The iPhone Siri & Changes in the Local Search

 

With Apple’s announcement of the release of the new iPhone 4s and iOS5 came the expected announcement of the tight hardware and software integration of their Siri natural speech technology. It appears to be integrated at the highest level of the user interface.

Mobile search on the iPhone has been broken. Google offers up voice search but it is by no means a hands free affair and takes way too much screen interaction to provide a result. Google’s product has been quirky and buggy on the iPhone and crashes frequently. Since the discontinuation of Goog-411, the 411 service on the iPhone has been only marginally functional due to a weak data sources for even the simple task of call completion.

Hopefully tight integration of voice with the phone will change all of that. The voice recognition system will read back texts, allow you to schedule an appointment AND do local search.

How does it do with local search? And where will it get its data?

The answer to the first question is that voice search on the existing Siri app is far better than Google’s voice product or the built in 411. That is a step in the right direction but passing the hurdle set by Google on the iPhone is not that difficult. It does a good job on the recognition side and it currently has an easy to use interface which will improve with integration and returns reasonable results.

Interestingly the current Siri app pulls data from a wide range of data sources to answer your questions. That is true with business listing data as well. Depending on the local search it might show results from Yelp, Yahoo, CityGrid, Localeze or BooRah. I presume that it uses even more sources than I have so far discovered and it appears to be agnostic as to where it gets its data. Siri also seems to mix and match sources when necessary.

Ultimately local will be almost 100% about mobile. That battle, at least for now, is Google vs. Apple. In local data that appears to mean Google vs. Everybody else (that Apple partners with). Does Siri solve the mobile search problem?

It is in the very early stages and users behaviors are not yet defined. Testing and time will tell if it offers up enough substance to be fluidly integrated into every day phone activity and local search. Here’s hoping.

Google Search for tablets

As part of our effort to evolve the Google design and experience, we’ve improved the www.google.com search experience on tablets. We’ve simplified the layout of search results pages and increased the size of page contents like text, buttons and other touch targets to make it faster and easier to browse and interact with search results in portrait or landscape view.

The search button located below the search box provides quick access to specific types of results like Images, Videos, Places, Shopping and more. Just tap to open the search menu and select an option to see results in one category.

For image results, we focused on improvements that enhance the viewing experience such as enlarged image previews, continuous scroll, and faster loading of image thumbnails.

This improved search experience is rolling out in the coming days to iPad and Android 3.1+ tablets across 36 languages. Give it a try by going to www.google.com in your tablet’s browser.

Google: Introducing the +1 Button

We all know what it’s like to get a bit of help when you’re looking for it. Online, that advice can come from a number of places: a tweet, a shared video, or a blog post, to name a few. With Google Social Search we’ve been working to show that content when it’s useful, making search more personally relevant.

We think sharing on the web can be even better–that people might share more recommendations, more often, if they knew their advice would be used to help their friends and contacts right when they’re searching for relevant topics on Google. That’s why we’re introducing the +1 button, an easy way for Google users to recommend your content right from the search results pages (and, soon, from your site).

+1 is a simple idea. Let’s use Brian as an example. When Brian signs in to his Google Account and sees one of your pages in the organic search results on Google (or your search ads if you’re using AdWords), he can +1 it and recommend your page to the world.

The next time Brian’s friend Mary is signed in and searching on Google and your page appears, she might see a personalized annotation letting her know that Brian +1’d it. So Brian’s +1 helps Mary decide that your site is worth checking out.

We expect that these personalized annotations will help sites stand out by showing users which search results are personally relevant to them. As a result, +1’s could increase both the quality and quantity of traffic to the sites people care about.

But the +1 button isn’t just for search results. We’re working on a +1 button that you can put on your pages too, making it easy for people to recommend your content on Google search without leaving your site. If you want to be notified when the +1 button is available for your website, you can sign up for email updates at our +1 webmaster site.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll add +1 buttons to search results and ads on Google.com. We’ll also start to look at +1’s as one of the many signals we use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, including social signals from other services. For +1’s, as with any new ranking signal, we’ll be starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality over time. At first the +1 button will appear for English searches only on Google.com, but we’re working to add more languages in the future.

We’re excited about using +1’s to make search more personal, relevant and compelling. We hope you’re excited too! If you have questions about the +1 button and how it affects search on Google.com, you can check the Google Webmaster Central Help Center.