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(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog)

Our main goal at Google Search is to bring you the most relevant and useful results as quickly as possible. But, we are aware that often that is only part of your task or journey. Sometimes, you need more than simple results. You might want to learn, to discover, to be entertained or get insights.

Insights can happen when you least expect them. To improve their chances, it's good to try other things, or do things differently once in awhile. As a lifelong fan and connoisseur of New Yorker style cartoons, I always believed in the power of humor not just to entertain but to enlighten. I have tried to connect humor to everything I do (although, I have to admit, not always successfully). The best cartoonists possess great insights, which they illustrate in a clever package that we can consume in seconds and yet remember for years.

With all of this in mind, today we’re connecting Google search and cartoons through a search caption challenge. Cartoon caption contests have a long history dating back at least to the 1930s, as can be seen in this example I found from Ballyhoo magazine. For our modern version, we worked with artists like Matthew Diffee, Emily Flake, Christoph Niemann, Danny Shanahan and Jim Woodring, who created cartoons that place characters in unusual, interesting and funny situations—all with a common twist. In each cartoon, one of the characters is doing a Google search. We've left it to you to imagine what they'd be searching for at that moment, and left the caption blank for you to fill in with your answer.


To participate, go to Inside Search and submit your idea. Your caption will appear on the site, and you can share it with friends via a unique link. You can also vote on your favorite submissions and the most popular will rise to the top.

We hope this game helps you think in a way you wouldn't otherwise, and maybe get some insights. Or just have fun.

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Sometimes music makes learning easier. With this in mind, a few of us Googlers decided to make a search tip rap music video to help you, and Saint Nick, navigate the holidays.

Hopefully, these tricks will help make your holiday season easier. And if you found our video as helpful as Santa did, feel free to share it with a loved one. Remember, re-gifting is okay when sharing search tips.


Happy Holidays!

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Have you ever wanted to learn more about a piece of art than what’s on the placard next to it, or find out more about an artist’s life and how a piece fits into it? What about outside the museum -- the artwork on your favorite book’s cover, or a poster you really like at a bus stop?

We’ve teamed with the Metropolitan Museum of Art to bring their art collection to life in Google Goggles. We want art patrons to be able to bridge the physical art world with the online world in new, easy-to-use ways. So now no matter where you spot an image of art from the Met’s collection, you can simply snap a picture of it with Goggles and get detailed information about its history, the bibliography of its creator, or even the story of the collection -- including info from the recently launched mobile-optimized version of the Met’s website.


Google Goggles’ image recognition abilities work both inside the Met where wireless is available (it’s expanding rapidly) and outside as well. That means that anywhere you can take a picture and connect to the web, whether you’re looking at artwork in books, magazines, or on billboards, you can identify and begin interacting with the art. If you really enjoy a piece of art, Goggles will let you share your find with a friend or help you buy a copy for your home. And if you just want to remember a piece to enjoy later, you can use Goggles Search History to pick and choose pieces to revisit -- in effect, creating your own virtual art collection.

The Met has provided us over 76,000 artwork images to index. Thousands of these aren’t on display at the moment -- so you can actually learn about works you won’t find in the galleries. With over 340,000 works of art from the Met accessible online, there’s plenty more to come. Learn more about how to use Google Goggles, and have fun exploring!

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(cross-posted to the Webmaster Central Blog)

When users come to Google, they have a pretty good idea of what they’re looking for, but they need help deciding which result might have the information that best suits their needs. So, the challenge for Google is to make it very clear to our users what content exists on a page in both a useful and concise manner. That’s one reason we have rich snippets.


Essentially, rich snippets provide you with the ability to help Google highlight aspects of your page. Whether your site contains information about products, recipes, events or apps, a few simple additions to your markup can result in more engagement with your content -- and potentially more traffic to your site.

To help you get started or fine tune your rich snippets, we’ve put together a series of tutorial videos for webmasters of all experience levels. These videos provide guidance as you mark up your site so that Google is better able to understand your content. We can use that content to power the rich snippets we display for your pages. Check out the videos below to get started: 



For more information on how to use rich snippets markup for your site, visit our Help Center

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Imagine Bob Dylan asking to hear the thoughts of every audience member at Woodstock ‘69 and you’ll get a glimpse of what we’re inviting when we say, “Give us feedback.” With hundreds of millions of users, Google Search may have more customers than any other product on the planet. And, like any customers, these hundreds of millions of people need support. Perhaps not surprisingly, in 2011 we had nearly 9 million visits to our Search Help Forum. With an ever-changing product and a diverse user base, keeping our ears attuned to what people are saying is a very interesting challenge, and one we’ve taken seriously.

