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[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 6:46 pm (utc) on Mar. 18, 2009]
[edit reason] removed specifics [/edit]
First, it reminded me of the distinction I'd noted in the thread between Refinements and Searches related to. To correct my post above, I am not now seeing Refinements on health and travel searches now. What I saw were the Related searches at the bottom.
I tried a few of the experiments we discussed in the "Refine Results - more: operator" thread, though, with some interesting results.
The health operator you noted in the thread, more:condition_treatment, does seem to affect the results. Searching for any illness...
...among other things, removes the Related searches at the bottom, which do appear if you search for the illness by itself or with "treatment".
The operator also removes the Universal results.
When the medical Refinements appeared some time back, I remember being impressed by how much they had improved the results. But the quality of results I'm seeing in a plain vanilla search now are essentially as good, particularly with the extra specificity provided by the Related searches down below.
Also, trying the query string addition miamacs suggested...
...adding it to a cityname search still brings back the co-op travel refinements up top and adds the more:suggested_itineraries operator in the search box, but if you try it the other way, and search for...
...you won't get the refinements, but the serp will drop the Universal results, maps, and "Related to" suggestions.
Maybe Google has dropped the Refinements, or is testing dropping them, because Google is (a) satisfied with the results without them, and (b) wants the Universal results to appear on all searches.
That's what's strange about this to me - from my experience people were using these, sometimes in the double digit percential range - which is a decent # for those types of options. I've never really seen a lot of complaints about these either.
I do see that they've changed their co-op page a bit, so maybe they're working on the refinements and will put it back:
New Google Search Options: Sort SERPs by recency, page type, wonder wheel, or timeline