Category Archives: Official Google Blog

Insights from Googlers into our topics, technology, and the Google culture

The benefits of AMP

In 2015, the mobile web was not in a good place. An analysis of more than 10,000 mobile web domains showed that the average load time for mobile sites was 19 seconds over 3G connections. As a result, new proprietary mobile web formats arose as companies that distributed content looked for new ways to keep their products compelling and asked publishers to use them. 

Publishers, who were already strapped for resources, told us they’d be unable to keep up with a pattern of each company inventing their own new format. After discussions with European publishers, we partnered with the industry to build a new format—one that was based on the web and that would work for a wide variety of platforms. It would preserve the publisher’s freedom to choose their own tools (such as content management systems, analytics, video players and advertising platforms), keep their own unique page designs, host the content on their own servers and monetize the way they wanted either with paywalls, ads or both. It would be open-source and extensible so that new capabilities could be introduced by anyone, platform and publisher alike. And that’s how the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, or AMP, was created. 

We strongly believe AMP has played a positive role in reversing the trends that made it so difficult for publishers to achieve great user experiences at the time. The AMP Project’s evolution over the last five years, from enhancing product capabilities to joining the OpenJS Foundation, has helped us continue to collaborate with the news industry and deliver meaningful value to publishers. But there are several misconceptions about AMP, and we want to set the record straight. 

AMP pages are open and exist well beyond Google.

First, we want to clarify exactly how AMP works. AMP pages are not locked into Google products and behave just like any other page on the open web. They can be visited directly, linked to and crawled, and are used by a wide variety of search engines. (Bing, Google and Yahoo Japan! all link to AMP pages.) Social platforms like TwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest also use the format to direct their users to a reliably fast and smooth loading experience.

Additionally, AMP pages do not divert traffic away from other websites to benefit Google. When it comes to news, we drive more than 24 billion clicks a month to news sites. And each visit is an opportunity for a publisher to show ads or convert a casual reader into a loyal subscriber.

Publishers have control over the aspects of their AMP pages.

With AMP, the publisher controls almost every aspect, from content presentation to the underlying monetization strategy of their page. Publishers also decide how they want to show up on Google; they decide the length of the short summary (called a snippet) of their content and can add or remove images or videos. There are no license fees for AMP and all traffic data goes directly to the publisher. Publishers can collect the same data as with any other web page by using most of the standard tools available, and today 80 analytics providers support AMP.

Although Google collects and uses additional data in order to be able to present AMP documents, we do so only for the purposes of operating the Google AMP Cache and AMP Viewer. The data from the Google AMP Cache allows us to record documents requested from it and validate that the cache is functioning normally. Data from the AMP Viewer allows us to optimize the viewing experience of pages displayed. x

AMP gives publishers the same ability to build direct relationships with readers as any web page. In collaboration with publishers and 3P paywall providers, project contributors designed a solution to allow publishers to integrate AMP into their existing subscriptions strategies without compromising on page speed or user experience. Contributors are also constantly adding functionality to bring interactive features to AMP articles that allow publishers to further engage with their audience.  

AMP supports 240 different ad networks and provides publishers with flexibility to choose how they want to monetize. As AMP was intentionally designed to ensure users have high-quality experiences, there are some user-focused rules that guide how content and advertising work on the page. For example, this includes what kind of ads can appear and how they show up to avoid slow load times. AMP also does not support popup ads because they are intrusive and create a negative user experience. 

AMP is not a ranking factor for Google Search results.

When it comes to ranking in Google Search results, AMP pages are treated just like any other HTML page on the web. AMP has never been a ranking factor in organic search results on Google.  At the moment, only pages built using AMP can be included in the Top Stories Carousel feature in Google Search to ensure users could easily find fast-loading pages and swipe from story to story.  But this is changing. 

We recently announced a change, opening up this feature to any content that meets the Google News content policies starting in May 2021. We will prioritize pages with great page experience, whether implemented using AMP or any other web technology, as we rank the results.

AMP is an open project led by many.

AMP is an open-source initiative started five years ago at Google along with other tech companies and members of the web community. More than 1,000 developers around the world, many from companies like Twitter, Pinterest, Yahoo and Bing, contribute time and resources to improve AMP. 

In 2018 AMP launched a new governance model, transitioning the project's ownership to the OpenJS Foundation a year later. These changes have helped open development of AMP to more publishers via AMP’s Advisory Committee and Technical Steering Committee. Today anyone can join an AMP working group to help shape the future of the project. 

Google supports a vibrant and healthy open web.

From our funding of open-source projects that are vital to the sustainability of the web, to our most recent efforts around Core Web Vitals, which provide unified guidance for quality signals that are essential to delivering a great user experience, we are committed to supporting a vibrant and healthy open web. 

We build technology that provides helpful experiences for users, delivers value to publishers and creators and helps the wider web. AMP is a key part of our commitment to these values and is a product we’re constantly working to improve with the wider online community. 

