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What’s Missing from the New Microsoft Live Search?

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Marketing Pilgrim readers had a heads-up yesterday to expect a new interface and index from Microsoft’s Live Search.

The updates are now live and here’s what Microsoft says you’re getting (from the release):

  • Over fourfold increase in index size. Nearly 20 percent of customer challenges came from the long tail of the Web, indicating a need for broader coverage to help ensure that the right results can be returned for the highest percentage of queries. The new Live Search has exceeded the goal of quadrupling its range of coverage, setting a foundation that will enable it continue to keep pace with the growth of the Web.
  • Substantial improvements in understanding queryintent (sic). The new Live Search does a much better job in predicting the intent of the query to return the best results possible. New investments improve the search service’s ability to read and understand queries in a way that more accurately determines intent despite common problems such as spelling errors, stop words, punctuation and synonyms.
  • Significant enhancements to core algorithms.The new Live Search has incorporated more user click-stream data to inform ranking and relevancy processes, yielding more relevant results across queries.
  • Increased focus on query refinement. Intelligence in the back end designed to help customers arrive at improved query suggestions helps Live Search deliver the best results, even making proactive changes to the query in cases where the engine is confident of the customer’s intent.
  • New Web data extraction model. Core search innovation enables Microsoft to build rich vertical experiences that update on the fly. This technology extracts information from across the Web on products (including ratings and reviews); businesses (including locations, contact information, photos, hours of operation, ratings and reviews); celebrities (including buzz, images and videos); and more.
  • Expansion of Rich Answers. Based on user feedback that sometimes people are just looking for a specific fact or answer, Live Search’s improved Answers platform provides specialized responses to queries about specific areas such as weather, images, celebrities and entertainment, sports, stocks, Yellow Pages, maps or quick facts from Encarta. This specialized content has been more deeply integrated into the main search experience to add to custom searches such as images and mapping.

So what’s missing?

Brand!

Sure, Microsoft’s new features are welcomed–and much needed–but we can get pretty much the same from Yahoo and Ask.com, let alone Google. I’ve previously proclaimed that search relevancy is dead–all search engines can help you find what you need–and now I believe that adding sparkly features is dead too.

What Microsoft really needs is to build a brand that excites users and fills them with passion. Features are nice, but great brands don’t need the best features. Google became #1 without any whistles or bells. MySpace is a piece of crap to actually use, but it captured the mind-share of being the “cool” social network. Heck, even Twitter has become popular–and you could fit its feature list on the back of a stamp.

Branding people! That’s what MSFT is missing. And I’m not just talking about a cool name–although anything would be better than Windows Live Search. They need to build a brand that incites passion, excitement, and loyalty.

That’s what Google has, that’s why Google dominates.

What do you think? Am I on target or talking out of my rear-end? What else does Microsoft need?

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