An easy way to add new features to Google

Have you ever wanted to add a new feature to Google’s search results? There’s a really nice way to do it right now. If you’re not familiar with this functionality, it’s called a Subscribed Link, and it lets you “create custom search results that users can add to their Google search pages. You can display links to your services for your customers, provide news and status information updated in near-real-time, answer questions, calculate useful quantities, and more.” That page has a whole list of different ways to add new features to Google’s search results:

* Create search results specific to your product, service, or expertise.
* Design a basic version in minutes to see how it works.
* Build a dynamic version using XML, TSV, or RSS files or feeds.
* Include images in your Subscribed Links.
* Include Google Gadgets in your Subscribed Links.
* Test your Subscribed Links interactively and get debugging messages.
* Define query patterns using lists of keywords or regular expressions.
* Invoke the calculator to help construct your results.

I like that Google provides an open system to add functionality to our search results. If this sounds interesting to you, check out this blog post by Google OS (an unofficial blog), read through the subscribed links developer guide, or check out the Subscribed link FAQ.

Let’s walk through an example. I often need to know what my IP address is. Usually I go to Google, search for [ip address], and click on one of the top results. That works okay, but I discovered that there’s an even easier way. Go to this page and click on the “Subscribe” button.

Now when you go to Google and type a query like [my ip], you’ll see the answer right in your search results, like this:

Find my ip address

I painted out my actual IP address, but you get the idea. Now if only aruljohn.com would add the query [ip address] to the list of queries that triggers a subscribed link, that will let me be lazy and continue doing the query that I’m used to. :)

If you’d like to add some new functionality to Google, why not try it for yourself today? I made a simple subscribed link that looks like this:

Example subscribed link

in about a minute. It looks like you can make a subscribed link out of feeds very quickly. It looks like you can even add your own flexible gadget to Google’s search results, and it looks like this:

Example gadget in search results

By the way, I originally wrote this post a little while ago focusing on how to find out your IP address with a specific subscribed link. After Yahoo announced their “SearchMonkey” project tonight (congrats to the Yahoo folks!), I figured I’d add in some details about Google’s Subscribed Links and how to make a rich snippet result using Subscribed Links.

54 Responses to An easy way to add new features to Google (Leave a comment)

  1. rob

    Matt I blogged on something related to this last night, is this connected? Should these be appearing SERPs or should it be a logged in thing?

    Check out “distance from paris to london” in google.co.uk, result number 4…

  2. Now THIS is the type of post that made this blog popular.

    Hopefully, there will be more of this type.

    Definitely a Digg homepager :-)

  3. I didn’t think it was *that* great, SEW. But thanks. :)

  4. Matt, what you think is great and what your users think is great are sometimes two completely different things. And I do have to agree with SEW here – this is a great post.

    I’ll definatley be checking this out for myself later on. Thanks for the heads up. :)

  5. Harith

    SEW

    “Now THIS is the type of post that made this blog popular.”

    Wrong again, SEW.

    Kitty posts made this blog popular :)

  6. SEW – you have some sort of … smudge… on your nose there… right on the tip… might want to grab a tissue…

    This is a kewl feature, I do agree with that. :)

    Matt, did you happen to get the email I sent yesterday, btw?

  7. Sadly, there is no way to interface a regex-like query with a dynamic Co-op module.
    Example: I’d like to search for “209.85.238.11″ and get the resolution of this IP, just as you do with your own IP in the first example. But at first sight, I can’t :-/

  8. Dean

    After clicking Subscribe my Firefox crashed with a message of unresponsive script – thanks for that Google.

  9. Very interesting,

    What kind of functionality does Google plan to extend this too. Will we have webmaster tools support for example? Would eb nice to see how many people have subscribed.

  10. Hi Matt,

    This is cool stuff! I gonna play with it very soon :)

    There is an error when I click on the link from your post Go to this page and click on the “Subscribe” button. It says “We’re sorry. The service you requested is currently unavailable. “

  11. g1smd

    There’s some seriously odd results in that [My IP] SERP… :-)

    Sexy Girls Moaning Your IP Address!
    Text IS Boring… Have Our Hotties Moan Your IP Address!

    I am guessing that result is NSFW… sheesh.

  12. Matt,

    Thanks for this tidbit.

    I can see this being very useful for my clients. For example, they always need help syncing their google apps emails to outlook and I always point them to the same website to follow me along. I could have them subscribe to a link pointing to that page when they search ‘outlook setup’ or something of the like.

    Will it always show in the 4th position?

    Thanks,

    Jim McNelis

  13. Just read FAQs and confirmed 4th position placement.

  14. Matt, updated our post on the Yahoo program:
    http://searchengineland.com/080226-000100.php

    Addressed what you raise, that Google already has this. But the key difference is that it’s going to be on by default for many publishers — the user won’t have to choose.

    Subscribed links seem to remain largely unknown by publishers and users. Moving to default inclusion might give Yahoo more pick-up with its program, though there’s still a lot to see going forward.

