Millions of Americans waited anxiously Saturday night to find out if they’d won the latest Powerball lottery drawing. An estimated $950 million jackpot awaited the winner(s), and search activity skyrocketed as the drawing took place and players went looking for the winning numbers.
Google Trends shows a huge spike in US search activity for the term “powerball” leading right up to and after the drawing at 7:59 p.m. PT:
So, how did the search engines do at responding to this spike? Let’s take a look.
As I type this, at almost 11:00 p.m. PT, almost three hours have passed, and Google isn’t answering that search activity with a direct answer showing the winning numbers. Instead, what’s showing is a Google News Onebox and the Twitter carousel that shows tweets matching my search term.
The snippet underneath the first result — that ABC News headline — appears to cut off at an inopportune point right before the winning numbers would show. If that snippet continued just a few characters more, you could say that Google was showing the winning numbers with its first search result. Likewise, if you scroll down below the fold to the search result for the Powerball website, the snippet does include the winning numbers. So, technically speaking, Google has the winning numbers on page one… but a snippet on a below-the-fold search result isn’t how Google typically handles queries like this.
Like Google, Bing doesn’t have an answer box showing the winning numbers. And like Google, the only place you’ll find them on page one of Bing’s search results is in a search result snippet that shows below the fold. Above the fold, Bing is only showing the Powerball website and the beginning of a Bing News result pack.
So who is showing the winning Powerball numbers in easy view for this popular search term tonight? Would you be surprised to know that both Yahoo and Ask.com are doing so? It’s true — have a look.
Yahoo has the best search results page of all, with the winning numbers right at the top of the page. The data for “current estimated jackpot” is about $150 million low, but that figure was changing rapidly throughout the day as tickets were bought, so we’ll cut Yahoo some slack.
I stopped considering Ask.com a major search engine a looooong time ago but felt compelled to check tonight. And sure enough, Ask has the results — and a couple of others — right inside a lottery results answer pack.
I also checked DuckDuckGo, and it’s showing a results page that’s even less helpful than Google and Bing — pure organic results, with no news links or anything special for tonight’s drawing. I’ll spare you the screenshot.
What About Social Media?
Believe it or not, for at least a while tonight, you were better off checking Facebook or Twitter instead of Google or Bing if you wanted to find the winning lottery numbers.
Powerball is listed as the top trending story on Facebook tonight. The winning numbers don’t show in the Trending box to the right of my News Feed, but when I go to click the Powerball link, they do show in the longer description inside the hover window.
Not as convenient as Yahoo or Ask.com, but no scrolling or clicks required on Facebook.
Powerball is also trending tonight on Twitter. About 30 minutes ago, when I did a Twitter search for “powerball,” the first matching tweet was a news story that included the winning numbers.
That was a half-hour ago, and of course, things can change quickly on Twitter, in particular. When I do the same search now, there are new tweets showing with updated news stories that aren’t about the winning numbers but about the fact that there were no winners.
At least for a while, when the news was focused on the winning numbers, you could’ve seen them right away by searching Twitter. Now that the story is changing, the Twitter results are changing, too.
Google & Bing (Encore)
To be fair, since I did two Twitter searches at different times, I just did another search on both Google and Bing. It’s been about a half-hour since I took the screenshots above. The results? No change for Bing; still no winning numbers. But Google got a little bit better, with five of the winning numbers showing in the snippet below the top news story.