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    True, False, or Useful: '15% of all Google searches have never been searched before.'

    tags: articulation
    November 9th, 2023

    This factoid is often presented as suggesting something especially impressive and credit- or forgiveness-worthy about Google, which it doesn’t actually support on its own. The statistic alone simply indicates that a portion of daily searches are unique to Google’s logs of prior searches. The statistic alone doesn’t provide insight into the number, diversity, or complexity of the new queries. Facts like these are often used to create—articulate—a certain image or perception. Without context or additional data, such statistics can be misleading or give an inflated sense of a company’s capabilities or achievements.


    @fchollet via Twitter on Nov 8, 2023

    (For reference, about 15% of search queries seen by Google on any given day were never seen before.)

    For more:

    Barry Schwartz’s Not New: 15% Of Search Queries On Google Are Still New on Feb 17, 2022

    “Just some history on this stat, in 2007, 25% of all queries that searchers entered into the Google search box was never seen by Google before. That figure changed to 15% in 2013 and has remained at that figure according to Google even through today. Last I covered it was about two years ago in 2020, Google reconfirmed the 15% figure in 2017 and 2018 and now again in 2022.”

    In-context, from Google:

    Here is Ben Gomes (writing for Google), closing his writeup on “Our latest quality improvements for Search” on Apr 25, 20172:

    There are trillions of searches on Google every year. In fact, 15 percent of searches we see every day are new—which means there’s always more work for us to do to present people with the best answers to their queries from a wide variety of legitimate sources. While our search results will never be perfect, we’re as committed as always to preserving your trust and to ensuring our products continue to be useful for everyone. [emphasis added]

    Or this from Pandu Nayak (writing for Google), starting his writeup on “Understanding searches better than ever before” (with BERT) on Oct 25, 2019:

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the 15 years working on Google Search, it’s that people’s curiosity is endless. We see billions of searches every day, and 15 percent of those queries are ones we haven’t seen before–so we’ve built ways to return results for queries we can’t anticipate. [emphasis added]


    1. Chollet is adding information here to a remark I comment on here: “building a search engine by listing "every query anyone might ever make"”↩︎

    2. Sullivan (2017) was published on Apr 3, 2017.↩︎


    Sullivan, D. (2017). A deep look at google’s biggest-ever search quality crisis. Search Engine Land. https://searchengineland.com/google-search-quality-crisis-272174