Up Close: Gmail In Google Search Results Field Trial

Google released a “field trial” today allowing people who enroll to do Google searches and get information from their Gmail messages mixed in with their web results. Don’t worry. Only those enrolled see their own messages this way. Below, a look at how it works.

If accepted into the program, after you do a search, you’ll find matching messages appearing along the right-side of your screen:

In the example above, I searched for the name of Barry Schwartz, the news editor here at Search Engine Land. As he’s contacted me through Gmail, one of his messages gets highlighted.

Notice, however, how the contents aren’t shown. This is protection against personal information perhaps being exposed accidentally to those who might be nearby, such as looking over your shoulder.

Here’s another example, where I searched for “southwest” and got back two matches:

One listing relates to Southwest Airlines information I have in a Gmail message; the other to a message from the South By Southwest conference. I can open the box up to learn more:

After doing this, I can drill-down further by clicking on a message, making it appear within Google search, with a further option to open it within Gmail:

Using the word “gmail” in your search triggers a different behavior, making results appear in the middle of your listings and without hiding the contents:

The idea here seems to be that if you’re explicitly saying “gmail” with a search, you’re not going to be surprised if you get Gmail results.

If you click on the “Gmail messsage” link that appears, you’re then taken into Gmail itself, where the search you started on Google Search runs again:

The best trick Google has comes to doing flight-related information. If you search for “my flights,” and you have emails such as airline confirmations, Google is smart enough to figure out if you’re about to fly and give you tracking information.

I had a flight today, and I was pretty amazed to see how this worked first-hand for me:

Notice the second arrow at the bottom. I have another flight in about a week, with a confirmation in my Gmail account. If I click on that “Show other upcoming flights” link, then that flight information shows.

Google says it plans more smart answers like this to come.

Here’s an interesting twist. When I first searched for “Southwest,” my flight information wasn’t in my Gmail account. I’ll explain more about that further below. When I did the search again, this time with the flight confirmation in there, that original search that showed me two messages? It no longer happened:

Once a flight is detected for a search, that seems to trump everything.

Now back to that explanation. I use a Google Apps account, a business edition of Gmail. I also have a Gmail account by virtue of having a Google Account that I use for Google+ and several other services.

Google App accounts don’t work with the field trial. This means all my years of email are effectively useless for this feature. The same is true for any Google Apps user.

For my testing, to get around this, I’ve forwarded some emails over to my Gmail account. It’s also possible to forward all your email from a Google Apps account to a Gmail account, as a workaround. However, you won’t be able to search any of your replies that way.

I’m sure this will be fixed eventually, but as a Google Apps user, it’s another one of those disheartening waits we’re sadly used to enduring. But worse, when it is enabled, I (and others) may have to sign-out of one Google account and into another, in order to make this work, unless Google somehow enables searching against two different accounts at the same time.

The trial is open to the first 1 million people who apply. You can sign-up here. If you decide to leave the program, you can also disable it on the same page.

No one is automatically added to this program. In addition, it’s super important to understand that if you do enter the program, you are not exposing your email in search results to the entire world. Only you, when signed-in to your Google Account, will see any matching Gmail messages mixed with your search results.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Features: Analysis | Google: Gmail | Google: Gmail Search Field Trial | Google: Personalized Search | Google: Search Plus Your World | Google: Web 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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  • Bhupendra Shekhawat

    now google include gmail in search results…grt

  • http://twitter.com/RekhaBisht5 Rekha Bisht

    That’s great that something again new coming from Google side and this time it’s Gmail.

    Let see how it works.

  • http://www.facebook.com/the.nathaniel.bailey Nathaniel Bailey

    It sounds quite handy for things like flights as with you example above because it means you can check your flight times from a simple google search rather then having to check your emails or the site you ordered your flights with.

    But I don’t personally see how this would be of much help other then for checking times of things a little easier? Also, I use hotmail still for most of my personal emails such as flights and holidays etc so I can only see this being of value for work related things for me.

    Still sounds like a good idea and I’m sure it will be of great value to a lot of people so good work :)

  • http://twitter.com/YoungbloodJoe Joe Youngblood

    Hey that personal private data we’ve been searching through.. so about that.

  • cjvannette

    I do like the flight thing, but couldn’t they just build that into Gmail? I don’t get why I would want to see my e-mails when I’m doing a web search. If I want to search my emails, I search my emails. What’s the benefit?

  • Khalid

    You’re on a mobile device and don’t have free hands and/or a lot of time. You just tap the microphone on your Android home screen, say ‘my flights’ and you’ve got what you need. Simple.

    Another potential use case is that not everyone keeps Gmail open in a tab all the time. This means you could just type your search into Chrome’s omnibox and again, you’ve got what you need quickly.

  • cjvannette

    The microphone search is a great point!

  • daveintheuk

    Once again Google has launched a product to show what they can do with our data (ie: email) rather than to help discover stuff “out there” on the internet… which I kind of thought was what it was there for.

    I’m sure some people will like this; but I really don’t see the point – why not just search in GMail; how often is there going to be a useful crossover of results.

  • http://blog.clayburngriffin.com/ Clayburn Griffin

    If I had the answer in my email, why would I be Googling it?

  • robthespy

    What a waste of resources…this isn’t even remotely beneficial to users in the real world.

  • http://www.way2earning.com/ Suresh

    I’m sorry this service seems to be weird. People will check their mails for info rather than Googling it.   

  • http://ridho.me Ridho Putradi S’Gara

     yup .. agree! I don’t Google my emails .. I prefer to search it inside my mails.

  • robthespy

    Not only that, don’t you also use a calander to keep track of important events and related information?

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