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Google's Latest Aims at Better Search Results

Google search enhancements
Google's longer search result snippets. Source: Google. Click to enlarge.
Google has rolled out a few new changes to the way it displays related links on results pages. The company says it has developed new technology that lets it better understand the concepts behind search terms so that the related suggestions are more on target.

So, for example, a search on "What to do after surgery" gives a typical list of search results. With the new changes, the bottom of the results now display a list of suggested related terms.

A test of this example produced seven links to such phrases as "pain medications after surgery," "pain relief after surgery," "chronic pain after surgery," "pain management after surgery," and so on.

The moves come even as Google's dominant share of the search market continues to increase, signaling a willingness to continue to experiment with new features.

Some competitors, like Hakia, have touted more natural language search services, where users are encouraged to enter complete sentences for queries instead of a few key words. Google hasn't promoted its search as "natural language," but company officials have said its search is not limited to simple keyword searches -- it's just something most users find more convenient.

A Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) spokesperson said the changes don't affect the speed of results and have nothing to do with the results users are used to seeing.

"There is no change to the top results you'd normally see. What has changed is this new ability to draw out more ideas about context and associations through our scanning of pages for better results," he told InternetNews.com. "This not being employed to generate ads or to change our main organic search results."

The new suggested related terms are live today and Google said it should be available to all users. In a brief set of search query tests by InternetNews.com, the suggested results appeared only sporadically for the same search terms, however. It's unclear whether this means the feature is not fully rolled out to all users yet.

Not every instance will produce suggested terms, the Google spokesman added.

"There will be instances where we don't feel we can offer good suggestions," he said, noting that overly broad suggestions or even very specific but obscure search terms might not generate additional suggested links.

Longer snippets

A second improvement to results is longer descriptions for some search results.

Google calls the lines of description under each result a "snippet." The latest design tweak increases the length of results' snippets when a user enters a longer search query, so they can see a more detailed description of a search result at a glance.

These results will also include more words from the query, so users can see the results in a fuller context.

For example, with a fairly lengthy search query -- "Earth's rotation axis tilt and distance from the sun" -- Google will return results with snippets of up to three lines, incorporating all of the search keywords.

While the results might not be all the information the searcher needs, Google's banking that at least give a fuller picture of what details a user can likely by clicking through on the link.