If you could mandate just one change to the dynamics of search ranking, what would that change be?
Answering this question, I described how Google might make search results more interactive by allowing searchers to decide which algorithm they might use to search with, describing different search modes that a searcher could use when they were looking for results that might be relevant to them.
I mentioned how a reference librarian mode might help me find informational results. A village expert mode might let me see answers from my friends or people with expertise in a subject. A buying agent may make it easier to find reviews for products. A tour guide mode might show me businesses and services and history about a specific place.
So, I was excited to see a Google patent granted last week that seems like a step in that direction. It describes how Google might offer different search modes based upon a query showing some intent to search for specific results. For example, in the image above from the patent, one intent discussed is a “job” mode, which can allow people to search for jobs in many ways, including by a salary that might be associated with a job or employment within a certain location, as well as a display of a map that might show where those jobs were located.
In the image below, we see the results of a recipe search that provides several additional search options within the interface as well, including a list and a table view, the ability to sort by relevance or “easiest to make,” and a dropdown that allows a searcher to refine results further:
Of course, Google sometimes shows a sidebar link to “recipes” these days that will allow people to search specifically for recipes that they will show when there seems to be an intent by the searcher to see recipes. So the sidebar approach may be how Google decided to implement the process described in this patent. However, the patent hints at the possibility of many other “modes” that Google could show.
The patent tells us that search modes might become available through a button, a query suggestion, a link, or other ways. It also notes that some queries may trigger more than one possible search mode, such as searching for [cajun], where a search mode for recipes and another search mode for restaurants might become available.
The idea behind a job search mode seems like it might have been partly inspired by Google researcher Alon Halevy’s site Everyclassified.com, which he ran through Transformic, Inc., which Google acquired in 2005 or 2006. That site looked at the different collections of job records at different sites and how information was organized on those to draw them all together on one site. Approaches like that behind everyclassified.com, which likely inspired Google Squared and Google’s Relational Web and WebTables Projects, may play a role in whether or not we see several different search modes offered in the future.
Google’s metadata for rich snippets, such as the ones behind recipes may also make search modes like the ones described in the patent more likely.
The patent is:
Unified search interface
Invented by Dustin Boswell
Assigned to Google Inc.
US Patent 8,010,525
Granted August 30, 2011
Filed: January 12, 2011
Methods, systems, and computer program products feature determining a plurality of search result items responsive to a search query. A plurality of search modes is identified based on the query or the plurality of search result items, or both. Each search mode is associated with a respective collection of records.
The plurality of search result items is provided to a user with an indication of each search mode in the plurality of search modes. User input selecting a first search mode is received, where the first search mode is one of the plurality of search modes. One or more mode-specific search result items are determined based on the search query, where each mode-specific search result item is from the collection of records associated with the first search mode. One or more mode-specific search result items are provided to the user.
Making different search modes like the ones I’ve described become available to searchers through Google’s web search interface rather than adding more vertical searches and tabs for those searches, such as the ones you see for image search or local search or Google Scholar seems to make sense because searchers often don’t appear to choose those smaller but more focused searches by choosing the tabs for them.
It also doesn’t seem to make sense for Google to start adding more and more specialized search engines, such as a job search or a real estate search, but offering easy access to different search modes during a Web search when they seem like they might be appropriate could make searching easier for Google users.
Google metadata such as the metadata they’ve developed for recipes may be one way for these search modes to start appearing in search mode results. In addition, Google may introduce other “rich snippet” markup languages for other search mode results. If Google published new metadata for job listings, is that something that you would use for your “careers” page or section if you had one?
The search modes described in the patent aren’t quite the kinds of search modes that I described in my answer to Doc Sheldon’s question, but I see them as a step in the right direction.
By the way, one of the things that attracted me to participate in the creation of Critical Thinking for the Discerning SEO is that a donation of $20.00 or more to a charity of your choice will entitle you to a free copy of the ebook. See the link to the book above for more details.
43 thoughts on “How Google Might Introduce Job, Recipe, and Other Search Modes into Web Search Results”
Great answer to the question first off!
