Russia’s leading search engine, Yandex has launched an approach to personalizing search results for users in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, affecting 75-80% of search queries and potentially all of the search results a user sees.
Yandex has been testing the approach throughout the last year and found that users click 37% more often on a top result which is personalized and save around 14% of the time they normally spend on the SERPS. They claim this means that the average user saves some 8 minutes a week.
Deputy CTO Grigory Bakunov launched the approach at a press conference in Moscow today explaining that the new personalization is powered by its query and search results algorithms “Spectrum” and “MatrixNet” which are machine learning technologies that train the results to users’ requirements. Yandex’s research also revealed that over-personalization is not good for users who don’t want to get “locked in to their own interests.”
So while Yandex’s technology considers personalization for all results, tailoring it to users real needs actually means serving some results popular with the whole community, rather than just the individual user. Technically the approach has the advantage that some queries require more personalization and others less, with navigational queries like “Facebook” requiring no personalization at all.
As the graphic above shows, the new technology looks at a number of factors to personalize results, including the user’s query history. Personalization is turned on by default and becomes more useful the more searches a user does. Suggestions are also personalized:
The two graphics show how personalized search presents different search suggestions using Russian Cyrillic characters. The original search is for Titanic, then the second table shows a suggested search for Kate Winslet.
Yandex is battling Google for its search share in Russia, with Google gaining some share last year as a result of the uptake of Chrome, but in recent months Yandex has seen a small rebound. Mr. Bakunov said the new approach would help it compete. “Our testing and research shows that our users appreciate an appropriate level of personalization and increase their use of Yandex as a result, so it would be fair to say it can only have a positive impact on our users – though we should stress that search quality is a more important metric for us.”