Search, plus Your World

Google Search has always been about finding the best results for you. Sometimes that means results from the public web, but sometimes it means your personal content or things shared with you by people you care about. These wonderful people and this rich personal content is currently missing from your search experience. Search is still limited to a universe of webpages created publicly, mostly by people you’ve never met. Today, we’re changing that by bringing your world, rich with people and information, into search.

Search is pretty amazing at finding that one needle in a haystack of billions of webpages, images, videos, news and much more. But clearly, that isn’t enough. You should also be able to find your own stuff on the web, the people you know and things they’ve shared with you, as well as the people you don’t know but might want to... all from one search box.

We’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships. We began this transformation with Social Search, and today we’re taking another big step in this direction by introducing three new features:
  1. Personal Results, which enable you to find information just for you, such as Google+ photos and posts—both your own and those shared specifically with you, that only you will be able to see on your results page; 
  2. Profiles in Search, both in autocomplete and results, which enable you to immediately find people you’re close to or might be interested in following; and, 
  3. People and Pages, which help you find people profiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area of interest, and enable you to follow them with just a few clicks. Because behind most every query is a community. 
Together, these features combine to create Search plus Your World. Search is simply better with your world in it, and we’re just getting started.

Personal Results
Say you’re looking for a vacation destination. You can of course search the web, but what if you want to learn from the experiences your friends have had on their vacations? Just as in real life, your friends’ experiences are often so much more meaningful to you than impersonal content on the web. With your world in search, you can find:
  • Google+ posts. You can find relevant Google+ posts from friends talking about an amazing trip they just took, whether they’ve shared privately with you or publicly. You’ll find links shared by your friends, such as activities, restaurants and other things they enjoyed on their trip. 
  • Photos. You can find beautiful vacation photos from your friends right in your search results page. You can also find your own private photos from Google+ and Picasa, based on captions, comments and album title. 
Personal Results: a family story 
As a child, my favorite fruit was Chikoo, which is exceptionally sweet and tasty. A few years back when getting a family dog, we decided to name our sweet little puppy after my favorite fruit. Over the years we have privately shared many pictures of Chikoo (our dog) with our family. To me, the query [chikoo] means two very sweet and different things, and today’s improvements give me the magical experience of finding both the Chikoos I love, right in the results page.

This is search that truly knows me, and gives me a result page that only I can see. And while I get a nice mix of personal results with results from the web, I can also click the link at the top of the results page (red arrow) for the option to search only within my world.

Profiles in Search 
Every day, there are hundreds of millions of searches for people. Sometimes, it’s hard to find the person you’re looking for. Once you do find him or her, there’s no quick way for you to actually interact. Starting today, you’ll have meaningful ways to connect with people instantly, right from the search results.

Now, typing just the first few letters of your friend’s name brings up a personalized profile prediction in autocomplete. Selecting a predicted profile takes you to a results page for your friend, which includes information from their Google+ profile and relevant web results that may be related to them. And you can have this personal experience instantaneously, thanks to Google Instant. So when I search for [ben smith], I now find my dear friend Ben every time, instead of the hundreds of other Ben Smiths out there (no offense to all of them!).

In addition, you’ll find profile autocomplete predictions for various prominent people from Google+, such as high-quality authors from our authorship pilot program.

Once you select that profile, if you’re a signed-in Google+ user, you’ll also see a button to add them to your circles right on your search results page.

People and Pages 
As I mentioned earlier, behind most queries are communities. Starting today, if you search for a topic like [music] or [baseball], you might see prominent people who frequently discuss this topic on Google+ appearing on the right-hand side of the results page. You can connect with them on Google+, strike up meaningful conversations and discover entire communities in a way that simply wasn’t possible before.

Unprecedented security, transparency and control 
When it comes to security and privacy, we set a high bar for Search plus Your World. Since some of the information you’ll now find in search results, including Google+ posts and private photos, is already secured by SSL encryption on Google+, we have decided that the results page should also have the same level of security and privacy protection. That's part of why we were the first major search engine to turn on search via SSL by default for signed-in users last year. This means when you’re signed in to Google, your search results—including your private content—are protected by the same high standards of encryption as your messages in Gmail.

We also want to be transparent about how our features work and give you control over how to use them. With today’s changes, we provide interface elements and control settings like those you’ll find in Google+. For example, personal results are clearly marked as Public, Limited or Only you. Additionally, people in your results are clearly marked with the Google+ circle they are in, or as suggested connections.

We’re also introducing a prominent new toggle on the upper right of the results page where you can see what your search results look like without personal content. With a single click, you can see an unpersonalized view of search results.

