Google index cap – 1 result for “Twin towers are no more”

Some weeks ago I read Rand Fishkin’s post about Google capping its index and retiring a lot of old content. I didn’t think any further about that topic until I was writing my monthly column for APC Mag (April 2010). I was checking some search counts for some old news and found the numbers a bit low. So I thought I’d try some truly big news stories, taking care to choose a phrase most likely to be used only for the next 24 hours and not some recent coverage:

  • Princess Diana dead” = 397,000 results. Phrase match. OK, so the web was a lot smaller in 1997, so this might be OK.
  • Michael Jackson dead” = 29.8M results. This is more like it. Maybe there were more Diana stories and the search cap theory is true?
  • 2004 tsunami = 10.9M results in Google. Broad match. Yahoo7 shows 54.2M results. Bing shows 3.14M results.

Then the puzzler:

I had missed the terrible tragedy by going to bed (in Australia) just five minutes before the first plane hit, but I woke to the clock radio newsreader opening with “The twin towers are no more”. It took me a few seconds to absorb this apparently bizarre news bulletin and subsequently I heard that phrase many times that day. Surely, numerous print media also used it, so I am puzzled to find just 31 instances today in Google.

Bing is not a lot better – we are used to Bing counts being a tiny fraction of Google’s for a given search term:


Finally, an unambiguous phrase, not date-restricted (there are lots of these namesake buildings around the world), spelt the American way to avoid counting many of the others:




Is Google becoming more relevant or pruning the index? I tend to think it’s the latter. Is this Caffeine?

Ash Nallawalla

Search strategist experienced in large, complex websites. Ash's Google+ profile

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  • Aditya Kane on 3 January 2010

    those are some very pertinent points. But honestly I watched a lot of CNN during that time, it was around 7 in the evening and I watched CNN continously for hours. But I really did not recall the phrase “Twin towers are no more” I am sure they said it a lot but I cannot remember it being said at all. Also whenever I have read about it, its always been 9/11 or WTC attack, rather than Twin towers are no more. I think it might be said in the moment a lot, but when content came up to be written journos and writers must have come up with something different or more sober.

  • Abhishek on 3 January 2010

    Only google can tell you that 😉

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