11 min watch

Video: OK Google, Can You Beat RocketMill in a Pub Quiz?

I set Google a tense challenge: can it beat the winning RocketMill team in a pub quiz? Let’s find out…

Video: OK Google, Can You Beat RocketMill in a Pub Quiz?

Video Transcription


Good afternoon RocketMill. Now, last time I presented to you, I mentioned that we’re going to be doing a big exploration into voice search. Now, that doesn’t quite start today, but I have got a little bit of fun before we get going, as a prelude to our research into voice. Stirred together with something fun, which happened at the office with the latest industry trends.

So today, I’m going to be asking: “OK Google, can you beat RocketMill in a pub quiz?” Now, a few days ago, we had our second ever Pocket Rocket pub quiz. That’s the pub, which we transform this office into. It’s a great fun evening – or I think so at least, you’ll come along and nod, play along and I’m very grateful for the attention.

But, nonetheless, we did have a team who came out on top in our pub quiz, which was this motley crew. We had Jon, we had Joe, we had Jack, Carmen, and Neil or, as they were known on the day, Kim Jon Joe-Jack-Carm-Neil, and they won with a score of 61 out of 100, which was good but not perfect. I’m sure they would’ve done better if they’d been allowed to cheat. That got me thinking.

Can voice search cheat at a pub quiz?

Can voice search cheat at a pub quiz? Can Google voice search beat humans at a pub quiz with pub quiz questions? Now, obviously if this was just surfacing the answer somewhere in the results, Google would win very easily. It is a comprehensive…it knows everything, it knows your inside leg measurement pretty much! So, it would be far too easy. So, I came up with some rules to keep it competitive.

The rules

So, our rules were, we used round one from the quiz, which was ten general knowledge questions themed around love. RocketMill earned one point for each question as they did on the day. Google earned one point for a correct answer, if it was able to read it aloud when I asked the Google app it on my iPhone. And only earned half a point if it gave a correct answer somewhere above the fold on my iPhone screen. So, let’s see what the questions were and see how Google and, iIndeed, RocketMill got on.

Round 1: Love is in the air

The round was called “Love is in the Air”. Incidentally, this is a stock photo. To learn why stock photos are terrible, and why I’m a terrible person, please click here. Round one was called Love is in the Air.

I asked, Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare’s tragedy about two star-crossed lovers is set in which country? The answer was Italy; it was set in Verona and Mantua in Northern Italy.

Question two: technically a fruit, which salad item was once known as the “love apple”, allegedly because of its aphrodisiac qualities? Hope you’re playing along. Don’t normally get this in your LinkedIn feeds. The answer was tomato.

Question three: in the sitcom Friends, Ross famously said the wrong name during his wedding vows but who was his furious fiancée? And the answer was Emily Walton, played by Helen Baxendale who you might recognise from Cold Feet.

Question four: what gift is traditionally given to celebrate a 40th wedding anniversary? The answer, quite simply, ruby.

Question five was which 1999 film contains the line: “Don’t forget, I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her”? It was by Anna Scott, played by Julia Roberts, in Knotting Hill.

Question six: Henry VIII famously married six times, but who was his last wife, widowed upon his death in 1547? The answer, Catherine Parr. And there she is, what a cutie.

Question seven: “jag älskar dig” translates as “I love you” from which European language? The answer to that one was Swedish.

Question eight was: almost two decades before Whitney Houston’s version, who wrote and originally recorded “I Will Always Love You”? The answer was Dolly Parton.

Question nine: “Love-in-a-mist”, “love-in-idleness” and “love-lies-bleeding” are all types of… ? The answer, as you all know now, was flower. There they all are. So, we have Nigella damascena, Viola tricolor and the Red Amaranth on the far right.

And the final question. If a person is born on Valentine’s Day what is their star sign? Quite simply, it was Aquarius.

RocketMill’s results

So, let’s take a look at our winning RocketMill team’s answers from round one of the pub quiz. How did they get on? Not too bad. So, we got betroot instead of tomato, Bridget Jones instead of Knotting Hill and Anne of Cleves instead of Catherine Parr. So, a total of seven out of 10.

Google’s answers

OK Google, are you able to beat us in the pub quiz? Let’s take a look, here are Google’s answers.

Well, it did better on the first five, indeed, the first six. But it didn’t recognise my… to be fair, my cod pronunciation of Swedish, they thought it was Portuguese. They couldn’t get past Whitney Houston as the singer of “I Will Always Love You”. And they said plants, not flowers, for which I docked half a mark.

But, they still were in the lead at this point with seven and a half out of ten. But, I said at the start, I only gave a full point if it was able to read the answer aloud. What happens if we dock half a point on those answers where Google was unable to do anything more than just surface it above the fold? The answer? Their score is halved. Because Google was completely unable to give a voice search answer for any single one of these queries.

