Yandex company blog

Yandex has rolled out personalisation for its search results and search suggestions

13 December 2012, 17:56

The search engine now fetches results and delivers search suggestions individually for each of its users based on their interests and preferences.Web users in Russia, for instance, typing on Yandex the query [nevermind] might just as likely be looking for Nirvana's album, as wishing to find out what this word means. Personalised Search would know the difference and would act accordingly.

Yandex’s Personalised Search is based on the user's language preferences, their search history and their clicks in search results. The user's search history tells the search engine what may be currently relevant for this particular user. Someone searching on the internet for free software, books or music is very likely to be interested in this type of content as such. Those users, who frequently visit websites in English, may very well appreciate search results in this very language. As personal preferences tend to change over time, Yandex considers only the relatively fresh search history spanning the period of a few months to offer the users personalised search results and make personalised search suggestions.  

Search suggestions

In contrast to regular search suggestions, personalised search suggestions are targeted individually at every single web user. When guessing what a searcher might want to find, Yandex suggests potential search queries, based on what other people with similar online preferences looked for on the internet. The search engine classes everyone into one of about 400,000 user groups with more-or-less common interests. This classification is fluid – it changes for every user according to the changes in their online behaviour.

In practice, web users repeat about 25% of their search queries and often click the same search results. This behaviour can be interpreted as going to frequently visited websites or viewing popular or personally relevant web documents. Yandex offers users a shortcut to favourite content by showing them recently made queries and their favourite websites in the search suggestions when they type the first letter of their new search. 

When choosing search suggestions for a specific user, Yandex also looks at what searches have been previously made during a whole search session. So, the search engine would know that Christopher Lloyd would probably be a better search suggestion for 'c' in the search box than any other if the searcher has looked for Back to the Future before.

Personal results

Other than making personalised search suggestions, Yandex helps its users to achieve their search goals by providing them with the most relevant search results. In doing that, the search engine uses a special personalised ranking algorithm, which it recalculates on a daily basis according to the ever-changing interests and language preferences of each user.

Personalised ranking algorithm allows the search engine to understand how well each of the fetched results matches the user's expectations. Search results are evaluated and ranked according to their usefulness for a particular web user. The same search query made by two different people would trigger the same results ranked differently to match their individual interests. An inveterate gamer and an art film enthusiast, for instance, will see on top of search results links to websites that are relevant to their respective interests even if they both look for 'Stalker'.


  

The personalised search algorithm works only for those queries that may be related to the user's search history. Yandex won't be able to use a personalised search formula based on the user's preferences if they are looking for something they have never searched before. This formula, however, does work, on average, for about 75-80% search queries. Which queries trigger personalised search depends on the user and on their personal search history.

Personalised search is enabled by default for every more-or-less frequent search user. The more queries the user makes, the better results and suggestions the search engine can provide. Personalised search deactivates if there aren't enough searches on which personalisation can be based, and activates again when queries start coming. Personalisation can also be enabled or disabled manually in the search engine's settings.

Currently, personalisation on Yandex works best for searches in Russian, but as the search engine accumulates search statistics in other languages other users will also be able to feel its effect.

 

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