How does a search word result climb so quickly in Google?
November 2, 2012 5:08 PM   Subscribe

How does the movie "Flight", which was pretty much off the internet radar a couple weeks ago, suddenly dominate the top organic search results for the word "flight"?

Can I assume Google has some sort of "relevant to now" algorithm at work?
posted by davebush to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
It's probable that the film studios hire people to do some SEO before new movies come out.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:21 PM on November 2, 2012

It's probable that the film studios hire people to do some SEO before new movies come out.

Yes, that's a given, but the studio's SEO efforts can't impact IMDB's listing, which is the first result.
posted by davebush at 5:26 PM on November 2, 2012

Also, I would imagine it's showing up on a lot of news sites as well, with reviews and interviews and so on, so some of that is organic (and should fade pretty quickly).
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:27 PM on November 2, 2012

Wasn't there a move on Reddit to boost some guy's imdb credit on a (as yet unreleased) Tom Cruise movie? This was just in the past few weeks, and it worked -- the guy was the first credit listed, and he has a walk-on part. I forget how they managed it. It was something akin to Google-bombing.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:30 PM on November 2, 2012

Why can't they affect IMDB's listing? See
posted by jjwiseman at 5:30 PM on November 2, 2012

Internet traffic absolutely does affect IMDB pages and rankings. Check out this reddit thread and the few others it spawned.
posted by Science! at 5:44 PM on November 2, 2012

A lot of things determine Google Search ranking. For one thing, Flight is released by Paramount, which has huge "search equity".

As well, Paramount is probably spending quite a lot of money on ad campaigns, which is another "signal".

People are talking about Flight, both in major newspapers and magazines, and links from these established web properties account for a heck of a lot. Those hundreds of high-quality links are huge.

On top of that, other people are talking about Flight in social media (and this includes AskMetafilter), another signal.

There is also a complex web of interlinking links that all point to Flight.

These activities focus search results on Paramount's Flight movies - instead of a disparate list of local flights in the searcher (you)'s specific geographic location, there are strong signals pointing at the movie Flight.

Because it's a major studio and in some ways a major cultural event, all of this is happening at several orders of magnitude higher than typical SEO efforts - it's like comparing the luminosity of the moon to the Sun.

On top of that, Paramount's marketing team has also paid Google some money to get listed as a top "organic" result, because Google does that for brands sometimes.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:01 PM on November 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

On top of that, Paramount's marketing team has also paid Google some money to get listed as a top "organic" result, because Google does that for brands sometimes.

This is the thing I wondered about, but WTF? Google will do that?
posted by davebush at 6:06 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

In regard to Google accepting a payment to move a result to the top: Google says they don't (see the second to last question).

I don't think we presently have any reason to believe that they're lying about it. (I don't have any first-hand knowledge of Google's actual behavior.)
posted by danielparks at 6:15 PM on November 2, 2012

Another thing to consider is Google has special queries that trigger additional functionality. (For instance, there's a calculator, time zone converter, and (at least for me), integrated movie time display.)

So, since Google is keeping track of all current movies, and when they're playing near you, they're well aware that "Flight" is a current movie, and might be what you're asking for.

And, no, they don't let you pay to be in top organic results.
posted by losvedir at 6:23 PM on November 2, 2012

Ah, sorry I was thinking of branded Google Plus pages.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:23 PM on November 2, 2012

I think at some level, this stuff feeds on itself. I work for a media outlet that bumped up the priority of its review of Flight on the homepage today because editors wanted to translate some of the buzz about the movie into pageviews. So that's something to take into consideration; whatever got everyone talking about it in the first place aside, it's kind of moved into that second phase of things now where people are talking about it because other people are talking about it and because it's actually opening, so all the weekend calendars are featuring it.
posted by limeonaire at 6:52 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also? The trailer was really good, IMHO. That made me want to see it, even though I don't always go for air disaster movies. Looper was a pretty buzzed-about movie, and Flight was one of the previews during it, too, so I wonder if that helped as well. I've definitely noticed that I get in "runs" of movie-going when I see a great trailer at the first movie, then see the second movie because of that, then see a third movie for the same reason...
posted by limeonaire at 6:58 PM on November 2, 2012

Think about it this way: from Google's perspective, having a major new release movie at the top of those organic search results is a feature, not a bug. People will be searching for information about the movie using a query like that and so it's a good, useful result that's going to satisfy a lot of users who are using that search term in the time frame around the release. Their algorithms take that into account.
posted by Pryde at 8:18 PM on November 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yes, Google definitely takes current trends into account for their search results. Bear in mind that every time you search, you're implicitly giving them feedback based on how you interact with the results. If they notice in their logs that, say, 50% of all users in the last 24 hours who searched for "flight" ended up clicking on that IMDb page, it would be crazy of them not to rank it as highly as possible, because it's what people are most likely to be looking for. And they have an incentive to build systems that can find those patterns and act on them as quickly as possible.

(And they don't just use that data to improve their search engine. Here's Google's chief economist Hal Varian giving a talk about some of the other interesting applications of real-time search logs.)
posted by teraflop at 9:03 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Of course Google has some sort of "relevant to now" algorithm. After all, shouldn't it? If something is a hot topic right now, shouldn't it come up high in search results? Sounds like with "Flight" Google is behaving just as it should.
posted by Dansaman at 11:12 PM on November 2, 2012

I'm definitely in the camp that believes that Google is doing this in and of itself because, well, right now that's the result that people want to see.

See also: Googledance, a phenomenon that used to be somewhat scheduled but became less visible as Google's algorithm tweaking became more subtle. There's never been any question that Google's results are, in fact, dynamic and changeable.
posted by dhartung at 1:40 AM on November 3, 2012

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