Friday, August 31, 2012

Spooky Search Engine Stuff: Flowers on Google

I had a spooky (or perhaps creepy) moment today doing a simple Google search. I searched for "flowers" because I want to buy flowers for a family member's birthday. Some of the results were what I expected - the sponsored links (paid ads) and the top links were online florists. Then they showed florists near my home, which doesn't work in this instance because the gift is for someone in another area.

But then there were these:

Near the top was a link to the Wikipedia entry for the Rolling Stones album "Flowers." I just got an e-mail about a showing of a Rolling Stones concert film (Some Girls: Live in Texas '78) and had been searching for information about it. And it clearly identifies the reason: You recently searched for rolling stones.

But there was more - two Google Plus posts from someone I'm linked to named "Kirk Flowers" about Romney vs. Obama. For those more familiar with Facebook, this is someone I'm "friends" with. And I do search a lot for things related to the presidential election.

And then, more results related to my Rolling Stones search - the Flowers album on Amazon and a YouTube video titled "Dead Flowers Rolling Stones". I do use Amazon a lot. While writing this post I did the search again and these latter two results were gone. That last one indicated that another of my Google Plus links had "shared" the video.

The internet has been getting spookier in this way for a while now. The New York Times wrote about it a couple years ago. The Google Plus stuff is part of the Google: Search your world initiative.

It's all part of an effort by Google to make search results more relevant to the user. While in this instance the added results were not useful, overall it seems like a good idea. But it's still a little creepy (or spooky).

Later on I decided to try one of the sites, FromYouFlowers, that I saw in the sponsored links. Here's the ad:
Seemed like a good deal - $19.99. I upgraded a little and chose something that was $29.99. Then as I was close to completing the checkout they were about to charge me over $45. There was a $14.99 delivery fee! And I wasn't even doing the same-day-delivery that seems included in the $19.99 price in the ad.

So be careful shopping for flowers on Google. Not surprisingly, the ads might be misleading. And I'm not buying from someone that does misleading ads.