Alana Karen’s new book shares stories from women in tech

When she read stories about women in tech, Alana Karen kept seeing the same theme, over and over. Generally, it seemed like they couldn’t find a sense of belonging in the industry, and as a result, would leave their jobs. But based on her 19 years at Google, and what she knew about her own colleagues, she suspected there was much more complexity and nuance to these women’s experiences. “I wanted to get beyond generic advice and get into the tough stories,” she says. And she wanted to focus on why women stay in tech, not just why they leave.

She captures a collection of those stories in her book, “The Adventures of Women in Tech: How We Got Here and Why We Stay.” I talked to Alana over Google Meet about how she approached writing the book while juggling a full-time job, managing a team and spending time with family—plus, what she’s learned as the Director of Special Projects for Search and from her own career in the tech industry.

The cover of "The Adventures of Women in Tech"

How do you explain your job to people who don’t work in tech?

I work on the Search team, focusing on the infrastructure behind the product, and I help engineers make things happen. That means helping the team set goals, track against those goals, share status updates and communicate with others.

What’s one habit that makes you successful?

I think of my work as tending to a garden: I’m the farmer who focuses on fertilizing the soil so that all of the flowers can grow. As a people-focused leader, I’m constantly thinking about how to motivate people and set them up to do their best work. 

Your book aims to represent a variety of stories of women who work in tech—and stay. Why do you think that's so important?

There’s a common narrative that women are having trouble finding a sense of belonging in the tech industry. And there I was, among so many powerful, dynamic, interesting women. It wasn’t that we hadn’t had struggles along the way (we had!), but we navigated them and we were still here.

It was important for me to show a breadth of these women’s stories for two reasons: one, to show women thinking about getting into tech—in any type of role, with any type of experience—that they belong, and this is doable. Two, I was curious if there was this silent, quiet problem where a lot of women were planning to leave tech. Was I just assuming everyone is OK?

In your conversations with the many women you interviewed, what surprised you the most?

One thing that did surprise me was we all had similar themes in our answers as to why we wanted to work in tech. We were all interested in changing the world, the opportunities our careers afforded us, liked the open and accepting culture, and the meaningful work.

You touch on the theme of inclusion and how essential it is for women to feel qualified and appreciated for their work. What advice would you give those grappling with feelings of self-doubt?

By publishing all of these different stories, I want to show women they aren’t alone. One piece of advice I’d give would be to lean on the people who have been touchstones in your career. That person doesn’t have to be a mentor or sponsor in the traditional sense, but can be something more informal. 

And second, remember you are worth that. It can take years for women to see that they deserve paying as much attention to themselves and setting their boundaries, and fund themselves with the same amount they spend on others. I hope the book can help instill in people that they’re worth that earlier on in their careers.

Who has been a strong female influence in your life?

My mom, who was the primary income-earner for my family working at Rutgers College. The year I was born, women made 58.9 cents to each dollar men earned. Growing up, I watched my mom navigate her career, find her voice and figure out how to be a strong career person and mother. She showed me ways I wanted to emulate her, as well as ways I wanted to do things differently. She gave me the perspective that careers are long, and you can have different phases of them along the way.

How Google Search ads Work

If you’re searching for information on Google where businesses might have relevant services or products to provide, you will likely come across ads. These could be ads from the flower shop down the street, your favorite nonprofit or a large retailer. If there are no useful ads to show for your search, you won’t see any--which is actually the case for a large majority of searches. Our goal is to provide you with relevant information to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. And we only make money if ads are useful and relevant, as indicated by your click on the ad.

How and when we show ads in Search

Nearly all of the ads you see are on searches with commercial intent, such as searches for “sneakers,” “t-shirt” or “plumber.” We’ve long said that we don’t show ads--or make money--on the vast majority of searches.  In fact, on average over the past four years, 80 percent of searches on Google haven’t had any ads at the top of search results. Further, only a small fraction of searches--less than 5 percent--currently have four top text ads. 

Though we follow established principles for how and when ads can appear in Google Search, there are a variety of factors beyond our control that influence how many top ads people may see, like whether you're searching for something commercial, whether advertisers are interested in advertising against that subject, or whether there are ads that are relevant to your query. For example, in April 2020, people saw an average of 40 percent fewer top text ads per search than they did compared to April 2019. This was primarily due to COVID-related effects, when advertisers were reducing their ad budgets and users were searching less for commercial interests. Therefore, Google Search users saw fewer ads on average. 

It’s about quality, not quantity

Organizations that want to advertise in Google Search participate in an auction and set their own bids (the amount they are willing to pay per click) and budgets. But advertisers’ bids are only one component of our ad ranking algorithms. When it comes to the ads you see, the relevance of those ads to your search and the overall quality of the advertisers’ ads and websites are key components of our algorithms as well. That means that no matter how large or small the organization is, they have an opportunity to reach potential customers with their message in Google Search. In the Google Ads auction, advertisers are often charged less, and sometimes much less, than their bid.