  15. > But the key difference is that it’s going to be on
    > by default for many publishers

    Google Health results as part of Google Co-op are also on by default…

  16. Yeah this is a very good tool that can be used by many. Thanks Matt.

  17. Good points, Danny and Philipp. I want to be clear that personally I liked Yahoo’s idea. The fundamental tension is that if you hit the user with rich results from a bunch of websites, it might overwhelm the user, distract them, or slow them down. Yahoo’s example added several images just for one search result, and if every website had a rich display, you could be talking about 30-50 extra images that have to load on every page. So Google does turn on some Co-op links by default (e.g. the Health links as Philipp pointed out), but the tradeoff between what a website owner wants to show and what a user wants to see is always an interesting choice.

    g1smd, you can also type queries like whoami. The nice thing about a subscribed link is that the creator can choose the queries that trigger the rich result.

  18. But, If the users can view the information on result page… they don’t enter into ours sites. :(

  19. Matt,

    Is this post a reaction to the Yahoo announcement that they will allow 3rd parties customize search results presentation?

    http://www.ysearchblog.com/archives/000523.html

    Personally I do not see much interest in customizing the presentation of the results of search pages other than pages of my own sites.

    Also I do need much people being interested to customize the presentation of search results of other sites, first because it is not a trivial thing for the vast majority of the users, and second because such customization would not really solve essential needs of most users.

    What I think it would be useful is that Google would allow us site owners customize the presentation of results of results of our own sites to the users, so we can make our sites more appealing to users searching for stuff available in our sites.

    I have not studied that in detail, but that seems to be the proposal of Yahoo. If I got that right, I am sure every site owner will be interested in ways to customize the presentation of results of our sites to the search engine users.

    I wonder if you can clarify if Google allows any other level of results presentation customization, other than the page description meta tags that may appear in SERPS.

  20. Well, as a result of this post, I went ahead and set up a Subscribed Link.
    Unfortunately, it’s not in the main directory, which wil be really cool, but ehhh, I had fun setting it up on a WordPress Blog.

  21. That’s a cute feature.

    CustomizeGoogle has been doing something similar for some time now. There are Greasemonkey scripts that work on Google search results. There’s plenty of client side potential in this area.

    Technically, this is easy. The design challenge is to do it without cluttering the output.

  22. Dave (original)

    Matt, I’ve been using coop and subscribed links for our site for nearly a Year now. It now brings us a few 1000 more unique visits per week for terms that we cannot get page 1 for in the Google SERPS. Very cool and intuitive.

  23. Harith

    Matt,

    Btw, a friendly reminder. Last cat post was for around 3 months ago ;)

    For those of us who work each and everyday on SEO and have GOOG as a start page the whole day, kitty posts are refreshing indeed.

  24. I think this is going to be cool…..I am really looking forward to lay my hands on it……

  25. Very interesting approach to personalize search

  26. Hi Matt,

    I can think of some instances for clients when this will come in really handy. So people can subscribe to more than one subcribed link! That would be great for the family also!

    Thanks again for keeping us updated.

    DB.

  27. lol at myip.dk. They need some SEO for their SERP results. Besides, if you bookmark their site and you have a dynamic IP you’ll probably be misled by the old IP in the title.

  28. For Subscribe link to work properly dont you have to be signed into a Google Account? How many average Joe’s use a Google account? Isnt this technology just for us SEM’s trapped in a Google Accounts bubble?

    The Yahoo idea is cool to, but how do they regulate the SPAM they will receive?

  29. Hmm, I think this might be of great use on my fireworks site; there’s boatloads of searches for it in the summer. But I’m not sure I understand how it works just yet..

  30. EGOL

    Matt,

    I really like this idea. Perhaps this could be paired with some type of website membership and develop into a social network clustered around individual websites.

    For example, if a person clicks on my RSS button or on my feedburner email subscribe link, he might be presented with a list of google sponsored features which could include….

    Feedburner RSS
    Feedburner email
    gadgets
    custom search
    subscribed links
    share my bookmarks
    site targeted adwords

    All of these things are great and contribute to the success of my website. I think that google could help individual websites launch their own communities by inventing a way to bundle these by domain.

  31. Subscribed Links are really useful for community projects !
    So I think when researchers, stuents or artists… working on the same project. Will enjoy being guided through some exceptional keywords.

    Google take the originality of this option! I think when this task would be more popular and Googlers will enrich it.

    We could profit from these subscribed links in order to perform more pertinent search results, based on subscriptions popularity ;-)

  32. Wow. That is simply great! It seems that every single day, we find new tools/tips through Google that can be used to make life easier. This is certainly Digg material and Favorites material. You never cease to provide awesome info. Thanks!

  33. I love seeing the kitty posts, but this post is great! Maybe the only way you could have done better is by somehow working a kitty pic into the search results. :)

  34. Harith

    Brian White,

    Thanks for the resource. Very cute :)

    Bruce,

    Just like you, I like Matt’s kitty posts too. Very relaxing.