Of course, there’s more to providing support than just listening. It involves in-person and online interaction, targeted education and online help resources, and continuous product refinements based on feedback. Supporting our users means engaging with them and taking action. To do this we combine two of Google’s biggest strengths: building for scalability and continuous product refinement.

Providing scalable support
When it comes to providing support for search, working at scale is our bread and butter. We reach nearly 320,000 users per day through our Help Center, which is available in over 40 languages. It’s full of articles and videos to explain search features and answer users’ most frequently asked questions. We also continually refine old content and publish new content so that when you click on “Search help”, the information you read is up-to-date. Since Google Help Centers, as a unit, rank 12th on the list of most visited Google properties, quality and relevance is of the utmost importance. We also try to surface help content in our products as well. For example, you’ll often find “Learn more” links on the results page when we launch a new feature or show you an alert message. We also recently linked to an educational video about SafeSearch from the Google Images homepage so that users can easily learn how to strictly filter their search results.

There’s also a wealth of knowledge in our user base that, when shared, can be a very powerful resource. In our Help Forum, our search-savvy superusers called “Top Contributors” share tips and best practices with the community every day. We also have over 30 Google product managers, engineers, and community managers who pop in to help answer questions, monitor launch feedback, and look for issues and feature requests. Just this year, Googlers have posted over 3,500 times and Top Contributors over 9,000 times. In partnership with our Search Education Evangelism team, we also venture into the classroom in order to teach students, librarians, and teachers how to get the most out of Google Search. By equipping educators with best practices for searching, we can scalably reach the next generation of Internet users.

We work at scale because, frankly, we have to. Even if every Google employee worked full-time answering user questions, we still couldn’t talk with even a small percentage of our users or website owners. Since hundreds of millions of people use Google, and there are more than 200 million websites online, the only way for us to support our user base is through scalable solutions like videos, blogs, documentation, forums, and other means.

Translating feedback into action
You have many options for sharing feedback with us. Some reports come through our various contact forms in the Help Center and others via the forum or the Give us feedback link on the bottom of the results page. You can also turn to social media to seek help on a particular feature. Regardless of how you share feedback, we try to stay abreast of the issues you face. When we do find a bug, we work to fix it as soon as possible. Does that mean that we page engineers at 3:00am to immediately fix bugs? Sometimes, yes! More often, though, we collaborate with our users and our product managers and engineers by gathering information on issues. Often, an engineer or product manager will respond to a user directly in our forum in order to better understand the situation or to announce that the bug has been fixed.


To help keep our team accountable for addressing user feedback, we create a quarterly list of our top user issues and work to address them with folks from all levels in the company. The search team is not afraid of tackling tough problems, but it can take some time to come to agreement on an approach and implement it. This doesn’t mean that we fix every problem, as many of you know. We recognize that there is a lot of room for improvement whether in our rankings, our UI, or by fixing minor bugs. The good news is that we’re quickly aware when there are serious issues and we keep working hard to address them.

While every change we make is to a some extent motivated by user feedback and testing, here are a few examples of changes that were largely inspired by the feedback we've seen in our help forums and across the web:

  • Verbatim search tool: For all of you who told us that you wanted remove synonyms, spelling refinements, and personalization from your results, we added this new tool to the left panel of the results page.
  • Google Security Center: In response to many of you reporting erroneous redirects when clicking on a result, we launched an entirely new security center including educational content about malware.
  • Results per page preference: As a result of your feedback following the launch of Google Instant, we greyed out the results per page preference when you have Instant enabled.
  • Ability to hide sites: Because you requested to permanently exclude certain results from your results pages, we made it possible for you to block a particular site from appearing.


Support isn’t just about issue resolution or education. It’s about relationships and showing the human side of the knowledge engine that our users have come to love. We want you to tell us how we can improve your personal Google experience because, ultimately, we want to delight you. It’s important to know that by sharing your thoughts, you’re not just exercising free speech, you’re helping to shape the future of search.

