How a Search Engine Might Use Synonyms to Rewrite Search Queries

Google Tells Us About Ways to Rewrite Search Queries using synonyms

Search for the word “automobile” at Google, and the search engine might rewrite your search to include results for the word “car” as well since it is a synonym of the word automobile. Accidentally misspell the word as “automoble” and Google might automatically correct your spelling error and search for “automobile.”

Follow that up with a search for the word “driving” and Google could expand your query by using a process called stemming to look at the root of the word (driv-) and adding common endings to it, to come up with, and include in the search, such words as “driving,” and “driver.”

This kind of query expansion is aimed at providing searchers with better search results. This method of expanding queries might not happen yet (though it sometimes appears to for spelling corrections at least), and it might not happen in all searches.

Typical approaches to rewrite search queries include: Continue reading “How a Search Engine Might Use Synonyms to Rewrite Search Queries”

Social Responsibility And The Small Business

I originally posted this at Search Engine Land this past summer for the “Small is Beautiful” column. I’m hoping that more businesses embrace the idea of social responsibility in the new year to come, and I am adding a small business category to SEO by the Sea, with this as the first post.

In the profit-centered business, customer happiness is merely a means to an end: maximizing profits. In the customer-centered business, customer happiness is an end in itself, and will be pursued with greater interest, passion, and empathy than the profit-centered business is capable of.

– Putting Customers Ahead of Investors, John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods

A couple of weeks ago, a shopping mall near my home announced that they would start checking the IDs of teenagers at entrances to the mall after 5:00 pm on Friday and Saturday nights, and not allow anyone under 18 to enter the mall unless they are accompanied by a parent or supervising adult over the age of 21.

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Green New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve been working upon and considering some of the things that I might do to lessen my environmental impact upon the Earth and others, and thought that it might be worth sharing those here.

I’ve written them in the form of New Year’s resolutions that people could follow, but we don’t have to wait until the new year to start doing what we can to benefit the environment.

There are many steps that we can take to help us live in a greener, and more environmentally friendly world which can also help us save money and energy, be healthier, benefit local economies, and help others in our communities. Starting to be informed on environmental issues is a good beginning. Taking actions like the ones that I’ve listed can have a big impact if many people get involved.

1. Stop using plastic bags from where you shop. I’ve been carrying environmentally friendly reusable shopping bags in my car, and I need to start remembering to carry them with me into the grocery stores.

2. Cut back on your car usage – walk or bike more, consolidate trips and errands so that you can drive less, and investigate telecommuting and public transportation opportunities – even carpooling or taking public transportation one day a week can make a difference.

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Dominant Media Elements in Search Engine Results

When a search engine presents the results of a search to you, it will often show you the title of a page, a short snippet from the page or a meta description, and the URL of the page. While that information can help searchers choose which pages to visit, showing images from the pages listed may provide a helpful clue about what those pages are about.

But if a search engine started including pictures from web pages in search results, how would it go about deciding which image to show to searchers? Which image on a page might be the most important image, if there is more than one?

Choosing Pictures for Search Results

If you publish pages on the web, do you include pictures on those pages? How meaningful are those images by themselves, out of the context of your web page?

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Search Trails: Destinations, Interactive Hubs, and Way Stations

We use search engines to find information about the world around us. In return, search engines are working on using information about how we search, and how we browse web pages to try to provide us with information that we want to find.

A search engine might gather information from search engine log files as we search, to see which terms we use to search with, and which pages we select in search results. If we use a toolbar from the search engine that may collect information about where we go on the Web, the search engine may also track where we browse when we are looking at pages related to our searches.

How does a search engine use this information about how we search and browse on the Web? What kinds of assumptions are they making about the behaviors of searchers, what searchers might find valuable on web sites, and the best ways to get searchers to pages that those searchers might be interested in finding?

A recent patent application from Microsoft gives us some insights and describes search trails, destination pages, interactive hubs, and way stations, which are all defined below.

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