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Google Keeps Tweaking Search Results, Leaving Little Room for Rivals

Posted by: Rob Hof on March 24, 2009

Google just announced two new refinements to its search engine today, continuing to leave little room for competitors to get a foothold. The tweaks, announced in a Google blog post this morning, generally aim to produce better results for search queries with lots of keywords in them:

* There’s now a “searches related to:” list at the bottom of search results pages that provide other keyword strings related in concept to your search, especially for longer strings of words.

* Longer keyword searches of three words or more will bring up a bit of a snippet of text from relevant pages, giving people a better idea of whether that page is worth clicking on.

The first and most important change is based on the Orion search technology that Google acquired in late 2006. This so-called semantic search, which helps people find related concepts, based on the meaning of the words and not just matching the words themselves, is something many people are working on, with limited success so far. One recent entrant is WolframAlpha from noted Mathematica inventor Stephen Wolfram. Microsoft also bought the semantic search startup Powerset last year. For its part, Yahoo has been offering Search BOSS to offer other Web developers ways to use its technology to create custom search engines.

But Google clearly isn’t sitting still, so it will be as hard as ever for rivals such as Microsoft and Yahoo to catch up.

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Reader Comments


March 24, 2009 05:32 PM

"searched related to" is awesome. I wish it was at the top of the page. I seem to remember before if you looked up a health issue, it would show related terms at the top, but now it is at the bottom.

Manish Nadir

March 24, 2009 06:22 PM

Google for now is way ahead of its competition. They are not waiting for the competition to reveal itself around the corner.. on the contrary they are are way ahead of the curve themselves. I just searched for "services oriented industries" and the searches related to gave me.. 'service oriented architecture', 'service oriented integration' and 'service oriented infrastructure'. Fabulous.

Nari Contractor

March 24, 2009 07:28 PM

Related searches features have been available in Cuil search engine for quite sometime now. Great to see Google catching up.


March 24, 2009 08:12 PM

Google is not ahead of the competition. Google is inferior to other search engines. Take my website for example. All other search engines show my website as a result for the search: Z-tron except for Google. Even when I search for "z-tron" with the quotes, Google's search results are still inferior to other search engines. Be advised that Google probably only works to improve search results for mega corporations that Google approves of-


March 24, 2009 08:30 PM

Screw Microshaft and Yahoo, especial microshaft. Let them sit in the dust.


March 24, 2009 08:36 PM

Google used to be a good search engine, but lately they suffer from the same problems that every other search engine has: irrelevant search results. Also of concern is the big brother implications of Google.


March 24, 2009 09:25 PM

I don't know Strategery seems easier to let them take over and control the world.


March 24, 2009 10:25 PM

i love google


March 24, 2009 11:59 PM

I just searched z-tron with Google and Yahoo and Cuil.
Google had the most relevant results
Yahoo placed second.
Cuil was third.


March 25, 2009 12:03 AM

Google gets the job done, and Cuil is not bad either. But they're just search engines....relax, they're not big brother.

if z-tron technologies is your site then it comes up fine. And if that is your site, dude you've got the worst site I've seen. 4 poorly done pages...

granny nerd

March 25, 2009 12:05 AM

I searched for z-tron, Darrell, and your firm was no. 2 in the list. Maybe you just don't know how to search?


March 25, 2009 12:19 AM

"Related searches features have been available in Cuil search engine for quite sometime now. Great to see Google catching up."

Really? My problem with Cuil is that it seems to provide me with search results that are completely UNrelated to what I am actually searching for.

Ryan White

March 25, 2009 12:24 AM

Google falls far below most expectations in search. It has distracted itself from its core business in a way that delivers uniformly unsatisfactory results in search. Google search is completely quantitative and not qualitative. There is no quality to Google's search results. When Google burst on the scene, the amount of information it had to index on the Web was a mere fraction of what it is today. Google has not kept pace with the explosion of information available on the Web. The result: Google is more vulnerable than ever and rivals have the best opportunity in at least a decade to best Google at its own game. These very minor improvements are too little, too late.


