Yahoo Tech Splits Research, Commercial Searches

Yahoo is testing a technology that separates consumer searches by commercial searches — such as those for product information — or informational searches, the company said Friday.

“Sometimes you want to buy stuff and sometimes you just want to do research,” Yahoo's Search blog states about the new Mindset technology.

On a typical search page, commercial results are mixed with non-commercial, making it “harder to find the type of information you're looking for,” according to the blog. “Mindset is our attempt to help solve that problem.”

Mindset's “machine learning for text classification” classifies each Web page in the top 100 search results for each query, then sorts those results based on the preference set by the user, the blog states.

“Mindset uses an intuitive slider in the interface, so you can set the bias for commercial versus non-commercial results,” it states.

Mindset is Yahoo's way to differentiate itself from Google and other search engine competitors, said Chris Winfield, president of search marketing firm 10e20 Web Design, New York.

“The main reason they're not No. 1 is people still don't feel as confident that they're getting that perfect search on Yahoo as they do with Google. Maybe this will help,” Winfield said.

The program may succeed because Yahoo knows how consumers want to search, Winfield said.

“They've been gathering information about people for so long,” he said. “They know what people want,”

Mindset could be “really good or really bad” for advertisers, Winfield said. If a consumer chooses to search for information only, businesses and services related to that search would not display. If a consumer wants to search just the commercial side, advertisers have the chance for very targeted leads, he said.

“It will create much more targeted ads, if they adopt it and integrate it into search,” Winfield said.

It is unclear whether Yahoo will move to a new type of search system. It is quietly testing Mindset, calling the technology an “ongoing research project.” Yahoo said it wants feedback from users about whether Mindset's underlying technology is effective and whether they like the service.

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