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(Cross-posted on the Webmaster Central Blog)

With the latest improvements to the way authorship annotations look in search and the addition of authorship to Google News, authors have been really excited about getting more visibility, and users benefit from seeing the name, photo, and way to connect with the person who created the content.

Authors have also been giving us a lot of feedback on what else they'd like to see, so today we're introducing “Author Stats” in Webmaster Tools that shows you how often your content is showing up on the Google search results page. If you associate your content with your Google Profile either via e-mail verification or a simple link, you can visit Webmaster Tools to see how many impressions and clicks your content got on the Google search results page. Check out what Matt Cutts would see for his content:


To see your information, go to google.com/webmasters and login with the same username you use for your Google+ Profile. On the left hand panel, you can see “Author Stats” under the “Labs” section. This is an experimental feature so we’re continuing to iterate and improve, but we wanted to get early feedback from you. You can e-mail us at authorship-pilot@google.com if you run into any issues or have feedback.

If you’re a content creator interested in learning more about authorship, check out our Help Center.

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Searches can become stories. Some are inspiring, some change the way we see the world, and some just put a smile on our face. This is the latest in a series of posts about people who have used Google to discover or do something extraordinary. Have a story? Share it.

For a chef, a great dish starts with a solid foundation of fresh and unique ingredients. As part of Google’s Food Team, we’re tasked with serving about 50,000 healthy, creative and flavorful meals every day at nearly 100 cafes around the world. Our team thrives on the challenge of creating innovative new dishes, expanding our knowledge of what ingredients go well together, and satisfying our curiosity of where ingredients come from and the difference it makes in the quality of our food. We try to find ingredients that are as local, seasonal and organic as possible because when it’s fresh, it just tastes better.

Brett Ottolenghi, supplier of specialty ingredients to elite chefs in Las Vegas, has a similar philosophy. He is passionate about food, and he prides himself on finding the highest quality ingredients and being knowledgeable about what he supplies. I’m always thrilled to hear about people who share our passion for fresh ingredients, who’d go the extra mile to make sure what they get is the real thing.

One of Brett’s most recent discoveries was a wasabi farm in Japan. Realizing that the majority of wasabi in the United States is just horseradish that has been dyed green, Brett wanted to learn more about the real stuff. He searched on Google to find out more about fresh wasabi, and with the help of Translate, was able to read a site in Japanese about a local wasabi farm. He then contacted the family in Shizuoka, Japan who has been producing wasabi for 11 generations. During his trip to the wasabi farm in Japan, Brett learned the background of the condiment and how it’s fed oxygen and minerals from man-made waterfalls and got a taste of fresh wasabi -- and was able to bring it back to his chefs.



“It’s not as harsh as horseradish. It’s much sweeter,” said Brett. “That’s the reason it’s so important to travel and visit the producers because you can learn about the details in what they’re doing that makes their product so much better.”

With this knowledge, not only is Brett is able to provide his chefs with a unique ingredient, he provides a new experience with wasabi. “I don’t think my chefs would expect their supplier to know that much. Yuma’s family, their story adds to the flavor, it adds to the experience. You get into food because you’re passionate about it. As much as you learn, there’s still more to know.”

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Last year, we launched the Google Public Data Explorer, an online tool that organizes public statistics and brings them to life with interactive exploration and visualizations. Since then, we’ve added dozens of new datasets and received enthusiastic feedback from users around the world. Several data providers, such as the UN Development Programme and Statistics Catalunya, have even integrated the tool into their web sites.

Today, we’re pleased to announce the next step in our public data effort- a completely revamped product featuring an updated look and feel, improved interaction modes, and a new visualization engine.

Now you can:

1. Search across the data
Our most popular datasets have been accessible through Google Web Search for some time, and this will continue to be the case. Now, however, you can also search within the product, across our extensive corpus of public statistics. This allows you to find data on issues such as global competitiveness, population density, or infant deaths. The search page also features a set of sample visualizations and stories, which highlight some of the topics covered by the product.

2. Slice and dice with fewer clicks
Once you’ve selected a dataset, the new exploration UI puts the data front and center. Want to plot “Fertility Rate” instead of “GDP”? Just make a single click in the list to the left of the chart. Interested in the unemployment rate for women as opposed to men? Just as easy. No more digging through pop-ups or settings menus.

