Google showing zero results again for many time, calculations & conversions search results

And it is back! Google may now show no search results for queries it's confident it can answer on its own.

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Google No Results New Jersey Time

Google has decided to show zero search results when they are confident that they can give answers that solve the searcher’s query fully. This is currently limited to many time, calculations & conversions searches — those that ask for answers to math questions, what the time is in specific locations and for measurement unit conversions. Google always provides a link to “show all results,” under their answer, which will lead the user to full search results.

When does Google hide the main search results? Google will only hide the main search results when the query is specific to time, calculations and conversions -related queries. But in some of those cases, if it is possible that Google thinks a searcher may want to get the search results, Google will default to show the search results.

For example, here is a search for [time in india]:

Google No Results India Time

Compare that to [time in new york]:

Google No Results New York Time

It appears that in the case of New York, Google believes some searchers may be seeking the New York Times and thus it shows all the search results by default.

Here’s how these zero-results pages come up for conversions:

Google No Results Conversions

And they also come up for math:

Google No Results Calculations

Google’s statement. Google emailed this statement about launching this feature today:

As always, our goal with search is to help people quickly find the most relevant information. For queries where we have extremely high confidence that a user is seeking a calculation, unit conversion or local time, we will show a single result to improve load time on mobile. Since our initial experiment in February, we worked to remove ads and improve the triggering quality for this experience to be sure that we’re serving users what they’re looking for, and we will still provide the option to tap to see more results.

Google tested this in March but pulled back the feature. Google tested showing no search results in their search results earlier this year. Many people expressed unhappiness with the test, so Google stopped it after several days and said they would rethink these efforts.

What didn’t people like? When Google showed zero results it led to some brands not coming up for their own name. It also stopped dating sites from coming up for queries like [date in london]. There were many examples in which this search experiment failed and Google tried to resolve most of these before rolling it out this week.

But in the case of [date in london], it seems Google rather just give you the calendar date and not help you find a soulmate:

Date In London

Note: Google told us that searchers in the UK will see a full page of results, including results for date activities/ideas. I am only getting this response because I am not un the UK.

Why does this matter? Clearly, if you run a site that does time conversions, helps with math problems or performs other conversion formulas, you may now be in really bad shape. Google won’t show your site for answers without an additional click.

In addition, if you try to name your new company in the format of a time, conversion or math problem, you better make sure Google is able to show search results for that query. If not, it might be a while before Google sends you any traffic, even if people are searching on your brand name.

Thank you. We want to thank Sergey Alakov for spotting this in the morning and a Google spokesperson for responding to us on a Sunday.

About the author

Barry Schwartz
Barry Schwartz is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry can be followed on Twitter here.

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