Ok, we know that Google often does strange things with our searches but much of the time it is not obvious that something odd has happened. There are usually some “good enough” answers scattered through the first 20-30 results so that we shrug off the rest as “well, that’s Google for you”. Occasionally, though, one comes across a search that seems to break Google. One such example was reported on Twitter this morning by Rand Fishkin (@randfish). The search was
this is the best * on the internet
At the top of the first results page Google reported that it had found over a billion results but when @randfish moved to the next page Google showed just “2 of 12 results”! Whatever happened to the other billion or so?
I tried the search myself on my laptop and straightaway got three results but on repeating it that was reduced to two.
I repeated the search having logged out of my Google account, cleared cookies, used Incognito and different browsers. Same results.
I tried a phrase search and the number of hits increased to 17.
Then I removed the quotation marks, got back to my original set of two and ran Verbatim on it. Over a billion hits but, bizarrely, Google claimed to have gone straight page 2!
Note: you normally can’t see the number of results after you have run Verbatim because it is obscured by a second menu line. You can toggle between that menu and the number of hits by clicking on the Tools button.
Then I tried a phrase search followed by Verbatim: two results but different from my first set.
I could have gone on trying various advanced search commands but it is very clear that Google is having problems with this particular search. And, no, I have no idea what is going on here.
If Google messes with your search to this extent or comes back with far fewer results than you would expect don’t struggle with it; just go to another search engine. As an asterisk is used in this search to stand in for a missing word Yandex.com would be the best option. (See https://yandex.com/support/search/how-to-search/search-operators.html for a list of the main operators).