The experience of our users comes first, which is why we only show ads that are helpful to people. Even for the fraction of search queries where we do show ads, we don't make a cent unless people find it relevant enough to click on the ad. We invest significantly in our ads quality systems to continuously improve on our ability to show ads that are highly relevant to people, and helpful to what they’re searching for. Over time, this has led to better, more relevant ads and major improvements in the overall user experience. In fact, over the last four years, we’ve been able to reduce the rate of low quality and irrelevant ads by 3x. 

Part of delivering a great user experience is also ensuring that Google Search ads are clearly labeled as coming from an advertiser―and we’ve long been an industry leader in providing prominent ad labeling. When Search ads do appear, they have the word “Ad” clearly labeled in bold black text in the current design. We rely on extensive user testing both on mobile and desktop to ensure ad labels meet our high standards for being prominent and distinguishable from unpaid results. 

A level playing field for all businesses, regardless of budget or size

With ads on Google Search we give businesses, organizations and governments around the world an opportunity to reach millions of people with information. Every advertiser, regardless of their budget, has the opportunity to reach people with ads in Google Search. That’s why, for small and local businesses in particular, Google Search ads help them compete with the largest companies for the same customers and opportunities, not just in their communities but also around the world. Every day, countless small businesses use Google Search ads to help drive awareness for their products and services and reach new customers. Just this year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Google Search ads helped a bakery in New York reach more local customers and expand their business, provided a bicycle shop in South Dakota with the tools to go global, and gave a Black-owned chocolate shop in Dallas the opportunity to find new chocolate lovers from as far away as India. 

We also help connect people to causes through our Ad Grants program which gives nonprofits $10,000 a month in Search ads to help them attract donors, recruit volunteers and promote their missions. Earlier this year as the coronavirus pandemic worsened, we increased our grants to help government agencies take swift action and get lifesaving information to the public and local communities. In the U.S. alone, we served more than 100 million PSAs containing critical information on public health to millions of people this year.

Protecting your privacy

We make money from advertising, not from selling personal information. When you use our products, you trust us with your data and it's our responsibility to keep it private, safe and secure. That’s why we’ve built controls to help you choose the privacy settings that are right for you, and the ability to permanently delete your data. And we’ll never sell your personal information to anyone. As always, our goal is to ensure the ads that you see are as helpful and relevant as possible. This benefits millions of businesses and organizations, and most importantly, the people who rely on Google Search every day.

How Google is helping me connect with family this year

In a normal year, my family would be planning for our 12-hour flight to South Africa, my home country, to see family for the holidays. But since we can’t do that this year, we’re trying to reimagine the usual gatherings and traditions—the same way we’ve already reimagined work, school, birthdays and other holidays.

I’ve been thinking back to how we coped with lockdown in March and April, and using that to figure out how to close out the year. Like every other family with small children, I am not entirely sure how I managed it—and let’s be honest, most of the time I relied on pure survival tactics. But I also developed a range of new hacks and skills, making use of a few practical Google products. As we prepare to do it all again, with shorter days and colder weather, these are some of the lessons I’ll take with me:

photo of a girl coloring while having a virtual video call with her grandma on a laptop

Storytime Hour with Granny comes with a free printout to color with each story.

Near or far, loved ones can be close

So many families are dispersed across the globe. I live in the UK, but I’m originally from South Africa, and my family still resides there. I haven’t ever experienced what it’s like to have parents living nearby, but somehow during lockdown the thing I needed most was to have my mum there to lend a hand with the kids or just pop in for a cup of tea. My children were not in school, and I was managing a large project at work. To add insult to injury, my kids also openly admitted that my storytelling was just not up to scratch during our daily school lessons, and that they’d prefer to “hear from Granny, because she does the funny voices.”

Necessity being the mother of invention, “Storytime Hour with Granny” was born. 

We began a tradition of setting up a Google Meet every afternoon, so she could read a story to her grandchildren for an hour. We set up the call in Google Calendar, where it was easy for her to simply click on the Meet link, and for one precious hour, my children were transported to another place, mesmerized by old storybooks. (And I transported myself to my home office for some less mesmerizing but blessedly uninterrupted focus time while listening to questionable music and sipping coffee that wasn’t cold, for a change.)

Two children roll out dough while watching an instructional video on YouTube

Sometimes you need to consult the biscuit instructors. Yes, that is a job. 

Create a class

As much as my kids loved the connection with their grandmother, they also needed to connect with their friends. My son is in his third year of primary school, so he’s not old enough to socialize virtually on his own. So I set up a weekly “class assembly” where he could connect with his peers, say hello and spend most of the hour pulling faces at each other. Using Google Meet on my laptop meant we could see all 30 kids and their parents joining from their homes. (Even if, at times, the camera was pointed towards the ceiling or only the top of a child’s head.) 