That means no results from your friends, no private information and no personalization of results based on your Web History. This toggle button works for an individual search session, but you can also make this the default in your Search Settings. We provide separate control in Search Settings over other contextual signals we use, including location and language.

That's unprecedented transparency and control over personal search results.

A beautiful journey begins 
Search plus Your World will become available over the next few days to people who are signed in and searching on in English.

While there may be 7 billion people and 197 million square miles on Earth, a septillion stars and a trillion webpages, we spend our short, precious lives living in a particular town, with particular friends and family, orbiting a single star and relying on a tiny slice of the world’s information. Our dream is to have technology enable everyone to experience the richness of all their information and people around them.

We named our company after the mathematical number googol as an aspiration toward indexing the countless answers on webpages, but that’s only part of the picture. The other part is people, and that’s what Search plus Your World is all about.

(Cross-posted on the Inside Search Blog)

Increasing transparency and choice with ads on search and Gmail

Our advertising system is designed to show the right ad to the right person at the right time. Because ads should be just as useful as any other information on the web, we try to make them as relevant as possible for you. Over the coming weeks, we’re making improvements to provide greater transparency and choice regarding the ads you see on Google search and Gmail. Soon, you’ll be able to learn more about these ads by clicking the "Why these ads" link next to ads on Google search results and Gmail.

“Why these ads” gives you transparency
The perfect search ad answers your query and gets you what you’re looking for quickly. When you click the “Why these ads” link, you’ll find information about why you’re seeing a particular ad and how it’s personalized for you. If you’re searching for a local restaurant while you’re on vacation in Hawaii, you would see ads for restaurants that are nearby, rather than restaurants in your hometown. Or if you’re researching flat-panel televisions, and performing a series of similar searches in quick succession, you could see ads based on the query that you just entered, or based on a few recent and related queries within a single browser session. By considering the language you’re using, your geographic location and various other indications, we’re able to show you the best ads possible. We’ve been showing ads in this way for years as a way to help you quickly find what you're looking for.

Ads Preferences Manager gives you choice

You can also go to the Ads Preferences Manager to make changes that improve the ads that you're seeing, including blocking specific advertisers you’re not interested in or turning off ads personalization entirely (of course, you can change your mind at any time). Here’s a video from our lead software engineer, Diane Tang, with more background:

We regularly experiment with new ways to improve our ads to make them more relevant and to help marketers grow their businesses. When we run these experiments, we’ll continue to explain why the ads are showing when you click the “Why these ads” link.

As we’ve done with display ads, we’re committed to giving you notice and control over the ads that you see. We’re always working to deliver the perfect ad, and we know that it’s important to have a choice about the kinds of ads that are shown to you. If you don’t wish to see personalized ads, the choice is yours.

To find out more, visit the Inside AdWords blog and the Help Center.

Google News highlights unique content with Editors’ Picks

(Cross-posted on the Google News Blog)

News organizations tell stories online in ways that bring together the best of traditional and digital journalism, whether that involves long-form investigative features, compelling photo slideshows or interactive maps and charts that add new levels of engagement to the day's news. To help connect you to the best works of news publishers, Google News is introducing a new section in the right-hand column of the U.S. edition. The section is called "Editors' Picks,” and it displays original content that publishers have selected as highlights from their publications. This is the latest addition to recent improvements we’ve made to the variety and presence of stories and multimedia on Google News.

An array of news organizations, including local, national and niche publishers, are now using Editors’ Picks to display their best, most engaging content. Because Google News relies on algorithms, Editors' Picks will always be just that—picks provided by publishers themselves, and not by Google. You can browse a set of publisher feeds that span national, specific and local interests—like The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, ProPublica, the Guardian and The Root, among many others—via the side-to-side arrows next to each publisher's logo. The feeds you see are chosen based on a variety of factors, including your news preferences. If you’re interested in using source preferences on Google News, Editors' Picks helps you do that with the slider that appears just below the articles.

You may have first noticed Editors’ Picks as an experiment last year. Based on the data from that experiment, we have been working with nearly two dozen publishers in recent months and have seen a positive response from readers and publishers alike: readers get the news they're interested in from the sources they trust, and publishers receive higher traffic to their websites. We encourage any news organizations that are interested to visit our Help Center to get started.

Shareable Google News badges for your favorite topics

(Cross-posted on the Google News Blog)

On Google News, the average reader of political news has read 20 articles about politics in the last six months. Where do you stand?

Starting today, in the U.S. edition of Google News, you can see how voracious a news reader you are by earning Google News badges as you read articles about your favorite topics. The more you read, the higher level badge you’ll receive, starting with Bronze, then moving up the ladder to Silver, Gold, Platinum and finally, Ultimate.