Secondly – this reminds me of something i’ve read before about Sushi in Supermarkets…
I was looking at the post about Google Maps earlier this morning and the introduction of snippets. The snippets on specific searches outside of maps would be really interesting.
For something like a recipe it would be great – categorising the responses by recipe (in the same way the pro-noun creates bins for restaurant reviews – e.g. Pizza / Taco, Etc) but also incorporating the semantic responses categorised by polarity and dictated by the most polarised (e.g. – greasy pizza, really spicy taco).
It might need a little bit of tweaking before it could be applied to the job search though…
Great news on the book too!
Sorry – I probably shouldn’t refer to the previous article as “sushi in supermarkets” but as Google’s Statistical Approach To Categorisation of Webpages and Boosting Results for Related Keywords
I also included the link this time.
This sounds interesting. I definitely prefer this sort of innovation to the sort which attempts to guess what a user wants based on previous preferences/locations/sites they’ve visited.
Do you think Google has your same idea in terms of an interchangeable algorithm and these steps mean they are slowly pacing themselves to that goal? Because after reading your answer to Doc’s question, I wondered why search engines wouldn’t do what you’re suggesting. The village expert and reference librarian modes would be incredibly helpful and popular among users. I realize this would be quite a ways off. So hypothetically, if you were in Larry Page’s shoes, how long would it take to implement the ‘ultimate search engine’ that you wish for?
Thanks! And congrats on the book!
Thanks for the shout-out, Bill! Your participation in the book was pure gold.
I wonder if this method of topical searching is more scalable, in terms of data-mining. Remember our buddies at InfoSeek, with the “Search within results” checkbox at the bottom of the page? I LOVED that, as it allowed you to really drill down. I’ve always wondered why Google never implemented something similar. Chicken >> fried >> recipe… gave one a lot more control over the results.
Interesting. As someone with a recipe website im sure this would only help people find my recipes easier. Targeted traffic is the goal of both google and webmasters.
Thanks to Doc Shelton, real SEO and search marketing expert !
Thanks. I think giving people the ability to define their search modes increases their confidence and expectations of the types of results they might find. Allowing people to provide more input regarding the types of results that they would like to see, and giving them additional helpful ways of viewing and navigating that information makes a great deal of sense, including being able to view sentiment snippets associated with some types of results, such as restaurants.
Hopefully people are taking advantage of Doc’s offer for a free copy of the book for proof of a donation to a charity.
Hi again, Tom
The “sushi in supermarkets” name for that post is growing on me, much like my girl scouts with guns post. 🙂
I do appreciate the efforts that the search engines are making to try to understand the intent behind searches by analyzing incredible amounts of data, but I have to say that I like it when we’re given more of an opportunity to interact in our searches to help define them better as well.
I imagine that there’s an internal conflict going on when it comes to Google trying to make it as easy to provide information to searchers as possible with as few steps as possible, and Google providing people with the chance to interact with search results by providing more input to help them find the information that they are looking for.
Google does collect an incredible amount of information from their search logs, from browsing and searching histories, from statistical models that they’ve built that can be useful in learning from very short query phrase the types of things that people are attempting to find. But adding some ways for searchers to help define what kind of information they might be trying to find by offering things like the search modes described in this patent could be very helpful as well.
I don’t know if we will end up seeing the kinds of search modes that I suggested in my answer to Doc’s question, but I do think that it’s the kind of area that the search engines will explore.
I appreciated the opportunity to participate, so thank you.
The search-within-results type approach is something that we might see someday at Google. See my post How Google May Transform Your Search into Multiple Related Searches (Without Your Knowledge) which describes a patent that points at that as one possibility.
I do think that people would appreciate the ability to sift through search results with some greater level of control, at least if it doesn’t seem too intrusive.
The patent doesn’t cover the modes that I suggested, but I like the additional features that it describes in relation to these more limited search modes, such as the ability to sort job results by distance, and see them on a map.
I’ve been wondering since I read this patent if the “recipes” search that can be presently accessed by clicking a link in Google’s sidebar would be very different from the “recipes” search mode described in the patent.
