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Google announced a significant upgrade to its core search engine on Wednesday, promising a richer multi-media experience for users and pointing the way to increased business with advertisers, the source of 99 per cent of its revenues.

Google launched Universal Search – the integration of search results from a range of its services, including YouTube – on its main search query pages.

At a presentation for the press and analysts at Google’s Mountain View headquarters, Marissa Mayer, vice-president of search products, showed how a search for the film Nosferatu would produce a standard text link to the Internet Movie Database, but the movie itself could also be watched in its entirety in the same results page through integration with Google Video.

Other examples included a search for Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Apple, that produced pictures, video and news from Google Images, Video and News along with the regular text links.

Ms Mayer said that she had first suggested the integration to Eric Schmidt, chief executive, in 2001, but the challenge had been too computationally intensive and meant that Google’s engineers had to create a new infrastructure to make it possible.

Asked if Google’s text advertisements could be made more graphical as a result of the changes, she said: “We don’t have anything to announce, but I do think this opens the door for the introduction of richer mediums into the search results page.”

Sergey Brin, Google co-founder, said that services such as YouTube, now mainly watched for their entertainment value, would be recognised as significant research resources through their inclusion in Google search results.

Danny Sullivan, search analyst with Search Engine Land, described the Google integration as “the most radical change to its search results ever”.

“The move potentially should be a huge boon for searchers, while search marketers who have paid attention to the importance of specialised or vertical search will see new opportunities,” said Mr Sullivan in a blog note.

Google also announced the introduction of a universal navigation bar and contextual navigation links, making links to other Google services more accessible. It launched Google Experimental, a chance for users to give feedback on new Google features.

A “cross-language information retrieval” feature would soon enable non-English users to seek English results and get them automatically translated into their own languages.

Google had 54 per cent of all US search queries in March, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, compared with 22 per cent for Yahoo and 10 per cent for Microsoft’s search services.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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