Google Searchology 2009: Search Options, Google Squared, Rich Snippets

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:

Toolbelt for CFL light bulb search with images

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:

Wonder Wheel

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:

Rich snippets

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.

If you’d like to read more, Techmeme has coverage and Danny Sullivan live-blogged the Searchology event.

49 Responses to Google Searchology 2009: Search Options, Google Squared, Rich Snippets (Leave a comment)

  1. I thought you were supposed to be on vacation! And thanks for the “play by play” on Twitter.

  2. Posts like this are so much better with your new theme Matt, screenshots look terrific when they are not all scrunched up. I love how images are being incorporated, great seeing that in action on Google news pages as well.

  3. Google Skymap and the Android CupCake update this week are more reasons to ditch your iPhone and use the G1 Android Dev Phone Google gave you last year 😉

    ,Michael Martin
    Google And Blog

  4. Thanks for the cool writeup Matt, I was a little put off by the intense livetweeting earlier (not everyone can handle Scobleizing levels of tweetput) though I appreciate this summary bigtime 🙂 wish I coulda beeen there for the Q+A, maybe another year.
    Cheers, MB

  5. Google’s example hReview has an invalid “dtreviewed” (date reviewed) property – the value must be ISO8601 compliant. Another example has an invalid invalid “rating” property (the value must be numeric). the documentation neglects to point out that the value must be “…out of five”, unless a range is marked-up.

    The list of hCard microformat properties for ORGanisations omits the essential “org” (though it is used in the example given).

    Google’s recognition of hCard microformats is partial – no telephone, fax, e-mail, PO Box, etc.

    Bad documentation and implementation by a leading player like Google will lead to masses of broken implementations by those who follow their lead.

    However, most worrying is the suggestion that “adding the name of an unknown reviewer will dilute the effect of the Google snippet and could make the page appear less relevant”. SEO voodoo should not trump semantic mark-up. That’s shameful.

    I’d be happy to work with you to fix these problems; and the broken microformats emitted by Google Maps and Google Profiles; and to implement the “species” microformat for the scientific names of living things.

  6. I really am happy to see these new features in Google search, but when I played around with a few queries, I kept asking myself why “blogs” was not included as a search genre. Since Google already has Blog search, it seems that integrating it into the options would make good sense?

  7. Great to get your impressions, I’m very enthusiastic about the rich snippets, from the SEO professional perspective as well as a search user.

    Best Regards from Brazil

  8. Michael D, I’m enjoying the new theme myself–thanks! Michael Martin, the Cupcake release is very nice; I’ve enjoyed playing with it.

    Aseem Kishore, you can search blogs by clicking “more ▼” at the top of the screen and selecting blogs, so it’s only a couple clicks away right now.

  9. meatbag, sorry if I went a little overboard on the live-tweeting. I should have at least given people a heads-up to expect it.

  10. Has any rich snippets/microformat opening hours as a tag? Google doesn’t seem to recognize any time property
    What I really miss when I use Google Maps (often on a mobile), is whether a restaurant or shop is open or not.

  11. Andy Mabbett, I saw your comments on Twitter–thanks for leaving a comment. I’ll see if I can get someone to contact you.

  12. Thanks, Matt. I thought it best to copy my comments here (and to the official blog), both for the extra space allowed, and as a more permanent record.

    And to be sure you’d seen them 😉

  13. Google Squared is so cool. Looks very much like our vision at Cazoodle.

    At Cazoodle, our goal is enable “data-aware” search, by understanding the structure of Web data. Try our current products in apartment rentals, local events, and online shopping.

  14. Great new features on Google search!… Many webmaster also hope that Google improve the communication by Google Webmastrer console, especially when a site is penalized and we don’t know why.

  15. OK so how can I enable for my search results?

  16. Has any rich snippets/microformat opening hours as a tag? Google doesn’t seem to recognize any time property. What I really miss when I use Google Maps (often on a mobile), is whether a restaurant or shop is open or not.

  17. Dave (Original)

    Matt, why have the Video option when Google forces video results into the organic SERPs forcing, what were relevant results, off page 1?

  18. Dave (Original)

    Damn! hit Submit too early. 🙂

    Matt, why not show the video results at the bottom of each page? Or, assume searchers are not idiots and know about YouTube and the Video option?

  19. Great new features. Matt was back with vengeance on the twitter I was amazed to a list of tweets, all making up for the vacation.

    I really loved playing with the new features and they so helpful.

