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Have you ever wanted to visit somewhere while on vacation and realized that getting there from your hotel would be a real trek? Wouldn’t it be great if you could specify how close you wanted to be to that place when searching for a hotel?

Last year we introduced Hotel Finder, an experimental tool to help you find hotels, and today, we’ve extended its functionality with a new way to search: ‘Hotels by Travel Time’. Now if you go to Hotel Finder and enter [Empire State Building] in the search box, you’ll see the hotels that you can get to by public transport within 20 minutes.


The areas you can easily reach from your point of interest are spotlighted on the map. If 20 minutes is too long to travel or you like to get around on foot, you can easily change the travel time or your mode of transport (e.g., walking, transit). The map will update automatically to show a new spotlighted area and the nearby hotels. You can also drag the red pin to find hotels near other places you might like to visit.

This feature is not only for tourists. You might be travelling on business and want to make sure you can get to the office or that conference center. Check out this example of hotels near [Canary Wharf, London].


As well as searching by travel time, you can define your own area to search within (choose “Hotels in selected area”) or find hotels in a city’s most popular locations:



To try it out, simply go to Hotel Finder, search for a city or a point of interest and select “Hotels by travel time”. Keep in mind that Hotel Finder and 'Hotels by travel time' are experimental and filtering by transit time is only available in cities where we have partnered with local transit agencies to integrate their data into Google Maps. We’d love to hear what you think: just click the “Send Feedback” link in the right-hand corner of Hotel Finder.

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(Cross-posted on the Webmaster Central Blog)

In our ongoing effort to help you find more high-quality websites in search results, today we’re launching an algorithmic change that looks at the layout of a webpage and the amount of content you see on the page once you click on a result.

As we’ve mentioned previously, we’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away. So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.

We understand that placing ads above-the-fold is quite common for many websites; these ads often perform well and help publishers monetize online content. This algorithmic change does not affect sites who place ads above-the-fold to a normal degree, but affects sites that go much further to load the top of the page with ads to an excessive degree or that make it hard to find the actual original content on the page. This new algorithmic improvement tends to impact sites where there is only a small amount of visible content above-the-fold or relevant content is persistently pushed down by large blocks of ads.

This algorithmic change noticeably affects less than 1% of searches globally. That means that in less than one in 100 searches, a typical user might notice a reordering of results on the search page. If you believe that your website has been affected by the page layout algorithm change, consider how your web pages use the area above-the-fold and whether the content on the page is obscured or otherwise hard for users to discern quickly. You can use our Browser Size tool, among many others, to see how your website would look under different screen resolutions.

If you decide to update your page layout, the page layout algorithm will automatically reflect the changes as we re-crawl and process enough pages from your site to assess the changes. How long that takes will depend on several factors, including the number of pages on your site and how efficiently Googlebot can crawl the content. On a typical website, it can take several weeks for Googlebot to crawl and process enough pages to reflect layout changes on the site.

Overall, our advice for publishers continues to be to focus on delivering the best possible user experience on your websites and not to focus on specific algorithm tweaks. This change is just one of the over 500 improvements we expect to roll out to search this year. As always, please post your feedback and questions in our Webmaster Help forum.

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Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog.

Starting today, we’d like to invite K-12 students in the U.S. to participate in our fifth annual U.S. Doogle 4 Google contest. Draw your rendition of the Google logo and you may see it on the ultimate gallery: the Google homepage. The winning doodler will also take home a $30,000 college scholarship and a $50,000 technology grant for his or her school.

The theme for this year’s contest is “If I could travel in time, I’d visit...”. That could mean visiting a past, present or future setting—whether it’s traveling back in time to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, to the future to witness everyday space travel, or to just a few moments ago to relive a poignant experience.

Building on last year’s record-breaking participation (107,000 entries!), we’ve made a few enhancements to the 2012 contest. First, we’re opening Doodle 4 Google up to an even wider audience—with a winner from every state. There will be five finalists and one winner per state, so everyone will have a local doodle champion to cheer on. From these 50 State Winners, we’ll find 5 National Finalists and the lucky National Winner.

