O'Reilly logo

Google Power Search by Stephan Spencer

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Chapter 4. Understanding the Breadth and Depth of Google, Inc.

Google Tools and Services

Google is all about search, but there is more to search than just websites. Google’s various online properties encompass resources and tools for searching for and through just about anything electronic, both on- and offline.

These resources can be extremely valuable to marketers and should be considered some of the sharper tools in your research arsenal. This chapter contains a list and basic explanation of Google’s tools, along with some useful third-party sites that are Google-powered but not run by Google.

One more thing to note before we get into Google services: Many of them require you to create a Google user account. If you are already signed up for a service like Gmail, then you’ve already got a Google account. However, once you are logged in, all of Google’s services will recognize that—even the ones that don’t require a login, like the plain old web search engine. Your search history and click history within search results are also recorded in your Google account. Also, whether or not you are logged into your Google account, the search engine will remember who you are and tune your search results over time so that they match your patterns and preferences.

Table 4-1. Stephan’s picks: Top recommended Google-related services

Google Desktop

Program installed on your PC that indexes your documents, emails, and visited web pages. Search from your web browser.

Google Toolbar

Google search within the search results and related functionality integrated into your Internet Explorer or Firefox web browser

Google Pack

Free software for your Windows PC, including antivirus, antispyware, Google Desktop, and much more, all in one easy download

Google Alerts

Automated, free monitoring service of search results in Google and Google News for chosen keywords—a “clipping service” of sorts

Google Books

Google’s effort to digitize the world’s printed information

Soople

A third-party interface to the Google search engine.

Google Scholar

Search through scholarly literature

Google News

Search and browse news sources (both new and old, worldwide or within a particular country), by news source, relevance, or date

Google Groups

Browse, search, create, and post to discussion groups and Usenet newsgroups and to email discussion lists

Google Images

Search for photos, clipart, logos, icons, and illustrations

Google Directory

A searchable directory of sites, editorially reviewed and organized by topic

Google Search by Country or Language

Search only those websites that are in a particular country

YouTube

Upload, search, and share videos, tag your favorites, and create your own channels

Google+A powerful new social network from Google. Its features, in Google parlance, include Circles, Huddles, Hangouts, and Sparks.

Google Product Search

Comparison-shopping engine

Blogger

Create a blog for free and host it on Google servers

Google Web History

Remembers your past searches and learns over time, giving you improved search results

Google Blog Search

Allows you to search through an index of RSS feeds

Google Reader

Subscribe to RSS feeds and follow them through this web-based aggregator

Google Q&A

Rather than returning search results, Google sometimes will answer your search query with a factual answer. Built into Google’s main search engine.

Google SMS

Search Google by sending your query as a text message through your cell phone and receive the results back as a text message

Google Mobile

Search Google from your web-enabled cell phone or PDA using a pared-down Google web interface designed specifically for mobile devices

Google Talk

Instant messaging software for your computer that supports text chat and voice. Plug in a headset into your PC and talk to your buddies for free over the Internet.

Sidewiki

Read and publish helpful information about any page right in your browser

Google Earth

Software for your PC that allows you to view satellite photos of the earth from space and zoom in.

Picasa

Organize and share your digital photos with this free software that you install on your computer

Google Patent Search

Search through the US Patent and Trademark Office’s database of inventions.

Google CSE

The Google Custom Search Engine enables you to harness the power of Google to index and search a network of sites that you specify.

Google Trends

Shows you currently popular search topics, and lets you explore trends in search activity over time for a search term or terms.

Google Insights for Search

Like Google Trends, except you can compare several search terms on a multiline graph.

Google Trends for Websites

Like Google Trends, except it only applies to a network of sites that you specify.

Google Calendar

An online, shareable calendar.

Google Code Search

Search inside of all available open source program code.

Google Mobile App

Transcribes from speech to text, then searches Google from your smartphone.

Google TV

Combines web search, Android apps, and television services in one TV operating environment

Google VoiceA phone number forwarding service
Google Realtime SearchA search engine exclusively for social media.
Google CorrelateMatches search terms with geographic and time-based trend data

Google Desktop

If you are looking for a powerful search application to install on your PC that will search all your Outlook emails, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, instant messages, previously viewed web pages, and more, then you need go no further than Google’s Desktop search tool.

