Marketing 3 min read

Google Explains the Massive Glitch that Affected Search Results

Hebi B. /

Hebi B. /

On Tuesday morning, search engine users reported massive fluctuations in search results.

For example, one SEO reported how the recipe search results were no longer relevant to the search term. Another user tweeted that he saw a Minnesota company ranking for a Dallas search phrase.

According to the Search Engine Journal, Google’s search results were just terrible. Searching for articles on a specific site didn’t produce a relevant result — even after adding the site’s name to the search phrase.

“It felt somewhat like in the old days when PageRank had a stronger influence,” wrote Search Engine Journal.

What made the malfunction even more disturbing was the extent of its reach. Reports suggest that the glitch was felt in Europe, Asia, and all other English-speaking countries.

It affected all languages, countries, and niches, whether it’s local services or recipes. What’s more, several eCommerce websites reported extreme fluctuations in rankings.

So, what went wrong?

Why Google Search Results Malfunctioned Yesterday

At first, SEOs speculated that the glitch could be a result of a Google search update. But Google’s John Mueller soon ended that speculation with a tweet.

“I don’t have all the details yet, but it seems like this was a glitch on our side and has been fixed in the meantime,” wrote the Google developer advocate.

Later in the day, Google issued an official explanation via its Webmaster Twitter account.

The official statement did not mention the exact cause of the issue. However, Google’s Gary Illyes suggested that the glitch might be related to Google’s Caffeine indexing systems. 

Google’s Caffeine Indexing System Issues?

Caffeine is a web crawling and indexing system that allows Google to process data faster.

Thanks to the system, the search engine giant can continually index the entire web in real-time. Then, it’ll use these fresher indexes to provide up-to-date search results.

According to Gary, the Caffeine indexing system performs multiples tasks. It includes — but not limited to — the following:

  • Ingests fetch logs
  • Renders and converts fetched data
  • Extracts links, meta, and structured data
  • Extracts and computes some signals
  • Schedules new crawls
  • Builds the index that is pushed to serving

The Webmaster further explained that any malfunction in the Caffeine system’s operation would affect downstream.

For example, a glitch scheduling could make crawling relatively slower. Likewise, an issue with index building can affect how the search engine ranks and serves a page.

Gary Illyes concluded:

“Don’t oversimplify search for it’s not simple at all: thousands of interconnected systems working together to provide users high quality and relevant results. Throw a grain of sand in the machinery, and we have an outage like yesterday.”

Read More: Google’s Rich Results Test Tool Gets Article Structured Data Markup

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