Google Offers “More And Better Search Refinements”

March 24, 2009
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Fresh news, hot from the Official Google Blog:

Starting today, we’re deploying a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search, and one of its first applications lets us offer you even more useful related searches (the terms found at the bottom, and sometimes at the top, of the search results page).

For example, if you search for [principles of physics], our algorithms understand that “angular momentum,” “special relativity,” “big bang” and “quantum mechanic” are related terms that could help you find what you need.

A couple of reactions. First, Google has offered related searches for a while, so I’d love to know what makes these “more and better”. I can’t tell from playing with it, and the suggestions I see aren’t as good as, say, Kosmix. Second, if they believe that this feature can improve user experience, why are they putting the results at the bottom of the page (at least on all of my queries)? Surely they know from their own logs that only a minority of users look to the end of the results list.

While I see this enhancement as a step in the right d

Fresh news, hot from the Official Google Blog:

Starting today, we’re deploying a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search, and one of its first applications lets us offer you even more useful related searches (the terms found at the bottom, and sometimes at the top, of the search results page).

For example, if you search for [principles of physics], our algorithms understand that “angular momentum,” “special relativity,” “big bang” and “quantum mechanic” are related terms that could help you find what you need.

A couple of reactions. First, Google has offered related searches for a while, so I’d love to know what makes these “more and better”. I can’t tell from playing with it, and the suggestions I see aren’t as good as, say, Kosmix. Second, if they believe that this feature can improve user experience, why are they putting the results at the bottom of the page (at least on all of my queries)? Surely they know from their own logs that only a minority of users look to the end of the results list.

While I see this enhancement as a step in the right direction for Google, I wonder if they have their hearts in it. Google used to promote refinements–actually faceted search refinements–on their product search site, but pushed those to the bottom too. It seems very hard for them to get away from the primacy of those ten blue links.

I’d like to get excited about Google embracing HCIR, especially after they were so kind as to let me lecture them about it. And perhaps I’m being too harsh a critic. Their post concludes:

Even if you don’t notice all of our changes, rest assured we’re hard at work making sure you have the highest quality

It seems to me that they go out of their way to make sure that changes aren’t noticeable to users. I suppose their conservative attitude might cost them the occasional designer, but hasn’t hurt their pocketbooks.

Come on, guys, you’re the market leaders! Don’t be so timid.

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