Google Thinks Michael Jackson Died At Age 65 In 2007

Torn Between Two Michael Jackson's, Google Takes Less Popular One

Oops. Bad, Google. Occasionally the service inserts direct answers to searches at the top of its results. It makes guesses at this, and in the case of michael jackson died, it’s making the wrong guess. Henry Elliss tipped us that Google’s showing that Michael Jackson died in 2007, at age 65.

The problem? Google’s drawing on Wikipedia and picking the wrong Michael Jackson, the writer rather than the King Of Pop. That’s wrong in terms of what people currently spiking searches for “michael jackson died” are expecting. Those interested in the writer did spike queries back when the writer died. The more recent spike is due to the pop singer’s dead (you can see both spikes on Google Trends).

It’s pretty amazing to see this happen. I’m pretty sure I’ve done that exact search in the past day or two since Jackson’s death and not seen it. Why is suddenly would pop up — and why Google isn’t keeping a better eye on a query it knows is drawing traffic — is strange.

For related news, see our Michael Jackson’s Death: An Inside Look At How Google, Yahoo, & Bing Handled An Extraordinary Day In Search post.

Related Topics: Channel: Content | Google: News | Google: Web Search


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Daniel Tunkelang

    Certainly an embarrassing mistake, but I’d cut Google a bit of slack on this one. I’m sure they’ve updated their heuristic to look for the “person who has recently died” tag on Wikipedia entries–and, in any case, they did source the entry referring to the writer.

    I think the regurgitated UAL bankruptcy story last year was a much bigger scandal.

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