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Growing On Google, People Asking "How Do I Delete My Facebook Account"

When working on a presentation about search today, I did a “how do I” search on Google to see what was suggested as topics. To my surprise, “How do I delete my Facebook account” was one of the top choices:

Is this new? It could be that this suggestion has been there for months, and I’ve only just noticed it now.

To find out, I turned to another tool, Google Trends. That shows the popularity of searches for a particular topic, on Google, over time.

For how do i delete my facebook account, Google Trends said there was not “enough search volume to show graphs.” So, I tried a shorter query, delete facebook account:

Yes, there’s definitely a rising trend. Over time, more and more searches at Google have involved, it appears.

In fact, if you go back to Google and start typing in “del,” you get “delete facebook account” as the top suggestion:

Just below that, ironically, are people wondering how to delete their Google search histories. That proximity underscores some of the scary privacy moves both companies have made in recent months.

Facebook has especially taken fire on privacy issues over the past two weeks. Has that had even more of an impact? Unfortunately, Google Trend data only runs through mid-April, at the moment, so we’ll have to wait and see if the trend rises or drops:

Is this all just Google conveniently suggesting a topic that it hopes will take out web advertising rival Facebook? How about looking at what Bing and Yahoo suggest?

Neither suggest “how do i delete my facebook account” when you start to type in “how do i” into the search box. So, perhaps Google is out to get Facebook! Or perhaps Bing is covering things for Facebook, since Bing’s parent Microsoft owns a chunk of the service.

NOTE (May 12): That was a joke about Google going after Facebook this way. Google, as I said below in my original story, makes all these decisions algorithmically. But apparently some people have taken my joke too seriously and also have missed the part where I talked about the algorithm. So a Google spokesperson got in touch with me today to stress again:

“Google does not manually add search queries to Google Suggest. The search queries that appear in the list are determined algorithmically.”

Google also has a help topic on this, for those who want to learn more directly from them.

More likely, the queries that happen at each service plus the “recipe” for how suggestions are generated aren’t the same. Notice, with some irony, how Microsoft-owned Bing suggests, among other things, how to delete Microsoft-owned Hotmail accounts. Google didn’t suggest that (but did suggest how to delete vidoes from Google-owned YouTube). Similarly, Yahoo ironically suggests, among other things, how to delete Yahoo accounts.

For the record, Google has said any search suggestions it makes are determined entirely by an algorithm, with no human editorial selection involved. See our past stories for more about that:

Oh, for those asking about how to delete their Facebook accounts, Facebook provides instructions here.

Postscript: See our follow-up post, How Traffic Spiked For Site Offering Advice On How To Delete A Facebook Account.

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