'Snippets' of search results will look better thanks to AI updates, says Google

By TechThop Team

Posted on: 13 Aug, 2022

Google's “featured snippets” are those little bite-sized Google results that appear at the top of many search results when you do a search and are met with an info box highlighting the top answer. For many searches, the search engine bundles up and delivers featured snippets.

Featured snippets are problematic because they appear to be extra trustworthy from a user's perspective - they appear at the top of the results page, after all. Like the rest of Google search results, the snippets are generated algorithmically rather than programmed by human curators since Google introduced them years ago.

According to Google, these info boxes at the top of many search results pages will be improved by an under-the-hood change. According to Google, new AI technology called 'Multitask Unified Model' grants its search ranking system some self-checking capabilities.

To check if a search snippet result is saying the same thing, even in different wording, an AI model crosses-references the top bolded text portion with established high-quality search results.

“As a result of this consensus-based approach, we've seen a marked improvement in the quality and usefulness of featured snippets,' said Pandu Nayak, Google Search's VP of Product.

A second problem, according to Google, is when it appears to deliver reasonable answers to search queries that are flawed in themselves. With the latest AI model from Google, it will also be easier for its ranking system to determine when it isn't appropriate to display results in a snippet because the question's premise is false.

The company says that featured snippets now appear 40% less frequently in these situations.“The snippet provides accurate information about Lincoln's assassination, but it isn't the most effective way to display the result, Nayak wrote.

For example, a recent search for 'when did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln' provided a snippet, but that isn't the most helpful way to display the result.

As part of its announcement, Google also said it will be extending its use of warning messages when it cannot produce results that it has 'high confidence' in.

These content advisories have already been used by the company for emerging topics that have no established search results, but now it will use them when the overall search results don't meet its quality criteria.

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