Over the last few years the search engine landscape has undergone some revolutionary changes. The focus has largely shifted from traditional, algorithm dependant result to people oriented results – it’s all about what the users want! Searching for anything over the internet never seemed so exciting and easy as it is today. It makes you think what’s coming next?
Gord Hotchkiss from Search Engine Land recently caught up with Shashi Seth, Senior VP of Search Products at Yahoo! to see what he thought the future has in stall for search.
With Bing’s algorithm powering Yahoo’s search results, the company now stands in a very interesting position in the search game and Seth is well aware of this.
I think our mission is to rethink and reimagine search entirely. Given this relationship with Microsoft, we are shifting our focus from the very traditional indexing, crawling, and ranking to what we define as the next generation or the new face of search. That includes new ways to search for information, new ways for information to be brought to the user, new sources of data, and so on. Search as we know it is going to change significantly.
Search has grown from simply typing keywords and getting a list of results. With users becoming more aware and smart they demand more accurate & updated information, the way a search result is presented, and reviews from other users before they actually click on a particular URL. Likewise the search engines have to get equally smart and come up with robust algorithms that will cater to all these requirements.
So are the present day search engines smart enough to meet the customer demands?
Seth says that search engines are already progressing in their back end.
When a query comes in, the first thing that we do is obviously go through our index and look up all the results that are relevant, and in doing so we also use various forms to rewrite the query—for example, use of synonyms, use of different keywords that are juxtaposed in order to either expand or contract the query, and so on. All those things are being used by all the search engines. But at the same time when that query is fired off to our back end, we also do what we call “look aside” indexes. So, for example, if we don’t know for sure that this could have any local relevance, we may fire it off to our “look aside” index and be able to see if there are meaningful answers, and if there are, then we might choose to paint the search result page in a different way then if there aren’t any.
When asked what are the obstacles facing modern day search engines to meet the dynamically changing demands of the client, Seth pointed out a couple of areas. Firstly with search capabilities being available across multiple applications it is difficult to present relevant results. Also, providing relevant advertisements in the search results is also challenging for the search engines.
The interview with Seth delves a lot deeper into mobile search and online advertising, feel free to read it here. But to summarize, it appears there are exciting times ahead for Yahoo! and the search engine landscape as a whole.