An unsettling coincidence on Google

I was watching TV tonight. There was an advertisement for a local wine store called Lisa’s Liquor Barn that’s having a good sale on wine. I was thinking I might check it out but I had never heard of this store before and I wasn’t familiar with the area where it was. So I figured I’d google it to find its website.

Google, as you probably know, will try to guess your search terms as you’re typing. If you start typing “bara-” a window will pop up suggesting that you’re typing Barack Obama. Nothing surprising here - I assumed it was based on the most common search terms entered for each combination of letters.

But here’s the unsettling part. I was typing in the name of the liquor store and I had only typed in “lisa” and I saw that the window had opened and the first item it was suggesting was Lisa’s Liquor Barn.

That is disturbing. It didn’t suggest Lisa Simpson or Lisa Kudrow or Lisa Edelstein or lisa naked pictures. It suggesting the exact search item I was looking for - the name of a small local business. It didn’t pull the name out of my history - I’d never heard of the place before tonight and I’ve never googled it before.

I’d be happy if somebody could explain this and reassure me that Google has not developed the ability to read my mind.

Maybe it detects your location?

Also, were you logged into gmail at the time?

I wonder if Google stores search data for a particular area then puts it into suggested searches. Using your example, after that commercial aired, say 100 people googled it too, so The Google said “hmmmm more people searching for that term in that area, better put it as a suggestion”. I know they change for me sometimes.

I very excitedly announced to my underlings that my company is now #1 in Google for certain sought-after search terms. Glad I didn’t take that announcement to my bosses, as it turns out I was logged into Gmail at the time and it was returning sites it knew I visited a lot. A bit embarrassing because Google placement is a large part of my job.

“lisa murkowski” is my first result when I typed “lisa”, which is unsettling in a whole different level. She was followed by “lisa blount”, “lisa kelly” and “lisa rinna”.

Google does know your location, but how would it know from just typing “Lisa” that he was looking for a place? Unless a lot of people in your area Google that…

You weren’t the first person in your area to get up at just at that moment and Google Lisa’s Liquor Barn?

I got:

james otto

It’s the location setting google is respecting first. Try setting it to Bombay and see what comes up first. You can also disable it.

I’m going to try setting it to Bangkok and then googling “goldfish” and “ping pong ball”

Google certainly knows the IP location you are posting from. Then they suggest the closest iteration of Lisa they have. If I Google from a distant proxy, Google will suggest something near that location. My IP is not my actual location and I get referrals to that distant location all the time.

I get Murkowski, Lampanelli, Marie Presley, Blount, and then just “lisa”.

I have no idea who Lampanelli and Blount are.

It’s neat to see how people get different results. I wonder how much of it depends on your location and how much is the time of day and what other people are searching for.

Not quite true, in that if I search Google I get the results I just listed, but if I go to Google Maps I get several hits for Dental and Radiology offices with Dr Lisas on staff.

Yes, it knows your location. Sometimes I’ll type in the first few letters of an obscure restaurant or bar, and it suggests the exact place I’m looking for. I might type in “mic” and it suggests “Mickey O’Doule’s Boston.” Great. It still doesn’t know if I’m asking for directions or the menu.

Sorry to be nooby, but could someone explain this a bit? (and not to further embarass you, jjimm!).

I’m going with this one, plus maybe Lisa had purchased ‘placement’ from Google for your area.

He was about to tell his bosses that his company came up easily in a google search, when it was just his settings that made it do so. Average Joe Customer wouldn’t get the same result.

While it’s not known exactly how the algorithm works, it does detect location.

It also is capable of reading the cache on your computer. This effect is easy to employ. Websites like to know what site you came from to get to your site, so they track this.

Also it employes a frequency meter. So if the ad ran, perhaps a lot of people went online. The first few people wouldn’t get the result but as more and more people clicked on that site, it moved higher up on the frequency of use meter.

So by the time the OP got to it, the search item was first.

And it depends on a lot of things, for instance, LISA with a capital “L” gives you different results than lisa with a small letter “l.”

So it takes this information from you and combines it with info from a lot of other uses and tweeks it. If the search suggestions comes up as a hit, it gets put into the “seed” as correct. If not, it gets put into the seed as “incorrect” and the whole process keeps building on itself

So it wasn’t a widespread phenomena just something that was happening in the general area where the store was located. That still makes it a little surprising but no longer disturbing.

How close are you to Alaska?
Do you visit Republican oriented pages much?

I’m in Iowa. I don’t visit a lot of GOP pages.
Google Web has Murkowski in 1st place for both lisa and lisa m.
Google Images gives Rinna first for lisa, Marie Presley first for lisa m.
Kinda too bad, as I find Murkowski attractive when she’s not scowling.