SEO Tip #92: How Precise Is the Number of Results In A Site: Query?

Matt Cutts: That’s a fantastic question. Let me share a little bit of trivia that not many people realize; site: queries attempt to estimate how many pages are in our index but we would never claim it as an exact amount that is completely accurate.

In fact let me just do a couple of queries and mention the number of results. returns 138 million results and it says “about” 138 million results. returns about 8,250,000 thousand results.

Now the thing to notice between these two is in both cases we’re only giving three significant digits of precision. It turns out any time you do site: queries we only give three significant digits of precision. We wanted to give people the idea of how many results there were, and it is a relatively good estimate but we didn’t want to claim this is the exact number of pages we have indexed.

It turns out that once you get past a few thousand pages that’s not all that useful as a metric. A lot more of the time people should care about how much traffic they get to which pages, the return on investment, the conversion rates, all that sort of stuff, rather than just the raw number of pages that gets indexed or even the raw number of pages that get indexed from your site map of xml site map.

So because of that, even from the earliest days that I can really remember at Google we only return three significant digits for the site: query. So if you want to impress fellow SEOs who haven’t watched this video you can sort of wow them with that because a lot of people haven’t ever noticed that.

But it’s just a small fact to show the fact that yes we do have a pretty good estimate but no it’s not perfect. We know it’s not perfect and rather than put a ton of engineering resources into making site: queries incredibly accurate we spin those engineering cycles on other and then show only the three significant digits so that people an idea of the total amount of pages but that it’s not exact.

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About the Author

Andy Johnson

Andy Johnson has been on the Internet since the its dawn(ie his first computer program was recorded on cassette tape) and his first hard drive cost about as much his current MacBook. His first byline was in 1993 for a local newspaper rag he eventually helmed, and his last “real job” was at a computer start up which ended when it ended. Throughout it all he’s freelanced and blogged. Now he is mesmerized by Search Engine Optimization forever trying to “rise to the top” for the right reasons. He’s been married to his wife Julia for as long as he can remember and has two lovely, wonderful children. He looks forward to sharing the latest in the technical best for all the online entrepreneurs.