We have more than 500 badges available, so no matter what kind of news you’re into, there’s a badge out there for you. Here’s a taste:

Your badges are private by default, but if you want, you can share your badges with your friends. Tell them about your news interests, display your expertise, start a conversation or just plain brag about how well-read you are. You can also add custom sections by hovering on a badge and clicking “add section” to read more about your favorite topics. To get started with badges, visit Google News from a signed-in account with web history enabled and then visit this page on our Help Center for instructions.

This is just the first step—the bronze release, if you will—of Google News badges. Once we see how badges are used and shared, we look forward to taking this feature to the next level.

In the spirit of continually trying to improve Google News, we have heard loud and clear from the many of you who asked us to separate our Sci/Tech section into two distinct sections. We are happy to report that we have now done this for all English editions, with more languages coming soon. We also combined some personalization settings from the “News for you” and News Settings menu into one handy sidebar at the top right corner of the home page, so you can easily tell us what you want to read on your Google News.

We hope you’ll badge up on Google News to keep track of what you’re reading, read more of what you love and share your passions with your friends.

Hide sites to find more of what you want

Over the years we’ve experimented with a number of ways to help you personalize the results you find on Google, from SearchWiki to stars in search to location settings. Now there’s yet another way to find more of what you want on Google by blocking the sites you don’t want to see.

You’ve probably had the experience where you’ve clicked a result and it wasn’t quite what you were looking for. Many times you’ll head right back to Google. Perhaps the result just wasn’t quite right, but sometimes you may dislike the site in general, whether it’s offensive, pornographic or of generally low quality. For times like these, you’ll start seeing a new option to block particular domains from your future search results. Now when you click a result and then return to Google, you’ll find a new link next to “Cached” that reads “Block all results.”

As always, Matt’s been gracious enough to let us use him as an example. His site is awesome, though, and we doubt many people will want to block it!

Once you click the link to “Block all results” you’ll get a confirmation message, as well as the option to undo your choice. You’ll see the link whether or not you’re signed in, but the domains you block are connected with your Google Account, so you’ll need to sign in before you can confirm a block.

Once you’ve blocked a domain, you won’t see it in your future search results. (Side note: Sometimes you may have to search on a new term, rather than simply refreshing your browser, before you'll notice the domain has been successfully removed.) The next time you’re searching and a blocked page would have appeared, you’ll see a message telling you results have been blocked, making it easy to manage your personal list of blocked sites. This message will appear at the top or bottom of the results page depending on the relevance of the blocked pages.

You can see a list of your blocked sites in a new settings page, which you can access by visiting your Search Settings or clicking on the “Manage blocked sites” link that appears when you block a domain. On the settings page you can find details about the sites you’ve blocked, block new sites, or unblock sites if you’ve changed your mind.

We’re adding this feature because we believe giving you control over the results you find will provide an even more personalized and enjoyable experience on Google. In addition, while we’re not currently using the domains people block as a signal in ranking, we’ll look at the data and see whether it would be useful as we continue to evaluate and improve our search results in the future. The new feature is rolling out today and tomorrow on in English for people using Chrome 9+, IE8+ and Firefox 3.5+, and we’ll be expanding to new regions, languages and browsers soon. We hope you find it useful, and we’ll be listening closely to your suggestions.

Improvements to Product Search for this holiday season

Every year retailers start the holiday shopping season earlier and earlier—and still I procrastinate until late December before getting started. This year I've already made my list and I’m ready to go.

I usually get my holiday shopping done in two ways: online (e-commerce) and offline (“brick and mortar” stores). I’ve found that shopping online is best when you know what you're looking for—you can search for specific items, research multiple brands or compare reviews. On the other hand, shopping offline makes it easier to explore products in person and sometimes discover things that you didn’t know existed. Plus, it’s usually the only way to take your purchase home the same day.

The line between online and offline shopping is starting to blur: According to a study by Forrester while 93 percent of retail purchases today happen in a store, more than 46 percent of those in-store purchases are influenced by online research. Not to mention that shoppers can access the web from anywhere at anytime—including from their mobile phones when browsing the aisles of a local store.

All of this got our team thinking about how we could help further bridge the gap between online and offline shopping. This week, we’re introducing several new features to Product Search that start doing just that.

