Posted by: Marshall Sponder | April 21, 2008

Google Recent Searches To Influence Search Results

Interesting post at Google Operating System on Recent Searches To Influence Google’s Results but I don’t think this is going to end up making Google much more useful than it already is / isn’t:

Until now, Google personalized the results based on the search history only for users that were logged in and enabled the Web History service. Google created a profile from your search history and used it to disambiguate your queries and slightly alter the rankings for pages that were likely to match your interests.

The new signal for personalizing results (recent searches) should work without having to log in and could influence the results in a different way. In many cases, people constantly refine their queries by adding or removing keywords, but Google and other search engines don’t use all these refinements to improve the results in real time. By connecting the related searches from a session, Google will understand more from what you intend to find and should deliver better results.

I guess Google needs to do what it does best, refine search results – but I can’t help feeling that it’s really just raking sand instead of coming up with anything much. The new refinements will further erode the value of ranking near the top of Search Results because if a query isn’t answered in the first set of results, and you search again, all bets are now going to be off on what search results you’ll end up seeing.

And consider this, according to Hitwise, the average Searcher’s session on Google is 13 minutes and 42 seconds according to a post titled Google Properties Breakdown – by Pages

Last week, the average session duration on was 13 minutes 42 seconds. We use the IAB definition of a visit (“A series of one or more page requests by a visitor without 30 consecutive minutes of inactivity.”). This doesn’t mean that consumers are spending 13 minutes 42 seconds on each search but rather indicates that they are performing multiple searches per visit.

The big differences compared with the ranking by visits is that Blogger and Orkut jump and Google News drops. By session duration, Orkut has the highest average session duration at 22 minutes 1 second last week, followed by YouTube at 18 minutes 50 seconds.

Guess that’s a lot of multiple searches per visit (to fit into close to 14 minutes – how much is that .. 5 Searches, 6 Searches, 7 Searchers per session?).

Pretty much kills the idea of ranking well, because at the end of the day, Google’s search now sucks unless you know “exactly” what you want and how to phrase it (which is why you have search 6 or 7 times on average, to find something you’ll settle for or just give up) and therefore, the average searcher is going to be more influenced by the stuff they see in the second, third and fourth search than the first – and that’s the stuff Google is going to mess with so you see what they think you wanted based on what you last searched for.

Do I care?

No, because most of the innovation in search, as far as I can see, has been done already, that’s why Google is just raking sand. But at least, the good news is — seek and ye shall find – or keep searching and eventually, Google will figure out what you want and show it to you.



  1. Hey there… Dave here.

    Just figured I would pass along some more coverage from the search geek angle for ya;

    What is interesting is more about what is under the surface as far as other signals relating to user performance metrics. They covered query analysis in more in a few patents last year;

    There are links there for 3 patents in particular.

    So for me, Marrissa’s comments were a confirmation of the usage of query analysis and there is likely more than that being used in one form or another….

    ..keep up the great painting and writing… I am enjoying both (tho U having 2 blogs is making me dizzy)


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