  35. @ Dave (original), I have a few questions about coop and subscribed links. Would you possibly mind dropping me an email and allocating a few minutes of your time so I can ask you some questions?

    Charles

  36. Thank you, Matt, i will check out the Subscribed Links, and make some testing :)

  37. That’s great Matt – I read in-between the lines and got it all completely. You’re doing some kinda Black Sabbath voodoo on us.

    Hidden message was – Page Rank is being updated on the 29th of Feb.

    Cheers for the heads up!

    ; – )

    Matt

  38. Hi Matt, there is a syntax error on Javascript code being distributed for the CSE. You can replicate the error both on Firefox and IE. Did not test elsewhere.

    The most searched for “cloud” does not work.

    Error: syntax error
    Source File: http://www.google.com/coop/api/…REMOVEDIDFROMHERE…./cse/6ffhc-esckg/queries/js?callback=(new+PopularQueryRenderer(document.getElementById(%22queries_…REMOVEDID……%3A6ffhc-esckg%22))).render
    Line: 2, Column: 50
    Source Code:
    (new PopularQueryRenderer(document.getElementById("queries_006045580447401555140:6ffhc-esckg"))).render({

  39. Hmm, it’s funyy, but I don’t need that service. I use Google for searching only. Some times, I use it as calculator of translator.

  40. This is very cool stuff Matt. I like how google is paying attention to its users. Is it any wonder why more than 70% of the people seem to be using Google over the other search engines.

  41. This is usefull Matt, but not for me, i’m the kind of user that likes simple things that work fine, i like simplicity of Google and will use it with pleasure as long as it stays that way, when things get complicated , people like me who like simple things get scarred :)

  42. Matt, do you have an idea of how many users have actually adopted using the Google ToolBar? 1 million, 5 million etc

    An issue people may encounter is with a user that has no toolbar installed. If they click a button to add a subscribed link they will be sent to Google to install the tool bar (if not installed), the problem is that goog whisks the user away to do an installation, afterwards the users have to somehow figure out how to get back to subscribed link button a second time.

    Charles

  43. This in unbelievable, I never bookmark any sites but in most cases when I look for some new features to test it I came to your blog by google search… What to say, it seems that you are really follow all new stuff. Just great stuff for lazy people like me. :)

  44. Dave (original)

    Hmm, it’s funyy, but I don’t need that service. I use Google for searching only

    Like, most Google features, that is who the new feature is for.

  45. Hello Matt,

    I appreciate the way Google has opened up search for users to contribute. But to be frank, I do not see these contributions reaching the search results. Most of these search results will only make an impact in improving the overall experience of a web user when they are classified in themes and these themes are offered to clarify the intent of the search and deliver the results the visitor has been looking for.

    Abhishek

  46. Thats the awesome feature you have specified. I wish this can happen on Google SERP without people subscribing to my link.

  47. Seems like this is a great idea for community and client based projects, like Abhishek I’m not sure if subscribed links would improve the SERPs though.

  48. Anonymous

    I’m checking me IP to make sure i’m not surfing “naked”. Not going to do searches logged in any time soon.

    If I search for 10 eur in usd, time in ny, and such, Google does the math. Why not for the IP? Presumably the user that searches for “my ip” wants to know his ip and user-agent.

  49. Seb

    I was playing with Google calendar the other day. I tried unsuccessfully to import gig dates from our website by getting the website to export the dates as ical file.

    The problem I found as a band, that their are far too may websites were we can manually enter all our gig dates in to, and not offering any kind of import tool. It would be really cool for Google calendar to be the generic source of every type of event.

    Google could retrieve the latest dates from our website via RSS and allow other websites to read the calendar.

    Any possibilities?

  50. Very very helpful information..

  51. My company built a fairly nice subscribed link based on your writeup here and it was working nice during development and testing. Then we put it into production and publicized it within the company before opening it up to the public.

    Our experience was *very* hit or miss in people being able to successfully add the subscribed link to their account. Of the misses, a good portion of them showed they were subscribed but no results ever appeared. Those who hit never had any problems. Suffice it to say, we’ve never publicized this product.

    One of my co-workers has a contact within Google and made some inquiries as to what’s going on. She was told that this is an “unsupported” feature and so no one’s going to fix this broken subscription process.

    If this is, in fact, true, could you update this entry so that future searchers don’t start down this path and end up wasting development time on a half-baked feature? If it’s not unsupported, could you let whoever does support this that there’s some big problems:

    http://groups.google.com/group/google-subscribed-link/browse_thread/thread/b6bf11dab08fe796

    http://groups.google.com/group/google-subscribed-link/browse_thread/thread/00b13bdc8f750dd6

    http://groups.google.com/group/google-subscribed-link/browse_thread/thread/edf9450db6873ec0

    The last one is the most galling because someone ostensibly from Google said that they were working on fixing it ASAP on May 20th.

    Thanks!

  52. Great tips here on Google’s subsribed links program. Thanks for sharing it, and providing great step by step examples.

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