Robert_Charlton - 8:55 am on Aug 27, 2013 (gmt 0)
nsauser - Generally, we don't allow posts referencing specific searches, and I've removed your second search and screen shot because it's too specifically commercial in nature. But the first search is to a current hot news story, returning basically news sites, and I think we can make an exception for that one.
It's an interesting example, I think, of what might be considered the distorting influence of notoriety... be it fame, pop status, or brand, ... and how that notoriety is so strongly associated in current news with the query, which is...
[marijuana possession phoenix]
...that it's clearly affecting what Google is showing.
the first 17 results about the same story
My emphasis added in my quote.... While the results are about the same story, the several I looked at have all been substantially reworked by their particular newspapers. So, they're different, but the same topic, which clearly has a lot of interest.
The topic is that a Phoenix Sun's star basketball player, Michael Beasley, has gotten busted for pot for the third time, and he's been bad. Hot stuff. The stories are drawn from a wide spectrum of publications, playing on various angles of the interest in Beasley. Beasley, in effect, is the brand.
Essentially, the screen capture shows that the serps are being skewed by "buzz" to such an extent that Google is assuming, probably statistically, that any one of the top 17 news stories containing the vocabulary searched is likely to be more popular and relevant to searchers using that query than other sites would be (eg legal or informational sites) which might normally be brought up by the search.
The search query strongly associates with the Beasley story and the search, in such a way that, in Phoenix, the query is effectively a query for the Beasley name... in much the way that [iPhone] becomes a branded search for "Apple"... if that makes sense... or "raging fire" might currently become a search for "Yosemite". Eventually, after the 17 news stories on Beasley, Google does return a legal article.
I note that you can search other citynames in combination with the same search terms and get either legal/information sites, or celebrity cases, depending on the local climate and currency of the stories.
What gets interesting, IMO (and I don't want to get into the details of a specific site), is that an attorney's site that does appear among the Beasley stories actually has another story that discusses another guy named Beasley somewhere in the site. I have no idea whether that's affecting the choice of which attorney Google returned in the mix. Probably not. I think it's more likely that the attorney just had a good article matching two othe search terms in the query.
Anyway, to use very sloppy math... I think it's quite likely in the current news climate the 17 news stories on the topic were, in the aggregate, at least 17 times more popular for the query than a legal article would be... and that's the way I think Google is returned many of its results now, at least until Google sorts them out and gets enough data to further refine the serps statistically. The more long tail, the longer it will take to sort them.
So, I don't think it's "amiss". I do think it's interesting, and for me it describes how the serps are likely to continue to evolve. Hope I haven't taken this update thread off topic, but that's what I'm seein in this particular example.
The question of exact and partial match domains in the other search is a whole other topic. We generally don't discuss specific quereis in this forum, so we're not going to discuss those results. But to add a thought that should stand without the specifics... I think that just because a few sites come up containing query words in their domains doesn't mean that Google is favoring or not favoring EMDs or PMDs. It's much more complicated than that. Not sure that fully addresses the question.