When you try to gauge how effective your website is, you may decide upon certain metrics to measure its impact. Those may differ based upon the objectives of your pages, but could include things like how many orders you receive for products you might offer, how many phone calls you receive inquiring about your services, how many people signup for newsletters or subscribe to your RSS or click upon ads on your pages. They could include whether people link to your pages, or tweet or +1 articles or blog posts that you’ve published. You may start looking at things like bounce rates on pages that have calls to action intended to have people click upon other links on that page. You could consider how long people tend to stay upon your pages. There are a range of things you could look at and measure (and take action upon) to determine how effective your site might be.
A search engine is no different in that the people who run it want to know how effective their site is. A patent granted to Yahoo today explores how the search engine might evaluate pages ranking in search results for different queries, and looks at a range of possible measurements that it might use. While this patent is from Yahoo, expect that Google and Bing are doing some similar things. And while Bing is providing search data for Yahoo, that doesn’t mean that Yahoo’s results might not be presented and formatted differently than Bing’s results, and include additional or different content as well. As a matter of fact, Yahoo recently updated its search results pages.
One of the problems or issues that you might run into when attempting to see how well your site works is determining how well the metrics you’ve chosen to measure that might work. A problem that plagues large sites is that they are so large that it can be difficult to determine which metrics work best. Yahoo’s approach uses a machine learning approach to determining the effectiveness of different “search success” metrics.
Imagine that you run a search engine, and you find a way to predict the outcomes of certain events fairly closely based upon internet activity such as browsing and search histories, page clicks in search results, actions taken on social networking applications, and so on. The events might involve things such as winners of American Idol, political election outcomes, weekend movie revenues, or music album sales, attendance for sporting events, or television ratings for different shows.
What would you do with that power?
A Yahoo patent application granted today explores how the search engine might use data about how people act on the Web to predict that kind of information.
A recent comment here noted that the core algorithm behind how Google works hasn’t changed very much since its earliest days. I’m not sure that I agree. Many of the posts I’ve made over the past five years that involve Google patents and whitepapers describe ways that Google may be changing how it determines which results to show searchers.
Many of the changes Google makes to its algorithms aren’t always visible to its users, while others that change the interface we see when we search tend to stand out more. Interestingly, many changes that Google makes are based upon live tests that we may catch a glimpse of if are lucky, and we pay attention.
Google’s Testing Infrastructure
At Google, experimentation is practically a mantra; we evaluate almost every change that potentially affects what our users experience. Such changes include not only obvious user-visible changes such as modifications to a user interface, but also more subtle changes such as different machine learning algorithms that might affect ranking or content selection…
When you arrive at a web page, the owner of that page might start collecting information about your visit for a number of reasons. One of the most commonly collected pieces of information is an internet protocol (or IP) address. An IP address is a number that can be associated with the way and the place that you access the Web.
The Difficulties of Using an IP Address as a Data Point
Your IP address might be assigned to a server or a router that you use to connect to the Web, or a proxy server or firewall that stands between the computer that you are using and the rest of the internet. You might go online on a computer that you share with other people at home or at a public place like a library, or at an office filled with other computers. You might share an IP address with roommates or family on the same computer, or use more than one computer through the same IP address.
A unique IP address might be assigned to your internet access every time you dial into the internet, or may be leased by your router on a weekly basis through your broadband provider and may change if that lease isn’t automatically renewed by logging in within a certain amount of time after the lease period is over. If you access the web through an office, your IP address that can be seen by the pages you visit might be that of your company’s firewall.