We’re also partnering with Crayola this year and the winning doodler’s artwork will appear on a special edition of the 64-crayon box—a first!

Participating is easier than ever, since we’ve eliminated the registration step. All you need to do is submit your child’s or student’s artwork by March 20 with a signed and completed entry form.

Contest judging starts with Google employees and a panel of guest judges—including multi-platinum singer Katy Perry, Phineas and Ferb creator and executive producer Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, and recording artist Jordin Sparks, as well as other great illustrators and artists—who will help us pick the state finalists and winners. Then, on May 2, we’ll put the 50 state winners up for public vote. All 50 State Winners will be flown to New York City for the national awards ceremony on May 17, with the winning doodle appearing on May 18.

The doodles by the 50 State Winners will be displayed at The New York Public Library's historic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street in an exhibition open to the public over the summer. We’ll also be partnering with museums across the country to display the artwork of the state finalists in areas near their homes.

For more details, check out google.com/doodle4google, where you’ll find full contest rules and entry forms. Happy doodling and good luck!

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(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog)

Google Search has always been about finding the best results for you. Sometimes that means results from the public web, but sometimes it means your personal content or things shared with you by people you care about. These wonderful people and this rich personal content is currently missing from your search experience. Search is still limited to a universe of webpages created publicly, mostly by people you’ve never met. Today, we’re changing that by bringing your world, rich with people and information, into search.

Search is pretty amazing at finding that one needle in a haystack of billions of webpages, images, videos, news and much more. But clearly, that isn’t enough. You should also be able to find your own stuff on the web, the people you know and things they’ve shared with you, as well as the people you don’t know but might want to... all from one search box.

We’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships. We began this transformation with Social Search, and today we’re taking another big step in this direction by introducing three new features:
  1. Personal Results, which enable you to find information just for you, such as Google+ photos and posts—both your own and those shared specifically with you, that only you will be able to see on your results page; 
  2. Profiles in Search, both in autocomplete and results, which enable you to immediately find people you’re close to or might be interested in following; and, 
  3. People and Pages, which help you find people profiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area of interest, and enable you to follow them with just a few clicks. Because behind most every query is a community. 
Together, these features combine to create Search plus Your World. Search is simply better with your world in it, and we’re just getting started.


Personal Results

Say you’re looking for a vacation destination. You can of course search the web, but what if you want to learn from the experiences your friends have had on their vacations? Just as in real life, your friends’ experiences are often so much more meaningful to you than impersonal content on the web. With your world in search, you can find:
  • Google+ posts. You can find relevant Google+ posts from friends talking about an amazing trip they just took, whether they’ve shared privately with you or publicly. You’ll find links shared by your friends, such as activities, restaurants and other things they enjoyed on their trip. 
  • Photos. You can find beautiful vacation photos from your friends right in your search results page. You can also find your own private photos from Google+ and Picasa, based on captions, comments and album title. 
Personal Results: a family story 

As a child, my favorite fruit was Chikoo, which is exceptionally sweet and tasty. A few years back when getting a family dog, we decided to name our sweet little puppy after my favorite fruit. Over the years we have privately shared many pictures of Chikoo (our dog) with our family. To me, the query [chikoo] means two very sweet and different things, and today’s improvements give me the magical experience of finding both the Chikoos I love, right in the results page.


This is search that truly knows me, and gives me a result page that only I can see. And while I get a nice mix of personal results with results from the web, I can also click the link at the top of the results page (red arrow) for the option to search only within my world.

Profiles in Search 

Every day, there are hundreds of millions of searches for people. Sometimes, it’s hard to find the person you’re looking for. Once you do find him or her, there’s no quick way for you to actually interact. Starting today, you’ll have meaningful ways to connect with people instantly, right from the search results.

Now, typing just the first few letters of your friend’s name brings up a personalized profile prediction in autocomplete. Selecting a predicted profile takes you to a results page for your friend, which includes information from their Google+ profile and relevant web results that may be related to them. And you can have this personal experience instantaneously, thanks to Google Instant. So when I search for [ben smith], I now find my dear friend Ben every time, instead of the hundreds of other Ben Smiths out there (no offense to all of them!).


