Google released a whole range of new search tools and features at this week’s Google Press Day which promise to increase the relevance of search results and ease of searching for users across a wide range of topics. The new features include:
- Google Co-op, a way for people to tap into vertical searching and specify the source of search results they’d like to see
- Google Trends, a monitor of keyword search trends that ties spikes or drops in search volumes to related events and news items and shows which geographic regions have been most active in searching for the search term
- A new version of Google Desktop.
Google Co-op is probably the most interesting new feature because it marks quite a shift in how Google lets users interact with their search technology. Real people all of a sudden are getting much more input into what results they get to see – whether that’s a step forward or backwards for Google’s search remains to be seen.
Google Co-op has two main highlights – the first is “Subscribed Links”, the ability for searchers to select their own preferred suppliers of vertical search results (and the ability for websites to become “Subscribed Links” providers). The second part of Google Co-op is the new labelling – Google has defined a set of new labels (or categories, or tags across a number of topcis that allow users to refine their search in specific topic areas with more precision.
Similar to Google’s current OneBox results, where topical results from Google Maps are displayed in a box ahead of the main search results, Subscribed Links means that searchers can now select from a wider range of search result providers that they would like to see on top of their search results for relevant searches.
So how does it work?
There is currently a small directory of preferred providers for Subscribes Links (which Google is looking to expand). One of the providers is people.com. If you subscribe to people.com as one of your subscribed link providers, and run searches for celebrities or entertainment news, you’ll see a box with relevant results from people.com at the top of your search results page. If you are searching for “Angelina Jolie”, you will get a fat link to all the Angelina Jolie results on people.com, a few links to current news snippets and a one line profile summary.
Why would you want to use Subscribed Links?
It’s often hard to assess the credibility of sites you find in search results. If you have a set of preferred information sources on the net, you can make sure that they show up first for your queries before you turn to other information sources that are maybe less trustworthy or useful in your eyes. This feature should help improve the quality of your search results and also save you lots of time in sifting through a dizzying number of results from various sources.
Why would you want to be a Subscribed Links provider?
Showing up on the top of a search results page is every search marketer’s dream! Being chosen as a Subscribed Links provider is also a credit to the quality and relevance of the information you provide and should enhance your reputation. There are (currently quite confusing) instructions on how to apply to become a preferred Subscribed Links provider here.
Labelling and Vertical Search
Google has used human editors to attach category and sub-category labels to sites covering the areas of Health, Autos, Cities, Stereo & Home Theater, Photo &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp; Video Equipment and Photo & Video Games.
For example, try searching for “asthma”. Near the top of the search results page, you’ll see eight sub-category links that allow you to refine your search further and find sites related to the treatment of asthma, symptoms, causes/risk factors, covering alternative medicine for asthma sufferers and so on. If you are adventurous, you can also create your own labels or categories (be prepared to be confused by the instructions – hopefully the process will get easier soon).
Why use labels?
If you are looking for a specific category of information, Google’s new labels will make it much easier for you to locate the information you are looking for quickly. If you use Google’s edited categories, you’ll also know that a human editor has selected the site, so you can imply a certain level of relevance.
Google Trends is a great way to tap into the psyche of billions of people. Type in a search term and you’ll see how search volumes have fluctuated over the past months or years. Google has attached relevant news items to spikes and troughs in search volumes, which give you a great feeling for how the community’s search behaviour responds to current news and events. For all marketers and business owners, it’s also a great tool to research industry trends, competitors or hot new up-and-coming products. Google Trends also provides you with a geographical break-down of trends – you can see, for example, that most searches for “Donald Trump” came from New York City, Miami and Philadelphia this year, whereas most searches for “George Bush” came from London, Houston and Dallas.
It will be interesting to see how Google Co-op (which still seems to have a few technical issues) will evolve and what users think of it. We’d love to hear your thoughts!