Google tunes search engine for facts, events

The new features attempt to provide answers right in search results

Google is making it easier for people to find factual answers and event information directly in its search engine results, as it continues evolving and enhancing its core product, the company said Friday.

"These [new features] focus on the efforts we've put in on understanding the Web better, understanding the content on it, not just [matching] keywords," said Noah Weiss, a Google product manager, in an interview.

For search queries that can be answered with a simple, short fact, such as a country's population, a book's author or the height of a landmark building, Google will in the coming days start delivering a new type of result.

These results will include a text snippet from the page that contains the factual answer highlighted in bold type, instead of a more general text snippet.

"We're trying to change the results for these fact-finding queries to better reflect the answers that may be on the page," Weiss said.

This new feature, which will be available only in English initially, was based on research done for the Google Squared search service, a "labs" product introduced last year that answers queries about categories, like the members of a baseball team, by putting facts on a table.

In addition, Google will start letting webmasters tag event data, such as a concert's artist, date and location, in a certain format, so that it can then be displayed on a list right under search results.

This new feature is an extension of Rich Snippets, a new way of presenting structured data, like ratings and prices, in search result text blurbs, said Google product manager Kavi Goel.

When the Google crawler notices that portions of a page have been labeled as structured data, it's able to present it in clearer way in search results. Prior to events, the Google engine could also deliver Rich Snippets related to people and reviews.

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