Google is going to start adding recommended keywords beneath the search bar to help you filter down results, according to a Tuesday blog post from the company. It calls the feature “topics” and says it’ll make it easy to add and remove qualifiers to your query without having to do an entirely new search.
As an example of how this system will work, Google shows a search for dinner ideas. In the filters section, where you usually see buttons that let you switch to an Images or Shopping search, are new buttons that let you add modifiers like “easy,” “healthy,” “vegetarian,” and “high protein.” Tapping them narrows your results down, and you can add several of them at once if you want to get really specific. It’s similar to adding more words to your original search, but you don’t have them beforehand; you can see what Google suggests and go from there.
One annoyance I found is how you delete topics. Google says you can “backtrack” to remove them, and the reason it uses that word is that you can only get rid of the last one you added. I added “easy,” “cheap,” and then “southern” topics to my dinner search, but I couldn’t remove “cheap” without getting rid of “southern” first. Technically you can manually edit the query in the search bar — topics you add will automatically be added to your search — but that negates the point of the easy-to-press buttons.
The topics don’t always quite make sense, either. I searched for “vacations,” and some of the suggested add-ons totally worked: “packages,” “summer,” “family,” and “cheap.” However, the first one it suggested was “band,” apparently because of an indie rock group from Australia. That could be helpful to someone, but most people searching for vacations would probably be better served by a different suggestion. Google’s post says it generates and arranges topics based on “what we understand about how people search and from analyzing content across the web,” but it does seem like it hasn’t entirely nailed down context yet.
Still, I think this feature will end up being more useful for figuring out what to actually search for than trying to manually scan the suggested search drop-down, based on my brief tests. Google teased topics in September as part of its broader multisearch initiative, but now they’re actually going to start showing up in the Google app for iOS and Android, as well as on the mobile web in the next few days. The company says they’ll be available for English speakers in the US.