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July 24, 2007

What You Need to Know to Get Better Search Results

In an interesting presentation titled "Searching for the mind of the searcher" [PDF], Daniel M. Russell from Google explains the problem of understanding the intent behind a user's search queries and how important is this task to measure user satisfaction.

Mr. Russell thinks there are four important "skills" that help you get better search results:

* know the search engine - how it works, its limitations, the advanced options

* use good search strategies - know when you need to use a more general or a more specific query, look at the search results critically and refine your query accordingly

* domain knowledge - you should know the terminology of a domain (it's hard to get information about a computer problem if you don't know the right terms)

* information mapping - categorize data, know if a site is authoritative, find the perfect query by combining the right keywords (a reverse dictionary might help)

While most of this knowledge is necessary only for information queries, it would be nice if Google had a query builder that guided you towards the perfect query. Of course, Google does it more subtly using related searches, spelling corrections or by automatically expanding some of your keywords.

This blog is not affiliated with Google.