Yahoo Cooking with Gas: Food Search on the Web

How well would a food search engine work on the Web?

One that let you search for meals available at local restaurants, or through recipes, or at local markets where you could find the ingredients to make your meal?

What if it provided information about each dish based upon flavors such as saltiness or bitterness, leanness or fattiness, hotness or coldness?

Would it help if it also provided a composition of dishes providing amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals? If you’re concerned about your health and diet, or have special dietary needs, that could be nice.

Would recommendations for alternative meals, and complementary sides and beverages based upon other searchers’ selections help?

A Yahoo patent application published last week describes such a Meal finder search (US Patent Application 20080147611).

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Site Explorer is a First Step: How Could Yahoo be Friendlier to Site Owners?

My original title for this post was, “The Yahoo Site Explorer Patent Application,” because the post is about a new patent application from Yahoo that describes some of the information that they would like to receive from webmasters to make their efforts towards indexing the web easier.

The majority of this post does describe what is found in that patent application, but as I was writing the post, I thought about how difficult Yahoo makes it for webmasters to find information about how they can use Yahoo.

This includes how fragmented Yahoo’s FAQs and Help sections are, and how much effort a webmaster has to go through to learn about all of the different services that Yahoo offers that could be helpful to those site owners, from using Site Explorer, to participating in MyBlogLog, to many other tools.

If you have suggestions for Yahoo on how they could improve how they present the services that they offer, what would those be?

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How a Search Engine Might Use a Searcher’s Knowledge, Interests, and Education to Rerank and Validate Search Results

The amount of pages on the Web that a search engine could try to index is extremely large, and the approaches that search engines attempt to use to index and rank those pages is mostly an automated effort, but that doesn’t mean that the search engines don’t have people take a look at search results, and try to gauge how relevant their automated results might be.

A search engine typically locates web pages that contain the keywords entered by a searcher within a search box. The order that those results appear are based upon a number of algorithms used by search engines which look at various factors, such as: the frequency and number of entered keywords that are within each page and the position of the entered keywords within each page.

An example might be a first page that has a keyword located in the title or near the top of the page ranking higher than a second page that has a keyword in a footer or near the bottom of such second page. That first page might be presented to a searcher before the second page because of the location of the keyword.

While this automated approach might be satisfactory to some searchers, other searchers might find rankings of pages to be inadequate or irrelevant to their needs.

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How Google Universal Search and Blended Results May Work

When you do a search for some terms over at Google, you might get a mix of results from different types of searches, including Web pages, news stories, images, videos, book listings, and others.

While we’ve been seeing results like this for over a year, we really haven’t heard much from Google on how they go about deciding what to show us where within search results.

We now have some ideas on how those results are blended together, straight from Google, through a patent application published this week at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

an example of Google blended results with news and an image blended into web search results.

David Bailey, one of the inventors listed on the patent, gave us a look Behind the scenes with universal search at the Official Google Blog last year, where he told us of one of the challenges behind Universal Search:

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Move Over Universal Search, Illustrated Search Is Smarter?

Blending images, video, and news intelligently into search results could be a valuable way of quickly informing searchers about the different concepts associated with a search phrase.

For example, if someone searches for the word “Jaguar,” a search engine often shows a large number of results with pages mixed together, about an animal, a car, an operating system, and a football team, as well as others.

If instead, the results were a shorter list with pictures and a few text results that illustrated those different categories or concepts related to the search term, a searcher could choose one over the others, and be provided with a more narrow set of search results focusing upon that particular concept. That could possibly improve the experience that a searcher might have.

Will this be the look of Yahoo search results in the future:

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Comparing How Commercial Different Search Categories are for Search Advertising

Search engines collect a lot of information from their users, much of which they don’t share with us. Some of it would be pretty interesting to see.

A Yahoo patent application describes some information that many who advertise on search engines would probably enjoy seeing very much, something that Yahoo refers to as a Search Category Commercialization Index (SCCI).

A quick aside, one of the things that I like about looking at patent filings is that they sometimes provide some insights into how search engineers view how search engines work. This one tells us that search ads located above search results are often referred to as “North” ads. Ads displayed below search results are often called “South” ads, and ads shown to the right of search results are “East” ads.

Getting back to the search category commercialization index, it isn’t uncommon that search queries are categorized into one or more categories. The author of the patent filing tells us that “this is especially common in search engines that double as Internet directories,” and that “the category or categories often reflect groupings of similar web destinations based on subject matter.”

Imagine if a search engine did provide some details on the effectiveness of categories of search terms used in advertising, to provide advertisers with an idea of current or potential commercialization of those categories of searches.

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Google’s Virtual Bookshelf Plans?

Some surprising news came out a few weeks ago that Microsoft was canceling their book scanning and search program.

Google’s book search continues on, and provides an opportunity to find digital copies of books online.

You can also create a library of books of your own choosing at Google, with some aspects of a virtual bookshelf built into the presentation of those books. There are a number of virtual bookshelf sites online, many with social networking features added to them, that do. I recently explored a few of them, and here are some of the ones that I came across:

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How Search Engines Can Index Pages in Parts

Web pages can contain a lot of information about various types of objects such as products, people, papers, organizations, and so on. Information about those objects may be spread out on different pages, at different sites.

For example, a page may host a product review of a particular model of camera, and another page may present an ad offering to sell that model of camera at a certain price.

One page might display a journal article, and another page could be the homepage for the author of that article.

Someone searching for information about the camera, or about the author may need information contained in both pages. They may have to use a search engine to locate multiple pages, to find the information that they need.

If there were a way for a search engine to automatically identify when information on different web pages relates to the same object, that might be helpful to searchers in a number of ways.

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