Google recently added "Experiemental Search" to their list of Google labs options. I spent some time playing around with it and found it quite interesting, to say the least.

There are currently four different experimental search options:

  • Timeline and map views
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Left-hand search navigation
  • Right-hand contextual search navigation

Google provides a quick explanation of how each works with some sample searches provided to get you started.

Timeline and maps view

Timeline view is a great way to sort results, especially for research queries. The results are grouped by years (or decades) and ordered from oldest down to the most recent. At the top of the screen is a linkable timeline that allows you to filter the results by selected time periods.

This is best used when performing more well known historical or "event" searches such as the Iraq War. A timeline search for my namee proved to be quite comical, much of it not even about me.

Jump on over to Map view and results are provided from a Google Maps interface. Basically it is search results that are based on location. A search for Olympics provides a world map with pins on each of the locations that the Olympics have been held (the timeline view for this search starts 1000 B.C.!). A search for the Grand Canyon came up with a number of map results, many in places nowhere near the Grand Canyon. A search for Ihop was weak at best. I'm pretty sure they have more locations than that. But maybe I'm just using this wrong! A search for revolutionary war was more enlightening but not by much.

Keyboard shortcuts

The keyboard shortcut interface is just as it sounds, it provides a quick and easy way to navigate the search results using only our keyboard.

Key Action
J Selects the next result.
K Selects the previous result.
O Opens the selected result.
<Enter> Opens the selected result.
/ Puts the cursor in the search box.
<Esc> Removes the cursor from the search box.

I like my keyboard shortcuts but I'm still more of a mouse kind of guy. Handy, though, for those that aren't. One problem I had with this feature was it does not work with my FireFox search bar that automatically appears when I start typing into a (non-form) web page.

Right-hand and Left-hand search navigation

This feature places additional search options on the left or right side of your screen. If you do a search for 'airplanes' you get additional options for images and video and a "more' link which drops down additional options. I think this might have been a better option than the whole "Universal Search" idea, but that's just me. Below the additional search options you get related search links, which can help you narrow down your search a bit.

The right-hand navigation is slightly different. The box is a bit wider to fit nicely on top of the sponsored links section. Instead of getting a single-column of these links you get two columns and then the related searches below that. The other big difference is that on the right side you don't get the additional "more" plus box and you get fewer related searches. Google obviously doesn't want to move the sponsored ads too far down the screen.

Of the two, I prefer the left hand nav, which provides more options and better integration.

An experimental search I would like to see is columned search results presorted into different categories: Web, images, blogs, news, etc. Standard screen sizes have been increasing over the years so I think that this is something that could be done without much, if any, side-to-side scrolling.

May 30, 2007

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.

Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > Google Experimental Search