Predictive Queries versus Unique Searches

Last week, Udi Manber, Google’s VP of Engineering, gave a short presentation where he discussed the difficulties that face search engines.

One of the problems he pointed out was that “20 to 25% of the queries we see today, we have never seen before.”

A patent application published for Yahoo on the same day, Interactive search engine, about supplying predictive queries to searchers as they are typing the query terms into the search box, bases a decision to do so on the assumption that

…it is highly probable that a user intends to issue a query in which at least one other person has issued previously.

I’ve written about Yahoo’s approach to predictive queries before, as well as Google’s use of predictive queries.

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Better Business Location Search using OCR with Street Views

Google introduced street views to selected areas of their maps recently.

Not discussed in Google’s Street View help sections is how those views might help Google improve the accuracy of locations for both the maps, and for Google’s business locations databases.

A problem with search engine mapping databases is that the information collected hasn’t always been very accurate, based upon the way that the this kind of information has been collected.

Often, GPS location information for some “anchor” street addresses are known for these systems, and the locations for businesses and buildings between the anchors has been interpolated.

According to the authors of a new patent application from Google, significant discrepancies are sometimes observed between actual GPS locations and interpolated locations, with actual addresses being off by 100 yards or more.

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Blog-Based Annotations for Web Sites

Imagine surfing the Web, and being able to look at what other Web sites or other visitors wrote about the site you’re visiting.

For example, someone might be viewing a manufacturer’s web page relating to a product they are interested in purchasing.

A past effort at Web annotation was the Third Voice browser plug-in, which let people post public notes about a site that could be seen by other Third voice viewers. Many of those ended up being spammy and/or inappropriate. Click on the image below for a larger version of Google’s potential approach.

Google Annotations

This invention would let people receive summaries of blog posts linking to the Web site being visited. Those people could also perform a Web search or blog search through a search engine requesting documents relevant to the site.

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When Choosing an eCommerce System, Remember the Search Engines

A thoughful and intelligent article from Shannon Watters at Digital Web this week, How to Choose an eCommerce Package, offers some great suggestions on what to look for when choosing software for an online shop offering goods or services or both.

Shannon writes about what she calls the “top eleven things to consider when choosing an eCommerce package,” and it’s difficult to argue with her selections, but I was hoping for an even dozen things to consider – with an addition of how the ecommerce software might interact with search engines.

Of course, an ecommerce system should be easy to use for both shopper and site owner. Updating the software, and adding functionality from third party toolmakers should be a breeze. The software should be able to scale with growth, and it should be easy to use with an analytics package, so that you can measure your traffic and see how visitors use the site.

Shannon’s suggestions regarding promotions and discounts and the ability to offer customer service are spot on. Security is essential, and an intuitive checkout process will be a major determinent as to whether visitors become customers. Her opinions on open source options, and on the community and company behind a software are filled with thoughtful suggestions.

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Google Acquires Webfonts Presentation Developers, Zenter, Inc.

The official Google Blog announced today that Google had acquired Zenter, Inc., manufacturer of software which provides online presentation tools.

The circumstances around the development of the presentation software is described in My Innoview with Wayne Crosby.

The company appears to have started out under the name Click ‘N Slide, Inc., and may have changed names after Evan Williams spoke at a presentation held by Zenter funder Y Combinator and offered them use of the domain name – see: Zenter -> Goog

There appear to be at least two provisional patent applications applied for by the company, including one on WebFonts which allows presentation authors to create, edit, and rotate text in an intuitive manner. A search through the US Patent and Trademark office doesn’t reveal these patents, which probably aren’t published yet.

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Caching and Search Engines

Not every algorithm or process that a search engine comes up with is aimed at providing more relevant search results, or advertisements to go with those results. Some just focus upon getting results back to searchers quickly.

A nice paper from Yahoo research looks a some of the technical aspects behind how a search engine works, and some of the implications of those approaches: The Impact of Caching on Search Engines

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