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Why is Google Autocomplete Weird?

The obvious answer is that people are weird. We offer up our most private thoughts and questions and Google feeds them back to millions of people in their autocomplete suggestions.

However, after doing a bit of digging it does seem that Google autocomplete is just a bit weird.

In some ways it is less weird than it used to be. Before Google started doing more to filter the results offered up in autocomplete, people were more likely to see some of the darker questions being asked of it. Google does now have algorithms that remove offensive, violent or sexual suggestions where possible.

I started thinking about autocomplete today when I started to type a question that began with ‘Why can I hear…’

It involves mysterious strange noises and a stairwell. Don’t worry about it.

Google autocomplete results

I noticed a couple of the weirder predictions and wondered how often people really do hear their eyeballs moving.

I researched the phrases on a couple of SEM tools and found that the question ‘why can I hear my heart beat in my ear’ seems to get searched quite often in the US and UK. All the other questions were far less frequently asked.

I found the question was phrased in a few different ways. All with quite a few searches per month. Autocomplete offered me ‘why can I hear my heart beat’ as the top prediction. This suggests that Google aggregates and simplifies common questions, so the list isn’t just the same question phrased slightly differently.

Below that they get more unusual and weirder.

It got me wondering how useful these predictions really are. How often do people really ask these questions?

I continued my research and went through each prediction.

From the second prediction down, it appears the amount of times these are searched is very low.

I also found that there were loads of other ‘why can I hear…’ questions that didn’t make the list. Such as ‘Why can I hear my food digesting’.

‘Why can I hear myself in Xbox party’ came back with almost no data yet it has made it into this list. It almost certainly gets searched less than ‘Why can I hear noise through my double glazing’.

You can read a Google blog post where they explain how autocomplete works here:

As mentioned above, Google does filter these results more than it used to, but I don’t see why these omitted predictions would have been deemed offensive, sexual or violent. I also don’t think they are likely to lead to lots of spam which is another reason they remove results.

One thing they explain is that autocomplete offers predictions, not suggestions. This can include trending, regional and personal search history to create predictions.

I don’t believe there is any data in my past searches to suggest that I am more likely to be hearing electricity than my food digesting.

Autocomplete predictions are still interesting, and often useful.

There is a popular online tool in digital marketing called Answer the public which gathers data from the autocomplete tool. It can be a great tool any marketeer can use to get ideas for questions to answer on your website. Just make sure you do a bit more research around the true potential for these questions. Be careful that you are not picking the questions hardly anyone ever asks because Google autocomplete data is definitely a bit weird.