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“Previous Query” Refinement Coming To Hit Google Results
Yesterday (technically still today my time), I did a keynote interview with
Google vice president of search products & user experience Marissa Mayer during
our SMX Sydney show. We
covered a wide range of topics, including how "Previous Query" refinement will
soon come to natural listings on Google, plus how Australia is to get StreetView
mapping, Google testing how well Yahoo monetizes, how Orkut might have to be
replaced in the US, and other topics.
Live blogging isn’t my thing, and live blogging when you’re asking the
questions on stage certainly isn’t either. Heck, it’s tough enough to jot down
notes of what was said. My recap below will be without a lot of direct
quotes, but I wanted to highlight points I found interesting.
Last year, we covered
(and here) how
Google was changing the ads it displayed based on the previous query someone
performed. For example, search for [spain] then do a new search for [travel],
and you may notice how the ads will be targeted around Spanish travel (see also Google’s help page on this).
Google’s never given this feature a formal name, but Marissa said internally
the company calls it "Previous Query," the first time to my knowledge that we’ve
had some type of formal name put to it. Learn the name well, because Previous
Query refinement is now coming to unpaid or "organic" search results, she said.
For example, if someone were to search for [spain] and then [travel] after
that, BOTH the ads and the organic results will be altered to take the previous
query into account. To some degree, it will be as if the second query was for
This is a big deal. Big deal. It means that the results for many "single
word" queries, which can be hard for sites to rank for when billions of listings
come back, will become queries involving two or more words — and much more
When’s it happening? "Soon." Indeed, it’s already been happening for several
weeks for some people randomly selected. Who will get it, when live? Everyone
that accepts a cookie, meaning it’s not a
thing that only happens if you’re logged in.
How could a user opt-out? Heh. I didn’t get to asking that, sorry. But I
imagine any search where the + symbol is used before a word or words will
override Previous Query.
Australia is to get
StreetView mapping hopefully by the middle of this year, Marissa said. Cars
have already been driving the roads in Australia for some time in preparation
for it. See also this news article which picks up on privacy issues.
Google Testing Yahoo
I asked about the news that
Yahoo would carry
Google’s search ads, to the degree Marissa could comment about it. She
remarked that it was a way for Google to test how well Yahoo monetizes. I
thought this turn of phrase was important to note — that it’s not a Yahoo
experiment, but a Google one. As I remarked in the story about
Yahoo and AOL possibly
merging, which we covered yesterday:
In my talk today at SMX Sydney with Google vice president Marissa Mayer,
she noted that the Yahoo deal was a way for Google to measure Yahoo’s
traffic and how well it monetizes. This is important. This is not just a Yahoo
test – it’s a test for Google. And from that test, Google will better
understand how much it could make in a crucial revenue guarantee to a combined
Yahoo-AOL, which might help the deal move along and keep Yahoo out of
It being so late here in Australia (coming up on midnight) and me being both
jet lagged and short of sleeping, I’ll come back to some of other points in more
detail later. But here are some fast hits:
- Not A Portal: The goal remains for Google to still get users off
the site, rather than to try and host content that some feel is a way for
Google to either be a media company or capture the "second click." But in some
cases, Google hosts content because it feels otherwise, the content wouldn’t
exist — or not as much would be out there. YouTube and Google Book Search
were examples she gave.
- iPhone & Mobile: The iPhone in particular continues to show growth
to mobile searches. Could Google tell how many use the iPhone to reach Google
through the 2G cell network versus hotspots/wifi? Yes, and the traffic is
roughly 50/50, off the top of her head.
- Social Search: Tapping into your friends to refine search results
is an interesting idea but one that remains fraught with problems, as you
probably don’t want to actually share some search results with friends. There
are other issues, and she expects at the moment that this may be a minor
signal used to influence results and more likely to suggest potential sites to
- Orkut: She reiterated that the Orkut social networking site that
Google runs remains strong worldwide. But she said that it might be that for
the US and other key markets where it does not lead, the company might need to
re-brand or build entirely new social networking services.
Postscript by Barry: Neerav Bhatt summarized his notes on the SMX Sydney conference as well.