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A Closer Look at Google OneBox Results

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A Q & A with Google Product Marketing Director Debbie Jaffe wraps up our four-part series on the special information sections creeping into general search results.

Over the last month, I've written about Ask's Smart Answers, Microsoft's Instant Answers, and Yahoo Shortcuts. These articles are brief introductions to the services with a lot of examples for you to explore. While I talked over the phone with representatives from Ask, Microsoft, and Yahoo, my interview with Google took place through email.

Here's the exchange I had with Google Product Marketing Director, Debbie Jaffe:

Q: When was Google OneBox created?

A: These web search features provide a quick and easy way to connect users with results that are relevant to their query. They have been available above the natural search results for several years.

What was the first OneBox?

The first time we provided links at the top of Google web search results was for Google News.

How many different OneBox results are there? Is there a list?

They are all listed under "Web Search Features" in the Google Help Center. This list includes any feature that is visible on the web search results page including links that appear at the top of search results (or bottom of the search results).

What are the most popular (in terms of traffic) OneBox results?

In general, we don’t release traffic statistics, but some of my favorites are the product search results (because I can get richer information), and news results (because they’re timely). [Debbie later added the new Maps design to the list. Here's an example for San Francisco's Myth Restaurant

Why do you have Google OneBox results?

Google has always been committed to providing the best answers to users’ questions. This includes creating a simple, but powerful, user experience that connects users to highly relevant answers. This feature is an example of this as users can [find” the answers immediately for certain queries so they don’t have to search through each of the search results.

How do you decide on new Google OneBox results? Who drives the launch of a new OneBox result?

We are always working to improve search and new ways to connect our users with useful and relevant information, and often that is through linking to relevant results at the top of the web search results page. If we think we can serve our users well by introducing new features and search refinements, we'll do it, which is why products like Google Scholar and Book Search have this feature. The launch of new features such as this in the web search results is driven by the search team at Google.

What is the click-through rate of a Google OneBox result vs. the paid listings above it and the first couple listings below it?

Generally, these results get more clicks than the paid listings but that’s not always the case.

How important is it to be included in OneBox results?

Appearing at the top of Google Search results page is a great way to connect users with relevant information. Web site and content owners can benefit by getting their content into Google via Google Sitemaps within the webmaster tools suite, Google Base, and Google Book Search along with optimizing their sites for search engines. If your goal is to connect with users who search on Google, then this feature is an important way to do so.

How do you choose the partners for Google OneBox? Are any of the OneBox results paid placements?

Site owners do not pay to appear in these search results. The search results are algorithmically determined and are from various sources.

Any secret OneBox results?

Well we have heard of folks using calculator to do their taxes.

Which OneBox results get the most usage?

While I can’t speak in the aggregate, some of the ones I use most are calculator for both conversions and math (but not for my taxes!), glossary definitions (I’m not the best speller), and News.

Which OneBox results are you most proud of? Walk me through some examples of unique OneBox results that you would like me to highlight.

Here are couple personal ones that I tend to use a lot when planning for my weekends.

  • Type [Gary Danko San Francisco” and you’ll see a map with links to the website, directions, and reviews.

  • Type [the departed” and you’ll see a movie times for “The Departed” at theaters near you.

  • Another one that I did the other day was when I was looking for books for some vacation planning Type [books about ecuador” to see a list of books about Ecuador.
What's the future of the OneBox program? Will we see less and less of the 10 blue links and more and more OneBox results?

We want to integrate as many search results from our various content sources as possible. We'll be doing several experiments throughout the year, so you can expect to see different UIs.

Brian Smith is a correspondent for Search Engine Watch and an independent analyst covering shopping and vertical search. He recently launched SingleFeed, a data feed management and submission service for small and medium sized businesses.

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