December 8, 2009, 12:00 AM

Google goes viral and visual

Google Inc. announced yesterday new features to its PC and mobile search programs. The king of search engines will now deliver real-time results in PC searches and allow consumers to search with their smartphones by snapping a picture.

Google Inc. announced yesterday new features to its PC and mobile search programs. The king of search engines will now deliver real-time results in PC searches and allow consumers to search with their smartphones by snapping a picture.

Google says its real-time results aim to deliver the most recent, relevant information posted on the web related to a consumer’s search query. The idea is to give searchers a quick snapshot of what is being said online about their search term at that moment. Real-time results appear in a scrolling box that continually pulls recent posts from social and micro-blogging sites Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Jaiku and Identi.ca. It also will post results from blog entries and news stories.

Real-time results is another step in Google’s universal or blended search, launched two years ago, which includes news, images, videos, blogs and other content besides standard web sites in search results. Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Yahoo also use blended search, and Microsoft launched real-time Twitter results earlier this year. Experts say Google’s real-time launch is likely a move to try and squelch the moderate gains Microsoft’s Bing has made in search traffic in recent months.

As it currently does with other types of blended search results, Google will pick and choose when to include real-time results in search queries. A search for Tiger Woods, for example, likely would include real-time results as searchers likely want to see the latest stories and feedback related to his recent car accident and the resulting fallout. A search on The Great Wall of China, however, may not.

“When they are relevant, we`ll rank these latest results to show the freshest information right on the search results page,” Google says in its blog post announcement. “Try searching for your favorite TV show, sporting event or the latest development on a recent government bill. Whether it`s an eyewitness tweet, a breaking news story or a fresh blog post, you can find it on Google right after it`s published on the web.”

Kevin Lee, CEO of search marketing firm Didit says e-retailers selling products that generate buzz, such as video games, DVDs and electronics likely will be most impacted by real-time results.

“This will be big for things like video games that have just been released,” Lee says. “I can see real-time search revolving around things like people tweeting about which retailer carries a hot new product.” If an e-retailer tweets that it just received a new shipment of a hot game, and thousands of followers re-tweet the news, those tweets could show up in results for hours, further spreading the retailer`s brand, Lee says.

Along with real-time results, Google also announced yesterday a new feature for iPhone and Android devices that enables users to search by taking a picture of an object. Right now, the image search feature, called Google Goggles, identifies books and DVDs, landmarks, logos, contact info, artwork, businesses, products, bar codes and text.

Lee believes Google Goggles will have the most impact on retailers that sell on the web and operate bricks-and-mortar stores. Shoppers in a physical location may take a snapshot of an item in a store and conduct a search and complete the purchase online later.

Amazon.com launched a similar feature late last year that allows iPhone users to take a photo of a product and then search Amazon’s inventory.

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