Mar 252009

Google's Web PlusBox & Wonder Wheel Test?

Google's smart. They don't commission a study group to evaluate how their users will react to every change they make. They just select a sample of users and opt you into a test. Most folks don't even know that they're happy participants.

Today, I get to participate.

I noticed a new feature on my Google SERP for all of my searches this morning. An extra "web" plus box in the upper left hand corner, under the Google logo.

Expanding the box gives the user an opportunity to further filter their results by recency (day, week, month, year) or by type (videos vs. forums vs. reviews). It also provides the ability to add images from the websites that appear in the results or to add widgets that allow you to see the SERP in a different view.

Of the views, "Wonder Wheel" seems to be the most novel and the least helpful. Changing the view to "Wonder wheel" moves the traditional organic listings to the right and create a spiderweb-like display of related search terms. Clicking on a more specific term pulls up another web with more deeply related terms.

The plus box appears regardless of whether I'm logged in or not and whether I allow the SERP to be tailored to my locality or not. Others around there aren't seeing this, although the folks over at Blogoscoped picked up on these changes and even provided a way for you to check them out.

Officially, Google did announce two updates yesterday regarding longer snippets and their implementation of Orion. (Greg Sterling also posted a description and examples of those changes over at SearchEngineLand.)

Has anyone else been "selected" to test these features? Any thoughts?


8 Responses to "Google's Web PlusBox & Wonder Wheel Test?"
Did you notice there are no sponsored links on the Wonder Wheel pages?
Yes, good catch Glenn. I should have pointed that out. Sponsored listings appear in the standard view and with the search suggestion view, but not when using the Timeline or Wonder Wheel view.
Marc Adelman says:
We have been involved in the alpha test for the plus box for a year now. I like the plus box, as I see it as the window - no pun intended - to sponsored links transitioning to a multimedia format. Additionally I think it will have substantial impact on CTR. As far as the "Wonder Wheel" goes (Who came up with that clever name????), It seems more aligned with uber geek web 2.0 users rather than the overall Google audience.
Kevin Hill says:
Wow, that's awesome. With all the talk about Twitter Search being a challenge to Google (mostly from twitter fanboys), you have to wonder if these test features are a response to that, particularly the ability to filter results by time. A simple search for "google enhancements" illustrates this nicely. The top two links are from 2007, and if it wasn't for a link from the news results, there'd be no links for the recent enhancements at all. Try the same thing on Twitter's search, and you'll get far more relevant results Google's always had the option to sort by time available in the advanced search features, but a) it doesn't work that well and b) who uses the advanced search anyway? I bet Google's worried about how they're ability to index the real time web is perceived, and it looks like this might be a move to correct that.
Wil Reynolds says:
Thanks for posting this, I have not uncovered it yet in my traversing the web.
Bob says:
Yeah, the wonder wheel tool looks cool. If you haven't been selected to use their new beta, you can easily enable it by copying and pasting a line of text in your browser address bar. Here's how to do it ~Bob
Ryan Pryor says:
VA-Ryan, does the Wonder Wheel's search term suggestions appear to be fueled by any other known Google KW (suggestion) technologies, such as Suggest, Insight, or the standard KW Tools? What I mean is, does it possibly have value as a keyword research mechanism, down the road, or even now for lucky users like yourself? TN-Ryan
I'm not sure what's fueling the Wonder Wheel's suggestions. It's clearly different that what's driving their search suggestion layout. A search for "harry potter books" reveals nothing for the Wonder Wheel, but the search suggestion layout recommends over 15 different searches, including businesses that might be selling the books. As a research (or even as a search) tool, the value is rather limited. Call me old fashioned, but I'll stick with my Standard View for now.

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