I know that the metadata approach that Google came up with is a little challenging to many of the people who have sites that provide recipes, but hopefully people are developing plugins to make it easier to display recipes in Google’s format.
It does sound like it could be very beneficial to people who do make the effort to present their recipes in a way that makes it easier for Google to find and display them, though.
Thanks. I really like what Doc is trying to do with the Book by making it free for people who make donations.
I appreciate the response, Bill!
It would be interesting to be able to choose the parameters that you would like to search. I really don’t understand algorithms or how they work, but having the ability to choose from a variety of menus or search types would be a welcome change for me.
Thanks for your very interesting, out-of-the-box article.
These modes for sure will make life easier for many of us. Instead of searching into a multitude of categories, you go directly to the mode of choice and make the search. This will definitely make everything much faster.
Another step to more quality. Webmasters and SEOs should go on to focus their websites on special topics!
An algorithm is simply a set of rules that a program might follow to perform some task. An algorithm might be fairly simple, or it may be more complex. Here’s an short example of one that Google likely implemented in 2003, and may have been behind what many refer to as the “Florida Update.”
The search engine might perform a search in response to someone typing a query into a search box and hitting the enter button. It might then find and rank the results for the top 100 results based upon a combination of PageRank and Information Retrieval scores. Before showing the search the results, it might take another step, which involves identifying all of the links that appear in those top 100 results, and seeing how many of them link to each other. The ones that are linked to the most might be boosted in search results based upon the number of links. That algorithm is know as “local interconnectivity,” and Google was granted a patent on it in 2003.
So, selecting one of the different “modes” that are described in this patent would have Google showing search results that it identified as fitting certain requirements based upon specific rules, and that might contain data that can be shown in certain ways. For instance, a “jobs” search might show pages about jobs where locations, salaries, type and duration of job (permanent, temporary, contract, internship), can be identified and sorted or shown in a map or table interface.
It does sound pretty interesting.
It Google implements this well (and if they implement it at all), I think it would have a lot of potential to make searches easier for people looking for specific types of information.
I’m not sure that this patent is suggesting that webmasters should only create sites that are focused upon a narrow topic. For instance, in an ideal world, a Google “jobs” mode search would not only return results from job boards sites, but also from business sites that have careers pages as well. If Google could do that, I would definitely see a lot of value in that type of search.
I think Google know that most people don’t understand all components of searching (in my mind this sound like …”They are too stupid to choose!”) and that’s the real reason not to gave them the opportunity to make their choises and to search through different algoritms and use personal search to guess them. As it depends on your example with jobs it will go too far and too complicated (my own opinion). Let’s not forget that Yahoo was complicated, but Google keeps the things simple. It seems it’s getting more and more complex to search these days…if know what to search 🙂
p.s. Sorry for my awuful english 😛
Great idea, Bill. It seems inevitable that Google will go in that direction. I think it would be a net plus to the user experinece.
Thanks for the article. That would be pretty interesting. It would pretty much put recipe search websites and related ones out of business.
I imagine that Google does look at a lot of data to see how often people use some of the different options that Google provides for searchers, such as:
– Advanced search vs. Basic search
– Use of search operators such as “site:”
– Use of different vertical searches such as image search, news search, Google Maps, etc.
– Use of some of the special options that show up in the left sidebar, such as reviews or recipes.
It makes sense for Google to experiment and try different approaches as well, to see if they can come up with ways to make it as easy as possible for people to perform searches and find what they are looking for.
An interface that makes it as easy as possible for people to find what they are looking for is good. But one that focuses too much on simplicity may fail to deliver results that people are seeking. One of the things that I really like about the Jobs search described in this patent is the ability to look at the locations of those jobs on a map. The effort that it seems it would take a searcher to view a map like that doesn’t seem that complex, and I think it’s something that provides value.
Not sure if Google will move closer to the types of search modes that I described, but the patent does show some movements in that type of direction. I think it would benefit searchers as well. Thanks.
