Monday, June 08, 2009

Google Squared: Toy or Tool

What Is It?

One of the most interesting new developments to come out of Google Searchology was the unveiling of Google Squared.


Google Squared is a new search tool that renders the results in spreadsheet form (“squared” refers to squares populated by the Squared search). Each "square" of information is independently sourced from Google results. Click on a cell, and you can go directly to the site providing the information.

With every search query, Squared will construct a box with headings germane to the search. Always beginning with “Item Name”, a search for ‘sports cars’ might have column headings for manufacturer, horsepower, price, and mileage, while a search for ‘New York Hotels’ might have headings for location, room cost, hotel size and amenities.

After the squares have been populated, you can add items to both rows and columns, either by choosing among pre-populated selections, or by entering free text. You can also remove columns and rows that are not relevant to your search. Typically, seven results make up the initial square. You can get more results by using the “Add next 10 items” link at the bottom of every square.

By using a feature "Add to this Square", additional searches can be compiled in one square for evaluation. Using your Google account, squares can be saved for future use and also shared.

Strengths

Squared is a comparative search engine. On one front, it competes with Wikipedia to the extent people use Wikipedia to find comparative information or lists of things - U.S. Presidents, Biggest Movie Opening Weekends, Worst Natural Disasters in U.S. History, etc. The flexibility to add and remove columns and rows gives the user the ability to tailor very specific queries. While still in its infancy, if Squared evolves to interpret and resolve searches with the insight and precision of a Google internet search, there are grand possibilities.

One such possibility is that Squared could be the world’s most powerful price comparison engine, unlimited by industry. The business models of companies like Pricegrabber, Expedia, or Rent.com are based on providing comparative price results and charging vendors to be featured in their listings. Currently, Squared search results are far too general to be used for this purpose, but the structure of Google Squared certainly lends itself to be direct competition with these services.

Weaknesses

As a comparative search engine, it is by definition limited by searches that have a comparative element. Searching for a specific product or person returned mostly irrelevant results.


In a separate search for ‘U.S. Modern Art Museums’, a search Squared should excel at, Squared returned results from the Netherlands, the U.K., and had headings for type and price. Columns and rows added with free text frequently rendered ‘no value found’ results. Also, Squared does not allow you to sort the results in any way.

SEO for Squared

Presumably, Google will use the same relevancy factors as they use in Google searches to determine how to populate the Squared searches. Based on a search for ‘San Francisco Hotels’, the ‘Description’ snippet was pulled from the first descriptive paragraph on each respective site. One site without any copy had its menu pulled into the snippet. There is no secret to optimize for Squared. The best strategy is to have an SEO friendly site, with relevant content and keywords and phrases used in context on your front page.

As far as applications for Search Engine Optimization, Squared can offer some insight into which results Google feels are most relevant for certain searches. Again, though, this is qualified by Squared’s limitation of only generating relevant results for the most basic of searches. Squared has potential, but right now it’s more of a fun diversion than an analytic tool.

Other Resources:

Official Google Blog - Google Squared release announcement and more details
Search Engine Journal - Want More Organized Search Results? Google Square It.
SEO Roundtable - Google Squared Is Live: What SEOs & Searchers Need To Know
eBrandz - Google Squared Becomes Live With Mixed Results

Thanks to Chris Pantages, a WebMama Team Member, for providing his prospective on the subject of Google Squared. More to come from Chris on Google Wave. Stay Tuned.

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posted by Barbara 'webmama' Coll @ 3:45 PM     Permanent Link