Microsoft’s Steve Berkowitz on Search, and Catching Google

I was surprised to find a pretty candid Berkowitz speaking about the direction he wants to take the online services unit. He admits that the going is slow and that some mistakes have been made:

“A lot of decisions were driven by technology; they were not driven by the consumer,” he said. “It isn’t always the best technology that wins. It is the best experience.”

While that sounds nice, currently Google delivers the best search experience because they have the best technology.
Danny Sullivan had more to say:

So far, all this work has not impressed either consumers or search experts. Danny Sullivan, a longtime search expert who writes the blog SearchEngineLand, said that in relevancy of results, Microsoft ranks behind Google, Yahoo and Ask, in that order, although the gap has narrowed some.

“They have gone from a laughable search engine to a credible search engine,” Mr. Sullivan said. “It is not embarrassing anymore, but they are still a little behind.”

Nice to see that Danny’s name connected to SearchEngineLand in the N.Y. Times.

But the most refreshing bit? Berkowitz admits that what Google does best is get the basics right. But then he starts talking about the importance of how SERPs are displayed. Wake up Berkowitz, it’s not about how the SERPS are displayed, it’s the relevancy of the results.

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  1. I often wonder where Danny gets his bizarre ideas. Maybe he was misquoted? Ask has less relevant results than Google? Hardly.

    Ask has a smaller database. Their inclusion standards are much tighter and they usually have better results. It ain’t easy to spam Ask. Google is spam heaven.

    And Live is doing okay with the relevance these days. It just needs to implement some better AI filtering rules.

  2. aaron wall

    I have been reading Gord Hotchkiss’s report about SERPs between the different engines. From his research, a large part of perceived relevancy is based on serp formatting and highlighting. Even the use of white space is better on Google’s SERPs.

  3. DG

    I think part of the problem is that there are no hard and fast definitions for ‘relevancy’. I ask for examples when people in forums say, ‘X-engine has a relevancy problem’. It’s almost always a ‘quality of sites listed’ problem rather than a relevancy problem.

    I wrote over a year ago about the engines playing for parity and that’s still what I see happening. And I’ve been waiting for the development of an engine like Hakia to shake things up a bit.

  4. Relevancy is in the intent of the searcher, isn’t it?

    Presentation can guide perception.

    I admit I like Ask’s results and Google’s interface. I don’t use Ask as much as I use Google precisely for those reasons. But I also look at search results in Ask and generally feel confident that I can trust those sites not to be spammy.

    A few spammy sites get in. Some spammers are pretty sophisticated and they don’t follow the link-mass model. But Ask’s results are just leaner, cleaner over all.

    Even if I don’t always like the sites I see come up first.

  5. DG

    Relevancy might be in the intent, but people that lack the ability to express their intent adequately enough for algorithms to provide results are a large part of the problem. (in fora anyway)

    It’s rare that I see irrelevant results except when there is little or no competition for a phrase. Hmm, SEOs helping relevancy? There’s a thought… ; )

    What I usually see is an auto mechanic upset because his site is getting beaten by aggregated site listings from someone’s directory.

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