This afternoon, Google just announced that Real Time Search is finally coming to search results pages. It's really early on in the announcement, but there's just enough data already to be able to give you a general picture of "what is it" and "how does it work?"

Back in the spring of 2009, Google announce several changes to the familiar SERP interface, including the Options panel and the now popular Wonder Wheel. At the time, Google's Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Products and User Experience, mentioned that finding the most recent information (ie real-time search) was now a high priorty for the engine.

Today Google officially announced the initial real-time feature interface, which you can access and play with here.

Accessing Google Real-Time Search

Visit this link to enable real-time search for your results. IF (and that could be a big IF depending on your query) there is a real-time search result for your query, you'll see a box that looks something like this:

Google Real Time Search 2

 

Wait a few minutes however, and you'll see something like this:

 

Google Real Time Search 2

 

Not enough real-time results for you? Click on the link that says "Latest results for…", and you'll get a whole page of real-time results:

 

Google Real Time Search - Tiger Woods

 

It appears as if the "Options" tab in Google is also going to change with the launch of real-time search. Here is the current panel seen when you click on the "Options" link in a Google SERP:

 

Google Options After Real Time Search

 

And here is the current panel seen when you click on the "Options" link in a Google results page AFTER you have real-time search enabled:

 

Google Options Before Real Time Search

The Results Pool

For the moment, it looks like most of the results are being pulled from Twitter and news results. The SERP loads first with news results, and then as the frame updates, the results become slowly dominated by twitter results, since the results seem to be ordered by recency, once they have passed the relevancy test.

Google previously announced a content deal with Twitter at the end of October, and today announced other deals with Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Jaiku and Identi.ca.

For the moment, the results will be rolling out globally in English only. Google has also added a "Hot Topic" column on Google Trends where you can see the most current topics.

Opportunities & Risks

REALLY interesting from a marketing point of view, each tweet that appears in the result is a clear, same-window link to the tweeter's profile. So if you can appear consistently in the real-time results page, you could gain a lot in terms of twitter subscribers. It's too early to tell if this is going to be a credible way of building your twitter audience, but being present here is definitely something to keep in mind.

It will be interesting to see what kind of filtering will be put in place once people begin sending repeated tweets on a hot topic over and over to get their name in the box.

Here's Google's official video tour of real-time search on YouTube:

More information:

Danny Sullivan is liveblogging (sort of) the roll-out on Search Engine Land, so you can follow the story here

Also, CNET is adding information as it becomes available.