Each week we picked a different topic to talk about. When it was my turn, I hosted a banana bread-making class, where I asked the Google Assistant to pull up a simple recipe from YouTube that we could all follow easily. As a backup, the Google Assistant can quickly provide answers to questions such as “How many tablespoons is one cup?” (It was also helpful with the many other fundamental questions lockdown brings, such as “How many blues are there in the world?” and “What does a peregrine falcon sound like?” among others I needed reminding of, such as what day of the week it was.)

photo of a Next Hub Max displaying a photo of two children on swings

Besides all the helpful features, Nest Hub Max can display a seemingly infinite carousel of photos.

Share and display your photos 

As my parents live far away, this year I have decided to gift them a Nest Hub Max for Christmas. I know my mum will keep it in the kitchen, which means she can watch YouTube videos, stream Netflix content, listen to music and make video calls on Google Duo, all while she’s preparing meals or having tea. It also means my parents won’t need to set up their laptop for Storytime Hour anymore; they can just dial in straight from this nifty device. 

But the thing I’m most excited about is the Nest Hub Max’s photo frame feature. All grandparents love photos, but they seem to have taken on new significance in the absence of face-to-face visits—even the not-so-photogenic ones (and like many families who take photos on the fly, we have plenty of those action shots). And now my children won’t have to say, “Take a picture! Don’t forget to send it to Granny! Did you send it to Granny? You forgot, didn’t you?” Soon they’ll be able to automatically see and enjoy those moments in a shared photo album from Google Photos shown on the display, whether it’s that vacation we took to Croatia pre-lockdown, or a macro close-up of my daughter’s forehead. To enable this, all you need to do is set up the Nest Hub photo frame feature.
photo of two children in a bedroom crowding around and looking intently at a nightstand

“That’s a really great photo of your arm...or is that my arm?”

Help with bedtime

When the days slip into more days that feel exactly the same as all the other days, creating a set daily schedule—especially for bedtime—has been key to helping my children settle down. I set up a Routine using the Google Assistant on a Google Nest Mini in the kids’ room. As they’re getting into their pajamas and bouncing off the walls, I say the command that, frankly, Mary Poppins would’ve been grateful for: "Hey Google, bedtime." I’m given tomorrow’s weather forecast (informing us, almost always, that we’ll need to pack an umbrella) and any scheduled calendar events. It then sets an alarm for the morning and dims the lights, ready for story time. To help them nod off, it also plays relaxing sounds, turning the noise off automatically after an hour when they are hopefully sound asleep. This has really helped them adjust to their own rhythm at home, even if it doesn’t always go to plan—which, let’s be honest, is at least 50 percent of the time. But at least the chaos is accompanied by the lulling background noise of crashing waves.

Use Google Nest to fill your home with holiday music

Once Thanksgiving dinner has been eaten and the dishes are cleared, the holiday season has begun—and for my family, that means you’re officially allowed to start playing Christmas music. A moment too soon, and you’ll have a revolt on your hands, but once the jingle bells start, there’s hardly a silent night...or a silent second, for that matter. 

In the past, I’ve loved going to concerts during the holidays. This year, I don’t want my new baby daughter to miss out on the music, so the show must—and can—go on. Here are a few simple ways that Google can help you host your own in-home holiday concert. You’ll need a Google Assistant-powered smart speaker (like the new Google Nest Audio, or Google Nest Hub Max) and a compatible music streaming service account, like YouTube Music or Spotify). Plus, we’ll include some bonus tips for anyone who has multiple Google-powered smart speakers. 

Step 1. Start by setting up your whole home system so you can fill your whole home with holiday cheer. I have a Nest Hub Max in the kitchen (great for a little background music when I’m cooking), a Google Home Max in the living room (for maximum sound), a Nest Hub in my home office (I like being able to see family photos on the screen), a Nest Audio in the nursery (we try to keep screens out of there, but we love some music for lullabies), a stereo pair of Nest Audios in the master bedroom (great for late night listening) and a Nest Mini in the guest bedroom (which this year, will probably be where we end up wrapping presents). 

Step 2. Set up your music. It's the holidays and I feel nostalgic, so I’m creating a mix of soundtracks from some classic holiday movies. Of course, I will also be making a pop hits playlist, too, because all I want for Christmas get the idea.

Step 3. Stream away. I'll start in the kitchen with a simple command: "Play my holiday playlist.” And with multi-room control, I'll add the living room so my family can enjoy the music while they’re decorating the tree. When it's time for dinner, I'll add every room so the whole home is filled with cheer. 

Step 4. For optimal holiday music magic, use Google Assistant on your Nest device to create a routine: In my house, at 5 p.m. every evening, my classic Christmas playlist turns on in my office and the lights on the tree go on (with a compatible smart switch or lights). It’s a cheery way to log off for the evening. 