    About clicking “more ▼” at the top of the screen, i use that much for “blog search” , “book search” and “you tube” from other available options. Now you tube has came closer :).

    Thanks Matt 🙂

  20. i like the new search function very much,and thank you for ur write,but i think i would spend more time to understand it better in Chinese,’cause here some people explain the Google Search Options as u said to Google Squared,i just so confused!@_@

  21. These are awesome additions to the standard SERPs for search pros…

    I just wonder how “normal” users will like and use especially the filter options – after all it makes Google a “bit” more complex and techie in the lines on Live/Yahoo’s sliders and options, which was probably intended and well tested by your labs – was it?

    Gonna show this to my mum soon 🙂


  22. superb series of releases detailed in this post matt, Im particularly interested in the rich meta data – could you give us any insight as to whats required for your website to actually be featured with these rich snippets, is it down to existing serps, website popularity, competitors also displaying snippets etc etc?

    I would be intrigued to find out some further clarification before we spend time embedding snippet markup in our html



  23. With all these cool new Options in the search results, it would be really nice to have some keyboard shortcuts for quick and easy access to them, instead of so many mouse clicks.

  24. Matt,
    Search snippets look a great idea, is there anyway they can be extended to a comapany’s services as well as products?



  25. Hi matt

    You have moved to
    There is a problem with the layout. Your link”previous entries” and “next entries” are not working fine after the second page. I was seraching for your old entries and faced this problem. I had to change the page number in url to locate to the old entries.

    Hope you will see this comment and will fix it soon.

    Vibha Raj

  26. Odd one -but why can’t you do a site search, then sort by date ? its frustrating when it says no results found … !

  27. Jaan Kanellis, lots (most? all?) of U.S. users should see it very soon. I’m not positive what the rollout schedule is for non-U.S./non-English though.

    Dave (Original), lots of people want video results even if they only show an occasional video on their website.

    Christoph C. Cemper, there is a lot of options for power users, but most of it is hidden under the “Show options…” link. Regular users won’t be bothered by it, but putting the link so close to the search results will really surface some of these advanced search features in a much easier way for the power/savvy users. P.S. Be good. 😉

    MOGmartin, I’m an outsider, but I would guess that after the initial period of rolling out cautiously, it would be mostly algorithmic based on whether we think a rich snippet will help users (much like Sitelinks is today).

    Ori Regev, interesting! Certainly the ability to quickly tab through options or something similar would be nice.

    Nick, my understanding is that products is a natural place to start, e.g. with the hReview definition, but that folks are open to lots more types of rich snippets over time.

    Thanks for mentioning that, vibha raj. This week I’m on vacation, but I’ll try to check it out when I get back.

  28. Two mounts ago I suggested optional Google in a grid redesign.

    I had people that hated the idea and people that loved the idea. I think that people are very protective about Google layout. They are probably afraid of the change.

    I thing that google search layout should be improved constantly.Not once in 10 years. That is very brave step you made. I still think that Google inside the Grid is very good layout solution in some cases.

  29. Hi Matt,

    i wanted to try out the blog search feature in this new layout, & i followed Aseem’s comment & your reply that we can search blogs by clicking on more on the top of the screen but unfortunately i wasn’t able to access this feature, can you please guide me in a more specific way perhaps with a screenshot on how to blog search in this new layout



  30. Hi Matt,

    Well got it, blog search was on the top most corner of the screen & i was looking on the left side on the new layout

    Thanks anyways



  31. The sidebar tools are great, I’m finding the time-line especially useful, any idea when we’ll see these changes on country-specific Google Search pages?

  32. If you really want to improve the searcher’s experience, get rid of all the Youtube spam from the first page of the results..

  33. Hey Matt,
    Squared feature looks cool, hope someone will give heads up when its launched!

  34. From all of the new features, I liked the “Wonder Wheel” feature most.
    I wonder will Google ever include and show a separate “Social Media” related search feature?

  35. Dave (Original)

    Dave (Original), lots of people want video results even if they only show an occasional video on their website.

    Not sure what searchers Websites and videos on them has to with this, but IF lots of people want video results, why wouldn’t they click the Video link or use YouTube? Why even have the *option* for video search when you are *forcing* them into the SERPs shunting relevant results down?

    I also bet lots MORE people do NOT want video results UNLESS they click the “Videos” link. Seems a no-brainer to me.