Local availability on Google Product Search: We’ve partnered with more than 70 retail brands—including national retailers like Best Buy and Williams-Sonoma, as well as software manufacturers like JDA, Epicor and Oracle—to connect shoppers searching online with local stores that have the items they’re are looking for in-stock. For example, if you’re looking online to get your son that new Wii video game he’s been wanting, you can click on the “nearby stores” link to see where it’s in stock nearby. (If you’re a retailer who’s interested in taking part, you can learn more on the Google Retail Blog.)

Local Availability in Google Product Search
Google Shopper 1.3: Our mobile shopping app helps shoppers on the go research items and find the best place to buy them either online or in a nearby store—and it already has more than 2.5 million downloads. This version includes new search filters like “price” and “brand” to help refine your search. And, you’ll still get features like Local Availability, voice search and rapid continuous barcode scanning (so you can point your phone at a product and get information from the web).

“Popular products” and “aisles”: We’ve borrowed an idea from successful brick and mortar stores and in the coming weeks, we'll roll-out two features called “popular products” and “aisles” to help people learn about and discover new products. When you search for a category of products such as “camera lenses,” our new popular products feature helps you get started by showing you the lenses other people are viewing online. “Aisles” helps you browse and discover products by organizing results into sub-categories that others have found helpful. For example, if you’re looking for a new TV, you can choose between display types like LCD and plasma. If you’re interested in camera lenses for that brand new SLR, you can shop by the aperture of the lens.

Aisles and Popular Products
We hope these features make it easier for you to get your shopping done this holiday season—whether it’s online, offline or in the new space in between.

Happy shopping!

Extra! Extra! Google News redesigned to be more customizable and shareable

There’s an old saying that all news is local. But all news is personal too—we connect with it in different ways depending on our interests, where we live, what we do and a lot of other factors. Today we’re revamping the Google News homepage with several changes designed to make the news that you see more relevant to you. We’re also trying to better highlight interesting stories you didn’t know existed and to make it easier for you to share stories through social networks.



The new heart of the homepage is something we call “News for you”: a stream of headlines automatically tailored to your interests. You can help us get it right by using the “Edit personalization” box to specify how much you’re interested in Business, Health, Entertainment, Sports or any subject you want to add (whether it’s the Supreme Court, the World Cup or synthetic biology). You can choose to view the stories by Section view or List view, and reveal more headlines by hovering over the headline with your mouse. We’ll remember your preferences each time you log in. If you don’t want customized Google News, hit “Reset personalization" to clear all personalization preferences. If you haven't previously customized and would prefer not to, simply close the “Edit personalization” box. You can always go back and change it later.

To give you more control over the news that you see, we’re now allowing you to choose which news sources you’d like to see more or less often. You can do so in News Settings. These sources will rank higher or lower for you (but not for anyone else) in Google News search results and story clusters. We’ve also added keyboard shortcuts for easier navigation, like in Gmail or Google Reader. When you’re in Google News, hit the question mark key to pop up a full list of shortcuts.

There are the subjects that interest you and then there’s the major news of the day. To make it easy for you to find the big stories like Hurricane Alex, we’re adding links to topics that many outlets are covering. You’ll find these topics in the Top Stories section on the left side of the homepage as well as in linked keywords above headlines. Clicking on a topic link takes you to a list of related coverage that you can add to your news stream. You can change your preferences any time in “Edit personalization.”

We’re also more prominently displaying the Spotlight section, which features stories of more lasting interest than breaking news and has been one of our most popular sections since we introduced it last fall. And then there’s local news; we’re now highlighting weather and headlines about your city or neighborhood in their own section, which you can edit with whichever location you want to follow.

Finally, you can now easily share story clusters with other people via Buzz, Reader, Facebook or Twitter. Just select the drop-down menu marked by an arrow on the top-right of each story cluster. In the drop-down, you can also choose to see more or less of the first news source.

The redesigned Google News homepage is rolling out today in the English-language edition in the U.S., and we plan to expand it to all editions in the coming months. We’re making the ability to choose which sources you’ll see more or less often available in all English-language editions worldwide and plan to expand it soon. For more information about these changes, check out the video below or visit our Help Center.

Blogger Template Designer now available to everyone

In March, we launched the Blogger Template Designer on Blogger in Draft, our experimental playground where you can try out the latest features Blogger has to offer. Today we’re excited to announce that the Blogger Template Designer has graduated from Blogger in Draft and is now available to everyone by default.

Blogger Template Designer is a way for you to easily customize the look of your blog without knowing any HTML or CSS. You can select from a variety of templates, images, colors and column layouts to make your blog an expression of you. See our post on Blogger Buzz for the highlights on this new tool.