3. Access it on any device
Our new charts are built according to open web standards such as HTML5. As a result, they work across all common desktop, tablet, and smartphone configurations, without depending on third-party plugins. We expect the performance and functionality of the charts to improve over time as browser support for HTML5 matures.

Give the new Google Public Data a try, and let us know what you think by posting in our discussion forum.

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(Cross-posted on the Google Mobile blog)

With the December movie season in full swing, we’ve just made it even faster and easier to discover movies, showtimes and theaters, all from your smartphone. Now when you search for [movies] or your favorite theater like [century san francisco] on Google.com on your phone, you’ll see interactive results for movies in a new swipeable ribbon, with the most relevant information displayed at the top of the page.

For each movie, you’ll see the movie poster, a short summary, ratings and the nearest theaters and showtimes. Designed to help you quickly browse what’s playing in theaters now, this information instantly updates as you slide through the movie posters -- no need to wait for a page to load or to use the back button.


To learn more about a movie, tap the movie title to find details like the cast and a full summary. And if you see a play button on the movie poster, you can tap to view the official trailer. You can even buy tickets directly from your smartphone by tapping on underlined showtimes -- and skip past those long holiday box office lines!


So the next time you head out to see sagas of vampires, the world’s biggest Muppets fan, dancing penguins or nearly impossible heists, try the new interactive results for movies by visiting Google.com on your iOS or Android phone’s browser and searching for [movies], [theaters] or a movie title. This feature is available in English, in the US.

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(Cross-posted from the LatLong Blog)

Searches can become stories. Some inspire us, others change the way we see the world or just make us smile. This is the latest in a series of videos about people who have used Google to discover or do something extraordinary.

The field of archaeology has changed much over the years. New modes of transportation have made even the most remote sites accessible, while cameras simplify how a historical record is created and shared with the world.

Spurred on by these innovations, researchers are also embracing technology as a creative way to aid their research and explore ancient sites. To conduct archaeological studies in the Middle East, Professor David Kennedy of the University of Western Australia turned to Google Earth.

From his office chair in Perth, Professor Kennedy has remotely identified thousands of archaeological sites without having to step foot on Saudi Arabian or Yemeni soil. Historically it has been difficult to undertake ground surveys and aerial photographs of these areas are seldom available for research, making the countries some of the least explored archaeologically. By carefully studying satellite imagery of the Arabian peninsula in Google Earth, Professor Kennedy has unearthed an enormous record of archaeological sites, from ancient geoglyphs to stone Wheels to Pendant-shaped tombs and animal traps called kites that could be up to 9,000 years old.

Watch Professor Kennedy’s Search Story video to see how Google Earth aided his search for these ancient sites across the Middle East.


Professor Kennedy isn’t the only archaeologist to discover the potential in using satellite imagery to aid traditional field methods. Visit www.OneWorldManyStories.com to discover how the scientific community has used Google Earth to uncover ancient relics, find a new hominid ancestor, identify hidden forests, and put craters on the map.

Do you have a great Google Earth story? Share it with us.

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(Cross-posted on the Google Mobile blog)

In July, we started to evolve the Google design and experience on Android and iOS tablets by updating features like larger touch targets and enhanced image viewing to make searching faster and easier. Today, we’re building on that foundation by adding a new image carousel for viewing large image results within a few swipes.

As someone who enjoys being outdoors, I like exploring beautiful images of nature. With the new image carousel, I can discover photos of bright sea anemones or colorful lorikeet birds on my tablet in a more interactive and immersive way. Now when I tap on an image result, it’ll expand in the carousel view and I can swipe through the search results. To learn more about an image, a tap on the web page preview, title, description or URL will take me directly to the webpage. See how you can take the image carousel for a spin:

  

Try out the new image carousel by going to Google on your iOS or Android tablet’s browser and searching for your favorite images. This feature is currently available in over 40 languages. 

I hope you enjoy searching for beautiful images in this new view. 

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I still recall the day when my friend Yossi came to school and showed off his brand new graphing calculator. I was stunned by how easy it was to plot complicated functions -- meanwhile, the rest of us were still drawing them by hand on graph paper.

Today, I’m hoping to share that magical feeling with students around the world, with the introduction of graphing functionality on Google. Now you can plot mathematical functions right on the search result page. Just type in a function and you’ll see an interactive graph on the top of the search results page.

