Better Search through Better Queries

  • The number of search results: fewer results means more specific.
  • The number of query keywords: more keywords means more specific.
  • The presence of rare query keywords: higher inverse document frequency (idf) means more specific.
  • Searchers are used to using short queries. Moreover, search engines often fail for long queries, so searchers have learned to avoid them.
  • Long search queries require effort. Searchers — particularly on mobile devices — rely on autocomplete, which tends to promote short queries.
  • Make the search box bigger. This simple user interface change reliably leads searchers to feel they should type more into the search box.
  • Favor more specific queries in autocomplete. Equivalently, favor queries with higher conversion rates — in general, those are more specific.
  • Offer natural-language interfaces, particularly voice interfaces. Searchers are more verbose — and more specific — when using natural language.
  • Improve query understanding. There’s no point encouraging searchers to use more specific queries if the search engine will fail to understand them.



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