In an earlier post, I mentioned that I'd noticed a Google ripple take place on September 7th, with rankings being heavily affected for some sites, although I expected it was probably a narrow set of sites. A few days later, I think the fact that I called it a "ripple" was a foreshadowing of what really happened.
Barry pointed out an interesting Google Groups thread that caught my eye. Not long before I saw Barry's post, I noticed something odd in my Google Webmaster Tools for the site that was part of the earlier "ripple". I was seeing the error "We can't currently access your home page because of a timeout." and "URL timeout: DNS lookup timeout." Barry's post alerted me to the fact that it wasn't just me.
Reading the Google Groups thread, I saw that the earliest date that anyone had noticed this problem was September 6th – the day before the "ripple" occurred. Ah ha! Ding! Ding! Ding!
I now think the Google "ripple" should be re-named to The Google Butterfly Effect. The butterfly effect was first popularized in 1961 by Edward Lorenz. According to Wikipedia, "the phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that ultimately cause a tornado to appear (or prevent a tornado from appearing). The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale phenomena. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different." In 1972, the title of a talk given at a meeting of scientists was Does the flap of a butterflys wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?.
So many times over the years, I've heard Matt Cutts or GoogleGuy admit to "minor" changes having been made, but I don't think Google really "gets" that with their vast influence over the search world, even the tiniest things can cause huge ripples.
A simple bug in the crawling of some sites could radically change the SERPs and affect the fortunes (both good and bad) of many. Obviously, changes have to occur, and just as obviously, bugs will occur as well. Those are things we have to expect and live with. I do think, however, that Google needs to take great care, and more importantly, RECOGNIZE the impact that even the tiniest events can cause. I'm talking about an attitude adjustment here.
How many times has it taken Google several lifetimes (or so it seems) to recognize and admit to an error on their part? Remember 302s for example? Hopefully, with each misstep along the way, Google's blinders will gradually fall off as they see just what a wide ripple is cast whenever they make a boo-boo. Google's little "oopsies" can wreak great havoc. I'd like to see Google become more aware of this fact, thereby causing them to take greater care about causing oopsies in the first place, and then responding much, much more quickly when the oopsies are pointed out to them.
Luckily, Susan Moskwa is already looking into this particular "oopsie" and hopefully, a quick resolution will be the consequence. But I can't help but worry about all the future oopsies, and wonder if the next time Google flaps its wings, will it cause a world-wide-web of virtual tsunamis?
Note: It is entirely possible that this particular "oopsie" and the ripple I noticed on the 7th are unrelated, but I have a strong gut feeling that there is actually a direct cause-and-effect relationship at work here. Still, I concede that I could be wrong.