Google Desktop is available to download from http://desktop.google.com. It only works on a PC running Windows 7/Vista/XP and Mac OS X 10.4. (For those on newer Macs, Google Quick Search Box is the best way to get Google search functionality outside of a web browser; it’s not as good as Google Desktop, but at least it’s under active development on the Mac).

It is a simple, painless installation process. After installation, Google Desktop search begins indexing all the files on your hard drive. Quite cleverly, Google integrates Desktop search results along with web search results.

Google Desktop also comes with the Sidebar, a handy little widget that continuously displays on your desktop personalized information such as news headlines, RSS feeds, sticky notes, weather, photos, real-time stock quotes, new email messages, maps, and frequently used files and a quick-find feature that lets you launch programs with a few keystrokes.

Google Toolbar

With the Google Toolbar, you’ll always have Google at hand, built into your Internet Explorer or Firefox web browser at the top part of the window. It’s a simple process to install and is a small download, available from http://toolbar.google.com.

If you choose the option of “Install with Advanced Features” (which I recommend), then you’ll be able to see the PageRank of any page that you visit. As you may recall, a high PageRank means that Google considers that page important. I tend to think of pages with higher PageRank scores as more trustworthy, although that’s not always the case.

This tool is well worth installing, as it eliminates the step of going to Google for every search—which, over time, is a real timesaver.

Google Pack

Available from http://pack.google.com, this handy set of applications for Windows XP/Vista/7 includes not just Google Desktop, Google Earth, Picasa, and the Google Toolbar, but other handy tools and utilities such as the RealPlayer media player and Spyware Doctor with Anti-Virus.

Google Alerts

Google will email you the search results (in all manner of results, including Web, news, blogs, realtime, video, and discussions) of your chosen keywords when those results change. Be the first to know when your competitors get some press. Think of it as a “clipping service,” except this one is free. Many people configure it to look for their company’s name, plus a number of key competitors and similar types of products and services.

This tool is invaluable for researchers and is available at http://www.google.com/alerts.

Google Books

Google Books is a massive initiative from Google to digitize a lot of the world’s printed information. To use Google Books, go to http://books.google.com, or just do an ordinary Google search. When Google finds digitized books with relevant content, those books will be listed along with ordinary Web search results. By clicking on the book title, you can view the page of the book that contains your search terms, as well as other information about the book. You can also display up to two pages before and after the page of the book. Try a web search for Ecuador trekking and then click the Google Books link on the left to see this process in action; or search for a famous quote to see which book or books it appears in.

Books have been submitted by more than 20,000 publishers and authors, including Penguin, Wiley, Hyperion, Pearson, Taylor & Francis, Cambridge, Chicago, Oxford, Princeton, and Scholastic.

The advent of Google Books a few years ago marked a monumental shift for Google from being an indexer of the world’s knowledge web to a builder of it as well, as noted by industry pundit John Battelle.

Soople

The clever interface at http://www.soople.com provides intuitive access to many of Google’s more advanced features. You may prefer it over Google’s home page. With Soople, you won’t need to remember the query operators to create many of the most useful Google searches.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar, available at http://scholar.google.com, allows one to search through scholarly literature including articles from peer reviewed academic journals. Google has worked with publishers to gain access to subscription-only content that wouldn’t ordinarily be accessible to search spiders. Although the full content of the article may only be available to subscribers of that journal, Google requires that the publishers provide at least abstracts to Google Scholar searchers.

Search results displayed in Google Scholar each have a “cited by” link which, when clicked on, will show you all the citations to that document in the scholarly literature that Google Scholar knows about.

Google News

You’ve already learned how to search Google News. I have only a couple of things I would like to add to what I covered there. First, you should get to know the Advanced Search page on Google News at http://news.google.com/news/advanced_news_search. It’s a helpful tool to narrow a search by location, by news source, by date range, and so on.

