In the last post, we all agreed that search engines have to keep trying different ways to improve search. For example, if you sit down and look at queries that users type, it’s clear that spelling mistakes can be a problem for lots of users. That’s what led us to work on a kick-butt spelling corrector. I love that you can get “Did you mean:” suggestions so that [sturling engine] suggests [stirling engine], but [sturling silver] suggests [sterling silver].
So what else can be improved besides spelling? Well, how about queries? Check out this UI test:
The user entered the query [to be or not to be] without any quotes. Google is able to suggest that adding quotes to make ["to be or not to be"] is useful. It also shows some sample results (yup, Shakespeare is a much better result). Finally, it even gives you other good searches to try, such as [hamlet] or [to be or not to be that is the question]. That’s a pretty helpful UI test in my book. I’ve also seen suggestions like [mono] -> [mononucleosis] and [24 amendment] -> [24th amendment]. Nice.
Why am I even bothering to write about this? After all, Google is always trying new things to improve search, including different UI tests. Well, an SEO firm based in New York claimed this was “breaking news” and implied that Google was interspersing ads into natural search results. Nope, not at all–this is yet another algorithmic UI test. And the SEO would have known it wasn’t breaking news if they read Gary Price on SEW regularly.
So just for completeness: people who know Google well will go “Cool” and move on. Other folks will ask things like “Are queries selected by hand–can my query get in on this? Is money involved?” And the answer is: it’s all algorithmic. The algorithms pick the queries where this could be helpful. Of course money isn’t involved at all. We’re always running experiments to improve Google–sometimes it’s noticeable, and sometimes it’s not. Don’t even get me started on all the ways we’ve tried using ellipses in our snippets to make them more useful.