Google’s Frequent Searcher Program

Ever wonder just how often you use Google in a single day? Soon, you may be able to get the exact count, thanks to a search counter Google has quietly been testing with a small group of users.

Although it’s not yet generally available, the counter has been the subject of discussion in several online forums, such as Webmaster World. The counter is displayed at the bottom of Google’s home page. It displays both a numeric count and a color bar to represent the search frequency.

Unlike the Google toolbar, the counter requires no special software download to function. Rather, a cookie is placed on the user’s computer keeps track of searches.

The cookie is not associated with the user personally. If a computer is shared with others, the count will represent the total number of Google searches performed on that machine. This means the counter cannot be used to track someone’s total Google searches if they use multiple computers.

Google says it’s not trying to encourage compulsive or competitive searching. In fact, the tally stops after 100 searches in a single day (one search every 14.4 minutes), though cumulative totals are not reset.

Google has been testing the counter with a small group of users. The counter is displayed automatically and the company offered a brief FAQ page to users (since removed). It’s not unusual for search engines to test a new feature with a small number of users before rolling it out.

Users who can see the counter were not offered an option to opt out of the test, although the FAQ does suggest deleting the cookie used by the counter to reset the home page to Google standard.

Beyond being an interesting gimmick, what’s the counter’s purpose? Though Google has taken down the counter FAQ page, its answer to the question, “What do I win?” was a Zen-like, “There is no winning. There is only self-awareness. The search is endless.”

When Danny Sullivan and I were shown a prototype of the counter last August, Google product manager Marissa Mayer suggested token prizes might be awarded to the most frequent searchers. We couldn’t get confirmation from Google that any rewards were planned.

When will the Google counter be available to everyone? No official word on that, either. Your best bet is to watch Google’s home page. It may appear without warning, just as the recent index size increase appeared without warning last summer.

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