March 29, 2004, 12:00 AM

Search enhancements at Google feature new options at Froogle

Users of Google’s Froogle product search can link directly to recent popular searches and specify product price ranges in search results. They’re part of an overall search capability upgrade across Google.

Google Inc. has rolled out a series of enhancements including upgraded capabilities for Froogle, its product search engine, including a new home page design that more closely resembles the Google home page and search results page. Froogle, now accessible via a link on the top of Google’s home page as well as under its own URL, limits searches to products and ranks them by relevancy to the shopper’s query, with sponsored links clearly identified on the right-hand side of search results pages.

A new feature of the new Froogle home page is a list offering direct links to recent popular specific product searches, such as iPod, in addition to the usual product category searches. According to Google, these links will pull out information on a variety of products ranging from the most obscure to the most popular.

In addition, a new advanced search command on Froogle lets searchers specify that results contain numbers in a range that they set. For example, by specifying two numbers, users can conduct a product search that will deliver product information on items that not only fit the search query but fall within the specific price range.

The enhancements to Froogle are part of a larger rollout of updates across Google, debuting this week on Google Labs, an area of its site accessible through the home page, where Google tests user reaction to new features and services before making them permanent additions. Those improvements include Personalized Web Search, a search option that uses personal preferences to deliver custom search results based on interests chosen by the users. For example, music enthusiasts would see results that include different relevant sites for a search on “bass” than would searchers who’ve indicated an interest in the outdoors.

Another new feature, Google Web Alerts, provides automatic updates for web users who want to receive current information on topics of interest on an ongoing basis. After specifying keywords they want to track, users of this search option can receive daily or weekly e-mail with links to new web page results, plus top stories from Google news that are related to the keywords. For example, users of this feature could follow the progress of a favorite sports team, all without having to perform repeated searches separately.

After seeing an increasing demand for such ongoing, repeat searches on the news side, “We thought it was something people might want on web results as well,” says Peter Norvig, Google’s director of search quality. The feature has potential application in shopping-related searches as well. “There may be people who are considering a major purchase such a car or a television who want to keep up to date until they decide, where it might be of interest to them to use it for a few weeks. You can certainly do that with the service we offer now,” he says.

With the new search features across Google, “Google takes the first step in providing personal search results based on users` preferences,” says Larry Page, Google`s co-founder and president, products. “We can deliver search results tailored to your interests or promptly e-mail you new information on any topic. In addition, Google has a cleaner new interface and easy access to the comprehensive Froogle product search.”


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