The Midwest Earthquake & Search Engine Responses

Google Trends

The Midwest of the US was rocked by an unusual 5.2 earthquake. Looking at Google Trends, which shows popular recent queries, I can see people immediately hit the search engines with queries like illinois earthquake, chicago earthquake, and midwest earthquake. So how did the search engines do? Especially when search engines are supposed to be providing better direct answers for queries like this? Not particularly well. Google alone came through with news results on a general search. All four did better with specific searches.

First, I checked what you’d get just for a search on [earthquake] at the four major search engines:

Google on earthquake:

Google Quake Results

Not bad — news search results right at the top.

Yahoo on earthquake:

Yahoo Quake Results

Zilch. Bad on you, Yahoo.

Microsoft on earthquake:

Live Quake Results

Nice explanation, but no news results despite Microsoft’s upgrade of news searching this week. But if you hit the Recent Earthquakes suggestion on the right hand side, then you got this nice display:

Live Quake Results

Sadly, that gives results focused only on California and Nevada. And they’re not really results all indented under the top listing, but rather links to more info deeper within that particular site.

How about For earthquake:

Ask Quake Results

Overall, I’d say Google took it for being most helpful. But how about for a more specific query like [midwest earthquake]? Here, Ask gives what I know it is capable of, a nice display of recent earthquakes at the top of the page:

Ask Quake Results

But pity it doesn’t do this for a general search. Earlier this week, I heard on Twitter from GrammarGirl that there might have been an earthquake near Reno. There was. But if I hadn’t known the location, I wouldn’t have gotten much help from Ask.

Getting specific also gave me news results at the top of the page from Yahoo and Microsoft, while Google continued to perform as well as before. The Yahoo and Microsoft changes:

Yahoo Quake Results

Live Quake Results

Overall, I wish I’d seen more "direct answer" style boxes like Ask provided on a general search from all the major search engines. At the very least, I should get news results — and in this, only Google did the right thing for a general query. FYI, see also Visualize Earthquake Data In Google Earth for looking at earthquake information within Google Earth.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Search Features: Shortcuts


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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