Google has launched a new Google Toolbar feature/browser extension called "Google Related," which basically gives users access to a variety of different Google results that are related (at least in theory) to any site they visit, while they are on said site.
Here's how Google describes it, followed by a video the company shares:
Google Related is a browsing assistant that offers interesting and useful content while you are browsing the web. For instance, if you’re browsing a page about a restaurant in San Francisco, Google Related will assist you by displaying useful information about this restaurant such as the location of the restaurant on a map, user reviews, related restaurants in the area, and other webpages related to San Francisco restaurants -- all in one place.
Whenever you’re navigating to a new page, Google Related will look for interesting related content and, if available, display it in a bar at the bottom of your page. Google Related can display categories such as videos, news articles, maps, reviews, images, web sites and more. To preview a listed item or see additional items, just use your mouse to hover over different categories in the bar. For example, when you hover over a video link, the video pops up in a preview box and you can play the video directly on the page.
Google Related only works for users who have configured Toolbar’s search site to be Google.com. In the future, we may make Google Related available for country-specific alternatives.
In many cases, this is a way for users to see competitors' offerings without even having to leave your page. For example, if you look at a book product page on Amazon, users can easily see that product's pages on competitors' sites. This probably isn't so great for small businesses. A small book shop might be trying to sell a book, as Google Related points them to Amazon and Walmart as alternatives.
Here's what an Amazon page looks like:
For a review site like Yelp (they're going to love this), a user might find a restaurant page, where Google Related will step up and offer your Google's reviews and/or Place Pages.
Here's what a Yelp page looks like:
It's not all comparison shopping and reviews. Google will show a variety of content depending on the page you're looking at. For some sites, it may expose users to more of your content - particularly for publishers. If you look at WebProNews, for example, the tool will point you to different articles from our site (with the added bonus of +1 buttons. It will also show related web results, such as our Facebook Page, videos, etc.
Here's what WPN looks like:
On the other hand, that's just the front page. If you go to an article page, it will show related content from other sites.
For users reading news on a site, it's not a bad thing to have other related content a click away, to absorb a larger part of the conversation. This is what makes sites like Google News useful.
For users, it's not a bad little tool at all, and some sites may see benefits. The competition thing may be a cause of concern for some businesses, however, and it's interesting that Google would launch such a tool as its competitive practices are being scrutinized by the FTC as well as the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust.
For sites fighting to improve bounce rates, this will work against them, because in most cases it's further encouragement directly from Google to leave the page that you're on in favor of a page from another site. On the flip side, you could be the one Google is pointing to from someone else's site.
Google Related is available as a Google Toolbar update and as a Chrome Extension.