Internet search needs to change, says expert

Searching for change
Searching for change

Web statistics guru Bill Tancer believes that people are looking for a bit of perspective in their search results – seeking out results that tally with their views and status.

Tancer, the author of CLICK: What We Do Online and Why It Matters and General Manager of Global Research for web stats company Hitwise, has been looking closely at the way people use search engines for years.

He believes that people want relevance as much as accuracy – but acknowledges just how difficult this is to integrate into search.

Shift is necessary

"I think a shift in search is going to be a necessity based on how information is changing online," Tancer told TechRadar.

"There's this explosion of information available on the net and a lot of it is pretty deep in and is low on linkage if it has any linkage at all.

"All of search relies on some form of authority ranking…and that authority doesn't work that well when you get into the long tail of the web.

"I see one of the issues is that we are not only going to want information to be relevant but also to agree with a perspective.

A little perspective

Tancer outlines exactly what he means by perspective in search – namely filtering results based on our own situation.

"I'll give you an example – when my wife tries to find a hotel to stay at when we travel she goes to and there are like two or three hundred reviews, but she's realised that everyone who come to a review comes from a different perspective.

"So it could be a honeymoon couple who have never stayed at a nice five star hotel before and would be wowed versus a seasoned business traveller who always stays at nice hotel and has a different perspective. Then you have people who have a vendetta etc.

"So what my wife does is she manually goes through and looks at the profiles of the people who have left reviews and what they have reviewed and finds commonality and agreement and she will give those more weight."

Tricky task

Of course, actually integrating this degree of perspective into search is tricky – something Tancer freely acknowledges.

"Automating that is hard; I've worked in search for years and it's always been difficult.

"First it was resolving ambiguity – take a phrase like 'four seasons' - are they talking about the resort or Vivaldi or the seasons of the year? So that was one problem but the other is perspective and its always been here.

"We know after years and years that is has to be incredibly simple - requiring little to no input from actual searchers.

"No one wants to go in and fill in questionnaires."

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.