Google Maps “Guesses” Your Destination, Getting Smarter

In further proof of how the digital age has transformed daily life, you no longer have to make tough decisions about where to go when you access Google Maps from an Android device.

Google Maps now has a new feature that predicts where you would like to go and weighs all the pros and cons for you between potential destinations – even if you weren’t actively debating your options.

Let’s say you usually go to a favorite coffeehouse at about the same time every Saturday. Google Maps can now alert you if the traffic to your normal destination is exceptionally bad and can automatically provide you with less stressful alternatives based on your past behavior. You don’t even have to enter a destination – it all happens just by opening Google Maps.

The mapping app will also alert you to gas prices in the area, your estimated time of arrival to each option, and tell you the quickest way to get to your preferred choice. You can even add shortcuts, that Google Maps may have overlooked, for future use.

While this all sounds futuristic, it has the potential to be a huge time saver. Any time that you’re not quite sure of where you’re going, you can get the lowdown on the trip to your potential destinations without having to actually go there.

You can access this new feature on Android devices on the sidebar of Google Maps. Choose the option to Start Driving, and the application will quickly help you decide, if you really want to try the newest restaurant on the other side of town or stick closer to home with a tried-and-true location and have time to spare for an after-dinner coffee or cocktail.

Five Great Google Search Tips

If you have ever felt discouraged when trying to find something specific on the web but Google search lists a ton of sites that aren’t relevant, you’re not alone.

Try these handy tips to hone your search terms and help Google locate precisely the information you need:

Tabs
Sometimes, the most obvious things are the most overlooked, and tabs at the top of search results are no exception. Get closer to your desired results simply by clicking the tab that best describes what you want.

If you need a picture, for example, select Images, and you will see nothing but images. The same holds true for news and more.

Quotes
Word order is often crucial to finding the right information, but Google search doesn’t naturally take this into account.

For example, you may want to locate information about the movie Simon Birch, but your search turns up results for a guy named Simon talking about birch trees. Simply put quotation marks around your term to search for a precise phrase.

Hyphens
There also may be words or phrases you wish to exclude from your search results. In this case, put a hyphen in front of the term to indicate you don’t want to see information that contains that term.

For example, if you wish to learn about antique dolls but are not interested in Barbie dolls, input antique dolls -Barbie.

Colons to Search Specific Sites
If you need to restrict your search results to a specific site, add a colon followed by the site address after your search terms to let Google show results only from that particular website. When you want to read news about the ebola virus just on CNN, for example, type in ebola virus: cnn.com.

This is also useful to search your company’s website. Simply use the word site, a colon, followed by your company’s website address. This will display all pages Google has indexed from your website.

Related Sites Search
Sometimes, you want to discover similar sites to ones you already enjoy. Let’s say you like the types of articles on Elephant Journal but have already read everything there. You can find new and similar reading material by searching related: elephantjournal.com.

Making Use Of Google To Help Your Day Run Smoother

The Internet is a very big place. Anyone who wishes to use the Internet in an effective manner needs to be familiar with search engines.

Google has become the primary choice for millions of users, although there are some others.

One of the main reasons for Google’s popularity and general reputation as being the best of the search engines is that they keep on coming up with new methods for surfing the Internet.

For instance, if you wish to look up a news story or current event, then http://news.google.com allows you to instantly have access to news stories that are literally just a couple of minutes old.

Anyone who is looking for a picture of just about anything is almost sure to find it at http://images.google.com, which is quite possibly the largest image search engine in the whole world.

If you’re looking for map or address information, check out http://maps.google.com – hundreds of thousands of addresses now have street view, showing you the actual view from a car in front of the building you’re looking for.

Google also has specific search engines for books, videos and even stock market developments.

Google Makes “Plus One” Available Web-Wide

If you’ve seen those “+1” widgets are at the bottom of a lot of websites, articles, and links, then you’re in tune with Google’s latest social networking push.

Think of the “Plus One” as being similar to Facebook’s “Like” button or a thumbs-up icon. It’s a way to indicate that you find a page helpful or useful.

