Usability and Search Engine Pages, Paranoia and Personalized Search

We often focus on how search engines respond to queries here, but don’t often look too closely at the pages of the search engines themselves.

How important a role does usability play in determining which search engine a person will use?

One important aspect of search is how quickly results are retrieved. That amount of time seems insignificant these days, but I remember a time not too long ago when you would have to watch your screen for a number of seconds before a list of results appeared in front of you.

Is it important to still see something like this after getting some results from Google:

Results 1 – 100 of about 38,000,000 for search usability. (0.36 seconds)

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Speaking at SES NY on Search Algorithms and Patents

I will be joining Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz and Jon Glick of on a panel focusing upon Search Algorithm Research at the New York Search Engine Strategies Conference on February 28, 2006.

If you are going to attend the conference, or are in the New York City area during that week, and want to meet up, or say hello, please let me know. I had a great time at last year’s SES in New York, and met lots of great folks. I’m looking forward to attending this year.


Udi Manber Leaves A9 to Join Google

Google has added another top search scientist to their team.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted yesterday that Udi Manber, chief executive of Amazon’s A9, will be leaving the Seattle-based company to become a Vice President at Google.

Both John Battelle and Gary Price have more on the move.

Udi Manber was a professor of Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Arizona. During his academic career, he co-developed a number of popular search software packages.

He joined Yahoo! as their chief scientist in 1998.

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Results Clustering Patent Application from Microsoft

A new patent application from Microsoft considers ways to present search results to searchers in clusters, with meaningful names.

Published on February 2, 2006, it was originally filed on July 13, 2004, and is assigned to Microsoft Corporation.

Query-based snippet clustering for search result grouping
Inventors: Hua-Jun Zeng, Qicai He, Guimei Liu, Zheng Chen, Benyu Zhang, and Wei-Ying Ma
US Patent Application 20060026152


A clustering architecture that dynamically groups the search result documents into clusters labeled by phrases extracted from the search result snippets. Documents related to the same topic usually share a common vocabulary. The words are first clustered based on their co-occurrences and each cluster forms a potentially interesting topic. Keywords are chosen and then clustered by counting co-occurrences of pairs of keywords. Documents are assigned to relevant topics based on the feature vectors of the clusters.

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Just what was the first search engine?

Some recent research I’ve been doing had me looking at the Infoseek search engine, and its part in the history of search engines. I remembered an old book I have on search engines which has a couple of chapters on Infoseek, and started to reread it.

The book is the Web Guide to Search Engines, from February of 1998. It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a book about search engines which hasn’t mentioned Google. This one focuses upon the search engines on the web at that time, and on adding a search feature to your site.

I didn’t get much past the first section of the first chapter of the book, titled Bow Down and Give Thanks to Archie, before I hopped on the web and started looking at Archie’s role on the net. As it notes there:

The grandfather of all search engines was Archie, created in 1990 by Alan Emtage, a student at McGill University in Montreal.

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Stop Pushing, Start Pulling

I don’t just love Eric Weaver’s post “Direct Marketing: A Science of Stupidities” (no longer available) because he starts off his own list of ten steps to successful marketing with “become search friendly.”

I love it because he offers ten more suggestions that are spot on. And because he provides some great and snarky opinions on some other “best practices” of intrusive marketing.

Thanks to Anthony Garcia at Future Now for pointing it out.


Ask Andrei: One of the world’s foremost search scientists takes questions

Over at the Yahoo! Search Blog, there’s a nice opportunity to submit some questions about search technology to one of the giants in the field, Dr. Andrei Broder, who recently joined Yahoo!

Dr. Broder is the co-inventor of many interesting Patents on search. The latest include one with Google’s Krishna Bharat on how to estimate the coverage of web search engines, and a somewhat different approach for ranking web page search results.

It was tempting to ask Dr. Broder which search engine he would estimate covers more of the web than others, but I instead asked about the Yahoo! patent I mentioned a couple of days ago, and where he might see the future of search headed.


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Meetings, meetings, meetings

I just got back from a business meeting, and I really have to say how much I like lunch or dinner meetings.

Meetings can be both informal and informative. The one I had today is a weekly event where a client and I get together, and talk about marketing strategy, blog posts, what’s happening on the web, business issues related to running an office, and so on. It works out well because we don’t pull any punches, and we hold serious discussions which lead to actions that can be easily taken.

These meetings usually require big tables, where we can spread out to jot down notes on a notepad, and write up a recap of some of the ideas and action items that come out during the meeting. They also giving us an opportunity to scout out some of the many restaurants in the area.

They are quite a change from some of the meetings I’ve been in on past days, with formal minutes of the meetings approved or amended, committees formed to determine who has the power and authority to undertake certain actions, so many people participating that people need name place holders, and so many stakeholders involved that not everyone who attends is empowered to take actions.

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Getting Information about Search and SEO Directly from the Search Engines