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January 1, 2015

From Snippets to Answers

Many Google answers include information that's already available in search result snippets. Google picks a relevant search result and shows its snippet at the top of the search results page. Sometimes it even adds an image from the page to illustrate the answer.

Here's a simple example of an implicit question. When searching for [pothole] on a mobile device, Google shows an excerpt from a Wikipedia page.

The page is actually the second search result. As you can see, the snippet and the answer are identical, so it may seem that Google's card is redundant.

Here are a few differences:

1. The answer is placed at the top of the page, so you are more likely to read it.

2. Google increases text size and places the answer in a special card, so the answer is more authoritative.

3. Sometimes Google adds a thumbnail to make the answer more useful.

4. The answer shows a link to the page below the snippet because it's less important. Search result show the link to the page first, while the snippet is only there to help you find the right search result.

5. When you're using voice search on a mobile device, Google reads the answer.

6. The answer is tailored for devices that don't have a browser, like smart watches.

7. Google doesn't always pick the snippet from the top search result, so it's not always redundant.

From snippets to answers, Google morphed from a search engine that shows ten blue links to a personal assistant that answers your questions. Google's results are evolving from a list of websites to comprehensive answers that use various sources, including websites.

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