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Yesterday at 10AM, the Google search:

"Submitting values of "jQuery Editable Invoice" into a MySQL DB using PHP"

came up with stackoverflow.com as the 8th result on the page. The first was a spammy page which was just copying the info from stackoverflow.com without attribution [contacted and they fixed it].

Removing the quotes surrounding the question

Submitting values of jQuery Editable Invoice into a MySQL DB using PHP

stackoverflow.com came up first.

Removing just the inner quotes

"Submitting values of jQuery Editable Invoice into a MySQL DB using PHP"

stackoverflow.com came up first again.

At 3PM yesterday, all results for those 3 combinations showed stackoverflow.com in the first result.

What could have caused that?

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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The inner quotes are still recognized as a control character in the query (note that Google strips out all non-alphanumeric characters except control characters when running a query - you can add apostrophes, periods, and commas to the query without altering the search results).

Your effective search on the first go was:

"Submitting values of " jQuery Editable Invoice " into a MySQL DB using PHP"

Because different parts of the string were tagged as verbatim, the lookup for the string could very well have returned something other than the best ranked page for other queries.

Consider google doesn't do what i want versus google "doesn't do what i want" - two different queries with different results.

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There is simply too much worry and panic about Google on this board. Google happens, things get weird, stuff moves around, it may be something you did, it may be something you did not do, it may be something someone else did, it may be something someone else did not do. It may have been something done weeks ago, it may have been something done just before.

Think of Google like a girlfriend, you sorta think you know what to do but sometimes you get mixed results and it may not even be your fault.

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What's it called when you have a unique term that you are certain should result in your page? googlebomb? I kind of felt like this was the case for this query. –  Michael Pryor Aug 24 '10 at 23:57
    
@Michael - Think Thomas is trying to say don't sweat it if result change for a short period of time. Google's search is about the most complex piece of software out there. You should be more concerned if it stays in its new position for longer than a day or so. –  RandomBen Aug 25 '10 at 0:11
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Google often returns different results for quotes vs non-quotes. SERPs can also change pretty wildly for the exact same query, particularly if many pages match the text string with little else to distinguish them like more in-links.

It could also be any number of other things, including:

  • Personalized search results (if you clicked the SO link it may appear higher next time you run similar queries).
  • An algorithmic change.
  • A different data center which was not completely up-to-date.
  • Now that the other site links to you, Google probably picked it up and gave you a bit more "juice", putting you head and shoulders above the rest.
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Speculation (as it always is with SEO):

1) Your first search occurred while Google was updating its index and you caught it at a moment when SO was 8th due to whatever Google does when they do their updates. I see sites that I run that are ranked number one occasionally come up somewhere else in the top ten briefly but they always return to number 1 quickly.

2) The attribution you requested and received gave your page more relevance then the page it was linked from. Their link either carried a lot of value because the site ranks well for that search term and/or by attributing the original content to you Google recognizes your pages as the source of the content and gives it higher precedence (as it should).

I think #2 is more likely.

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