In recent times whenever people compare the quality of search engines they usually focus on the 'relevance' of the search engine results. Over at MSN Windows Live we've taken this seriously and there have been numerous reports over the past year or two about how much our search engine relevance has been increasing. However I've recently been wondering whether 'relevance' is really all that relevant today and there are other factors that I consider more important than whether the most relevant web pages are returned for my web search. Below are examples from Google and Live Search to illustrate my point

  1. Search for "Marvel Ultimate Alliance" on Google

    Note the options to 'Refine Search results' that gives you links to queries for screenshots, cheats and reviews along with finding the most relevant web site that matches the query.

  2. Search for G-Unit in Live Search

    Note the 'Related Searches', list of Top Downloads for the rap group and a link to the G-Unit page on Rhapsody along with finding the most relevant web site that matches the query.

  3. Search for "skate king bellevue" on Yahoo!, Google and Live Search, all of which not only bring up the most relevant website that matches the query but also the business's phone number and address on a map as well.

What I'm getting at is that relevant search results is on the way to being a commodity. Yahoo! search, Google search and Live search all give me pretty relevant search results most of the time. We are at the stage in the world of web search where what will keep a search engine on top or make it rise to prominence if it isn't on top is how much more it does beyond just finding relevant web pages.

This isn't a startling revelation and I'm sure all the folks working at the major search engines already realize this but it was a new insight to me. :)


Friday, December 1, 2006 12:49:22 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I did couple test queries on Live and Google.

It seems that Google promotes database-style styles over mom-and-pop-shop's better. And I like that.

For example typing movie, artist and album names Live likes to bring up random shops, using the domain name as indicator of usefulness whereas Google brings more useful sites like IMDB, Discogs, Wikipedia and Amazon to the top 5 results, which is very nice as I don't have to create separate scoped query for them.

If I were developing Live services I'd add algorithm or custom table for working out what are the useful databases (instead of Search engine Optimizer pages) and if the searched title pops up on those databases, a special highlighted bar (instead of Live's crappy adds) would show up that'd give links to all the relevant database pages in one or two rows and indicate whether I'd need to pay to access most of the information or not next to the link.
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