March 25, 2009 12:52 AM

@ Timbobaggins

Ever checked Street View on Google Earth? They paid LOTS of people to go around taking pictures of everyone's homes in Panorama. When they are done (Pretty quick) they will them pay them to take pictures in the windows of the homes most likely and put that up too.

And think about all the sensitive documents that their search spiders must have indexed over the years without the knowledge or consent of the owners of the information. where is that? Do you think they threw it away? If you don't (which you shouldn't) then what ARE they planning on doing with it?

And what about all the email scanning for advertizing (so they say)?

If you can name me anything MORE Big Brotherish I'd like you to name it frankly.

Don't be seduced by Marketing.

Look at it for what it is.

For example......

HOW EASILLY Could Google put up 50 Satalites and make Google Earth REAL TIME of you house and everyone elses. Answer, all they have to do is write a check and wait about six month. Then it would happen. Do you want the entire world watching you in your backyard? Or tracked in your car via GPS on google earth in real time?

Cause they COULD. And Probably WOULD if they think they could get away with it.


March 25, 2009 12:56 AM

Actually Google wants to be big brother, i mean recently they had a plan to bring you search related adds, so they would show you adds based on your search results, which of course is them tracking what you are doing to market to you, but yahoo is no better releasing information about dissidents to china and getting them thrown in jail.


March 25, 2009 02:29 AM


Directed adds based on search and email IS what Google does. Adsense. Adwords. etc.

They always have. That was their business model all along since the get go.

Now they are taking Panoramas of you and your neighbors.

And what exactly did the Google Desktop Indexing do? Indexed documents in corporations and homes and such. What did it do with em? What is sitting in all those indexes in all those companies now? and How easy would it be for them to grab those indexes? If they havn't already.....

Their ENTIRE PURPOSE is grabbing all the data they can. And selling it to the highest bidder.

Which now is they themselves of course....

Norbert Mayer-Wittmann

March 25, 2009 08:52 AM

This is fascinating.

I just now did a search for: search engine optimization.

I received the following suggestions:

search engine optimization pricing;
search engine optimization forum;
search engine optimization for dummies;
search engine optimization cost;
search engine optimization conference;
search engine optimization india;
search engine submission;
meta tags.

Then I added the word "Google" -- and this resulted in 0 suggestions (in other words, the other suggestions were deleted).

Does this algorithm work better with MORE words or does it work better with LESS words? Is there something special about the word "Google" that causes the algorithm to return 0 results?

Gabriel Weinberg

March 25, 2009 05:33 PM

We've been doing similar things at Duck Duck Go ( to these new Google changes. In particular, we put zero-click info, e.g. topic summaries, on top of links. We also also put an explore box with related topics above links. For example check out

These snippets and related topics are not algorithmically driven, but instead are based on human edited sources, e.g. Wikipedia and Crunchbase (and many others). Consequently, they are more relevant and make more sense than Google's info. We also have more semantic properties, such as ambiguous keyword detection, e.g., which Google does not.

See for some more examples. Of course, we'd love your feedback on what we're doing.

Gabriel Weinberg, Founder & CEO


March 25, 2009 07:22 PM


Yes, I've seen the's a nice toy. But I'd bet it's a one time deal, the expense of constantly updating it versus any possible return will probably not be worth it. And it's not anything that your neighbors can't do any day.

Sensitive documents they tracked? Like what..your surfing habits, or gmail? If you're using a company's free product why would have any expectation of privacy? I don't assume it's private so I don't use it for sensitive information. Even if there is no nefarious intent by the company, a bored nite shift sys admin could read your email. But don't flatter yourself, the odds he'll read yours or mine is virtually nil. And yes, I do believe they intend to use the data to mine and try packaging it to sell to advertisers...that's what companies do. It doesn't bother me. You see directed ads as a threat, I see them as an attempt at convenience.

Big Brother is something governments become, not search engine companies. All the things you list are already possible by the NSA, and thanks to our former President the laws and restraints on them are too light.

Dude, I respect a concern for civil liberties and privacy, but don't think a search engine company is where the threat is.

David Reiss

March 27, 2009 11:31 AM

Readers interested in Wolfram Alpha will might find my blog on the subject interesting. It's at


--David (the blog's author...)

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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