  36. The search field hasn’t really changed for a very long time; although these days there are lots of companies trying to show the information in a different way. brought micro search (not fully there yet on search but growing really fast on publishing micro thoughts) (putting content in context) people are also trying human search engines and then comes the semantic web but all of the above so far have not been able to come close to the firepower Google has; as matter of fact Google themselves have not been able to beat the blue ocean they created on search. Funny thing is; Google created that blue ocean with lot less money and resources they have now and they have not launched a single venture since then to surpasses their own blue ocean. This shows yahoo and msn can not beat google just because they have money. Search game will change but I don’t think it will be changed by any of the biggies in the market. I think its going to be some start-up sitting in some garage or living room who is going to create the next market beater with no resources and pizza boxes all around him. the next search is going to be a combination of semantic and human and its going to gear around local level; relevant data; how the information will be presented or how the information is searched is going to be the key. It takes 10 to 15 years for blue oceans to be beaten and Google is in that range now. look at movie theatres, single screen beaten by multi screen and 15 years later comes mega plex’s and now the market mainly has only the mega plex (its not only about watching the movie it is also about entertainment with games, restaurants and the whole nine yards). Google’s new options are going to take time for people to understand and get used to and that might be it; Google educates the market and some start-up seizes the opportunity but I personally welcome the new changes lets see how they affect my traffic.

  37. I do like the changes, def adds to overall usability, etc. I wanna know when the changes are coming too, I’ll be on the look out for sure!

  38. Matt, Hi, many thanks for all of this. Jaan and I will no doubt get swamped now over at WPW ! More work! Thanks, great news.

  39. The “wonder wheel” doesn’t seem to be working for all my searches. I get plenty of data on “Related searches” but it doesn’t seem to make the leap into the wonder wheel. Also, I really like the snippets and we’ll see how well that works. I’m always cautious about putting my real contact info on the web without using a contact form. I recently called Vonage to get a “disposable” phone number to put on my website and within two weeks was getting daily calls to extend my car’s warranty. Scumbags. Guess I’ll just get another disposable number to put on the web and test out the rich snippets.

  40. I was instantly attracted to the “images from the page” display. I’ve always been more of a picture looker rather than an article reader.

    The changes are so complex and the page designs remain attractively simple.

    Very nice!

  41. I’m having a lot of fun squaring numbers while I wait for Google Squared to roll out 🙂

    Thought that was pretty funny on

  42. These new features are awesome. I really love the Wonder Wheel. One can get lost for hours playing around with all the new tools 🙂 You can find the good and bad things people are posting as well.

    I like the new theme by the way. It is good to get out of your box and try new things!

  43. Love these options Mainly the Time filter, I like to view latest updtes on many issues. I think This one is best update from google so far in 2009.

  44. Robert Farmer

    I’ve been waiting on Google Squared for quite a while. I’m tired of squaring numbers; I want the real thing. Where is it? After all, May ended two days ago.

  45. I agree with the comments on the wonder wheel. Found it the other day and found some keywords I would never have thought of! 🙂

  46. Google Squared appears to be similar to my patent application:

    Frankly, I am getting a Déjà vu effect while going through the “Google Squared” application because it appears to be very similar in function to my United States patent application which was filed on April 12, 2007 and as publicly disclosed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on October 16, 2008, when the patent application was published.

    My patent application is titled as “Method And System For Research Using Computer Based Simultaneous Comparison And Contrasting Of A Multiplicity Of Subjects Having Specific Attributes Within Specific Contexts” bearing Document Number “20080256023” and Inventor name “Nair Satheesh” which may be viewed at upon Patent Applications: Quick Search.

    Google Squared appears to be using at least some if not many of the same methods and systems as set forth by me more than two years ago in my patent application. In fact there are many more methods and systems disclosed in my patent application which I believe will help resolve certain inaccuracies found in current Google Squared application.

    I have issued legal notices to Google through my Patent Attorney in the US but Google has not responded yet to any of my notices.

  47. Hi Matt,
    i wanted to try out the blog search feature in this new layout, we can search blogs by clicking on more on the top of the screen but unfortunately i wasn’t able to access this feature, can you please guide me in a more specific way so it will quite easy for me to used it. Thanks

  48. Thanks Matt for telling briefly about google searchology 2009. I really like the wonder wheel option, it is really helpful for gaining knowledge about anything we search.

  49. Hi,

    today I came across a snippet which looked weird to me.

    A search windows was displayed. Is this an experiment? Can this be implemented on the site?

    The link is also not direct:

    What is this?

    Thank you