Do Google’s Direct Answers Improve Search Results?

    May 17, 2010
    Chris Crum

Last year at its Searchology event, Google introduced Google Squared, the company’s Labs project aimed at building collections of facts from the web for any topic specified by the user. A year later (to the day), Google announced that Squared is already being integrated into its search engine.

Do you find Google’s implementation of Squared data useful? Tell us what you think.

Google of course launched its newly redesigned search results pages to the masses recently, and within the options available in the new left panel is one called "something different". This appears to give you related search suggestions, but they’re actually culled from Squared.

The more interesting use of Squared in Google Search results, however, comes in the form of direct answers for applicable queries. "Often people search to find basic facts, such as [catherine zeta-jones date of birth]," explains Google’s John Provine. "Three months ago we began using Squared technology to highlight answers for these types of searches in snippets. Today we’re expanding that effort so that when you’re looking for this kind of simple fact in search, we give you more accurate answers right at the top of your results, sourced from across the web."

So for a great number of queries where a factual answer is the most appropriate result, you’re going to start seeing these. Google acknowledges that there may be mistakes out there, and each result of this type comes with a "show sources" link that you can use to see where the data is coming from.

Google Squared Data used in search results

"The sources list includes the relevant text from each page so you can quickly verify whether the webpages seem reputable and whether our algorithms correctly interpreted the context of the answer," says Provine. "If you see a mistake, please let us know by clicking on the ‘Feedback’ link so we can make it better."

Google has made sure that these answers are optimized to work with mobile browsers, because the company anticipates a lot of queries that would summon them will be made by people "on the go."

Google said the roll out of both new features would be complete by the end of the week.

While this is not the first time Google has given direct answers in search results, it does appear that more users will see more of this type of result.

We’re alreaady getting some interesting comments around Google’s new features. Most seem to generally agree that users will benefit from instant answers (understandably, as that is less clicking around that has to occur, provided that the answers are obviously correct).

Some think Google is chipping away at the need to visit other sites, a point that has been made in the past, mostly based on the company’s local Place Pages.

What is your take? Do you want instant answers from Google? Do you want to see this type of result expanded into more categories? Comment here.