Google Searchology’s Search Options, Wonder Wheel, Etc: Catering to Sophisticated Users

The first Searchology event took place in 2007, and introduced:

1. Blended search results (also known as Google Universal search), which displays maps, photos, videos and others in addition to the traditional listing of web pages

2. Personalized search which allows Google to serve custom results based on search history.

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Google indeed is clearly ahead of its peers who were in the search engine scene earlier than it is. But so are search engine users. They now run to Google to seek for answers on more complex problems. As they notice various media types are displayed, their search patterns are also altered. We can imagine there were fewer searches that included “video” in 1999 than in 2009. Such expansion allowed the number of search query activities to rise ten-fold.

It’s 2009 and the second edition of Searchology is up for next set of application launches.

Search Options
The second Searchology introduced Search Options, among others. This sounds similar to search preferences already in place but actually functions like a multilevel filter tool. Search Options opens up a new dimension in search experience.

Historically, blended search results was introduced after Google found out that users are less likely to switch to tabs containing specialized search results such as images, videos and news when they can’t find information they are looking for.

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Now, Google takes a stab at displaying search results based on how information is presented. It tries to answer the $64 million question: what query should I ask to find the answer?

A query for a music group name could spell multiple search intents. Tour information, fan discussion group, discography or music video. Search Options tries to simplify the experience. For example, traditionally, if I search for “Gin Blossoms updates” top ranking results are often those established websites, which is not necessarily what I am looking for. Search Options now offers segmented results so I can actually let Google display results based on how fresh contents are, and on types of sites I would like to get displayed: forums, videos, and so on.

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If the search result page preview thing found on other search engines wasn’t particularly helpful, well maybe Search Options’ “Images from the page” might do the trick.

Rich Snippets
Snippets used to be just bits of information controlled by website administrators. If they use Meta description tags, snippet information can be extracted from there. But what if even that information isn’t helpful? Search Options also offers longer snippet option, but if that fails too, don’t worry.

Enter Google search’s Rich Snippets feature which adopts Semantic Web as a way to allow integration of data from various sources into the search result snippet. Such data could be a star rating for restaurants or gadgets or price range of a new product release. By encouraging developers to add data in RDF and microformats into their sites, they help Google display snippets richer in quality than it has been in the past.

Yahoo! has been adopting the same technology through its SearchMonkey project, and I am glad Google is finally adopting the same platform to enhance search results.

Google Squared
Google Squared works differently from the typical way search engines display search results. Instead of finding web pages relevant to a topic, it fetches data and organizes it for one to use as reference, effectively structuring results from information pooled from unstructured web.

Organizing information in rows and columns of squares the same way we see in spreadsheet applications, Google hopes this technology will be useful in queries such as product search. For example, if I search for “world war 2 battleships”, I would expect a Google Squared result displaying the models, countries, capacities, and other technical specifications extracted from various sources on the web.

However, as it appears in Google Labs in a short while, Google Squared still has kinks to be sorted out, as TechCrunch found out after searching for spaceships.

This is Google’s best bet to counter the soon to be launched Wolfram Alpha and it’s exciting how the two will match against each other.

Google SkyMap
For users of mobile devices that use Google Android operating system, this announcement should provide a reason to get excited. Especially those who have special interests in astronomy and space exploration like me. This application allows you to you to discover and browse the night sky just by pointing your phone to space.

Using your device’s GPS and accelerometer, Google SkyMap determines exact whereabouts, including the direction you’re facing and the tilt of your handset, to show you the stars and planets all around.

Wonder Wheel
Last but not the least is Google Wonder Wheel, a graphical way to explore topics by clicking on related searches — forming a wheel — that go deeper into the subject of the main query. So if you have a term and unsure if that’s the best one to use in finding answers in Google, you can now visualize possible search query refinements using the Wonder Wheel application.

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Clicking on each term opens up a new set of related search queries. Each term in the Wonder Wheel app comes with standard search results at the right panel of the page so each time you change the keyword, these results also change accordingly.