Google and Personalization in Rankings

A couple of months back when I was traveling, I wrote a quick post about a new PageRank patent issued to Stanford University on PageRank, and asked if anyone would be interested in trying to break it down to see if it it had anything interesting in it. David Harry took a look in a post titled Tale of the two PageRank Patents.

David and I have been exchanging some emails since on some of the patents that we see, and an area that we are both fascinated with are some that delve into a kind of a behind the scenes personalization. He has written a couple of very thoughtful and interesting posts involving personalization at Google recently, which are definitely worth checking out:

  • I have seen the future and it is VERY personal
  • Why Google Personalized Search is Important to You

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The Google Advanced Search that Could Have Been

If you could limit the results of a search at Google to a specific point of view, would you? Depends upon what I mean by point of view, doesn’t it? I’ll get to that below.

A Google patent granted this week shows a screen shot of an advanced search that could have been:

An Alternative Google Advanced Search

There are a number of interesting features in this advanced search that would enable searchers to filter or expand search results in response to their queries.

These would require a searcher to make some choices as to what URLs are looked at (as on-topic” or “off-topic”), or categories, or keywords, enabling them to add some or reject others.

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Yahoo on Search Advertising and Behavioral Targeting

The advertisements from search engines that we see accompanying search results, or on portal pages, or as part of a content network, are often related to the query used in our searches or the content of the pages that we are viewing.

Would ads which we view that are more targeted towards our interests be more effective?

If so, how would a search engine know what we are interested in seeing, and would they understand what our intent might be in looking at different pages – whether we are just gathering information, or if we are serious about buying something?

Building Profiles

Search engines can collect a lot of information from us, as we go about the internet and they follow the trail of information that we leave behind.

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Microsoft on Index Partitioning

What’s a good way to organize the index of a search engine?

A way that is fast and returns a lot of relevant results? Maybe one that doesn’t need to be search the whole index to find results?

A newly granted patent from Microsoft provides some interesting insights into indexing by document, and how static ranking factors may influence whether a document is in a main index partition, or if it might be found in a later partition acting like an extended index.

Microsoft Indexing - 1

In a recent post from Dan Thies, Why Google Can’t Just “Dump” PageRank, he discusses the importance of pagerank as mechanism for a search engine to use to decide which pages to put in its main index, and which ones to put in its extended index.

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Google Magazine – About Whatever You Want (Soon at a Kiosk Near You?)

There was news this week about being able to get directions and map information from Google at kiosks located at certain gas stations, as well as coupons. Might we see more from Google at kiosks sometime soon?

Maybe magazines that could customized and printed at kiosks? The gas station kiosks wouldn’t work as a printing station. They use a receipt printer for maps and coupons.

Imagine going to an interface like this one through your computer, or at a kiosk:

Custom Google Magazine Interface

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Microsoft Playing with Blocks to Understand How Images Might be Related

What is the most important part of a page? If a page has images on it, what images are the most important ones?

If a search engine were to try to understand whether or not any images on the pages of a site were related to each other, how would it go about figuring that out?

The first two questions are easy to answer – the most important part of a page is the part that visitors focus upon when they look at it. The most important images are the ones that people look at and pay attention to when they are on that page.

A newly granted patent from Microsoft tries to solve all three questions in an automated manner that can break a page down into blocks, and decide a level of importance amongst those blocks when comparing them to each other – what is the probability that a user will focus upon each of those blocks (or upon images within those blocks) when looking at the page.

It might consider the importance of one block to another on the same page and on other pages within the same site by looking at links between the blocks on those pages. It might view whether images are within the same blocks or related blocks, and also look for links to images from different blocks to see if and how images might be related.

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