Google Isn’t Getting Freshness Right, Despite Increased Emphasis

by / Saturday, 07 July 2012 / Published in Google

A study has come out from Conductor, indicating that one in five Google Knowledge Graph entries for trending keywords are outdated.

Do you think Google is doing a good job at delivering fresh results when relevant? Share your feedback in the comments.

Google announced Knowledge Graph last month, with a great deal of hype. Google seems to consider it one of the most important things it has done for search in a long time. While it may be significant, it appears that there is still plenty of work to be done.

Another thing Google prides itself on is indexing speed, which it has gotten much better at over the years. According to Conductor’s study, however, this type of speed is not being applied to Knowledge Graph.

“Our analysis of both low and high activity queries tells us that Google and Wikipedia are mismatched for a substantial ‘one out of five’ high activity queries,” says Conductor’s Nathan Safran. “And, when they are mismatched, half the time, Google is behind by 2 or more days. The implication is that searchers may not be seeing the most relevant information for their query. For some context, in our LeBron James example, this means his Knowledge Graph entry could have been without reference to his recent championship for up to four days.”

It’s interesting that Google seems to be falling behind on freshness in some areas, even while it has become such a point of emphasis with recent algorithm updates, sometimes to a fault.

The really evident lack of freshness comes where it is probably most relevant – real time. Google, as you may know, no longer has realtime search, since its deal with Twitter dissolved last year, and now Google simply can’t “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible” as well as it could with that deal in place. It’s just not happening. Twitter is the primary place for realtime info, hands down. That could change, but for now, that’s just how it is.

Now, Google is pushing this Knowledge Graph in a big way, and even it is apparently behind.

Google made some big search-related announcements at Google I/O, related to the new version of Android, Jellybean. There are Siri-like voice features, and Google Now, which we talked about in more detail here. It may take some time, but these may be very important elements to Google’s future as a search engine. Another one of the new search elements is improved visualization of Knowledge Graph results. Based on Google’s demo of the operating system. Knowledge Graph will be more front and center, at least on mobile search. It stands to reason that this will flow into other version of Google mobile search, beyond Jellybean.

While Google may use a lot of different sources for Knowledge Graph results, it’s clear that Wikipedia is the go-to source, as most of the results you are likely to see, will show Wikipedia info above all else. Wikipedia isn’t perfect, but two day-old Wikipedia is even less perfect, and will make Google less perfect.

Google has acknowledged that Knowledge Graph is not perfect. When Google announced the feature, we asked how susceptible it would be to Wikipedia vandalism. A spokesperson told us at the time, “I can’t share a ton of detail here, but we’ve got quality controls in place to try to mitigate this kind of issue. We’ve also included a link so users can tell us when we may have an inaccuracy in our information.”

On the one hand, a real time Wikipedia-based Knowledge Graph may actually make it more susceptible to vandalism. If it’s real time, it’s going to display exactly what’s on Wikipedia, even before editors have a chance to correct issues. Perhaps some lag is needed for quality control.

Safran says, “While a real time Wikipedia update may ultimately not be practical, if Google is indeed positioning Knowledge Graph as the future of search, we have to believe that they can do better than the 2-4 day lag many of their mismatched keywords currently reflect.”

Two to four days can make a huge difference when it comes to information, obviously. Wikipedia pages are often at their most relevant when they are about someone or something in the news. Conductor mentions Lebron James as an example. An outdated Knowledge Graph result could ignore a championship that was just achieved. A celebrity result could ignore a their recent death.