You can zoom in and out and pan across the plane to explore the function in more detail. You can also draw multiple functions by separating them with commas. This feature covers an extensive range of single variable functions including trigonometric, exponential, logarithmic and their compositions, and is available in modern browsers.

I hope students and math lovers around the world find this experience as magical as I found the graphing calculator so long ago.

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(Cross-posted on the ITA by Google blog)

Back in September, we gave an early look at our Flight Search feature, which was developed to help people find faster, more flexible, and more useful results for online travel searches.

 Flight Search results have been available by clicking on “Flights” on the left-hand navigation bar on the search results page, or by going directly to google.com/flights. But we’ve heard from you that you’d like to see more options to find flights and prices even more easily and quickly.

Starting today, we’ll begin showing flight information right in your Google search results on certain flight related searches. For example, if you search for [flights from San Francisco to Las Vegas] you’ll see a table that shows available flights, including duration and prices. You can adjust dates on the page, or click any flight to further research and book your trip.


Over the next couple days, you’ll start to see the flight results appear for searches whose origins and destinations are currently supported by our Flight Search feature. In the short term, those results are limited to domestic US flights. The flight schedule feature will continue to provide information about nonstop routes around the world and across 11 languages.

Once you've booked your flight and are on your way, if you're traveling through one of the many U.S. airports whose floor plans we recently added to Google Maps for Android, you can easily see where you are and what's around you from the convenience of your mobile device. Happy travels!

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Update 16 May, 2012, 7:00pm: We made a minor update to the description of the "parked domain" classifier to ensure we aren't implying ads can't be useful.

Today we’re publishing another list of search improvements, beginning a monthly series where we’ll be sharing even more details about the algorithm and feature enhancements we make on a near-daily basis. We piloted a post like this earlier in November, and we were glad to hear you liked it.

We know people care about how search works, so we always want to push the envelope when it comes to transparency. We added it up, and to date we’ve published almost 1,000 blog posts about search, more than 400 webmaster videos and thousands of forum posts. For years now we’ve been blogging about significant algorithmic updates like Panda and our recent freshness update. So, why do we need yet another blog series?

We’ve been wracking our brains trying to think about how to make search even more transparent. The good news is that we make roughly 500 improvements in a given year, so there’s always more to share. With this blog series, we’ll be highlighting many of the subtler algorithmic and visible feature changes we make. These are changes that aren’t necessarily big enough to warrant entire blog posts on their own.

Here’s a list since our post on November 14th:

  • Related query results refinements: Sometimes we fetch results for queries that are similar to the actual search you type. This change makes it less likely that these results will rank highly if the original query had a rare word that was dropped in the alternate query. For example, if you are searching for [rare red widgets], you might not be as interested in a page that only mentions “red widgets.”
  • More comprehensive indexing: This change makes more long-tail documents available in our index, so they are more likely to rank for relevant queries.
  • New “parked domain” classifier: This is a new algorithm for automatically detecting parked domains. Parked domains are placeholder sites with little unique content for our users and are often filled only with ads. In most cases, we prefer not to show them.
  • More autocomplete predictions: With autocomplete, we try to strike a balance between coming up with flexible predictions and remaining true to your intentions. This change makes our prediction algorithm a little more flexible for certain queries, without losing your original intention.
  • Fresher and more complete blog search results: We made a change to our blog search index to get coverage that is both fresher and more comprehensive.
  • Original content: We added new signals to help us make better predictions about which of two similar web pages is the original one.
  • Live results for Major League Soccer and the Canadian Football League: This change displays the latest scores & schedules from these leagues along with quick access to game recaps and box scores.
  • Image result freshness: We made a change to how we determine image freshness for news queries. This will help us find the freshest images more often.
  • Layout on tablets: We made some minor color and layout changes to improve usability on tablet devices.
  • Top result selection code rewrite: This code handles extra processing on the top set of results. For example, it ensures that we don’t show too many results from one site (“host crowding”). We rewrote the code to make it easier to understand, simpler to maintain and more flexible for future extensions.

And here’s a recap of improvements we’ve already blogged about since last time:


We’ll report back in early January with our next batch and plan to continue monthly after that. Subscribe to the blog and soon you’ll be real search geeks like us!