Whether you dim the lights and light a fire to enjoy your at-home concert in the living room or using multiple speakers to move music around the house while you do the same, the holiday jams will have never sounded better.

How Google organizes information to find what you’re looking for

When you come to Google and do a search, there might be billions of pages that are potential matches for your query, and millions of new pages being produced every minute. In the early days, we updated our search index once per month. Now, like other search engines Google, is constantly indexing new info to make accessible through Search.

But to make all of this information useful, it’s critical that we organize it in a way that helps people quickly find what they’re looking for. With this in mind, here’s a closer look at how we approach organizing information on Google Search.

Organizing information in rich and helpful features

Google indexes all types of information--from text and images in web pages, to real-world information, like whether a local store has a sweater you’re looking for in stock. To make this information useful to you, we organize it on the search results page in a way that makes it easy to scan and digest. When looking for jobs, you often want to see a list of specific roles. Whereas if you’re looking for a restaurant, seeing a map can help you easily find a spot nearby. 

We offer a wide range of features--from video and news carousels, to results with rich imagery, to helpful labels like star reviews--to help you navigate the available information more seamlessly. These features include links to web pages, so you can easily click to a website to find more information. In fact, we’ve grown the average number of outbound links to websites on a search results page from only 10 (“10 blue links”) to now an average of 26 links on a mobile results page. As we’ve added more rich features to Google Search, people are more likely to find what they’re looking for, and websites have more opportunity to appear on the first page of search results.

google search results page for pancake in 2012 v. 2020

When you searched for “pancake” in 2012, you mostly saw links to webpages. Now, you can easily find recipe links, videos, facts about pancakes, nutritional information, restaurants that serve pancakes, and more.

Presenting information in rich features, like an image carousel or a map, makes Google Search more helpful, both to people and to businesses. These features are designed so you can find the most relevant and useful information for your query. By improving our ability to deliver relevant results, we’ve seen that people are spending more time on the webpages they find through Search. The amount of time spent on websites following a click from Google Search has significantly grown year over year. 

Helping you explore and navigate topics

Another important element of organizing information is helping you learn more about a topic. After all, most queries don’t just have a single answer--they’re often open-ended questions like “dessert ideas.”

Our user experience teams spend a lot of time focused on how we can make it easy and intuitive to refine your search as you go. This is why we’ve introduced features like carousels, where you can easily swipe your phone screen to get more results. For instance, if you search for “meringue”, you might see a list of related topics along with related questions that other people have asked to help you on your journey.

google search results page for query meringue

How features and results are ranked

Organizing information into easy-to-use formats is just one piece of the puzzle. To make all of this information truly useful, we also must order, or “rank,” results in a way that ensures the most helpful and reliable information rises to the top.

Our ranking systems consider a number of factors--from what words appear on the page, to how fresh the content is--to determine what results are most relevant and helpful for a given query. Underpinning these systems is a deep understanding of information--from language and visual content to context like time and place--that allows us to match the intent of your query with the most relevant, highest quality results available

In cases where there’s a single answer, like “When was the first Academy Awards?,” directly providing that answer is the most helpful result, so it will appear at the top of the page. But sometimes queries can have many interpretations. Take a query like “pizza”--you might be looking for restaurants nearby, delivery options, pizza recipes, and more. Our systems aim to compose a page that is likely to have what you’re looking for, ranking results for the most likely intents at the top of the page. Ranking a pizza recipe first would certainly be relevant, but our systems have learned that people searching for “pizza” are more likely to be looking for restaurants, so we’re likely to show a map with local restaurants first. Contrast that to a query like “pancake” where we find that people are more likely looking for recipes, so recipes often rank higher, and a map with restaurants serving pancakes may appear lower on the page.
google search results pages for pizza and pancake

An important thing to remember is that ranking is dynamic. New things are always happening in the world, so the available information and the meaning of queries can change day-by-day. This summer, searches for “why is the sky orange” turned from a general question about sunsets to a specific, locally relevant query about weather conditions on the West Coast of the U.S. due to wildfires. We constantly evaluate the quality of our results to ensure that even as queries or content changes, we’re still providing helpful information. More than 10,000 search quality raters around the world help us conduct hundreds of thousands of tests every year, and it’s through this process that we know that our investments in Google Search truly benefit people.

We’ve heard people ask if we design our search ranking systems to benefit advertisers, and we want to be clear: that is absolutely not the case. We never provide special treatment to advertisers in how our search algorithms rank their websites, and nobody can pay us to do so. 

Ongoing investment in a high quality experience

As we’ve seen for many years, and as was particularly apparent in the wake of COVID, information needs can change rapidly. As the world changes, we are always looking for new ways we can make Google Search better and help people improve their lives through access to information.

