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Context Clusters and Query Suggestions at Google
A new patent application from Google tells us about how the search engine may use context to find query suggestions before a searcher has completed typing in a full query. After seeing this patent, Iâve been thinking about previous patents Iâve seen from Google that have similarities.
Itâs not the first time Iâve written about a Google Patent involving query suggestions. Iâve written about a couple of other patents that were very informative, in the past:
In both of those, the inclusion of entities in a query impacted the suggestions that were returned. This patent takes a slightly different approach, by also looking at context.
Context Clusters in Query Suggestions
Weâve been seeing the word Context spring up in Google patents recently. Context terms from knowledge bases appearing on pages that focus on the same query term with different meanings, and we have also seen pages that are about specific people using a disambiguation approach. While these were recent, I did blog about a paper in 2007, which talks about query context with an author from Yahoo. The paper was Using Query Contexts in Information Retrieval. The abstract from the paper provides a good glimpse into what it covers:
The Google patent doesnât take a user-based approach ether, but does look at some user contexts and interests. It sounds like searchers might be offered a chance to select a context cluster before showing query suggestions:
I often look up the inventors of patents to get a sense of what else they may have written, and worked upon. I looked up Jakob D. Uszkoreit in LinkedIn, and his profile doesnât surprise me. He tells us there of his experience at Google:
This passage reminded me of the search results being shown to me by the Google Assistant, which are based upon interests that I have shared with Google over time, and that Google allows me to update from time to time. If the inventor of this patent worked on Google Assistant, that doesnât surprise me. I havenât been offered context clusters yet (and wouldnât know what those might look like if Google did offer them. I suspect if Google does start offering them, I will realize that I have found them at the time they are offered to me.)
Like many patents do, this one tells us what is âinnovativeâ about it. It looks at:
It also tells us that it will calculate probabilities that certain context clusters might be requested by a searcher. So how does Google know what to suggest as context clusters?
The Patent in this patent application is:
(US20190050450) Query Composition System
What are Context Clusters as Query Suggestions?
The patent tells us that context clusters might be triggered when someone is starting a query on a web browser. I tried it out, starting a search for âmoviesâ and got a number of suggestions that were combinations of queries, or what seem to be context clusters:
One of those clusters involved âMovies about Businessâ, which I selected, and it showed me a carousel, and buttons with subcategories to also choose from. This seems to be a context cluster:
User Query Histories
The patent tells us that context clusters selected to be shown to a searcher might be based upon previous queries from a searcher, and provides the following example:
Itâs not easy to tell whether the examples I provided about movies above are related to this patent or if it is tied more closely to the search results that appear in Google Assistant results. Itâs worth reading through and thinking about potential experimental searches to see if they might influence the results that you may see. It is interesting that Google may attempt to anticipate what is suggests to show to us as query suggestions, after showing us search results based upon what it believes are our interests based upon searches that we have performed or interests that we have identified for Google Assistant.
The contex cluster may be related to the location and time that someone accesses the search engine. The patent provides an example of what might be seen by the searcher like this:
I could see running such a search at a shopping mall, to learn more about the location I was at, and what I could find there, from dining places to movies being shown. That sounds like it could be the start of an interesting adventure.
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