Google says it knows the best answer to your question.
Now it won’t even show you alternative answers to some basic questions that can be answered with its built-in apps for its clock, calculator and currency converter. Questions like “What time is it in Tokyo?” will now only generate a Google answer for mobile devices.
The change could have an impact on businesses that optimize their websites to appear in Google search results—and some websites may see a drop in traffic from the move. However, these answers have already been available in Google searches, so the change might not be severe.
Google has decided to show zero search results when they are confident that they are able to give answers that solve the searchers query fully. This is currently limited to many time, calculations & conversions search results. So searches that ask for math answers, what the time it is in specific locations and math conversions. Google always provides a link to “show all results,” which will lead to Google showing the search results.
When does Google hide the main search results? Google will only hide the main search results when the query is specific to time, calculations and conversions related queries. And even in some of those cases, if it is possible that Google thinks a searcher may want to get the search results, Google will default to show the search results.
Google responded to the report with a statement:
As always, our goal with search is to help people quickly find the most relevant information. For queries where we have extremely high confidence that a user is seeking a calculation, unit conversion or local time, we will show a single result to improve load time on mobile. Since our initial experiment in February, we worked to remove ads and improve the triggering quality for this experience to be sure that we’re serving users what they’re looking for, and we will still provide the option to tap to see more results.
The move is a continuation of an experiment that began in March but was originally shelved after some users complained.
Search Engine Land continued:
Google tested this in March but pulled back the feature. Google tested showing no search results in their search results earlier this year back in March. There was a lot of unhappy people with the test, so Google stopped it after several days and said they will rethink these efforts.
What didn’t people like? In some cases, when Google showed zero results it led to some brands not coming up for their own name. It also stopped dating sites from coming up for queries like [date in London]. There were many examples of where this search experiment failed and Google tried to resolve most of these.
Does this change affect anyone other than sites which only do currency conversions or tell the time? Some brands might be affected if their name sounds like a query about time or math.
Search Engine Land concluded:
Why does this matter? Clearly for sites that do time conversions, help with math problems or other conversion formulas, you may now be in really bad shape. Google won’t show your site for answers without an additional click. In addition, if you try to name your new company in the format of a time, conversion or math problem – you better make sure Google is able to show search results for that query. If not, it might be a while for Google to send you any traffic for people searching on your brand name.
If you are considering a rebrand or a product launch, consider staying away from names that might trigger Google’s algorithm. If you are The New York Times, though, Google says you should still turn up in search results.