Now, the takeaway here is that Google knew all of the facts. And it could read them aloud, but it didn’t because of the complicated wordings they’re in. So, let’s see what happens when we simplify some of those questions to the more core information.

So, firstly: which fruit is known as a love apple?


Here’s a summary from the Christian Science Monitor. Tomatoes were thought to be an aphrodisiac, hence the name love apples. The Italians named the fruit pomodoro, meaning golden apple.


So, you can see how stripping out the supplementary information, Google absolutely knew the answer. Another example. What gift is given for a 40th wedding anniversary?


According to The Spruce, the ruby anniversary is a special one. Spending 40 years together, there is a great reason to celebrate. Here are some 40th wedding anniversary ideas and symbols to help you choose gifts associated with a 40th ruby marriage anniversary that will be both personal and meaningful.


Now, there are several takeaways here. Firstly, the only difference in that query and the question I asked you guys during the quiz, is the word traditionally. What gift is traditionally given is what I asked you humans. And when I asked Google, I just took out that one word and it was able to give a very comprehensive answer.

Secondly, what was with the sales Google? I mean, come on guys. This shows how with the right copy you can turn voice search into basically radio advertising. It’s a fantastic platform. But, you do have to have your organic and your paid search strategies connected to one another.

Can anyone spot the deliberate mistake, given the information you just heard and the information you can see in the screen shot?

Okay, firstly, you probably wouldn’t buy an engraved wooden hammer unless you’re a terrible, terrible husband.

Secondly, exactly, where is it reading it from? We have ads for Personalised Gifts, Getting Personal.com, I Just Love It and we have Not on The Hight Street above the fold traditional ad listing. What we don’t have is the information, which we had in that featured snippet.

Let’s have a look at that same search on desktop.  We can see how The Spruce.com have earned this fantastic result. And I have a great click-through-rate, I’m sure, on desktop. Incidentally, I have removed the ads here just to move them up a bit so you can get a feel for how dominate they are in terms of just pure organic. But, they didn’t pay to list on mobile amongst the Google Shopping results. So, despite all that great messaging, they’re not going to have a high click-through-rate on mobile. Everyone is going to be going for competitors. So, it’s wasted. So, there we go. Tie up your paid search and organic strategies even if you’re dealing with voice search.

Let’s have a look at another query. So, this time, who was Henry VIII last wife?


Henry VIII was married to Catherine Parr, Catherine Howard and four others.


Okay, so voice recognition not too bad. It missed out on the eighth’s, but I can understand that, I am a bit lispy. It understood my query well enough but not the context of last. So that goes to show that Google needs to learn a few more contextual words, a few more prepositions, pronouns and so on I guess.

One final example for you, and this one I think is particularly interesting. So, this is who originally recorded “I Will Always Love You”?


“I Will Always Love You” was recorded by Whitney Houston.


Poor form Google. It fails to recognise that the song can become famous with more than one artist. So, it can’t get past the fact that Whitney Houston, it knows, in its knowledge graph, is who sings “I Will Always Love You”.

Let’s try flipping that query, just slightly, and going instead for who wrote “I Will Always Love You”?


The lyrics of “I Will Always Love You” were written by Dolly Parton.


So, you can see how, because she’s the lyricist in the knowledge graph, she gets the answer that time.

Goes to show, you just really do need to understand the search real estate around your industry if you want to make voice search work for you.

So, alright, this has been a bit of fun. But I do have some takeaways for you.

How to optimise your site for voice search

Firstly, keep the language on your website simple if you want voice search to work. It works best when it can find a very close match for a question within the body of a page. And to leverage voice search, you need to make your language very easy to pass. And your users are probably going to thank you for that as well.

Our second take away. If you have a feature snippet and are the authority answer on voice search, that’s terrific. But you still need to make sure that your organic and paid are tied up, as this simple experiment has shown. All, I think, The Spruce would’ve gained from that search is a few more impressions in search console.

And finally, and I think most importantly here, RocketMill knows more than a search engine! And I think we can all be very proud of that.

And so, just to conclude, on the day we gave out prizes, but one was missing. Our trophy hadn’t turned up. The master engraver, who we sent it off to, failed to get it back to us on time. So, I’d like to invite the newest member of the winning team, that’s Joe buzzard, to come forth and claim the trophy on behalf of Kim Jon Jack-Joe-Jon-Neil, whatever the heck you were called.

Your trophy, sir.


Thank you, Chris.


You’re very welcome, thank you.

Related articles

6 min Read

Google Analytics 360 Suite Hints at a New Future for Digital User Experience

View post
8 min watch

Video: Why You Need to Pop Your Filter Bubble

Watch video
10 min watch

Video: How to Analyse Google Analytics Data Outside of Google Analytics

Watch video