What Searchers Want

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-07-09 Print this article Print

But when you say that people need to get their information in different ways … One thing I wondered is that today most search engines are providing all users the same view into search depending on the terms they enter … Thats not true. If you type in the same term, not the most popular term, you are going to find that Teoma gives you back a different series of results than Google or …
And thats not what Im speaking to. Im speaking to [the fact that] you dont differentiate me as a user from any other user. Are you looking at any ways to now, upfront, say, hey, Im looking at business issues versus …
There are three or four ways to look at it. The first way to look at it in my mind is theres a package you put around, lets call it, the global search experience, that kind of generic search experience. And Ask.com is now adding a whole set of features around index search … For example, now, if you go to Ask.com and type in "Best Buy," were going to give you back a smart answer— right to that URL. Were going to get more intuitive around search. Thats one way you do it and thats at the macro level, and thats the area that Jeeves has excelled at, and I think were going to continue to move that around the ISH brands as well. The next piece of the puzzle comes around that people also, when theyre very familiar with a subject, may not want all the bells and whistles that Jeeves supplies, like related search or smart answers. They may just want to get in and out fast. So, you have a clean experience like My Way or My Search. There are different ways you can lay out the page. Then it gets into this whole idea of knowing about you. Theres a couple of ways to do that. The first way is to look at the masses of people, so you understand that today when people type in Ronald Reagan, theyre more concerned about his funeral and maybe his history than they are about the airport. You know by how people are clicking and what theyre doing and really what I call the movement of herds of people … Then theres the idea that I can target you by where you are searching from. So, by understanding your IP address, I can know that youre in London or know that youre in Northern California and may even know that youre in Berkeley. And I can start targeting you on a local level by knowing that session anonymously where you are searching from. Then, of course, people start talking about this idea of personalized search, which is, "Give me all your information, and I will customize it. And I will track all your searching habits and know what youre interested in." I think that thats kind of stretching the envelope a bit, and that starts to push a lot of buttons in people that theyre concerned about and I dont think its necessary to do. You dont need to have a lot of detailed information to make search better and better and better. Amazon.com Inc. has launched its own search engine focused on personalization. Click here to read more about A9.com. Thats from the personal perspective, but then you have it from the vertical perspective … The new buzzword is local search. I wish people would stop talking about local search because what local search is is a subset of global search. Its a filter in a sense, right? Exactly. And when you go to Jeeves and type in "weather" in Berkeley, were going to give you that its 47 degrees and sunny, and heres the five-day forecast and the seasonal weather patterns. Thats local search, right? But people dont think of it as local search. Read more here about the debate over local searchs future. We did a new smart answers for movies where you could type in "Shrek 2," and what youre going to do is get a review of "Shrek 2." And if you put your zip code in it will give you all the local theaters that are playing the movie and the times. Thats local search, but thats intuitive local search. Its not about me knowing anything about you but about me dialoging with you around the search box. Thats really where this business needs to go. It has to go more around this idea of dialoging around the search box and getting a better give-and-take relationship with the user. You add that to great technology, and you get a great experience. As opposed to, youre saying, having logins or some kind of means of tracking you? You can do it. I just think it can create a whole slew of problems for you. People clean cookies off their computers, people are worried about spyware and adware … It really takes a long time to develop trust with a consumer. I mean, look, Google announced Gmail thinking they had the best brand in the world, the most trusted brand in the world, and there was a backlash. Next Page: Building market share through acquisition.

Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for eWEEK.com, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for eWEEK.com. Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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