By special invitation only at the moment, but GoogleÂ is testing a new service which integrates content from a user’s Gmail account when they perform queries in natural search.
So what, you might say.
On the one hand, combining the two makes a fair amount of sense – Google is integrating as much content from a user’s Plus account and their subsequent social circle into search results already, so this is a logical extension.
There may be openings here around email marketing, presuming that a user keeps many of the emails that they have signed up to in the past.
Sceptics are not so sure, however, with Adam Bunn, director of SEO at digital marketing agency Greenlight, agreeing that there is an opportunity, but the chances of it becoming a discipline (by way of optimising campaigns) that companies should focus on are unclear.
“But how likely is it that your email will stay in someoneâ€™s inbox to appear later in their search results if they donâ€™t know and like your brand, something that needs to be created and supported offline and online with digital PR, social media engagement, natural and paid search presence?
“Equally as unlikely that someone will have recommended your restaurant, Iâ€™d bet.”
But the field test, as Google calls it, does have one interesting element as far as travel consumers are concerned: a way of automatically checking on the status of a flight from within search, based on trips that have been booked and confirmed via email.
[Search Engine Land, which has been accepted into the test, has a full run downÂ of how it works]
Essentially a user can type “my flights” (it works the same for an airline name)Â as a search query into Google and the engine will scan the user’s email for flight booking emails.
When it has found an email with the flight number and date it automatically shows the current status of the trip, diving into data provided byÂ FlightStats.
Furthermore, if a user is a regular traveller then other confirmed flight bookings will be available via a drop-down, so pretty much a user’s entire itinerary can be shown.
While not earth-shattering, what the development (test) illustrates is that Google is potentially heading down a far broader platform for travellers beyond its attempts with Google Flight Search.
Imagine, over time, how a user might be able to automatically have their upcoming trips streamed into their Plus page, be able to share them around their network, etc.
Such a service could be extended so that those with similar plans could be combined through Google “Hang-Outs”, so others can share tips and recommendations of an upcoming trip.
Post-trip, content (reviews elsewhere, blog posts, pictures or video) could be aggregated into a dedicated page relating to their journey.
Does all this sound slightly familiar?Â Oh yeah, of course it does – there’s a TripIt for that.
Few at the Concur-owned trip management system (which, yes, scans a user’s emails for trip booking information to populate itineraries) will be running scared just yet.
But what this latest development shows is that the social aspect of travel, alongside the search and booking elements, content (such as Places pages) and reviews is perhaps where Google is heading when its eyes how to capitalise on travel being one of the most popular activities for web users.