This week in search 2/5/10

This is part of a regular series of posts on search experience updates that runs weekly. Look for the label This week in search and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

In addition to language improvements this week, we released several other new features:

Haitian Creole translation
We've now added Haitian Creole (kreyòl ayisyen) translation to Google Translate, so that you can translate between Creole and 51 other languages, and also hear spoken versions of Creole translations. While this translation system is still evolving (when translating to/from Creole, English performs better than other languages), we hope it will help relief volunteers communicate better with Haitian earthquake victims, and serve as a useful resource for people in Haiti and elsewhere. To learn more about ways you can help with Haiti relief efforts, please visit our Crisis Response page.

Example translations: [Kijan ou ye ?] and [How can I help you?]

Improvement for Arabic searches
Sometimes when people conduct a search, they forget to separate words with spaces or mistakenly repeat a letter within a word. These types of errors are much more common in languages like Arabic, where some letters are considered word breaks. In other words, if the last letter of one word is a word break, the following word may not be separated with a space. To address issues like this, we recently developed a search ranking improvement that targets certain Arabic queries. Our algorithm employs rules of Arabic spelling and grammar and signals from historical search data to indicate when to leave out spaces between words or when to remove unnecessarily repeated letters. Now, when you type a query leaving out spaces or repeating a letter, you'll see better results based not only on what you typed, but also on what our algorithm understands is the "correct" query.

Example search: [التربيةوالتعلييم] Incorrectly typed, this Arabic query may not produce a relevant search result. With our algorithm change, the query returns better results for the correct meaning: "Ministry of Education."

Doodle 4 Google
This week marks our third annual Doodle 4 Google contest in the U.S. The competition gives K-12 kids the opportunity to design their own Google logo and the winner appears on for a day so that hundreds of millions of searchers can enjoy it as well. In addition to the bragging rights, there are a number of great prizes including a college scholarship and computer's for the winner's school. If you or your child are interested in getting involved, check out our announcement or visit the Doodle 4 Google contest page for entry rules.

Stars in Google News
A couple of months back, we launched the Custom Sections Directory feature in Google News, enabling you to setup and share sections on topics of interest. Now there's an even easier way to keep up to date with particular news stories. Mark a story cluster by clicking on the star next to it — just like you do with messages in Gmail and items in Google Reader. Once you've starred a story in Google News, when there are significant updates, we'll alert you by putting the headline in boldface. You can also follow your most recent starred stories in the Starred section of Google News. Learn more about this, and get starring!

Thanks for following news of our search enhancements, and stay tuned for more.