As if the real-time search results indexing Twitter tweets, news and blog posts weren't impressive enough, Google Dec. 11 also began surfacing more results in its Google Suggest utility.
Google Suggest started out as a simple pull-down menu that suggested search terms for users so they didn't have to finish typing their queries.
In May, Suggest began showing suggestions relating to the current results page, personalized and navigational suggestions, and ad links.
Google is now taking the universal search results users would see in a results page and bolting them into Google Suggest. So instead of entering terms and hitting "Return" to see answers on a results page, you see them right below the search box.
Here's an example of how it works. Say you want to know the capital of a state, such as California.
Type in "Capital of California" and you get the answer, Sacramento, in the Suggest menu with a link to AOL to offer you more info on the city:
Want to know the weather in that city? Type in "Weather in Sacramento" and get:
As you can see from both examples, results will appear above or below the suggested query terms.
Universal search features currently available in Google Suggest include weather, flight status, local time, area codes, package tracking, answers, definitions, calculator, currency and unit conversions.
The first thought is: Why is Google doing this? After all, isn't the idea to get you on search results pages and seeing and clicking on ads?
Well, yes, but don't forget that Google is already showing sponsored links in its suggested terms. Also, Suggest covers just the simple queries, and people are crafting more complex queries these days, so Google has no shortage of monetization opportunities.
In yet another effort to speed search results to users, Google created a Quick Scroll extension for Google Chrome. I listed some of my favorite extensions on eWEEK here two days ago, but I just discovered this Quick Scroll from the Google blog post.
Quick Scroll let users leverage Google's search after leaving a results page.
After clicking a result, most searchers end up scrolling around looking for the relevant sections of the page.
Quick Scroll appears as a small black box in the lower right hand corner of the Chrome browser with snippets of text from the page that might be relevant to your query. Clicking on the text will take you to that part of the page, with the relevant text highlighted.
Check out Google's example for the query "belgian waffles served by street vendors":
Note that the highlighted section doesn't include the exact query entered, meaning the browser Find command wouldn't be able to take you to the information you're looking for.
But Quick Scroll analyzes proximity, prominence and position of the query words to retrieve the most relevant content for users.
Chrome users must have Chrome 4, the latest version to use Quick Scroll or any other Chrome extension.
Google has a lot to be proud of on the search innovation front as we speed toward 2010, but so does Bing, whose new Bing Maps is impressive. As long as Bing keeps chasing Google's tail, Google's hundreds of search engineers will crank out great features.
Google claims it has only scratched the surface in what search can do. Maybe so, but it's scratching an awful lot to keep us satisfied.