I have not read the latest George R. R. Martin book, but I do know a few things about it.
Here’s what I know:
- Martin’s Fire & Blood came out on November 20th, 2018, and tells the story of the vintage Targaryens
- The book was hotly anticipated by many fans, while many others asked “why did you write this instead of The Winds of Winter?”
- It’s apparently packed with fan treatments and Easter Eggs, some of which involve literal eggs.
- It’s getting mixed reviews
- Google is displaying false information about Fire & Blood
No, this is not a book review of Fire & Blood. I haven’t even read it yet. This is about the fifth bullet point above, which I have not seen covered yet: why is Google displaying false information about this book in its search engine results pages?
This is not something I discovered myself, but was sent to me by writer Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein, who knows of my passion for a) George R. R. Martin’s works b) mistakes in Google’s knowledge graph and c) any overlap between SEO and my interests.
Here’s the screenshot he sent me yesterday morning, devoid of any explanation other than a text saying “Fire in the blood?”
And there went my day.
What facts is Google getting wrong about Fire & Blood?
At this point, let’s clarify what false information Google is displaying about Fire & Blood. Check out the screenshot below and you’ll immediately see it.
On the left, we have the Google News feed related to this subject. It includes three news stories, including an excellent article by the podcaster and professional fan-of-all-thing-Westeros Joanna Robinson.
On the right is where the trouble lies. Two major pieces of misinformation about George R. R. Martin’s Fire & Blood populate the Knowledge Graph (if you’re unsure what the Knowledge Graph is, I won’t redefine is here but you can read more about it in this article).
First, the cover itself, and then, the number of pages:
According to this Google result, one can read—via Google Books—the first 45 of 217 page of Fire & Blood. However, click that, and here’s what you’ll see:
That’s right, Google will send you straight into the ebook for the novel Fire in the Blood, the same novel whose cover it was displaying above.
How did this happen?
Quite simply, there’s a disconnect going on within Google Books, which is then populating false information in Google’s Knowledge Graph, which is extending all the way up into the top of Google’s SERPs.
Such as in this case:
Now, is this an issue with the book not being in Google Books? No, apparently not, as if one goes into specifically the Google Books section of Google, one will see this:
So, where does the problem—and the solution—lie? Let’s clarify, of course, that the problem is not intentional on the part of Google and simply the result of a mistake somewhere along the line.
It appears to be the responsibility of one of three entities to correct this at this point:
- Google Books, to correct this misinformation within Google Books and eliminate their confusion that Fire in the Blood for Fire & Blood, and
- Random House Publishing Group, who can use the “give feedback” or “claim this knowledge graph” options within the SERPs to correct this immediately
- Fans of GRRM and his works, who cannot claim this Knowledge Graph entry but can give swift and immediate feedback to Google.
This isn’t to say that any of the above people are terrible at their jobs or anything of that sort. It’s tempting to say something like “this is the kind of thing that happens when search engines aren’t properly accounted for”, but I’m not certain even that’s fair.
Why this is something Google needs to solve immediately
As to whether or not this matters, the answer is yes: absolutely. This is atrocious customer service on the part of Google, to the extent that people might spend money on a book they do not want, under the impression they’re buying an entirely different book.
Of course, I’d like to point out that Google is doing some stuff right. Within the Knowledge Graph, Google is helping users find ebooks from their local libraries.
This is great move and something that can genuinely benefit both the users and the libraries. It’s a great thing to see, as it’s something that doesn’t directly benefit Google in any tangible or direct way, which is a rare improvement to see on Google’s end.
Okay, but who is George McCartney and what is Fire in the Blood?
One last point: who is this other George M. and what is this book we are seeing?
To be clear, none of this is remotely the fault of author George McCartney. However, it is rather unfair to him, as there’s a good chance that people are buying his book via Google Books as I type this and will soon be attempting to get refunds once they realize Google sent them down the wrong rabbit hole.
It appears that McCartney is a writer of tartan noir thrillers and crime novels in the style of Elmore Leonard and Michael Connelly. Considering I kinda enjoy that kind of stuff—and my parents love those kinds of books—I might actually be picking up a copy of Fire in the Blood as a stocking stuffer.
And in case you haven’t seen it yet, this it the cover of George McCartney’s novel, Fire in the Blood:
Anyway, that’s what I’ve got on this one. The ball’s in your court, Google. You handled it correctly when I pulled back the curtain on your Hobbit 2 mistakes. Let’s see you repeat it again and get this cleared up.
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