It does seem like Google may go in the direction described in the patent. But it wouldn’t put recipe search sites out of business. By including a recipe search mode, Google may make it easier for people to find sites with recipes that are interesting to them. Once someone finds a recipe in Google that they like, they can then go to the site the recipe is on, and if that site has a decent search function, those visitors may continue to use that.
Oh, I understand. So, it would just be for referral. I know realize that what I had in mind did not really make sense, they wouldn’t start their own recipe database.
Thanks for the clarification.
I don’t want to get off topic but search is a pretty basic element in an online world and it really exists in the realm of the obvious. Search patents are a lock on the public catalogue. Anyone familiar with Dewey knows the importance of a catalogue but at least you could walk the shelves. I’d like them to revoke all search patents because it gives a monopoly on the access to knowledge, and while we’re in a loose orbit around this post have you every noticed that the best search info is always on page 2. Yep and that’s bound to generate another patent!
Fascinating write up. I’ve often felt that considering the massive importance of Google in the world’s communications (and simple, day to day problem solving), that it was strange that they didn’t apply the same experimental approach to their core product that they do to some of their more obscure products.
Wow! Well, I guess that would be great if ever implemented the way you said it here on your post. That would somehow make searching a bit easier.
maybe I’m complete false, but:
these days more and more shops offer multiple searches:
search threw: sizes, colors, men or women, child, t-shirt, leggins i.e
you can search threw one of this or all or something else.
It looks like the new folder on Google search.
This days come out a new usability study (with German customers).
The result is: Don’t do this.User do not understand. Your reader like to use “one searchfield”.
After reading this study I was by my partner. He loves to cook and to search for new recipes. I realize he uses only the “big searchfield”- so I ask why he doesn’t search for “recipes”.
He takes a look at me and said: “I haven’t seen it.”
Ok, I thought he is not a young man, no technical freak, 😉 but after a few weeks I heard the same “I haven’t seen it” from my son. He loves to play with databases 😉 he saved his first images on 5.4 floppy disks as he was 7 years old.
So I asked myself: do user really want to “click” on this new search options?
No problem. It does seem like Google is moving towards offering some services that might bypass some types of sites, such as their new flight search providing information directly from the airlines, skipping some of the sites that offer flight bookings, hotel bookings, rental car services, and even some tours.
Search is obvious, but if you ask most search engineers, I would expect that they would all answer that search is still in its infancy, and is an unsolved problem. There are so many different approaches that a search engine could take, and so many approaches that they could follow towards indexing content, displaying search results, and more that they aren’t doing yet.
I wouldn’t rely upon a classification system like the Dewey system for the Web, which finds one category for some publication that could easily fit into many.
It’s possible that revoking all search patents would result in some pretty crumby search engines.
I do look on the second page of search results, and sometimes even deeper, and I will sometimes find some pretty good results there, but I do often find what I’m looking for on the first page of results.
I think Google does do a lot of experimentation with most of the features that it adds to its core search.
I think it would be worth Google experimenting with the ideas, and seeing how well they might work.
Many sites do seem to be adding more faceted searches where you can sort and find products based upon different attributes such as size, price, popularity, and more.
Google does show a recipe link in their sidebar, and they do have tabs at the top of their pages for other options as well, such as Maps and Images. But chances are that most people just type in a Google search box, and it the enter button. I believe that’s why Google introduced Universal Search. Google hasn’t introduced the “mode” searches that are described in this patent, but it’s possible that they might, and it would be interesting if they did.
Jobs would be insane. I mean, Google is already indexing so much of the web, and to give it a job function would be awesome. Also the Google Turning Your Search Into Multiple Related was a good find too. New SEO blog up on my toolbar for sure 🙂
They are on top of their game, I just checked out the Google Flights. They do stuff right!
This is awesome! Having a search mode like this is really ingenious. I wonder what else Google has in store for us in the future. When do you think these new features will be released?
The question really is whether or not Google will decide to go ahead with this now that they’ve spent enough time and energy on it to file a patent about it. There are no guarantees that Google will use these search modes, but it’s still a possibility. It’s really impossible to give a timeline. Google hinted at Google Instant results in a patent that was filed in 2004, and it took almost 7 years for Google to start using that.
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