Second, if you consider yourself a news junkie, you may want to make the Google News home page, at http://news.google.com, or the Google News business page, at http://news.google.com/news?topic=b, your “start page” that opens up when you start your web browser. It’s a great way to keep up with current events. You can also use iGoogle for further customization of a Google-based personal home page.

Groups

This link will take you to the Google Groups search engine, which searches discussion groups on Google Groups as well as millions of Usenet newsgroup messages dating back to 1981. Usenet is a part of the Internet dedicated to online discussion, and these discussion groups/forums (known as newsgroups) number in the tens of thousands. Type in your search query, then click the Groups link in the More menu at the top of the search page to jump directly to Google Groups results.

Google Groups will also allow you to create, join and search email-based mailing lists, including restricted lists. In addition, you have the ability to track and mark favorite topics using the “My Groups” feature.

If you want to get the “dirt” and hear what people are saying in Usenet and email discussion forums about your company, a competitor, or an industry, Google Groups is a great resource.

Google Images

The Advanced Image Search page at http://images.google.com/advanced_image_search, which allows you to refine your search by size, coloration, file type, and more is quite useful. If you don’t want to permanently set your image settings, or if you want to adjust a query that has already been executed, you can use a parameter to restrict the results of a single query:

  • &imgtype=face

  • &imgtype=news

  • &imgtype=photo

  • &imgtype=clipart

  • &imgtype=lineart

You can also click the Similar Images link below the results in a Google Images search to see results that Google has determined are similar, or you can upload your own photo and search for similar ones.

Google Search by Country or Language

Google allows you to search solely within those websites that are located in a specific country or written in a specific language. Google also offers search sites at each of the major country domains (Google France, Google Germany, Google UK, Google Australia, Google Canada, etc.).

Each Google country site has a radio button to restrict search results to pages within that country, in which case the site must be hosted within that country or have that country’s domain extension. A comprehensive list is available at http://www.google.com/language_tools.

YouTube

The ubiquitous YouTube, at http://www.youtube.com, is a Google property and is by far the most popular site on the Web for sharing and finding video clips of all types. You can create your own “channel” and subscribe to other channels as well. It’s a great resource for easily finding news video, movie trailers and clips, live performances, helpful how-to tutorials, and much more.

Google+ (Google Plus)

This new social network holds a lot of promise. Whether it will be the Facebook-killer that Google employees are hoping for or a flop like Google Wave was is still to be determined. Group your friends into Circles, set up customized news feeds (known as Sparks), have Huddles (group chats), and make yourself available for impromptu meetups (in Hangouts), among other things. Expect ever deeper integration of Google+ with an array of Google products, including Gmail, Chrome, Chat, and, of course, Google web search.

http://www.google.com/prdhp

Formerly known as Froogle, this service searches through ecommerce sites and indexes their product listings. There’s a more detailed explanation of Google Product Search earlier in this book.

Blogger

Google’s blogging service is available at http://www.blogger.com. Blogger offers free blog hosting, templates and remote blogging software. If you wish, you can also host your blog on your own domain.

Google Web History

Wouldn’t it be cool if your search engine got smarter the more you used it? That is what Google Web History hopes to achieve. By analyzing your past searches, it hopes to give more targeted and relevant results to you in the future. You can use this on multiple computers. All you have to do is just be logged into your Google account on your computer and it will track your past searches, show you what your searches were so you can conduct them again, and also show you what you clicked on in the past. You can view your saved web history at http://www.google.com/searchhistory.

This blog-specific search engine, found at http://blogsearch.google.com, is actually a search engine of RSS feeds rather than blogs. More specifically, blogs without RSS feeds won’t make it into Google Blog Search. However, sites that aren’t blogs but have RSS feeds are included. If your blog is not listed, you can submit your RSS feed here: http://blogsearch.google.com

With the advanced search functionality in Google Blog Search, you can search by author, by date range, and by blog.

Google Reader

A web-based RSS feed aggregator to compete with services such as My Yahoo!, My MSN, and Bloglines. It’s well worth checking out, particularly if you prefer subscribing to RSS feeds through a website, rather than an installed application on your computer. Available at http://reader.google.com.

