Useful responses take many forms
Larry Page once described the perfect search engine as understanding exactly what you mean and giving you back exactly what you want. Over time, our testing has consistently showed that people want quick answers to their queries. We have made a lot of progress on delivering you the most relevant answers; faster and in formats that are most helpful to the type of information that you are seeking.
If you are searching for the weather, you most likely want the weather forecast on the results page, not just links to weather sites. Or directions: if your query is 'Directions to Heathrow Airport', you want a map with directions, not just links to other sites. This is especially important on mobile devices where bandwidth is limited and clicking between sites can be slow.
Thousands of engineers and scientists are hard at work refining our algorithms and building useful new ways to search. You can find some of our Search innovations below. With some 3234 improvements to Search in 2018 alone, these are just a sample of some of the ways we have been making Search better and better over time.
The Knowledge Graph
e.g. How tall is the Eiffel Tower?
In 2012, we launched the Knowledge Graph, our database of more than one billion real-world people, places and things with over 50 billion facts and connections among them. The world is made of real things, not just text strings. So we built the Knowledge Graph to show how things are connected. You can get quick answers to questions like 'What is the Eiffel Tower?', 'How tall is it?', 'When was it first opened?' and then click to explore across the web.
Directions and traffic
e.g. Directions to Bushwood Road
It was always pretty obvious that when people searched on Google for an address – for example 'Bushwood Road' – they didn’t want a link to websites mentioning this street. They most likely wanted to know where it was and how to get there. So, we built a map that was clickable and draggable, making it super easy to explore.
e.g. Sundance show times
Sometimes you want direct results for certain queries so we team up with businesses that can deliver the information and services that you are looking for and license their content to provide useful responses right on the Search results page. For instance, if you’re looking for the show times of films at your local cinema, we partner with data providers that have up-to-date and reliable information about when films are showing in your area and with ticketing service providers to help you buy tickets. This is also how we can bring you the weather forecast and sports scores directly on the Search results page.
e.g. When was the 21st amendment passed in the US?
When you ask Google a question, our goal is to help you find the answer quickly and easily. Featured snippets help provide quick answers to questions by drawing attention to programmatically generated snippets from websites that our algorithms deem relevant to the specific question being asked. All Featured snippets include a snippet of information quoted from a third party website, plus a link to the page, the page title and URL.
e.g. Famous female astronomers
The best answer to your question is not always a single entity, but a list or group of connected people, places or things. So when you search for 'California lighthouses' or 'famous female astronomers', we’ll show you a list of these things across the top of the page. By combining our Knowledge Graph with the collective wisdom of the web, we can even provide lists like [best action movies of 2018] or [things to do in Rome]. If you click on an item, you can then explore the result more deeply on the web.
Explore your interests with Discover
Even when you don’t have a specific query in mind, you may still want to be inspired by the things that you care most about. That’s why we built Discover. Found in the Google app, on Android home screens, and on Google’s mobile homepage, Discover is a personalised feed that helps you explore content tailored to your interests. You can also customise the experience by following topics and indicating when you want to see more or less of a particular topic.
Evolving to meet the ever-changing web
The web is constantly evolving, with hundreds of new web pages published every second. That’s reflected in the results that you see in Search: we constantly recrawl the web to index new content. Depending on your query, some results pages change rapidly, while others are more stable. For example, when you’re searching for the latest score of a sports game we have to perform up-to-the-second updates, while results about a historical figure may remain static for years at a time.
Today, Google handles trillions of searches each year. Every day, 15% of the queries we process are ones that we’ve never seen before. Building Search algorithms that can serve the most useful results for all these queries is a complex challenge that requires ongoing quality testing and investment.