Yahoo Meets Searchers’ Mindsets

Yahoo Next, the site that lets users try out functions that aren’t quite ready for prime time, put out a tool that adjust results based on how commercial they are.

When people search using Mindset, a simple slider appears on top of the search results. As the indicator moves closer to shopping, commercial listings rise to the top. If it’s moved in the other direction, toward researching, the results weigh toward educational, community and informational sites.

“Sometimes you want to buy stuff and sometimes you just want to do research. In a typical search page, results point to commercial pages that are mixed together with non-commercial pages, so it’s harder to find the type of information you’re looking for. Mindset is our attempt to help solve that problem,” Yahoo Research Labs senior director Bernard Mangold wrote in the company blog.

Because many Web pages combine commerce and information, Yahoo uses machine learning technology to assign each page a relatively continuous score ranging from -2 for the most commercial to +2 for the most informational. Pages scored 0 are a balance of commercial and informational. A colored bar under each search result shows how Yahoo scored that particular Web page.

In the demo, as the results change from commercial to not, the ads to the right of the natural search results remain the same. Yahoo executives weren’t available to comment on whether Mindset could ultimately help search advertisers get better results by having their ads only show up when searchers had a shopping mindset.

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