Google Q&A

This isn’t actually a separate service; it’s built right into the Google search interface. Sometimes when you submit a query to Google, in addition to returning the standard sort of search results, Google may provide you with a direct answer to your question, also citing (and linking to) the source that it obtained the answer from. You may see these answers at the top of the results page, or even at the top of the list of suggested queries that pop up underneath your typing.

For example, either the query when was Einstein born? or an equivalent query of Einstein birthday will return the date of his birth at the top of the search results. Here are some more example queries that return Google Q&A results: President of France, what is the birthplace of Bono?, square root of 2, capital of Canada, and height of Mt. Everest. Microsoft considers this same capability a major feature of Bing, which they call a “decision engine” instead of a “search engine.”

Google SMS

On the go with just an SMS-capable cell phone in your pocket? No problem! Just conduct your search from your cell phone by sending Google your query as an SMS text message to the US shortcode 466453 (GOOGLE on most phones). You’ll then receive one or more text messages back with your results, usually within a minute. Results may be labeled as “1/3”, “2/3”, and so on. To get Google SMS help info sent directly to your phone, send the word ‘help’ as a text message to 466453. Or learn more at http://sms.google.com.

Google Mobile

If you have a web-connected cell phone, smartphone, or handheld device, you can search Google using a pared-down interface designed specifically for mobile devices. Just enter in http://www.google.com (or http://www.google.com/xhtml if you get an error) and you’re on your way! Learn more at http://www.google.com/mobile.

Google Talk

Google has its own messenger software dubbed Google Talk to compete with instant messaging software such as ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger. It supports not just text message chat, but also voice over the Internet (like Skype and Apple’s iChat). In other words, you can converse for free with any other Google Talk user by using a headset or microphone. Download Google Talk from http://talk.google.com. You’ll also find links there for a voice and video chat plug-in that lets you use a webcam for video chatting in Gmail or iGoogle.

Sidewiki

Google Sidewiki is an annotations feature of the Google Toolbar that adds a browser sidebar, where users can add and read comments for the browser’s current web page. This means you can get other’s opinions about a news story, product reviews and other comments which the site owner can’t control or delete. You may find this helpful for getting further information about a site or its content where user comments are not allowed or are heavily edited. Learn more about Google Sidewiki at http://www.google.com/sidewiki.

Google Earth

This software that installs on your PC or Mac allows you to see satellite views of anywhere on the Earth from space, along with street maps (available for all of the United States and many other countries) overlaid with optional views. Point and click, and satellite images and local facts zoom into view. You can tilt and rotate the view to check out the terrain and buildings. Obtain driving directions and “fly” along your route. You can zoom in from space right into your neighborhood. You can download Google Earth at http://earth.google.com.

Picasa

Another one of Google’s acquisitions, Picasa was a digital photo management company. Google offers the full-featured Picasa digital photo management software as a free download, at http://picasa.google.com. The software allows you to easily organize and share your digital photographs, write captions for your pics, order prints, apply color corrections and other photo effects, and even make gift CDs and online photo albums for friends and family.

http://www.google.com/patents

This service enables you to search through the USPTO archives of over 7 million patents to look for registered and pending patents. It’s particularly helpful for entrepreneurs and people who are marketing new inventions.

Google CSE (Custom Search Engine)

http://www.google.com/cse

Rather than develop your own search engine or integrate bulky search source code libraries and maintain your own index, why not outsource it all to Google? Just select the sites for which you want to create a private index, then paste in the code snippet where you want the search box to appear. Google CSE includes some nice features like on-demand indexing and autocompletion of the query.

http://www.google.com/trends

Google Trends is an extremely useful tool for keyword research, especially if your sites deal in seasonal or trend-conscious merchandise. The initial page shows currently popular topics and searches, but you can also search for a particular term or terms and get extra information about the search popularity of those terms over time. This includes line graphs of search activity and links to related pages.

http://www.google.com/insights/search

Google Insights for Search allows you to compare keyword trends across multiple categories, sites, markets, and even time ranges. It can show things like regional interest in different terms, related searches that are rising in popularity, trend forecasts, and more. Additional features are available if you’re signed in to your Google account.

http://trends.google.com/websites/

This service works just like Google Trends, except you can tune it for your own site or network of sites to determine what your visitors or users are searching for.