Every year, we make thousands of improvements to Google Search, all of which we test to ensure they’re truly making the experience more intuitive, modern, delightful, helpful and all-around better for the billions of queries we get every day. Search will never be a solved problem, but we’re committed to continuing to innovate to make Google better for you.

Organizing the world’s information: where does it all come from?

Since Google was founded more than 22 years ago, we’ve continued to pursue an ambitious mission of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful. While we started with organizing web pages, our mission has always been much more expansive. We didn’t set out to organize the web’s information, but all the world’s information. 

Quickly, Google expanded beyond the web and began to look for new ways to understand the world and make information and knowledge accessible for more people. The internet--and the world--have changed a lot since those early days, and we’ve continued to improve Google Search to both anticipate and respond to the ever-evolving information needs that people have. 

It’s no mystery that the search results you saw back in 1998 look different than what you might find today. So we wanted to share an overview of where the information on Google comes from and, in another post, how we approach organizing an ever-expanding universe of web pages, images, videos, real-world insights and all the other forms of information out there.

Information from the open web

You’re probably familiar with web listings on Google--the iconic “blue link” results that take you to pages from across the web. These listings, along with many other features on the search results page, link out to pages on the open web that we’ve crawled and indexed, following instructions provided by the site creators themselves.

Site owners have the control to tell our web crawler (Googlebot) what pages we should crawl and index, and they even have more granular controls to indicate which portions of a page should appear as a text snippet on Google Search. Using our developer tools, site creators can choose if they want to be discovered via Google and optimize their sites to improve how they’re presented, with the aim to get more free traffic from people looking for the information and services they’re offering. 

Google Search is one of many ways people find information and websites.  Every day, we send billions of visitors to sites across the web, and the traffic we send has grown every year since Google started. This traffic goes to a wide range of websites, helping people discover new companies, blogs, and products, not just the largest, well known sites on the web. Every day, we send visitors to well over 100 million different websites. 

Common knowledge and public data sources

Creators, publishers and businesses of all sizes work to create unique content, products and services. But there is also information that falls into the category of what you might describe as common knowledge--information that wasn’t uniquely created or doesn’t “belong” to any one person, but represents a set of facts that is broadly known. Think: the birthdate of a historical figure, the height of the tallest mountain in South America, or even what day it is today. 

We help people easily find these types of facts through a variety of Google Search features like knowledge panels. The information comes from a wide range of openly licensed sources such as Wikipedia, The Encyclopedia of Life, Johns Hopkins University CSSE COVID-19 Data, and the Data Commons Project, an open knowledge database of statistical data we started in collaboration with the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Eurostat, World Bank and many others.

Another type of common knowledge is the product of calculations, and this is information that Google often generates directly. So when you search for a conversion of time (“What time is it in London?”) or measurement (“How many pounds in a metric ton?”), or want to know the square root of 348, those are pieces of information that Google calculates. Fun fact: we also calculate the sunrise and sunset times for locations based on latitude and longitude!

Licenses and partnerships

When it comes to organizing information, unstructured data (words and phrases on web pages) is more challenging for our automated systems to understand. Structured databases, including public knowledge bases like Wikidata, make it a lot easier for our systems to understand, organize and present facts in helpful features and formats.

For some specialized types of data, like sports scores, information about TV shows and movies, and song lyrics, there are providers who work to organize information in a structured format and offer technical solutions (like APIs) to deliver fresh info. We license data from these companies to ensure that providers and creators (like music publishers and artists) are compensated for their work. When people come to Google looking for this information, they can access it right away.

We always work to deliver high quality information, and for topics like health or civic participation that affect people’s livelihoods, easy access to reliable, authoritative information is critically important. For these types of topics, we work with organizations like local health authorities, such as the CDC in the U.S., and nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations like Democracy Works to make authoritative information readily available on Google.

Information that people and businesses provide

There’s a wide range of information that exists in the world that isn’t currently available on the open web, so we look for ways to help people and businesses share these updates, including by providing information directly to Google. Local businesses can claim their Business Profile and share the latest with potential customers on Search, even if they don’t have a website. In fact, each month Google Search connects people with more than 120 million businesses that don’t have a website. On average, local results in Search drive more than 4 billion connections for businesses every month, including more than 2 billion visits to websites as well as connections like phone calls, directions, ordering food and making reservations.

We’re also deeply investing in new techniques to ensure that we’re reflecting the latest accurate information. This can be especially challenging as local information is constantly changing and not often accurately reflected on the web. For example, in the wake of COVID-19, we’ve used our Duplex conversational technology to call businesses, helping to update their listings by confirming details like modified store hours or whether they offer takeout and delivery. Since this work began, we’ve made over 3 million updates to businesses like pharmacies, restaurants and grocery stores that have been seen over 20 billion times in Maps and Search. 

