How do engines [disambiguate] intent without us giving it any more information to work with at the point of query?When people only enter a few keywords, any additional information might help. Looking back into what they have done might allow us to better determine intent and interest and lead to more useful search results.
This is where personalization comes in. In the current online reality, there are really only a few places that the search engine can look to help define intent without depending on further information from the user:
Each of these factors is being explored as a potential avenue to help with disambiguating intent.
- They can look at your past history and learn more about you by what you have already done
- They can look at the context of the task you're currently engaged in, hoping that it will give some clues to what you're looking for
- And finally, if they know something about you and your social, geographic and demographic cohort, the engine can hope that there is a similarity of thinking within that cohort, at least when it comes to common interests and intent
Right now, Google is put their eggs in the past online history basket, feeling that where you have been will provide the best signal to predict where you might want to go.
Different people have different interpretations of what is relevant. At some point, the only way to further improve the quality of search results will be to show different people different search results. Changing search results using long-term search history, as Google Personalized Search does, is one way of satisfying these differing views of relevance.
Personalization also seems likely to be useful when a searcher is iterating and not finding what they want. That searcher clearly is having difficulty translating intent into results. Current search engines ignore these iterations -- each search is treated as independent -- but there is valuable information in those struggles.