Google is going to start adding recommended keywords below the search bar to help you filter results, according to a Tuesday blog post from the company. It calls the feature “topics” and says it will make it easy to add and remove qualifiers from your search without doing a whole new search.
As an example of how this system works, Google shows a search for dinner ideas. In the filter section, where you’ll usually see buttons that let you switch to Images or Shopping, there are new buttons that let you add modifiers like “easy,” “healthy,” “vegetarian,” and “high protein.” Tapping it narrows down your results and lets you add several at a time if you want to get really specific. It’s similar to adding more words to your original query, but you don’t have them ahead of time; you can see what Google suggests and go from there.
One annoyance I discovered is how to delete topics. Google says you can “backtrack” to remove them, and the reason it uses that word is that you can only remove the last one you added. I added “easy,” “cheap,” then “southern” to my food search, but couldn’t remove “cheap” without first removing “southern.” Technically, you can manually edit the query in the search bar – topics you add are automatically added to your query – but that doesn’t detract from the point of the easy-to-press buttons.
The topics are not always logical either. I searched for ‘holidays’ and some of the suggested add-ons totally worked: ‘packages’, ‘summer’, ‘family’ and ‘cheap’. However, the first one suggested was ‘band’, apparently due to an indie rock group from Australia. That might be helpful to someone, but most people looking for vacations would probably be better served with another suggestion. Google’s post says it generates and ranks topics based on “what we understand about how people search and from analyzing content on the web,” but it doesn’t seem to have quite set the context yet.
Still, I think this feature will ultimately be more useful for figuring out what to actually search for than manually scanning the suggested search dropdown, based on my brief testing. Google teased topics in September as part of its wider multisearch initiative, but now they’ll actually appear in the Google app for iOS and Android, as well as the mobile web, in the coming days. The company says they will be available to English speakers in the US.