Posted May 12, 2009 5:00 pm by with 6 comments

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It’s Google’s second Searchology event this week, and they’re looking to make big headlines this time around. The first event, two years ago, heralded Universal Search (remember how they integrated image and video results, way back when?)

Today Google is announcing three new products and SERP improvements: Search Options, rich snippets and Google Squared.

Search Options

Search Options is a new feature in Google’s basic SERPs. Accessible from the blue bar above the results, Search Options allows you to resort or restrict your results by format and time, as well as alter the way your results are displayed:

googsearchoptions

If that’s not clear enough on its face, Google is happy to explain it to you:

I can’t remember perfectly, but I seem to remember a very similar experiment in Google Labs a while back. If that’s the case, they’re taking the feature mainstream.

I’m excited for this feature myself, and I like that they’ve integrated in a way that won’t interfere with searches that you don’t want to use Search Options for.

Rich Snippets

In December, Google announced that certain partners would be able to show “enhanced listings” in Google’s SERPs. Google last updated its snippets back in March, when they formally announced extended snippets. (And is it just me or does this look a lot like Yahoo’s SearchMonkey?)

As with Yahoo’s SearchMonkey, the information is drawn from microformats and RDFa information which publishers include with their pages.

This could be good or bad for marketers and webmasters. On the one hand, it gets information searchers want one click closer, and in some cases mass information all on one page. That can generate purchases (if they find a bunch of favorable reviews from different sites, they don’t have to click through and can purchase the item with confidence) or drive foot traffic to a brick-and-mortar.

On the other hand, however, if it’s our goal to get visitors to the site—to purchase from the site, to read the full article, to see the advertising—this might not be as beneficial.

Although Google says that “This will help people better understand the information you have on your page so they can spend more time there and less on Google,” I don’t really see that happening quite that way. By converting the search engine which has normally functioned as a portal to other sites into a destination in and of itself, it’s sure to diminish some downstream traffic.

And on yet another hand, rich snippets should mean that those who click through are even more “qualified”—definitely interested in the pages they’re clicking on, since they’ve had a good preview of the page content. Reducing bounces is good too, right?

Google Squared

Finally, at the event they previewed Google Squared:

Unlike a normal search engine, Google Squared doesn’t find webpages about your topic — instead, it automatically fetches and organizes facts from across the Internet. We’ll be opening it up to users later this month on Google Labs.

Well, that doesn’t sound like any other new search product in the news lately, does it? Google already does this for some things—mathematical operations, conversions, weather, etc., etc. The expansion may be completely coincidental. . . .

Like rich snippets, this could be interpreted as another way Google is turning its SERPs into a destination instead of a doorway to other sites. From a user standpoint, however, it’s pretty easy to see that this could come in handy.

What do you think? Which of these innovations are you most excited about? Which do you dread? How do you think they’ll impact us as SEMs and as users?