diberry - 4:15 pm on Jan 16, 2013 (gmt 0)
Google just can't be using Chrome data to determine the serps:
Chrome users will be more likely to fit into certain demographics, just like IE, Firefox, Opera etc users might be more likely to fit into different demographics. You'd be skewing the data based on that fact for sure. If you could collect data from a completely random third of Internet users, the aggregate data would be far more representative in my opinion.
Exactly. If you had complete access to the surfing habits of all Democrats in the US, that would be a huge sample group, but it would definitely skew toward the young, toward women and minorities, toward the less affluent, etc.
But Chrome data certainly could tell Google a lot about whether anyone at all is finding what they're looking for. Maybe not on every topic, maybe not every type of searcher, but it would definitely create a huge pile of usable data. And using this would NOT contradict their public statements at all.
It's similar with Analytics - since it's not on every site and the data could be compromised by paid traffic schemes and so on, they can't rely on it for much. But it could show broad patterns that help them test the algos.
(Where I think Analytics data could come in even more handy, however, is in tweaking Adwords to work better for advertisers. As far as I know, there's no ethical reason for Google not to use it this way.)
And TMS' classification of the Zombie thread is bang on. There was plenty of data provided about specific Google traffic shifts. Mobile users, or at least users with tiny screens, seemed to have something to do with it. The data collection was just getting good when the thread was shut down. There was definitely something happening, and it was Google specific, and perhaps if more study had been allowed we'd have gotten past the theories and found a concrete explanation.