Google just finished its Searchology 2009 event. In previous years, Google has used Searchology to introduce Universal Search and Personalized Search. So what was new this year? Several things:
Google Search Options. Marissa Mayer referred to this as a handy “toolbelt” that lets you slice and dice your search results. You can do a search such as [cfl light bulb] and look above the search results for a “Show options…” link. Click on that to get a ton of useful ways to power search. You can see web results with images, like this:
My personal favorite is to sort by time (e.g. only show me results from the last week). That’s super-handy, and the option previously required clicking around in our Advanced Search. You can also search by genre, including forums and reviews. If you sort by reviews, Google will perform sentiment analysis and highlight interesting comments. You can also request longer snippets, see search results on a timeline, or explore more related search queries.
You can use a tool called “Wonder Wheel” to explore searches and see the results update as you click. For example, if you search for [matt cutts] then the Wonder Wheel will suggest that you might also be interested in search engine optimization. Click on that and the Wonder Wheel and the search results will change in real-time:
Google Squared. You can type in any search and this Google Lab (scheduled to launch later this month) will try to build a useful “Square” that you can save. In the demo, if you typed in “small dogs” then Google would try to return types of small dogs, along with facts like how much they weigh. It’s easy to add a row to the Square, so you could add a row for Lhasa Apso and Google will try to infer the relevant facts from the web. You can also add new columns, e.g. if you type “energy level” then Google will look for corroborating facts across the web and try to guess the energy level of each type of dog. I can personally attest that Google Squared can be as fun as Google Maps–you can easily burn an hour just typing in random things to see what Google can do for that search.
Rich Snippets. See the official webmaster blog for more info, but this one is destined to be a favorite for webmasters. Essentially, you use some open standards (RDFa and microformats in the initial launch) to add some additional markup to your web pages. The markup is pretty simple and you don’t need to register with Google. Then when Google thinks it will help users, we show a “rich snippet” that has more information than a typical search snippet. Here’s a result on Yelp for a yogurt place, for example:
Note a couple quick points. The markup annotates existing text that’s already on the page, and this richer markup exists out on the web. That means that any search engine can make their own rich snippets (there’s no proprietary data that only goes to Google). I like that Rich Snippets relies on open standards, that the markup is simple, and that the data is out on the web; it’s not locked up by Google in any way. I would expect Google to roll this out cautiously at first (much as we did with Sitelinks), but that more sites will see rich snippets over time.
Google SkyMap. Google also announced SkyMap, an Android app that lets you star gaze. With GPS, an accelerometer, and a compass, SkyMap can tell you what stars you’re pointing your phone at. You can also search for stars and the application will guide you until your phone points in the right direction.