In addition, you’ll find profile autocomplete predictions for various prominent people from Google+, such as high-quality authors from our authorship pilot program.


Once you select that profile, if you’re a signed-in Google+ user, you’ll also see a button to add them to your circles right on your search results page.


People and Pages 

As I mentioned earlier, behind most queries are communities. Starting today, if you search for a topic like [music] or [baseball], you might see prominent people who frequently discuss this topic on Google+ appearing on the right-hand side of the results page. You can connect with them on Google+, strike up meaningful conversations and discover entire communities in a way that simply wasn’t possible before.


Unprecedented security, transparency and control 

When it comes to security and privacy, we set a high bar for Search plus Your World. Since some of the information you’ll now find in search results, including Google+ posts and private photos, is already secured by SSL encryption on Google+, we have decided that the results page should also have the same level of security and privacy protection. That's part of why we were the first major search engine to turn on search via SSL by default for signed-in users last year. This means when you’re signed in to Google, your search results—including your private content—are protected by the same high standards of encryption as your messages in Gmail.

We also want to be transparent about how our features work and give you control over how to use them. With today’s changes, we provide interface elements and control settings like those you’ll find in Google+. For example, personal results are clearly marked as Public, Limited or Only you. Additionally, people in your results are clearly marked with the Google+ circle they are in, or as suggested connections.

We’re also introducing a prominent new toggle on the upper right of the results page where you can see what your search results look like without personal content. With a single click, you can see an unpersonalized view of search results.


That means no results from your friends, no private information and no personalization of results based on your Web History. This toggle button works for an individual search session, but you can also make this the default in your Search Settings. We provide separate control in Search Settings over other contextual signals we use, including location and language.

That's unprecedented transparency and control over personal search results.

A beautiful journey begins 

Search plus Your World will become available over the next few days to people who are signed in and searching on https://www.google.com in English.

While there may be 7 billion people and 197 million square miles on Earth, a septillion stars and a trillion webpages, we spend our short, precious lives living in a particular town, with particular friends and family, orbiting a single star and relying on a tiny slice of the world’s information. Our dream is to have technology enable everyone to experience the richness of all their information and people around them.

We named our company after the mathematical number googol as an aspiration toward indexing the countless answers on webpages, but that’s only part of the picture. The other part is people, and that’s what Search plus Your World is all about.

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Today we’re continuing our monthly series with details about many of the improvements we make to search. For the month of December, you’ll find a list of 30 search improvements, 9 of which we’ve blogged about previously. In addition, to have a little fun we’re including a sampling of codenames along with the list.

Codenames make changes easier to talk about and remember, and they can also be a lot of fun. You might remember “Panda” and “Caffeine,” but you probably don’t remember last month’s “Top result selection code rewrite.” That’s why many of the search quality improvements we make have internal codenames.

To give you just one example, our old question-answering feature in search was codenamed “DAFFIE,” which stood for the “Database of All Fact Fiction Information and Exaggeration.” In 2010 the team did a complete overhaul of the system and released a new short answers feature. Amit Singhal, thinking of Daffy Duck, decided to codename the new system “Porky Pig”, because Porky Pig was trying to kill Daffy Duck. The team laughed thinking that Amit was just confused (everyone knows Elmer Fudd is the hunter). But, it turns out Amit was right, as he often is. In 1937 in the original cartoon to feature Daffy Duck, Porky Pig was in fact hunting Daffy.

