Last week, Udi Manber, Google’s VP of Engineering, gave a short presentation where he discussed the difficulties that face search engines.
One of the problems he pointed out was that “20 to 25% of the queries we see today, we have never seen before.”
A patent application published for Yahoo on the same day, Interactive search engine, about supplying predictive queries to searchers as they are typing the query terms into the search box, bases a decision to do so on the assumption that
…it is highly probable that a user intends to issue a query in which at least one other person has issued previously.
Both methods rely upon looking at the popularity of queries used previously, as well are frequent recent queries. Yet if so many queries are new, does the assumption becomes somewhat questionable?
The presentation of predictive queries on mobile devices may mean less typing with a stylus or numerical keyboard, and may mean that people performing searches on laptop and desktop computers have a little less typing to do.
There’s probably some value to continuing to use predictive queries even if so many searches are new and unique, and a percentage of searches aren’t answered by predictive results even if they aren’t unique.
The new patent application describes some potential uses for predictive queries that we may not have seen in action, such as their use with different types of searches, perhaps in conjunction with tabs, such as image, video, or shopping searches.
Some other suggested queries may be shown because they are “related” to predictive queries, but without being completions of a spelling of the word being typed into the search box.
If a quarter of searches are new, then predictive queries aren’t going to help those searchers. But they could still be useful to other searchers.