Personalisation, localisation, semantic search: do they work?

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Presentation given at INFORUM 2011, Prague, Czech Republic, May 24th-26th 2011

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Slide 1:

This presentation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License Personalisation, localisation, semantic search: do they work? Karen Blakeman INFORUM 2011, Prague Karen.Blakeman@rba.co.uk http://www.rba.co.uk/

Slide 2:

ALL of the search engines and many other web services use personalisation, localisation and semantic search Mostly Google examples used in what follows because it is the most open of the search engines in explaining what it does (honestly!) it experiments the most it can present the most problems when searching Bing’s advances in search reserved mostly for US version 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 2

Personalisation commonplace:

Personalisation commonplace 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 3 \ \\\\\\ Amazon Online shopping (Ocado) Targeted advertising

Search engines do it:

Search engines do it Results depend on: the country version of the search engine used, searcher location, language used browser, version of browser, operating system pc, mobile device whether or not you are logged in to an account web and search history, black lists, white lists the type of search e.g. for a person, company, current news search engine experiments (especially Google!) Google increasingly ignores commands and does its own thing Presents problems for those of us who help, advise and train others on search strategies. What appears on your screen may not be appearing on theirs. 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 4

How they work:

How they work “Google, Bing Have White Lists Of Sites Not To Be Impacted By Algo Changes” http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/110310-175043 manually overrides search algorithms “Dear Bing, We Have 10,000 Ranking Signals To Your 1,000. Love, Google” http://searchengineland.com/bing-1 0000-ranking-signals-google-55473 over 200 hundred “signals” many have over 50 variations Spaghetti algorithms! Photo: Spaghetti Bolognese - Michaelangelo, Aspendale Gardens http://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/2145112149/ 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 5

Where are you? Google.com takes me to....:

Where are you? Google.com takes me to.... Depends on which country I am in at the time or where it thinks I am 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 6

Localisation:

Localisation Country, city/town Local content given priority Useful if looking e.g. for restaurants in Prague Not so helpful if researching the distribution of McDonalds across the whole of the Czech Republic BUT useful if researching industry or services in a particular country or region Can choose to go to a specific country version of the search engine and sometimes change exact location as needed 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 7

Google translated foreign pages:

Google translated foreign pages Information increasingly not being translated into other languages ‘Translated foreign pages’ translates your search into required language, runs it and translates results back into your language Can choose language but Google first offers language it thinks fits your query best 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 8

Type of search affects the results that are selected and the way they are displayed :

Type of search affects the results that are selected and the way they are displayed 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 9

Google trying to be even cleverer:

Google trying to be even cleverer 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 10 Hewish mild First result correct. Google assumes typing error for the rest - Jewish mild More searches on beer over the next few days and Google now agrees I really do want Hewish mild (clearing browser cache & cookies gave same results as first search) Use +Hewish or quotes “Hewish mild” !

Google Scholar trying to be clever With thanks to Even Hartmann Flood and Sara Batts:

Google Scholar trying to be clever With thanks to Even Hartmann Flood and Sara Batts Exploration of the Norne oil field in the North Sea Google Scholar looks for the author Horne as well not just assuming a typing error there is an author called Horne working in oil field exploration Switch to searching Google Scholar using Norwegian interface - exact match search and no “Horne” Swedish interface – back to norne / horne Searching for information on a project called EFET Google Web search does an exact match Google Scholar automatically looks for ‘effective’ - have to prefix term with ‘+’ to force exact match Norwegian language interface - exact match Swedish interface - highlights results by an author named K Efe not mentioned before 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 11

Social media and more customisation:

Social media and more customisation If logged in to a Google account, Google may include and give priority to your social media connections Check the dashboard on your Google account http://www.google.com/dashboard and go to Social Circle +1 to “approve” a page, tweet or posting Block sites from your searches Google says it may use all of these as “signals” for everyone, not just you 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 12

What can you do?:

What can you do? And what can you advise users to do? Look very, very, very carefully at your results and at what Google is trying to do to your search automatic assumption of typos automatic searching for variations and synonyms Use plus signs to try and force an exact match Change the order of your terms Repeat one or more of your terms Include advanced search commands for example site: or filetype : Enable or disable web history? Clear cookies and empty web cache? ...or use something completely different, local search engines, specialist databases 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 13

Google experiments and decides coots are lions:

Google experiments and decides coots are lions With special thanks to Arthur Weiss and Susanna Winter Search on coots mating behaviour Google decides that coots are really lions http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2011/02/12/google-decides-that-coots-are-really-lions/ Update on coots vs. lions http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2011/02/21/update-on-coots-vs-lions/ Please Note: Google now seems to be back to normal and does what I consider to be a correct search 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 14 =

Coots vs. lions:

Coots vs. lions 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 15

Coots vs. lions:

Coots vs. lions 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 16

Coots vs. lions:

Coots vs. lions Google assumed a typing error - we really meant cats! - and then did an automatic synonym search, hence the lions But why did coots feeding behaviour give an exact match? Perhaps a search query frequency algorithm? Or just spaghetti algorithms? Who knows? Does Google know?? 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 17

Postscript:

Postscript After this presentation a delegate informed me that Google.cz still thinks coots are cats! as does Google.no and Google.se Google.de thinks coots are cows 06/06/2011 www.rba.co.uk 18

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