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Why Google Is Tweaking The Look Of Its Search Results

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Google (NSDQ: GOOG) tweaks its algorithms constantly, but most of those changes fly by without the average user even noticing. The search engine today made two more visible changes to its results page.

The moves:

— The list of related searches that appear at the bottom of the results is now longer and more sophisticated. Search for “principles of physics,” for instance, and related searches like “angular momentum,” “special relativity,” and “big bang” show up.

— Queries of more than three words will now return more lengthy descriptions of the search results under each link, so that users can see the context of their search term on a web site.

The changes suggest that Google is targeting the market for more complex search queries, which Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) has also set its sights on in an update to its search engine expected later this spring.

In a post on the Official Google Blog, the company says the changes “help guide users more effectively to the information they need.” Not convinced is ReadWriteWeb, which notes that by listing more related queries and longer descriptions, visitors will end up staying on Google’s pages longer — instead of moving on more quickly to the sites they actually want to visit. Same goes for The Noisy Channel, which complains that the list of search suggestions is still, for the most part, at the bottom of the page, a decision that the blog describes as “timid.”

Indeed, the Live Search update Microsoft is testing internally lists related searches prominently in the upper-left-hand column of every search-results page. Then again, as Live Search GM Mike Nichols said in an interview with, Microsoft can afford to take some chances because its market share is so weak.

Google says that the more sophisticated related-search suggestions is part of the deployment “of a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search.” Google acquired the technology in 2006 from the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

3 Responses to “Why Google Is Tweaking The Look Of Its Search Results”

  1. Thanks for the link to The Noisy Channel. I blogged about another "tweak" today: the Wonder Wheel. In a nutshell, it seems to me that Google is half-hearted about any modifications to the 10-blue-links interface. It's understandable for them to be conservative–they probably feel they have everything to lose and not much to gain. And frankly Microsoft, despite being in the opposite position, hasn't done much innovation in this area either.

    I'm actually excited about Kosmix, though I'm quite aware that it has no realistic chance of displacing Google's near-hegemony on the web. Still, I hope they're at least showing people what's possible when you take exploratory search seriously.