Google Pulls Answers, Events Out of Search Morass

Last Friday, Google announced a couple new features that should make it easy to extract information from the general hodgepodge of search results. One of them is for factual data and one of them is for events.

The first feature is called “Answer Highlighting” and is invoked when you search for factual information. Google has an example in its blog post: ask Google How tall is the Empire State building? and you’ll get the answer highlighted in your search result snippets. Sadly I didn’t have as much luck with this search. Washington Monument height got me relevant results, but the fact of its height was not highlighted. I didn’t have much luck with Statue of Liberty height either.

I tried a search for Abraham Lincoln died and got this at the top of my search results:

I don’t know if this is supposed to be the highlighted search results or not. I do know I didn’t have any luck finding highlighted answers in my search result snippets, using variations of Google’s examples. (And I also wasn’t sure why there one of the examples was in the form of a question and the others had more simple syntax.) Probably for simple fact questions I will continue to use Wolfram|Alpha. Not only can I get the heights of buildings there easily, but I can enter a query like “Empire State Building height minus Washington Monument height” and get an answer!

The second feature is for pulling events out of search results. This is one of Google’s “Rich Snippets.” When you search for a site that supports this snippet, you’ll get an event listing right in your search result, like the example for Irving Plaza:

Note that as a “rich snippet,” this feature requires Web wranglers to insert special markup in their Web pages. Since Google just announced this feature you will not find event listings in your search results for a while. If you yourself are a Web wrangler and have events on your site, you can get the documentation on the new search snippet here.

I didn’t have much luck with the answer highlighting, but I like this new events rich snippet. It’ll be even better if that event data also ends up on the Google Maps listings!

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