False Drop

False Drop (also known as False Hit or False Retrieval) is an unwanted search result in the SERPs that has little or nothing to do with the actual search term. This can happen if the search word appears on the displayed Website, but in a different direction or context (see examples below). Often false drops occur if the search query consists of a word combination without restrictive search operators (see Information Retrieval).

Another cause of false drops are technical errors, for example, if an unavailable page appears in the search results or if a search engine works with faulty databases.

False drops can also arise from fraudulent intent, for example, when a web page repeats search terms unnecessarily or when a page is disguised from crawlers by cloaking. A false drop is usually not usable by users.


This can be illustrated, for example, by searching for career opportunities using the search terms "Jobs Apple". Among the first results are pages about Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs. These results are false drops with the right words in the wrong context, since the search was actually expected to yield job offers from Apple. A hobby baker who searches for websites about "Berliners" would be disappointed. The institutions and inhabitants of the German capital would inevitably push themselves into the search results if he did not specify his search, e.g. by "Berliner recipes."

Avoiding False Drops[edit]

Over the years, search engines have become increasingly effective at preventing false drops in their results lists. For example, when searching for the celebrity Paris Jackson, results for the city of Paris are no longer displayed.

To avoid false drops, it is always advisable for the searcher to restrict a search query with suitable additional terms. Search Operators like quotes or the Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT to specify the search.

Origin of the Term[edit]

The term false drop is significantly older than the Internet. It comes from the librarianship of the 1940s. The manual search for matching index cards was supported by certain hole patterns in the cards, which could be found with appropriately placed long needles. The selected fell from the needle as a search result. A mistakenly dropped card that did not fit the searched term was called a false drop.