Google Universal Search Reveals All

Search engine leader Google has begun rolling out its new Universal Search, offering a more comprehensive set of search results spanning diverse online information sources, rather than being limited to just traditional Web sites. Google search results listings now compile search results spanning images, videos, maps, books, and traditional Web sites into a single search results list, with more types of content scheduled to be integrated into Universal Search over time.

“Our focus has always been making our users’ search experience as simple and straightforward as possible,” said Marissa Mayer, Google’s VP of search products and user experience, in a statement. “The ultimate goal of universal search is to break down the silos of information that exist on the Web and provide the very best answer every time a user enters a query. While we still have a long way to go, today’s announcements are a big step in that direction.”

The goal of Google Universal Search is to present “blended” search results listings which offer relevancy-ranked hits spanning Google search and online offerings, rather than forcing users to target their queries to specific Google features like an image or video search, news, or newsgroup discussions.

Google is also introducing new dynamically-generated navigation links displayed about the search results which suggest additional information which might be relevant to a user’s query. For instance, searching for programming terms might generate links to Google Code or to blogs discussing related technology.

Google search results pages will also provide immediate access to any Google Video or YouTube videos which appear in the search results listings, without requiring users to navigate to the video-sharing sites. Videos hosted on other services will be displayed with a thumbnail. Google also plans to offer links to its GMail email service, Google Calendar, and other Google applications, making it easier for users of those service to access them from Google search listings…and, of course, encourage new users to try them out.

Of interest to advertisers—and folks who zealously monitor their page ranking within Google—comes news that Google’s new Universal Search will include an upgraded ranking algorithm designed to compare and evaluate the relevancy of different types of information—for instance, making a decision about whether a 5 minute video with a couple matching tags is more or less relevant than a Web pages apparently on the same topic. Google insists these efforts are intended to make their search results the most relevant to its users: “Google has continued to concentrate on improving the quality of search,” said Udi Manber, Google VP of engineering. “The level and speed of search innovation at Google has increased. Most of this innovation addresses basic ranking algorithms and is often not obvious to users. Users just see more accurate results, more often, in more languages, which is our primary goal.”

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