Forrester on Yahoo! and directions in search space

Forrester weighs in on Yahoo!s new search features (account required) claiming that a new emphasis on user experience will give search engine leaders a competitive advantage. Forrester likes the new Yahoo! for its streamlined (more Google-like) search entry page, cleaner and easier to read search results and use of text ads over banners. The market research company makes a few suggestions to the top search engines to put their results in context and add to the user experience:

  • Yahoo! should use its directory to package and filter results. -- They're basically suggesting that the company use its taxonomy across Yahoo! news, financials, services, etc. to create "More like this" linkage between content.
  • Google should dynamically cluster its high-quality results. -- This seems a no-brainer. I think Northern Light must have used clustering. Teoma does. Information professionals see advantage in it, but somehow Google hasn't done it in search results. Forrester suggests that they consider clustering functionalities similar to what Vivisimo offers.
  • Overture should optimize for specialized searches. -- This is an interesting suggestion. Forrester suggests that Overture might consider uses taxonomies in subject areas that have broad appeal, but limited scope, such as "Perosonal Health" by partnering with builders of taxonomies and ontologies.
  • MSN should research users to support the richer search scenario. Seems like they suggest that MSN invest in user research to invent their future because they have the dollars to do so. It doesn't make predictions for how MS N can innovate this space.

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Google has Tried Topic Clustering

but they decided not to implement it. See Desperately Seeking Searchers (via my website)

Yes, and not without giving i

Yes, and not without giving it serious thought I'm sure. This quote from Google Fellow Urs Hozle explains:

Also, depending on the search, breaking topics down into Web folders does not always work, Holzle said. This approach works better for more broadly searched topics than for more specific searches, he said. Holzle also said that one out of every four or five searches is grouped inaccurately because the computer does not understand text the way humans do.

Still, I can't help wondering why they don't offer it optionally. Perhaps a checkbox from the search form that allows you to "Organize your results by topic" or some such. I don't think that would be a bad idea. True, machine generated clusters might not group content by topic perfectly, but in the absence of this you eliminate an additional method of information discovery.