Other businesses like airlines, retailers and manufacturers also provide Google and other sites with data about their products and inventory through direct feeds. So when you search for a flight from Bogota to Lima, or want to learn more about the specs of the hottest new headphones, Google can provide high quality information straight from the source.

We also provide ways for people to share their knowledge about places across more than 220 countries and territories. Thanks to millions of contributions submitted by users every day--from reviews and ratings to photos, answers to questions, address updates and more--people all around the world can find the latest, accurate local information on Google Search and Maps. 

Newly created information and insights from Google

Through advancements in AI and machine learning, we’ve developed innovative ways to derive new insights from the world around us, providing people with information that can not only help them in their everyday lives, but also keep them safe.

For years, people have turned to our Popular Times feature to help gauge the crowds at their favorite brunch spots or visit their local grocery store when it’s less busy. We're continually improving the accuracy and coverage of this feature, currently available for 20 million places around the world on Maps and Search. Now, this technology is serving more critical needs during COVID. With an expansion of our live busyness feature, these Google insights are helping people take crowdedness into account as they patronize businesses through the pandemic. 

We also generate new insights to aid in crisis response--from wildfire maps based on satellite data to AI-generated flood forecasting--to help people stay out of harm’s way when disaster strikes.

Organizing information and making it accessible and useful

Simply compiling a wide range of information is not enough. Core to making information accessible is organizing it in a way that people can actually use it. 

How we organize information continues to evolve, especially as new information and content formats become available. To learn more about our approach to provide you with helpful, well-organized search results pages, check out the next blog in our How Search Worksseries.

Can AI make me trendier?

As a software engineer and generally analytic type, I like to craft theories for everything. Theories on how to build software, how to stay productive, how to be creative...and even how to dress well. For help with that last one, I decided to hire a personal stylist. As it turned out, I was not my stylist’s first software engineer client. “The problem with you people in tech is that you’re always looking for some sort of theory of fashion,” she told me. “But there is no formula–it’s about taste.”

Unfortunately my stylist’s taste was a bit outside of my price range (I drew the line at a $300 hoodie). But I knew she was right. It’s true that computers (and maybe the people who program them) are better at solving problems with clear-cut answers than they are at navigating touchy-feely matters, like taste. Fashion trends are not set by data-crunching CPUs, they’re made by human tastemakers and fashionistas and their modern-day equivalents, social media influencers. 

I found myself wondering if I could build an app that combined trendsetters’ sense of style with AI’s efficiency to help me out a little. I started getting fashion inspiration from Instagram influencers who matched my style. When I saw an outfit I liked, I’d try to recreate it using items I already owned. It was an effective strategy, so I set out to automate it with AI.

First, I partnered up with one of my favorite programmers, who just so happened to also be an Instagram influencer, Laura Medalia (or codergirl_ on Instagram). With her permission, I uploaded all of Laura’s pictures to Google Cloud to serve as my outfit inspiration.
Image showing a screenshot of the Instagram profile of "codergirl."

Next, I painstakingly photographed every single item of clothing I owned, creating a digital archive of my closet.

Animated GIF showing a woman in a white room placing different clothing items on a mannequin and taking photos of them.

To compare my closet with Laura’s, I used Google Cloud Vision Product Search API, which uses computer vision to identify similar products. If you’ve ever seen a “See Similar Items” tab when you’re online shopping, it’s probably powered by a similar technology. I used this API to look through all of Laura’s outfits and all of my clothes to figure out which looks I could recreate. I bundled up all of the recommendations into a web app so that I could browse them on my phone, and voila: I had my own AI-powered stylist. It looks like this:

Animated GIF showing different screens that display items of clothing that can be paired together to create an outfit.

Thanks to Laura’s sense of taste, I have lots of new ideas for styling my own wardrobe. Here’s one look I was able to recreate:

Image showing two screens; on the left, a woman is standing in a room wearing a fashionable outfit with the items that make up that outfit in two panels below her. In the other is another woman, wearing a similar outfit.

If you want to see the rest of my newfound outfits, check out the YouTube video at the top of this post, where I go into all of the details of how I built the app, or read my blog post.

No, I didn’t end up with a Grand Unified Theory of Fashion—but at least I have something stylish to wear while I’m figuring it out.

6 new ways Android can help this holiday season

With the holidays around the corner, we’re sharing six new Google features for Android—a few more ways your phone gets more helpful over time, even outside of major OS updates. Whether you’re texting holiday greetings to loved ones or winding down with a book, here’s how Android can help.

1. Mix up more of your favorite emoji

Emoji Kitchen gets new stickers and mixing experiences

Click on the image above to see a video of the latest mixing experience coming to Emoji Kitchen 

With Emoji Kitchen on Gboard, people have mixed their favorite emoji into customized stickers over 3 billion times since it was released earlier this year. With this latest update, Emoji Kitchen is going from hundreds of unique design combinations to over 14,000. Each mix makes it easier for you to express yourself with a little extra flair. Now you can simply tap two emoji to quickly see suggested combinations, or double tap on one emoji to reveal some more intense emotions. 

