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Google Inside Search Event Recap: What's New in Mobile, Voice & Image Search

Danny Goodwin
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Mobile search took center stage at yesterday's Google Inside Search Event. In addition to debuting new technology, Google also announced that some mobile features are coming to the desktop, including voice search and the ability to search by image.

With Google reporting that mobile search traffic has grown five-fold in the past two years, Google said that it would be focusing much more attention on mobile searching, due in part to the role it was playing in augmenting its desktop business. Searches from a desktop generally dropped off at lunchtime and at the evenings, with significant annual drops during the summer holiday season and over Christmas.

But mobile search patterns showed the opposite result in many ways. Searches jumped over lunch and in the early evening, and there was very little drop off for the holiday season or over the holiday period. 

Mobile Shortcuts

New icons are being added to Google's mobile homepage. These shortcuts lead to three popular local search categories – restaurants, coffee shops, and bars – with the option to tap "more" to see additional categories (e.g., shopping, ATMs, gas stations), part of what Google calls a simplified Places mobile homepage.

After you tap on an icon, you'll see a map with markers indicating where you are relative to each place. As you scroll through the results, the map stays at the top of the page and adjusts to each listing.

Tap on any business name to see info about a place, such as hours, phone number, reviews, and more.

Also, Google had added a feature from its Search app for Android and iOS to its mobile homepage, which basically lets you more quickly build your search using suggested phrases. Here's a video of how it works: 

Voice Search on Your Computer

Voice search, an increasingly important part of mobile searching, is rolling out now to the desktop via new code in the Chrome browser. Chrome users can use it by clicking on a microphone icon that appears in the search box.

Google also shared some interesting stats about Google Voice Search:

  • Spoken queries to Google have risen sixfold over the last year
  • Google teaches its English Voice Search system using 230 billion words from real queries.
  • Every single day people speak more than two years worth of voice to Google's system.

And here's a video:

Instant Image Search

Google’s Instant Search feature, launched last year, is now being rolled out to image searches, effective this week. The image search feature now sets up a search results page and updates the results as the user Autocomplete identifies new words. A new search page has also been added for tablet systems to use the larger screens of such devices.

Search by Image

Google has also introduced Search by Image, where you click on a little camera icon at images.google.com to upload any picture or enter an image URL from the web. Google will then seek to match the photograph’s identifying features against other websites to figure out what it is. 

Google stressed that facial recognition software wasn't included in this search, perhaps in light of the problems Facebook has recently had in this area.

Users can fine-tune results with the addition of plus icons next to results. Chrome and Firefox extensions will let you search on any web image simply by right clicking on it.

And yes, there's a video:

What do the last two updates mean for SEOs? Image optimization. Get on it if you haven't already.

Inside Search Event Full Video

Google also yesterday announced Instant Pages. If you missed the live stream, the entire event is now available:

Iain Thomson also contributed to this report.


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