Google has just announced on its blog a set of updates to its Hot Searches feature, which is powered by Google Trends. The feature still allows users to see rising search trends, but is now more “visual,” groups related results and adds more context.

In case you haven’t actually used Hot Searches before, it’s a list of the fastest rising search terms in the U.S., and with Google’s dominance of the search market, this feature is able to create an accurate snapshot of what’s on the public’s collective mind.

According to Google, the list is updated on an hourly basis, and utilizes an algorithm that analyzes millions of searches in the U.S. and determines which queries are being searched much more than usual. As you can see in the image below, Apple tops the list of today’s hottest searches, something that Google conveniently left out by using yesterday’s screenshot.

Screen Shot 2012 06 12 at 10.38.54 AM 520x317 Google refreshes Hot Searches, makes it more visual, groups results and adds more context

From Google:

With rich images and links to related news articles, you can glance at the list and instantly get an idea of why these topics are particularly hot at the moment and click to find out more about them. Unlike the previous version of Hot Searches, which always provided 20 daily results, the new page introduces a filtering system that helps us make sure that the list includes only the truly hottest news stories of the day.

Also, when a few of the fastest rising search terms refer to the same news story, such as [tony awards 2012] and [audra mcdonald], they’re now aggregated into one entry, which lists all the “Related searches” that go along with the main story. Lastly, the new list also provides an indication of how many searches have been conducted for each topic in the 24 hour period when it was trending.

To find out what the hottest searches are today, whether it’s a celebrity engagement, a sports-related shakeup or news about your favorite TV series, check out the updated Hot Searches list in Google Trends.

➤ Hot Searches