AOL Begins Upgrades Seeking Personalized Search

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Upgraded functions on AOL Search released yesterday, including technology that lets users save their searches and a box that suggests the term users are searching for as they type, are only the first of more personalized search options.

"These are the first pieces. We're going to be continuing to do a lot of development in the area of knowledge creation," Jim Risenbach, senior vice president of AOL Search and Directional Media, told DM News.

Since a significant percentage of users' search activity is oriented toward gaining knowledge, AOL Search wants to make that search "smarter" about what consumers are searching for and give them more relevant, personalized results, Risenbach said.

"So much of the search activity that takes place today requires users to go back and re-enter the query ... almost three times, before they get the results. We need to get that down to one," he said.

Search functions released yesterday include:

* Saved searches. Users can click on a result to "clip it" and save it, so the next time they perform the search, it will appear at the top of the results. The results are saved for 30 days.

* A "Smartbox Suggestions" feature suggests search terms while a user types.

* Expanded results. Search results now include relevant results from Web sites, videos, audio clips, pictures and products. Local and news results will be added soon.

* Expanded Snapshots answers. Snapshots are results programmed by AOL editors and appear at the top of search results. The company has expanded them to provide information for 4 million terms.

In the future, AOL Search wants to give users more options to personalize their search.

"We're going to start to make it easier for the individual user to decide for themselves if they want more video and multimedia results, or do they want more text results, and have our search engine learn from those behaviors and be more predictive about what each individual user would like to see," Risenbach said.

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