Here’s the list for December:

  • Image Search landing page quality signals. [launch codename “simple”] This is an improvement that analyzes various landing page signals for Image Search. We want to make sure that not only are we showing you the most relevant images, but we are also linking to the highest quality source pages.
  • More relevant sitelinks. [launch codename “concepts”, project codename “Megasitelinks”] We improved our algorithm for picking sitelinks. The result is more relevant sitelinks; for example, we may show sitelinks specific to your metropolitan region, which you can control with your location setting.
  • Soft 404 Detection. Web servers generally return the 404 status code when someone requests a page that doesn’t exist. However, some sites are configured to return other status codes, even though the page content might explain that the page was not found. We call these soft 404s (or “crypto” 404s) and they can be problematic for search engines because we aren’t sure if we should ignore the pages. This change is an improvement to how we detect soft 404s, especially in Russian, German and Spanish. For all you webmasters out there, the best practice is still to always use the correct response code.
  • More accurate country-restricted searches. [launch codename “greencr”] On domains other than .com, users have the option to see only results from their particular country. This is a new algorithm that uses several signals to better determine where web documents are from, improving the accuracy of this feature.
  • More rich snippets. We improved our process for detecting sites that qualify for shopping, recipe and review rich snippets. As a result, you should start seeing more sites with rich snippets in search results.
  • Better infrastructure for autocomplete. This is an infrastructure change to improve how our autocomplete algorithm handles spelling corrections for query prefixes (the beginning part of a search).
  • Better spam detection in Image Search. [launch codename “leaf”] This change improves our spam detection in Image Search by extending algorithms we already use for our main search results.
  • Google Instant enhancements for Japanese. For languages that use non-Latin characters, many users use a special IME (Input Method Editor) to enter queries. This change works with browsers that are IME-aware to better handle Japanese queries in Google Instant.
  • More accurate byline dates. [launch codename “foby”] We made a few improvements to how we determine what date to associate with a document. As a result, you’ll see more accurate dates annotating search results.
  • Live results for NFL and college football. [project codename “Live Results”] We’ve added new live results for NFL.com and ESPN’s NCAA Football results. These results now provide the latest scores, schedules and standings for your favorite football teams.
  • Improved dataset for related queries. We are now using an improved dataset on term relationships to find related queries. We sometimes include results for queries that are related to your original search, and this improvement leads to results from more relevant related queries.
  • Related query improvements. [launch codename “lyndsy”] Sometimes we fetch results for queries that are related to the original query but have fewer words. We made several changes to our algorithms to make them more conservative and less likely to introduce results without query words.
  • Better lyrics results. [launch codename “baschi”, project codename “Contra”] This change improves our result quality for lyrics searches.
  • Tweak to +1 button on results page. As part of our continued effort to deliver a beautifully simple user experience across Google products, we’ve made a subtle tweak to how the +1 button appears on the results page. Now the +1 button will only appear when you hover over a result or when the result has already been +1’d.
  • Better spell correction in Vietnamese. [project codename “Pho Viet”] We launched a new Vietnamese spelling model. This will help give more accurate spelling predictions for Vietnamese queries.
  • Upcoming events at venues. We've improved the recently released places panel for event venues. For major venues, we now show up to three upcoming events on the right of the page. Try it for [staples center los angeles] or [paradise rock club boston].
  • Improvements to image size signal. [launch codename “matter”] This is an improvement to how we use the size of images as a ranking signal in Image Search. With this change, you’ll tend to see images with larger full-size versions.
  • Improved Hebrew synonyms. [launch codename “SweatNovember”, project codename “Synonyms”] This update refines how we handle Hebrew synonyms across multiple languages. Context matters a lot for translation, so this change prevents us from using translated synonyms that are not actually relevant to the query context.
  • Safer searching. [launch codename “Hoengg”, project codename "SafeSearch"] We updated our SafeSearch tool to provide better filtering for certain queries when strict SafeSearch is enabled.
  • Encrypted search available on new regional domains. Google now offers encrypted search by default on google.com for signed-in users, but it’s not the default on our other regional domains (eg: google.fr for France). Now users in the UK, Germany and France can opt in to encrypted search by navigating directly to an SSL version of Google Search on their respective regional domains: https://www.google.co.uk, https://www.google.de and https://www.google.fr.
  • Faster mobile browsing. [launch codename “old possum”, project codename “Skip Redirect”] Many websites redirect smartphone users to another page that is optimized for smartphone browsers. This change uses the final smartphone destination url in our mobile search results, so you can bypass all the redirects and load the target page faster.

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