Mary Ellen Bates on "Google Squared"
August 25th, 2009 by analyticjournalism

Mary Ellen Bates offers up this good tip on “Google Squared” at

Bates Information Services, ________________________________________________________________________________________

August 2009

Google Squared

Google Labs — the public playground where Google lets users try out new products or services that aren't yet ready for prime time — is my secret weapon for learning about cool new stuff. My favorite new discovery in Google Labs is Google Squared. It's a demonstration of a search engine trying to provide answers instead of just sites, and at a higher level than the simple “smart answers” you see when you search for “time in Rome” or “area code 909”. Rather, Google analyzes the retrieved pages, identifies common elements, and creates a table with the information it has compiled.

This is a fascinating tool that helps you compile facts into tables that Google builds on the fly. Hard to describe, easier to show. Go to and type in a query that will retrieve a number of similar things — organic farms in Colorado, for example, or women CEOs… even superhero powers.

Google Squared generates a table of facts extracted from its index, with the items you are searching for as the left-most column, along with columns for whatever related characteristics are relevant for the topic. For organic farms in Colorado, for example, the table in the search results has columns for the name of the company, an image from the farm's web site, a snippet of description about the farm, and columns for telephone number, location and “season.” Note that some of these columns may have few entries in them, depending on what information Google analyzed. For women CEOs, the table includes the CEO's name, a photo, a snippet that indicates what her position is, her date of birth, and her nationality. For superhero powers, you will find the superhero's name, a photo, a far-too-brief description of said superhero, the hero's first appearance (in print, that is), publisher and even the hero's “abilities”.

Interestingly, you can insert your own items in a Google Squared table, and either let Google populate the rest of the row or type in whatever content you want in that row. I added Catwoman to my superheroes table and Google filled in the new row with her photo and description; I could provide the rest of the info. For some tables, Google even suggests additional columns. For my superheroes table, I could add columns for Aliases, Alter Ego, Profession (the Joker is a lawyer, of course), and so on. You can add your own columns, as well.

You can also delete a row or column that isn't relevant to your search. If you log in to your Google account, you can save your customized tables for later use. And you can export the table into Excel (the images are exported as URLs).

Google Squared is never going to compete with a real human's analysis of a collection of facts, but it can be a great way to start brainstorming, as a quick way to organize the results of your search, and as a starting point for a nicely-presented deliverable for your client.

“May I publish or reproduce this InfoTip?” Be my guest! Just make sure you credit the source, Bates Information Services, and include the URL,

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