Why is Google Displaying False Info About GRRM’s Fire & Blood?

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?”

screenshot-from-rob

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.
fire-&-blood-SERP.png
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:

Knowledge-Graph-Fire-&-Blood

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:

george-mccartney-fire-in-the-blood

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:

books-by-george-r-r-martin

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:

google-books

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:

  1. Google Books, to correct this misinformation within Google Books and eliminate their confusion that Fire in the Blood for Fire & Blood, and
  2. Random House Publishing Group, who can use the “give feedback” or “claim this knowledge graph” options within the SERPs to correct this immediately
  3. 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.

knowledge-graph-library

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:

fire-and-blood-cover

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.

Enjoy this? Check out Does Jonathan Franzen Know What SEO Is?

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Why Doesn’t Google Know About The Hobbit 2: The Desolation of Smaug?

An investigation into a major hole in Google’s knowledge

I discovered something strange yesterday. It began when, in an effort to make a stupid joke on Twitter, I tried to figure out the names of the Hobbit movies. What baffled me was that this quickly turned out to be a harder task than anticipated when Google refused to tell me the name of the 2nd Hobbit movie.

Now, to clarify, I’ve never seen a single Hobbit. While I’m a big Game of Thrones fan and I understand that George R. R. Martin’s work would not exist without J. R. R. Tolkien’s, I also think that Peter Jackson doesn’t make movies I enjoy and that three Hobbit movies seemed like nothing more than a money grab.

These are the things I knew—or, at least, thought I knew, before I started using Google to get some answers:

  • There is one Hobbit book (which I’ve read and mostly liked) and three Hobbit movies.
  • Peter Jackson made the three Hobbit movies. By all accounts, he probably should’ve just made one. But he did, certainly, make three.
  • The first is called “The Big Journey” or something. The second is called “The Hobbit Versus the Dragon Smaug.” And the third is The War of the Five Battles or something.
  • Yes, I knew these weren’t exactly what they were called, which is why I had to google this.

My awareness of The Hobbit has remained heightened over the last several years, largely due to the ongoing YouTube series On Cinema, in which Gregg Turkington repeatedly mentions The Hobbit movies as some of his favorite movies.

on-cinema-hobbit
A moment from an early gem by Tim and Gregg

Turkington’s obsession with The Hobbit—and his self-proclaimed status as a #hobbithead—is one of the most compelling running themes in On Cinema, including his running belief that a write-in vote will help The Hobbit sweep the Oscars.

As mentioned before, this went from a simple search of “hobbit movies” to going down a bizarre search engine rabbit hole, in which I realized that the Google Knowledge Graph appears to have no knowledge regarding The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

This entire thing is a perfect blend of two major interests of mine: search engines and pop culture. For an example of something else I’ve written in this vein, check out the article I wrote and accompanying research about Game of Thrones and fan theories.

Before we continue this investigation, let’s briefly discuss what the Google Knowledge Graph is. If you are among the initiated with a thorough (or at least competent) understanding of Google’s Knowledge Graph, feel free to skip past this next section and jump back into the Hobbit stuff. Continue reading “Why Doesn’t Google Know About The Hobbit 2: The Desolation of Smaug?”