Google Brings Organized Lists to Search

    June 16, 2011
    Chris Crum

Google has had a busy week of launching features. Today, the company announced that it is now showing collections of top referenced items for some topics that are searched.

Product manager John Provine explains, “Sometimes when you’re searching, you’re not just looking for one specific result, you may be looking for a list to start a series of searches. For example, if you search for [greek philosophers], many search results mention well known philosophers like Plato or Aristotle. Typically, searches like these are the beginning of a research task, where you follow up by searching to learn more about each item in the list, in this case each philosopher.”

These items appear in a block that will look something like this:

“If you click one of these links, the collection of links moves to the top of the results page, and results for the philosopher you clicked are shown below,” says Provine. “Since the top references block stays anchored on top of your search results, it’s easy to explore and learn about each of the philosophers.” He lists “american authors,” “seattle neighborhoods,” “famous basketball players,” “cruciferous vegetables,” and “famous astronauts” as other examples of searches that will return such a block.

Also, Google is now doing something similar for other kinds of searches like movies, tv shows, and artists. A search for “van goh” might return a block pointing you to searches for specific paintings. A search for a movie title might or a tv show might give you searches for cast members. A search for an author, like Stephen King, will give you searches for various books:

It’s fairly smart too, because if you click on the suggestion for “It,” which is the title of a beloved King novel, it won’t take you to a query for “it,” which may not return the most relevant results. It instead takes you to a query for “stephen king it book,” even though in the block, it simply says “It,” and features the book cover.

Google is actually using Google Squared in this feature. Remember that?

“To better understand and answer your searches for a list, we use a variety of signals to assess what the web collectively thinks are the most significant items associated with your search keywords,” says Provine. “Since Plato is discussed so frequently in pages about Greek philosophers, our algorithms can infer that he is an important Greek philosopher. Much of this work is based on common search patterns and Google Squared technology which we introduced into Google Labs in June 2009.”

Google says the feature reflects its efforts in improving algorithms to better understand content the way humans do, and that it sees a lot more potential in this area or research.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.