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I typically use Google to search answers for my questions on Stack Overflow. Sorry to state that Stack search is not as powerful as Google and hence I typically rely on Google.

For that last 2 days, Google is showing only 1-2 result from Stack Overflow, where earlier it would show around 8-10 results. Changing queries in Google also gives the same result. Sometimes, more frustratingly, it shows 2 results, both of which are the same!

What has happened here? Is it some sort of strategy from Google to prevent traffic flow to Stack Exchange?

Anyone else facing this or is it only me? It is driving me nuts and hence this is my first question on this particular forum; please correct me if this is not the correct place to post this.


Here is another case where two results are exactly identical:

enter image description here

  • What did you search for? – Patrick Hofman Mar 8 '18 at 14:19
  • You can try "serialise LocalDateTime to timestamp" or "LocalDateTime conversion using @JsonFormat". Both have an extensive discussion on stack but google is giving only 1 result each – HopeKing Mar 8 '18 at 14:22
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    And are the results that you are getting giving you the answer to your question? – Servy Mar 8 '18 at 14:24
  • Sometimes yes, most times no ! and mind you it is a 'result' and not results. Most time quick readers sift through the results and click the most relevant answer. – HopeKing Mar 9 '18 at 2:44
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    The current chosen dupe doesn't seem related. This is not about asking why google displays the answers embedded in the results. The question is pointing out that Google is limiting the displayed amount of results from the network, which may be related to the structured data but IMHO is still not the same question at all. – Hitodama Mar 12 '18 at 12:48
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You are correct that there are fewer results. This is sort of a mix of whodunit, an update by Google made a previously low key system used by Stack Overflow rather harmful to search traffic.

Stack Overflow uses something called Structured Data in order to present Google with more information on what is on the page. That is how you see the answer previews with votes and whatnot. However, recently it would seem that either Stack Overflow changed the style of these previews by changing the type they target, or Google changed the way that the previews are rendered.

Either way, it is harmful to traffic here. The Structured Data being used should immediately be removed.

Going on a previous search named on this post from @JanDoggen serialise LocalDateTime to timestamp you will get the Stack Overflow result of Jackson Java 8 DateTime serialisation.

Inspecting this page, you can see the various Structured Data attributes causing the problem. Feeding it into Google's interpreter is even more obvious.

Structured Data Testing Tool Google's Structured Data Testing Tool

These attributes should be removed immediately.

  • I doubt it's that harmful, even when just looking at short term click-through rates, although obviously we can't really tell without access to SE's internal visitor statistics. Still, I'd expect that the few googlers who find a solution to their problem directly in the snippets and never click through are probably more than balanced out by the increased number of people who see an answer snippet that looks like it will likely solve their problem, and do click through to view the full answer. – Ilmari Karonen Mar 8 '18 at 21:39
  • ... In the long run, of course, this change makes SO a more convenient and helpful resource for googlers (at least assuming that simple bugs like showing the same question twice will get ironed out), which I'd expect to improve SO's brand image and lead to more people actively using the site. – Ilmari Karonen Mar 8 '18 at 21:43
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    @IlmariKaronen - I strongly disagree with pretty much everything you said. It is all incorrect. Let's start with the fact that in the past several months Stack Overflow has dropped 12 spots in its Global Ranking. It has dropped 20 spots since October, and it is on track to continue its strong decline. In the past 3 months, page views are down 14%, time spent is down 10%, search visits are down 5%. It is extremely harmful. – Travis J Mar 8 '18 at 21:52
  • Do you have any evidence that those ranking changes are connected with this new structured snippet view (which appears to be a more recent thing, anyway)? – Ilmari Karonen Mar 8 '18 at 21:54
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    @IlmariKaronen - Yes. But please, in the future, do your own research before you dismiss important things like this without any citation. Here is a good place to start: searchengineland.com/featured-snippet-bubble-busting-286107 and moz.com/blog/knowledge-graph-eats-featured-snippets – Travis J Mar 8 '18 at 22:03
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    Apart of the statistics that @Travis has put up, heavy users like myself can attest to the fact that I am having to go to the other non-stackoverflow results only because I am presented with one result !! You can argue for ever if the structured data is causing a drop, look at data, look at charts etc etc. But the best way is to ask the users what is happening and here I am stating that I am being forced off stack due to lesser results ! – HopeKing Mar 9 '18 at 2:42
  • Excuse my ignorance (as someone who actually uses and implements SD on a lot of sites), but how are the attributes you show in your screenshot causing problems? They're used by Google to modify the display of search results for the page they are found on, but how are they affecting the number of results across different pages? – Cai Mar 12 '18 at 13:07
  • @Cai - I cannot point you to the specifics of Google's algorithm, so we will have to both remain ignorant of the exact how. That said, it is evident that as a result of creating the Q&A preview there are no other matches shown. Only showing one result is problematic from a whole list of reasons. – Travis J Mar 12 '18 at 21:53
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This is either an experiment or it is rolled out in phases; on the search string serialise LocalDateTime to timestamp I get the results I always got:

enter image description here

and then after clicking More results from stackoverflow.com:

enter image description here

  • more results from stackoverflow.com is definitely not coming for me for the last few days ! Looks like a phased roll out. – HopeKing Mar 8 '18 at 15:22
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    Or A/B testing? – muru Mar 12 '18 at 13:39
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On a random search using Google (string to int c#), it yields this result (in yellow, the results that link SO):

enter image description here

You indeed see a new format in which Google presents the results. Previously, it would show a hit on SO, and below that in a smaller font size, 4-5 other posts and a link to narrow down the search to SO only.

It seems Google designed a new thing, similar to the shopping experience they've have for some time already. They showed other results in some sort of slider. It shows the number of votes, etc.

For short answers, you don't need SO any more. Is that a good thing? For Google it probably is, but not for SO, which earns revenue through advertisement.

Is it a good thing for us? Personally, I am a little old-fashioned. Just give me the search results, I don't need those luxurious sliders.

  • Absolutely ! For technical answers - those luxurious sliders are of no use at all ! I get a feeling, google is try to play 'unfair' here. Not good for users, not good for stack. – HopeKing Mar 8 '18 at 14:27
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    The display change actually came up in The Tavern and it is different from what it used to be. If I search LocalDateTime conversion using @JsonFormat, I get this as the result - considerably fewer results than what used to display. – Taryn Mar 8 '18 at 14:28
  • @Taryn Good catch. Is this a Google only thing or did you guys participate in this change? What is your opinion on it? – Patrick Hofman Mar 8 '18 at 14:29
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    @PatrickHofman Honestly, I'm not sure what/why it changed. I'll drop it into one of our internal rooms to see if anyone has details, etc. – Taryn Mar 8 '18 at 14:30
  • Apparently it has been since Nov 2017 (report on Android Police). Also, I guess this is purely done from Google's side. – Meta Andrew T. Mar 12 '18 at 9:31
  • Good find. It is the first time I see it @HTTP – Patrick Hofman Mar 12 '18 at 9:32
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    I was too quick to comment. There's a preceding MSE post on this "new thing", and Google contacted SE about this... – Meta Andrew T. Mar 12 '18 at 9:49
  • That is a valid close target. Thanks @HTTP – Patrick Hofman Mar 12 '18 at 9:50

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