Yahoo! Focus on Search Intent, not Results

Happy Birthday, Search Monkey! Next up, structured data and descriptive tags for more informed SERPs, and understanding intent in search.

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After the one year anniversary of Yahoo’s Search Monkey project, Yahoo have announced that they plan to increase their search efforts and base their search feature around structured data.

The head of Yahoo Labs and Yahoo Search Strategy, Prabhakar Raghavan, has stressed Yahoo’s desire to not only see the web as a group of ‘documents’ or ‘pages’, but a group of ‘objects’.

This philosophy has been important to Yahoo for a while now and is reflected in their Search Monkey project, which encourages web publishers to use descriptive tags on their pages to help Yahoo Search interpret their content better.

Raghavan recently gave a presentation in which he said “It’s time to kill the 10 blue links”, referring to the lists of web pages that are provided by most search engines when a search is performed.

Yahoo has also mentioned other search projects that it is working on, such as adding other types of data to it’s search results, rather than the usual text links to web pages.

Instead Yahoo wish to somehow automatically predict the ‘intent’ of the user, they wish to interpret their users search queries and determine what they are trying to find or find out and therefore return the most relevant results.

Yahoo’s vision is for results pages to not only be a list of URL’s but to group information from the web as ‘objects’ and provide many different forms of data about the search query entered.

They wish for these bundles to include information such as reviews for businesses such as restaurants, album listings for musical artists and statistically information about sports etc. in addition to the normal news, photos and biographical information.

None of these concepts can be perceived as particularly cutting edge, as Google’s Universal Search has been showing rich content since 2007.

Also many of Yahoo’s demos returned very similar results to the results that were provided by Google on some searches, for example searches for restaurants were almost identical.

Also, while Yahoo has been promoting it’s structured data concept, it would appear that Google, the clear leader in the search market, has plans to move in this direction too, which cannot be good news for Yahoo.

In the past Yahoo has conducted lots of research into the mobile search market and it would seem that this has triggered these recent efforts in the normal search market.

Yahoo has found that when consumers use mobile devices they have a lot less room to trawl through loads of search results, due the size difference in the screen compared to a desktop computer, and also that they do not generally have the time to do so.

This has lead Yahoo to strongly consider consumer ‘intent’ within their algorithm, and they believe this will lead them to provide a shorter and richer list of more relevant results, as they will try to predict what the consumer is aiming to find when conducting a search.


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