Yahoo Puts The Squeeze On Data

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The next improvements to search marketing could come from Yahoo Research, where scientists look for all the meanings to be found in data.

"Look," whispered Chuck, and George lifted his eyes to heaven. (There is always a last time for everything.)
Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.
-- the Mark V finishes its task in Arthur C. Clarke's The Nine Billion Names of God

We will be very cross with Yahoo Research if their peek into the meanings contained in data end up blanking the stars, one by one. Especially if it means missing out on ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.’

The task that scientists Deepak Agarwal, Srujana Merugu and Deepayan Chakrabarti have set upon looks a little like what the monks in Clarke’s story hoped to accomplish. Through the use of statistical learning methods and models, they will try to figure out the answers to some extremely open questions:

What are the most appropriate advertisements to maximize click-through rates on a particular web page? What are the most relevant search results for a particular query?

These questions may seem simple enough, but coming up with the perfect answer is a problem of staggering proportions. Why? Because the data is often high dimensional, too sparse or too noisy to make intelligent decisions.

“The goal is to do a better job with all these mom and pop pizza stores by learning more about their common characteristics and global behavior,” Agarwal said at the project’s page. “For us, this means figuring out how to aggregate data in a more intelligent way.”

The scientists are on their way to sieving the smallest bits of information from the data they analyze. They created a “lightweight tool” (hopefully not dubbed Mark V) to do this for Yahoo’s myriad departments.

For paid search advertising, it could mean predicting click-throughs for a given ad on a certain page. By looking at as much detail as it can about past actions, those forward-looking predictions could be prophetic.

Advertising effectiveness, distilled into lines of code. We think there could be a market for that in the future. Just leave the stars alone.

Yahoo Puts The Squeeze On Data
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