You can try the Template Designer on your blog now by going to the “Design” menu, then selecting “Template Designer.” Even if you don’t have a blog — or weren’t planning to redecorate the one you have — you can try out the Blogger Template Designer and play around with potential designs. If you like one, you can apply it to a new blog or to an existing blog.

If you want to learn more on how the Blogger Template Designer can help you create your own unique blog designs, watch our video and check out the Blogger Buzz blog.

The art of a homepage

Last week, we announced a new feature that lets you add a favorite photo or image to the background of your homepage.

To provide you with an extra bit of inspiration, we‘ve collaborated with several well-known artists, sculptors and photographers to create a gallery of background images you can use to personalize your Google homepage. Included in the collection are photographs of the works of Dale Chihuly, Jeff Koons, Tom Otterness, Polly Apfelbaum, Kengo Kuma (隈研吾), Kwon, Ki-soo (권기수) and Tord Boontje, as well as some incredible photos from Yann Arthus-Bertrand and National Geographic. We’ll be featuring these images as backgrounds on the Google homepage over the next 24 hours.

Of course, since we want your Google homepage to be personal to you, you can still choose an image or photo from your computer or your own Picasa Web Album. Whether you select an image from our new artist collection or prefer to have a more personal touch on your homepage, you’ll still enjoy the speed and ease of use that you’ve come to expect from Google.

Niijima Floats, Dale Chihuly

Yann Arthus-Bertrand, GoodPlanet Foundation

We’re also excited to announce that this feature is now available internationally. We hope you enjoy the new artist collection and making Google feel more like your own!

Update June 10, 11:31AM: Last week, we launched the ability to set an image of users’ choosing as the background for the Google homepage. Today, we ran a special “doodle” that showcased this functionality by featuring a series of images as the background for our homepage. We had planned to run an explanation of the showcase alongside it—in the form of a link on our homepage. Due to a bug, the explanatory link did not appear for most users. As a result, many people thought we had permanently changed our homepage, so we decided to stop today’s series early. We appreciate your feedback and patience as we experiment and iterate.

This week in search 6/6/10

This is one of a regular series of posts on search experience updates. Look for the label This week in search and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

We work hard to consistently develop new tools, features and algorithmic changes to help us better understand what you mean when you enter a query into the Google search box—and we ultimately use that understanding to get you the information you're looking for as fast as possible. Understanding is core to our mission—particularly as we strive to be as useful in your everyday tasks. For example, if you search for a local sports team, and there's been a recent game, we'll show you scores. If you're visiting Boston and looking for a restaurant, you'll find tailored search suggestions based on the best Beantown spots. It's these features that enhance the experience of searching and help you find exactly what you're looking for. This week, we've made a few changes that we hope will make Google search even better for you.

Spelling Corrections in Suggest
Since we first launched Google Suggest, we've offered spell-corrected search completions to provide you with similar search queries from other users. With this feature, not only does Suggest help you rest your fingers because you don't have to type out a full query—you can also catch a mistake quickly and easily.

An example of old spelling correction in Google Suggest

This week we launched an update that makes Google Suggest even more intuitive and simple. If you're typing a query for which there are no search completions to offer, and yet some of your search terms do seem to be misspelled, Google Suggest will now offer a "Did you mean" suggestion for your query—giving you an option to correct your spelling right away and get on with your search. These spelling suggestions already exist on the results page, but by moving them to an earlier point in the search process, we hope we've made it faster and easier to get to the results you're looking for. Right now, this feature is offered only for in English, but we're working to roll this out internationally in the near future.

Google Suggest with the new spelling corrections feature

Mobile app results in mobile search
With tens of thousands of apps available for both Android and iPhone phone, there are plenty of options to choose from when you're looking for new apps. And it makes sense that if you hear about a great new app while you're out and about, you'll want to download it then and there. In an effort to make apps even easier to find, this week we launched a new feature for mobile search that helps users on Android-powered devices and iPhones find and download mobile apps. So the next time you're looking for the latest action game, multimedia app or travel tool on your phone, we'll show you a special result at the top of your mobile search results showing basic information about the app you're looking for, including title, price and publisher. You'll also find a link that will take you directly to the app's installation page in the Android Market or Apple's App Store.

Example mobile searches on your iPhone or Android device: [download pandora] or [bank of america app]

A new look for the Google homepage
Search is more fun when it's personalized. That's why I was delighted to announce our new feature that allows you to personalize your Google homepage with a favorite photo. Whether you choose a picture from your computer, your own Picasa Web Album or a public gallery of photos hosted by Picasa, Google is now yours to personalize. To get started, head to and look for the "Change background image" link in the lower left-hand side of the page. Keep an eye out for more fun announcements with this feature!

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more next week.