Google Calendar

http://www.google.com/calendar

While not particularly useful for market research, Google Calendar is an extremely useful tool. It relieves you of the responsibility of maintaining persistent scheduling and appointment data over multiple machines. It syncs your iPhone or Android phone with your laptop so it’s easy to see your appointments when you’re on the go.

http://www.google.com/codesearch

This service enables you to search inside of all available open source program code. You can refine the results by language, license, and package format.

Google Mobile App for Smartphones

http://www.google.com/mobile

Or, on your smartphone:

http://m.google.com

The Google Mobile App offers a variety of features to enhance your smartphone browsing experience.The Search by Voice application transcribes from speech to text, then searches Google from your iPhone, Blackberry, Android, or other smartphone.

Google TV

http://www.google.com/tv

Google TV is an open source platform for web-enabled televisions and third-party web-connected devices that combines web search with regular cable and satellite TV services. Since Google TV is based on Android, many existing Android apps will work through it, and you can even use your Android phone as a remote control for a Google TV-enabled device.

Google Voice

http://www.google.com/voice/

Google Voice is a phone number forwarding service, though it has many interesting features beyond just relaying one number to another. To begin with, you can create a new number to forward to several other numbers, or you can use one of your existing numbers as the Google Voice number. You can create intricate rules that forward to different phones at different times of day, or block certain callers, or have Google transcribe your voice mail, and a variety of other telephony services.

Google Realtime Search

Realtime Search used to index social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, but currently it only works through a Google+ search. If you’re logged into Google+ and search for something in the Google+ window, you’ll see an option for “X more recent posts” near the top of the search results. If you click this link, you’ll turn on realtime search throughout Google+, enabling you to see new results as they become available.

Google may reconnect the other services that it used to index for Realtime Search someday. In the meantime, all other social media content is available through a normal Web search.

Google Correlate

http://www.google.com/trends/correlate

This service combines search terms with their popularity over time or throughout different regions. This enables you to search for information within the context of a time period, season, or geographic region.

Applying Google’s Tools

It’s time to resurrect our hypothetical research task, where we aimed to find market research relating to the frozen vegetable industry.

How might the tools we just reviewed help us gain the information we seek? Consider these steps:

Let’s start with Google Books. A competitor search for “birds eye” -view vegetables “green giant” returns books on dieting and cooking.

With Google Personalized Search enabled, search for birds eye –view and see what comes back; this exercise will be slightly different for everyone, depending on how much data Google has collected on your search habits.

In Google Groups, search for organic frozen vegetables, then take note of the debates among consumers on the pros and cons of frozen vegetables.

A search on Google Scholar for frozen vegetables turns up studies on the effects of freezing a vegetable, along with information on market demand for vegetables, and methods of detecting microbial infections on frozen vegetables, some of which is useful data for this research project.

Making Your Desktop More Efficient

Organization consultants usually start at their client’s desk. I advise, however, to start with your PC’s desktop. Arrange your virtual office environment for maximum productivity in online researching, as follows:

Install the Google Pack and Google Toolbar, with enhanced features enabled.

Sign up for Google Reader and select some of your favorite blogs and news sites to subscribe to their RSS feeds. Be sure to include feeds from Research Buzz (http://ResearchBuzz.org), The Shifted Librarian (http://TheShiftedLibrarian.com), Google Blogoscoped (http://blogoscoped.com), Search Engine Land (http://searchengineland.com), my blog where I frequently comment on search marketing (http://StephanSpencer.com), the Official Google Blog (http://googleblog.blogspot.com), and http://MarketingProfs.com.

Load up your key competitor’s names, your company and brand names, etc. into Google Alerts.

Set your browser start page to something more useful like your iGoogle page, Google Reader, Google News, etc.

Buy a reference book on Google for your bookshelf, such as The Art of SEO.

Create a cheat sheet of the query operators you most want to start using, print it, and keep it near your computer.

Configure your Google Toolbar to include other search types that you might frequently use, such as Craigslist or Wikipedia. You can manage these from the dropdown on the right of the Search button on the Google Toolbar.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required