Google Quick Answers

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Many of you are familiar with Google’s operator define, useful for a quick lookup of an unfamiliar term. Unlike other operators, define doesn’t need a colon after it; here is an example: define SEO.

defineseo

Google includes a link along with the definition if there’s one specific website it “thinks” provides the best answer. If you are searching for something common, such as Engineering, it provides a dictionary definition without a website reference. Recently Google has started adding a lot more information in addition to definitions, as you can see on this screenshot:

defineengineering

Google also now responds to a question “what is <…>?” in a similar manner, providing a definition, – and responds to some other searches that it “perceives” as questions, to which it knows of definitive answers.

Google’s answer is combined with the usual search results and is shown just above them. In some cases the answer for a “what is” question is the same definition as the operator define provides; in some, it’s a different one:

quick-a

 

(Also try what is Engineering?)

The answers to “what is” questions are Google Quick Answers (sometimes also called Direct Answers). They can certainly be useful for research. As the time goes, “quick answers” expand way beyond “just” definitions and also beyond special Google search features like calculator, weather, etc.,  that have been around for quite a while.

Let’s take a look at some.

Of course, the question mark is not necessary; it is ignored. Using proper grammar is also not necessary; you can often just hint at a question. However, to get an instant answer, you need to keep it simple; using Boolean operators will take Google on a different path of interpreting what you are searching for.

Try these searches; at this point they all trigger “quick answers”.

Can you come up with some other search strings that will trigger Google Quick Answers today?

 

Comments 2

  1. While Google Quick answers can be useful I find that for many of these types of queries Wolfram|Alpha does an equal and in many cases a better job.

    Examples:

    Who is the President?

    Longest Roller Coaster

    Population Toronto, Seattle, Mumbai

    academy award best supporting actress 1982

    distance from earth to jupiter

    Also, I often find these answers using outdated info on Google.
    For example, the “How Many Users Does Twitter Have” query is using data from one year ago.

    In this case, WolframAlpha doesn’t do better.

    The correct answer (according to Twitter’s SEC filing and web site is 284 million users). Google answer now online is 232 million.

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