Google Launches Real Time Search Results

So finally, we’ve got Google Real Time search, as the company has announced. Below, I’m doing a quick hit on what’s it is, how to use it and how it compares to that last Google real time search thing you may recall hearing about.

How do you get it? It’s rolling out over the next few days, and when you have it, you’ll see it just happening withing your search results. But if you can’t see it, try clicking on this link which may force it to appear for you.

For example, below is a search for health care on Google where about midway down on the page, there’s a “Latest results” section that appears with real time results:

health care - Google Search

The results automatically flow with new information — and if that’s annoying, you can use the “Pause” link at the top of the section to stop them. What you can’t do is remove the section entirely, if you don’t like it.

By the way, you won’t always see the results. “If high quality information is coming in, then we will show it,” said Amit Singhal, a Google fellow who heads Google’s ranking systems and oversaw the development of the new real time search system, when I talked with him after the Google press conference.

In other words, if Google thinks something has some real-time component to it, then it will show the section. In particular, if Google sees a spike in information on a certain topic, along with queries on a particular topic, then it assumes there’s a real time situation happening — very simplified!

Click on the Latest results link, and you can drill down into the results:

health care - Google Search-1

What do you get? Singhal said:

  • Tweets from Twitter
  • Content from Google News
  • Content from Google Blog Search
  • Newly created web pages
  • Freshly updated web pages
  • FriendFeed update
  • Jaiku updates
  • updates
  • TwitArmy updates

Down the line, content from Facebook and MySpace is promised — updates that come out of them and which users agree to share with the public. But right now, they aren’t there.

Google previously announced a deal with Twitter to take in its data. Bing has one too. Bing also has a Facebook deal for data, though it has yet to implement that data into search. Part of today’s news was that Google now has a Facebook deal plus one with MySpace, which Bing doesn’t have.

Google wouldn’t release any financial details about any of these deals. It wouldn’t even confirm if there ARE financial deals. For all we know, Google’s getting the information from Twitter, Facebook and MySpace for free. I believe Twitter’s suggested it is being paid from Google and Bing for its data (I’m checking on this). I believe Facebook has said there’s no financial arrangement between it and Bing for its data (again, checking on this).

MySpace is a particularly interesting situation. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation owns MySpace. Murdoch wants Google to pay for News Corp’s content. So when it comes to MySpace, is Murdoch getting paid for data there but not for Google News? Or is he happy to give that data away for free but not when it comes to news?

I haven’t had time to drill into the relevancy of what’s presented and compare it against places like Twitter Search or other real time meta services like Collecta.

How the information ranked? Singhal said only information deemed highly relevant is included. So spammy tweets, low quality pages and other content might not make it into the real time search “layer” that is used. After that, results are ranked by time.

How about ranking content in other ways. For example, if searching on a particular topic, does it make sense to show the most “authoritative” tweet first, rather than giving primacy to the latest ones?

“I would not be surprised if you start seeing far more of an emphasis on original tweets in our search,” Singhal said.

If you look at the second screenshot above, you’ll see that the “Latest” option in Google’s Search Options pane is flagged. Now look further up, and you’ll see that this is for “All Results” that Google has (or what’s called “Everything” results in the new Googel web search user interface being tested).

health care - Google Search-2

Under all results, there’s a new “Updates” option that can be toggled. So want to see the “latest” or real-time results that are only status updates (such as tweets?). Toggle the Updates option, and you’ll filter out other things like real-time news reports or new web pages that are added.

I like this feature, because to me, “real time search” means bringing back microblogged content, not news results, not freshly updated web pages and so on. For the detailed explanation about that, see my What Is Real Time Search? Definitions & Players post.

That post also explains a class of “real time” search that Google is not doing, such as allowing you to explore the most popular links that are being tweeted. The folks at some places like OneRiot can thus breathe a sigh of relief. Even Bing’s Twitter search retains some bragging rights.

Enter a URL into Google’s real time search service, and you don’t see much about what’s related to it in terms of real time commentary. For example, here’s what’s shown when I searched for information related to my live blogging of today’s Google news:

Google Real Time Search

Do the same for Bing’s Twitter search, and you get much more content:

Bing Twitter Search

This may change, by the way. Google said that it be growing its real time search service over time, so watch and see. Also see Up Close With Bing’s Twitter Search Engine for more about Bing’s service.

Google also noted that it is expanding shortened URLs. You’ll still see the shortened version listed (say if it is from or another URL shortener), but then you’ll also see the final destination URL. Content from that destination page is spidered.

Related to Google real time search is a new real times trends feature on Google Trends, which itself officially comes out of Google Labs today. Let’s do a screenshot:

On the right is what Google Trends had before, topics that are deemed popular based on searches entered into Google. By popular, these are things that are seen as out of the ordinary. Otherwise, you’d see queries like “sex” and “hotmail” always showing up.

