Bing Improves Search Quality, Cleans Up Your Sloppy Search TermsBy: Drew Bowling - June 13, 2012
Maybe your fingers aren’t so graceful above a keyboard. Maybe you have trouble seeing the letters on the keys of the keyboard. Maybe you’re typing on a touchscreen. Maybe you have gigantism of the digits (which touchscreens can make anybody feel like they have). Maybe you’re drunk. Whatever the reason for making errors when typing out a search term, these things happen to the best of us.
Sometimes these mistakes can result in dead ends and you’ll simply be met with a “No results found” message then find your search typo, correct it, and be on your merry way into the internets. Sometimes, however, these typos can have some potentially perilous consequences, such as if you mistakenly search for a term that, while resembling your intended destination, isn’t what you want and, instead, leads you to a site run by spammers. Spammers who register these slightly misspelled sites are known as typosquatters and their whole raison d’être is to lure in unsuspecting internet users.
Then again, let’s assume you’re a flawless typist and just have incorrect assumptions about a site’s URL. You presume that “yahoo.com/mail” is where you want to go in order to check your email, but the actual site you should’ve typed is “mail.yahoo.com.” Again, simple mistakes, but left to continue on that mistaken trajectory could leave you wasting time trying to find Yahoo Mail’s log-in page or, worse, unwittingly land you in the palm of some sneaksies spammers.
Dr. William Ramsey, the Principal Development Manager of Bing’s Research and Development, detailed in a blog post today about how Bing has been working to become better at detecting the mistakes that we internet users make when typing in a search term and then predicting what we actually meant to type. Bing’s effort to redirect our suspect searches ranges from indexing the URLs that Bing can confidently correct to noticing spelling errors in terms to recognizing that you would like to check your Yahoo mail and therefore giving you the “mail.yahoo.com” result when you incorrectly search “yahoo.com/mail.”
By becoming better at predicting what searchers are in fact intending to search has helped Bing eliminate recourse links, those “Did you mean…?” notices at the top of your results that always appear with a disciplinary red font to let you know that the search engine has no idea what you’re trying to search. Ramsey explains how better a understanding of search behaviors is improving the quality of search results:
Recourse Links are the phrases that occur underneath the query box that indicate that we changed your query due to spelling or expansion and give you the ability to turn off all of our alterations as a recourse. For example, if you type “qyotes about success and hersos” we’ll show “Including results for quotes about success and heroes” but will give you the ability to only show results for “qyotes about success and hersos” in cases where we may have made the wrong assumption about your intent. The same holds true for expansions in cases where the expansions have significantly altered the results.
Bing’s also working to improve your search results by including links that might not include your exact search term but contains a variation of the word or words that will are relevant to your query. For example, if you type in “define bubbles,” instead of seeing the notice at the top of your screen that Bing has included results for “definition of bubbles,” you’ll simply see all the links related to the definition of the word “bubbles.” In other words, Bing knows you want to know the meaning of the word “bubbles,” so it’s going to give you all relevant links to that query regardless of your verbage.
Another intelligence boost Bing received is the ability to catch instances when you mistakenly search for a website with, for example, a .net ending when the website you’re looking for actually ends in .com. For instance, a website with the URL twitter.net does actually exist, but chances are you’re probably trying to find twitter.com (unless you’re an ornithologist). Instead of simply assuming that you know what you’re doing – which, no offense, sometimes people don’t – Bing includes links to webpages associated with the popular micro-blogging site and not pages related to avian statistics.
Ramsey also explained how the Bing Team has improved the quality of the Related Searches suggestions. By improving Bing’s relevance models, Ramsey wrote, they were able to reduce the amount of off-topic suggestions made by the search engine. For instance, Bing will be better at recognizing that certain abbreviations, such as AMD, might not refer to “age-related macular degeneration” when you’ve actually searched for “AMD L3 Cache,” something that is wholly unrelated to ocular disorders. The Related Searches that Bing produces will also be smarter when it comes to combining like concepts, such as “Disney Channel Games Games” and “Disney Channel Games” so as to eliminate any redundant suggestions.
These two changes to the Related Search suggestions not only clears away any links that are unrelated to your search but, by getting rid of those links, clear room for the links that actually matter to your search.
The end result of these updates mean that Bing is getting smarter at interacting with users’ searches and, sometimes, is smarter than the Bing users themselves and, obviously, that can come in handy sometimes.