Already available on Gboard beta, the new version of Emoji Kitchen will be available on Android 6.0 and above over the coming weeks. Download Gboard on Google Play to enjoy the new emoji kitchen stickers this holiday season. ❄️️⛄️

2. Enjoy more stories as audiobooks

Auto-narrated audiobooks give voices to more ebooks

Click on the image above to see a video of how Google Play is bringing more audiobooks to Android

The holiday season is the perfect time to wind down and catch up on some books, and audiobooks make it even more convenient to immerse yourself in a story. But not all books, like the one written by your favorite indie author, are converted into an audiobook. Now Google Play, working with publishers in the U.S. and the UK, will use auto-generated narrators so books without audio versions can be narrated—meaning you’ll have more audio titles to choose from on Play Store. The publisher tool to create auto-narrated audiobooks is currently in beta, but it will roll out to all publishers in early 2021.

3. Use Voice Access to navigate your device 

Easily use and navigate your phone by speaking out loud with Voice Access

Click on the image above to see a video showing how Voice Access can help you navigate your smartphone

Built with people with motor disabilities in mind, Voice Access lets you control your phone using your voice. Now using machine learning technology, you can add labels to the screens of your Android apps to help you work within them with your voice. For example, you can say “open Photos”, “tap Search”, “tap Your Map” to see a map of all your photos. This makes navigation convenient and hands-free, using just your voice. Previously rolled out on Android 11, this new version of Voice Access is now available globally on all devices running Android 6.0 and above. You can download Voice Access on Google Play and try the new version out by joining the Beta today.

4. Get around with the Go Tab

New Go Tab in Google Maps is available today

Click on the image above to see the video of the new Go Tab in Google Maps

With the new Go Tab in Google Maps, you can more easily navigate to frequently-visited places with just one tap. Pin your favorite driving destinations like school or a grocery store to quickly see directions, live traffic trends, disruptions on your route, and an accurate ETA—all without typing the place’s address. If you take public transit, you can pin specific routes, which will let you see accurate departure and arrival times, alerts from your local transit agency, and an up-to-date ETA right from the Go Tab. You can even pin multiple routes (including a driving route and a transit route) to the same destination to see which one will get you there most efficiently. The Go Tab starts rolling out on Android and iOS in the coming weeks. 

Be sure to check out other helpful Google Maps features on Android, like live transit crowdedness and Assistant driving mode to help you navigate and get things done this holiday season.

5. Android Auto expands to more countries

Android Auto is rolling out to more countries

Over the next few months, Android Auto will be expanding to new countries, bringing your favorite apps and services from your phone onto your car display. With Android Auto, you can talk to Google to play music, send messages, get directions, and more, so you can keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. With phones running Android 10 and above, all you need to do to get started is plug your Android phone into a compatible car. For Android 9 and earlier phones, you can download the app.

6. Share your favorite apps with Nearby Share

Send and receive apps without cell or wifi connection

An upcoming update to Nearby Share will let you share apps from Google Play with the people around you with an Android phone, even if you don’t have a cell or Wi-Fi connection. Simply open Google Play, go to the “Share Apps” menu in “My Apps & Games,” select the apps you want to share, and let your friend accept the incoming apps. This update will roll out in the coming weeks.

Use Voice Access to control your Android device with your voice

In 2018, we launched Voice Access, an Android app that lets you control your phone using your voice. The ability to use your phone hands-free has been helpful to people with disabilities, and also those without.

Today, on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we’re rolling out an updated version of Voice Access, available in Beta, that is easier to use and available to more people. This version of Voice Access, which was previously available on Android 11, is now available globally to devices running Android 6.0 and above. 

Thanks to machine learning and a refreshed interface, it’s easier to use your voice to control your phone. Previously, Voice Access would draw numbers over your phone screen so you could   say commands like “tap 1,” “scroll down on 5” and so on. With the new version, you can ask for labels instead of numbers.  Say "show labels” and use them to voice commands so it’s easier for you to remember and use again later.

This update also adds new commands to help you get things done faster in your favorite apps. Instead of saying “tap search” and then “type kittens,” you can simply say "search for kittens" inside YouTube, Photos and many other apps where you’re looking for a kitten fix. 

When you first install or upgrade to the new version, you can choose to have Voice Access start whenever you use your phone  Or if you like, you can just say  "Hey Google, Voice Access" when you need it.

Voice Access was designed for and with people with motor disabilities (like ALS, spinal cord injuries or arthritis). But it’s also helpful for anyone with a temporary disability, like a broken arm, or whose hands are otherwise occupied, like if they’re cooking. Regardless of the reason, the updated Voice Access app makes it easier for anyone to use their phones hands-free! 

You can download Voice Access on Google Play and try the new version out by joining the Beta today.