While trying to find the answer to life using Google search, I came across a bug or two in the Google search results count for a query. I am sure I am not the first one to find this issue [ADDED Later; I am not the first to notice this. See P.S.]
Bug No. 1: Google search results count mismatch
When you search for a query using Google, often you might get a number of pages as results. Let us say the search query is “the answer to life 42”. On the first page, Google tells you that it is displaying
Results 1 – 10 of about 4,730 for “the answer to life 42”. (0.13 seconds).
One gets the impression that there are 4,730 result pages. However, there are only 27 results for the query. When you click on the third page results Google gives the correct number of result pages
“Results 21 – 27 of 27 for “the answer to life 42”. (0.13 seconds)“.
God (Google) only knows how it came up with this number “4,730“. Probably the number of search results on the first few pages is just an estimate of the number of search results not the real number. But, why does Google need to give an estimate that could be wrong and misleading (especially when Google can be used to make make inference using Google queries).
Bug No. 2: Google search results count mismatch
It gets more interesting as you delve more. For a search query, Google by default shows 10 results in a single page. One can change this to 20, 30, 50, and 100 results a page in advanced search settings.
If you set to show 30/50/100 results a page, Google correctly displays the number of search results as 27. However, it gets really funny. Google now says
” Results 1 – 29 of about 27 for “the answer to life 42″. (0.12 seconds)”.
Yes, “1-29 of about 27”. The two extra results are probably the Google video results. Google is not wrong mathematically as “27 is about 29” :). However, for a sufficiently a small number of results and large estimated number , it could be wrong. Google has some reason for doing all this. However, what is the need for the vagueness and can’t Google fix this?
A little search on Google forum revealed that this is an age old issue of estimating the number of results (as I expected). Google users want answers real fast, so Google comes up with an estimated number of results for a query to save time. As one clicks pages far down in the list, Google has enough time to revise the estimate to the correct number of results. Here is a link to Google forum. I still can’t understand why this could not avoided or why not give more details than “about” on the results page.