Clicking on the +1 does more than just increment a counter. Clicking a +1 widget requires that you have a Google account. The first and most visible thing that a +1 does is add the page to your Google profile.

Your profile page can be public or private, serving as a personal list of pages that you found valuable.

You’ll start seeing +1 icons appearing in US search results, too. If you see the icon underneath a search result, that’s an indication that a friend (or friends) have found that link useful. Your Google “friends” are contacts you’ve stored in your Google Account.

As time goes on, search results will become more useful as you can see which links and options are recommended by your friends, and might be useful.

How Does Google’s Personal Search Affect Your Business?

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Consider this statement: “On Friday afternoon, Google made the biggest change that has ever happened in search engines, and the world largely yawned.” That quote is from a December 7, 2009, post on Search Engine Land, a website that covers Google, Bing and the other Internet search engines.

Don’t worry if you didn’t read the post. Since it was early December when Google announced that it would start personalizing all search results, we were getting ready for the holidays.

It isn’t clear at first glance just how significant this change will be. A closer look, though, reveals nothing short of a revolution in the making.

Here is what Google did, according to Google: “Today we’re helping people get better search results by extending Personalized Search to signed-out users worldwide, and in more than forty languages. Now when you search using Google, we will be able to better provide you with the most relevant results possible.”

A real world example: I do a lot of searches for recipes, and often click on results from epicurious.com. Knowing this, Google might rank epicurious.com higher on the results page the next time I look for recipes.

Other times, when I’m looking for news about the University of Michigan’s football team, I search for “Michigan wolverines.”

Because I frequently click on http://www.mgoblue.com/, Google might show me this result first, instead of search results about the animal.

Google is able to do this because they are now cataloging all of your searches for over 180 days. It then uses your search history to customize your results.

If you’re not signed in to your Google account, a cookie on your browser keeps a record of your queries.

Sounds pretty innocuous, doesn’t it? Better search results? Tailored to exactly what I need? I like this change! Others, however, might squirm at the Orwellian aspect of an omniscient Google knowing exactly what you want. Whether the change is good or bad is debatable, but it’s certainly going to be big.

Until now, search engines have largely delivered the same results to everyone. Two different people could search for Barack Obama and get back the same set of results.

The days of “normal” search results that everyone sees are now over. Personalized results are the “new normal,” and the change is going to shift the search world and society in general in unpredictable ways.

How might this change shift the world? Here are a few scenarios:

Narrowing your Internet experience
This change could curtail what we’ll call “search-engine serendipity.” Search-engine serendipity happens when you search Google with a preconceived notion of what you’ll find, but instead you end up exploring new ideas and virgin territory. Personalized results may repeatedly channel you through the same grooves, limiting your exposure to things outside your experience.

Confirm your personal biases
Search Engine Land’s Dan Sullivan picks up on this possibility in his post: “Is a search for Michelle Obama showing a racist image? Maybe for one person, but not for another.”

For the xenophobic Googler, every search may reinforce his xenophobic worldview because personalization filters sites that don’t jibe with his tastes. Another example: Once Google has you pegged as a bleeding heart liberal, it may serve up Huffington Post for every query.

Polarize our political system
You can see where we’re going with this. If personalized results reinforce our beliefs, we’ll soon have Google red and Google blue. The folks in Mountain View have tried to comfort people by saying that it wants “diversity of results.” But that poses another troubling question: Who will define diversity? Google?

It could reduce the visibility of your website
Since no one but Google knows how its personalization algorithm works, it’s hard to know how far-reaching the change will be. But it’s plausible that a business’ website would no longer rank for certain keywords among certain prospects. If, for example, a person went on an Amazon.com book-buying spree, Google might take note and start displaying Amazon.com for a majority of product-related queries, which is great … if you’re Amazon.com.

It could skew your SEO efforts
Since there is no longer a ‘normal’ set of results, it becomes more difficult to optimize your website. There isn’t one bull’s eye to aim for anymore: there are millions of them and they’re moving all the time as Google refreshes its 180-day cache of your search terms.

Personalized Search for Everyone
http://searchengineland.com/googles-personalized-results-the-new-normal-31290
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/personalized-search-for-everyone.html