struggle, so many of us are still out of work. Love is also a highly searched for topic, so it doesn’t surprise me to see that a lot of people look for it.  As for ammo, is there a shortage of it now? I know that demand skyrocketed amidst the talk of further regulating assault weapons. Sometimes you never know what you will find until you look for it.

Why Don’t…

Why Don't

Popular songs and movies tend to leap into autocomplete like this. The first couple of searches are for a popular country song by Josh Turner, and the third one is a tune from Beyonce Knowles. I even searched for “Why Don’t You…” to see what else came up. The first suggestion was “Get a Job” (a song by the Offspring), followed by the Beyonce song. Looks like “Why Don’t” is a somewhat loaded search string for semantic purposes.

Can One Find…

Can One Find

Love, love, love. Whether you have never been lucky at love, have loved and lost, or simply want to hook up via the internet, Google has you covered.

Can I Bring My…

Can I Bring My

Now we have one with some juicier options. Bring an iPad to jury duty? Sure, you won’t be listening to the trial anyway it appears. Bring a dog to Hawaii? Why not? They have dogs there too you know. Bring an Xbox on a plane? You likely can’t play it on there, but you get two carry ons, so why not try?

Why Do They Like…

Why Do they Like

Nicely done for the last search. The first two are nonsense suggestions again, since “me” and “her” could be anyone. Even if a search happens on my computer while I’m logged in, it could be anyone searching for that term. The last one is a question I’ve pondered as well, why exactly does anyone like Justin Beiber?

One that insightful question, we find ourselves at the end of the blog post. I hope you enjoyed this. Go on Google and play around with it for yourself. Comment here or message us on Facebook or Twitter if you find anything really good. We are on the lookout for more interesting and amusing examples.