How Google search works, nice NY TImes article

Google Keeps Tweaking Its Search Engine as noted at the Google Blogscoped (RSS) article, Behind the Scenes of Google Rankings.

Seems like it's at the cutting edge of what search can do for you but they admit it's nowhere near perfect. I remember hearing an interview with one of the Google Execs about her interview and was asked, "So, how good do you think the Google search is", to which she replied how it was very good, leading edge, better than the rest etc and the response back was, "Nope, it's pretty rubbish actually. If it were perfect it would give you ONE result, the one you're looking for". Now that's aiming high and why they are trying to "personalise" the experience - that one result is relevant to me, at a particular time

The Google Blogscope article summarises, amongst with others, how they are trying to make it more and more relevant ... but do we care, isn't it "good enough"?:
  • Ranking pages through signals, classifiers & topicality:
    Web pages are evaluated by 200 so-called “signals” (the famous PageRank algorithm being one signal). Another signal may be e.g. in the historical data of how a web page changed over time... or personal user search history (Google is also taking into account on which results users click on in order to determine ranking, as a Google engineer recently told a group of us). Added to signals, Google uses “classifiers” to determine what category the search query belongs to; e.g. whether the searcher is looking for information on a place, wants to buy a product, or googles the name of a non-celebrity. Now, through something Google calls topicality – “a measure of how the topic of a page relates to the broad category of the user’s query,” as the NYT puts it – the overall relevancy score for a page for a given query is calculated, and another “diversity” tweak ensures the top 10 is varied enough if that’s not already the case (a discussion of the final top 10 tweak, censorship in e.g. Germany, France or China, is omitted).

  • Searchers often use ambiguous queries:
    While it seems easy to have the word “bio” to also return pages containing the word “biography,” the word “apples" for instance ought not to result in a match for “Apple”... so it’s not as trivial as it may seem.


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