Google Has A Suggestion For You

    April 26, 2005

There’s another Google search page that looks just like, but it can offer you search term suggestions based on what you are keying into the search box.

Google Suggest

It’s called Google Suggest. Mysteriously, unlike other Google products, you cannot get to it with – instead you must bookmark or key in:

Google Suggest guesses what you’re typing as you type into the search box, and gives you suggestions in real time. For example, if you type “apple,” Google Suggest might offer a list of refinements that include “apples” or “Applebee” or “Apple iPod.”

So, what is this, just a time saver? Well, it could be. It could also help you if you don’t know how to spell a word. But, what I find really useful is how it helps me to decide exactly what combination of terms I might want to use for a search. Not only will it provide suggestions that I might not have thought of, but it also tells me how many results I can expect (I say “expect” because it’s not exactly accurate) from the search.

For example, if I key in the word “malibu” it tells me there are 4,110,000 results. But if I then key a space after the word, it provides a list that includes these choices:

malibu (782 results)
malibu boats (782 results)
malibu ca (31,100 results)
malibu California (11,600 results)
malibu grand prix (926 results)
malibu lighting (1,500 results)
malibu hotels (744 results)
malibu rum (264 results)

You can then use the arrow keys or your mouse to select any of the suggestions to perform a search. But, you can instead continue to key the remaining words from one of the suggestions in the list to further refine the suggestions. For example, if you continue by keying “boats” you will get a list containing suggestions like “malibu boats for sale,” “malibu boats wakesetter” and “malibu boats wakeboard” along with their number of results.

But, the suggestions that are listed are just some of the terms you might search for. Google Suggest uses data about the overall popularity of various searches to help rank the refinements it offers, and it does not base it on any personal search history (although, they could in the future now that they have activated My Search History (see Google’s New My (not so private) Search History’).

Instead of selecting from the suggestions in the list, you can continue after “malibu” with terms of your own choosing to begin a new set of drop-down selections.

Is it worth using Google Suggest over the regular Google. Maybe. I think this one depends on each individual user’s preferences. I’m starting to like it more now that I’ve spent some time with it to write this article. It does often offer some interesting search ideas I might not have otherwise thought of. And, it’s helpful to see the estimated number of search results.

Note that Google Suggest works with all the popular browsers, but they must have both javascript and cookies enabled.

There is no simple way to make Google suggest your default browser. If you use Firefox you can modify it to add Google Suggest functionality to the normal Google home page and result pages. This is done via a “Greasemonkey Script” that you install into Firefox. It’s actually pretty easy to do. You can find the link to the script here. You’re required to install the Greasemonkey Firefox extension first. (I’m working up an article for the very near future on all the GreaseMonkey scripts that relate to Google and Gmail.)

Of course, you can also make Google Suggest your home page.

If you’re a techie and interested in all the gory details of how it all works, you should read Google Suggests Dissected.

Mark Fleming is the founder of a new blog called Google Tutor & Advisor. Google Tutor & Advisor offers in-depth Tips, Techniques and Advice for Google Users.

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