On the left is what’s new, top trends based on Google’s analysis of real time content. This is important. The trends you see at Twitter, on its home page if you’re logged out, are based to my knowledge on what people are searching for on Twitter:


In contrast, Google’s real time trends — “Hot Topics” — are based on what it sees from analyzing the text of real time content.

I can’t say if one method is better than another. Both probably have advantages.

Below the Hot Topics list is a search box that effectively provides a front-end to Google real time search. Enter a search query, such as climategate, and you’ll get back matching real time results.

Currently, Google says there’s no plans for a dedicated standalone real time search page as you get for say Google News or Google Images. However, I can point you to a pseudo-page like this. Go here, and you’ll get a nice clean Google home page that is configured to search for real time information.

And how about real time search and its importance to Google overall? Was this really a major gap that could have killed the company?

Hardly, in my view. There’s no doubt that it’s good to have. It’s incredibly difficult to be a leading information source and yet when there’s an earthquake, people are instead turning to Twitter for confirmation faster than traditional news sources on Google can provide.

Google vice president of search products and user experience Marissa Mayer gave me a personal example of how having real time data can help Google. An avid skier, she found herself going to Twitter on a regular basis to get ski reports from people actually on the slopes, which she found more accurate than what some resorts and other reporting services were offering.

Google could have survived without a real time search component — in particular without the dedicated flow of microblogged updates — but it becomes a more complete and useful service with them. I’m glad to see the integration and am looking forward to see how it matures.

Still, in the long term for those trying to measure the search face-off between Google and Bing, it’s not real time search that’s the major battlefield. Instead, it’s personalized search that I think is far more important. And on Friday, Google unveiled with far less fanfare a major change in how it provides personalized results. For more on that, see:

Finally, thinking you heard something previously about Google doing Twitter search? You did, but that wasn’t Twitter search. It wasn’t real time search, either. It was social search, where Google looks at those you follow through Twitter or other social networking services and then shows you content just from those people, in response to a search.

Our Google Social Search Launches, Gives Results From Your Trusted “Social Circle” article covers that system and how it works in more detail. It’s completely separate from real time search. In fact, potentially you could do a search and get a section with real time results on the same page as results from your social network.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google: Real Time Search | Search Engines: Real Time Search | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • sbyholm

    Funny to see Google following the innovators instead of being the innovator. I wonder if most people really want real time results in the normal results? Will be interesting to see how they start integrating RT in the results and if you can turn it of.

    Simon Byholm
    CEO and founder,
    Secret Search Engine Labs

  • Gregory Martin

    Thanks for your review, commentary and recognition of the importance of personalized search. Still this is a bold, timely move that is going to lead to a massive shake up in SEO and the search industry as a whole. Besides TipTop Search which offers a unique experience that Google would not be able to replicate easily (unless they acquire them), I do not quite see how any other real-time search engine is going to survive after this.

  • stevenic

    So from the looks of it their Twitter index only goes back an hour. It’ll be interesting to see if their “pulse” perf holds up when they have an index with 168x as much content (7 days)

  • mihirlakhani

    i agree wid Gregory, this is going to change whole dynamics for Optimizers. Either you are up 24/7 or you our.

  • billrice

    I think this is going to create an enormously complex and potentially confusing search result. Maybe the single search box concept is past it’s usefulness.

    Now you are going to have traditional Web results, news, YouTube, blog search, and real-time. What a potential mess.

    I can see these niche search engines coming back or even directories for the 95% of the Web users that want simplicity. This is going to confuse and frustrate the crap out of my Mom.

    Plus, can you imagine how this is turning the SEO industry on its ear–not sure if that is a good or bad thing?

  • seoword

    The first page of Google search results is getting very crowded. Between local results and real time results, the importance of a top 5 ranking is increasing.

  • Greg Bogdan

    I would not be at all surprised if the cause of twitter’s excessive slowness this afternoon is the result of Google real-time search sucking down all the data or even creating some twitter buzz, links and sign-ups. It could even be the clicks alone.

    What do you think Danny?

  • George Michie

    For a search like “Big Screen TV Specials” it seems hard to argue that RT listings would be relevant. If so, prepare for Twitter Special bombardment.

  • George Michie

    Oops, I meant to say “wouldn’t” be relevant.

  • dspark

    I just finished a big analyst report on real-time search and one of the things I noticed across all the players is that they each only index a small portion of the real-time web. While it’s good that Google is indexing a significant portion, much more than was initially expected. It’s still a minority, probably less than 50%. With that said, there’s still plenty of competition.

    Check out the report for analysis, competitors, and evolving business models.

    Real-Time Search and Discovery of the Social Web – 20 page PDF

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