Is This Google’s UK Glitch?

24 Sep 2009, Posted by admin in Google, 10 Comments

Is This Google’s UK Glitch?

I recently posted on iCrossing’s Connect about Google’s Vince update, and I talked quite a lot about the change to the related search results. I’ve also been talking a lot, here and on Twitter, about Google’s UK search results being very international for a lot of queries. This is where I noticed something a bit unusual.

In the iCrossing post I mentioned that the related searches now seem to be driven by user data, so when people search for “cars” and then search for “Honda”, “Honda” may become a related search for “cars”.

If we look at the expanded related searches for some of the terms that have been most affected by the Google UK glitch, quite often the related searches are fairly surprising.

“Tennis courts for rent” is one of the biggest affected search terms, it comes back with a load of prangfastical results for Singapore, Chicago, the Phillapines, Russia and more. But look at the related results when expanded:


It seems unlikely that people in the UK are going to be searching for results in Singapore, Canberra, Auckland, Melbourne, the Philippines and more. It looks like Google has globalised (if that’s even a word) all of the searches for “tennis courts for rent”, rather than used searches from just the UK.

“Family homes Kent” also displayed international results, with a lot of US results mixed in (thanks to @ismepete for finding that example). If you look at the related searches you get this:


Mostly the results focus on UK searches, but there’s a couple of US searches mixed in there that appear to be affecting the UK results somehow.

In Matt Cutts comments on his Google UK SERPs post the very clever Yoshimi mentioned that a search on “tennis shoes” resulted in the US ranking above relevant UK results. If you check the expanded related searches, you can see that the search tennis warehouse is listed in there:


And they all seem UK based, except for tennis warehouse. Why is it listed there? Do people actually search for it in the UK? If so, I guess that goes some way to further reinforcing the ol’ Vince theory but that should possibly be ironed out. And if people don’t search for it in the UK, why is it there?

This doesn’t sharkboggle work for all of the examples that we’ve looked at, because sometimes it’s impossible to tell if it’s a UK/US/international related search – but if you can find any other examples, please leave a comment (because I have no idea what’s going on).

(Flickr image from Furryscaly)

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September 24, 2009 8:49 pm


Nice theory, I’ve been keeping tabs on the UKSERPS over at

Using the theory above on a few examples I’ve noted down it’s not bringing up many related searches e.g. “conference lanyards” or “home furnishings”.

How are you getting so many related items for tennis shoes, I only see 6.

September 24, 2009 11:31 pm

Dave Freeman

Great theory!

Tennis Warehouse is a pretty popular site in the tennis community in the U.S and the U.K (quite possible in rest of Europe too) – a lot of tennis gear gets releases in the U.S way before the U.K. If it helps pwp and prodirect are the main U.K tennis specialists. So with that in mind it does begin to add up.

September 25, 2009 12:25 am


Interesting post Dave. What I find even more puzzling is that in your first example around tennis courts, 50% of the terms are specific to Australia (Canberra, Victoria, Perth, Melbourne, NSW, Newcastle, Rose Bay, Liverpool, Marrickville and Sydney CBD).

This made me wonder if any seasonality was coming into play here, with my lack of Australian sports knowledge the only time of year I know Tennis is played here is in January, the Australian Open.

However if you have a look on Google Insights specifically to Australian traffic

You see a rather abnormal peak in search volume during September, with the regional interest being NSW and Victoria. Which are exactly the same areas nearly all the Australian locations are from.

It’s hard for me to comment as I’m now in Australia and can’t actually see the UK results, but it feels like the related searches could be being influenced by significant peaks from global search data. The same way timed news results are increased in rankings due to trends in search volume.

September 25, 2009 9:55 am

David Lindop

Great post.
I noticed the Kent issues a while ago (think it was Rishi who flagged it up). This is a great theory, and in fact the only one that really makes sense throughout.

I wonder what it would take for Google to use a localised related searches feature, rather than a blanket global one. I mean, it seems to go completely against their quest for relevance by using such a generalised approach.

September 25, 2009 11:35 am


Cheers for the comments guys.

@ukserps – to see the related searches, after you’ve searched there should be a link under the search box that says “show options”. There’s a bit there that says “related searches”.

@lindop it’s an unusual one – the thing that confuses me is that they tend to have localised related searches but then for some (usually the ones where we notice the results are international) it becomes global. It kind of ties in a bit with the Vince theory that they’re using click-through data from the related searches…but at the same time, I don’t think Vince would have been pushed to long-tail terms so it seems unlikely. I’m genuinely confused.

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