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Five types of search engine evaluation to improve search relevance

Posted January 1, 2021 - Updated March 24, 2022
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Trying your hand at search engine development? When visitors arrive at your website, it’s important that they can find what they’re looking for.

One of the best ways to improve your search engine is to evaluate it using a trained crowd of analysts. Search evaluation services can help look for bugs, rate the user experience (UX) and above all, rank the results on your search engine results page (SERP). Read on to learn about five types of search evaluation and find the ideal service to help improve your search relevance.

Why is search engine evaluation important?

Having amazing content or in-demand products are all for naught if your users can’t find them. To create a strong search engine, you need:

Of course, search evaluation can give you useful feedback on your search engine. But more importantly, it provides you with the necessary training data to improve search relevance. By having real people evaluate your search results, you are teaching your search engine to better understand the way people search for things on your site. Stronger search relevance means users can find posts or products faster. This leads to repeated use of your search engine, more views on your site and higher revenue for your business.

Five types of search evaluation

The ideal search evaluation service can depend on the nature of your search engine, industry of your business or the structure of your website.

1. Result evaluation

One of the most common and most in-demand services is the evaluation of fetched search results. For this task, you provide a list of the most common types of search queries you expect to receive on your site. Evaluators then test your search engine algorithm against those queries directly on your site or on a custom external platform. Once the results are fetched, evaluators can rank them in a number of ways:

  • Positive or negative: Classify each result as either relevant or not relevant.
  • Ranking: Order the results from top to bottom in order of relevancy.
  • Scale: Score the results on a scale of 1-5, five being most relevant, one being completely irrelevant.
  • Side-by-side: From each pair of results, choose which result is more relevant.

Depending on the content being ranked, sometimes a positive or negative evaluation is all that is needed (for example, is this film relevant for the search query “horror?”) The type of evaluation chosen will affect the format of the data. Once the evaluations have been completed, the data is then fed to your search algorithm. The training data includes information about which results were relevant and which were irrelevant for certain queries. The search engine adapts to the new info and learns what results to return the next time a similar query is searched.

2. Recommendation evaluation

Also known as related results, recommendations can be just as important as your regular search results. When you don’t have the exact item or content the user is looking for, related results can keep them on your site. For eCommerce sites, when the customer is ready to checkout, recommendations can entice them to purchase more items.

Evaluators can analyze and rank related results in terms of relevancy to the original query. Giving your search engine the ability to recommend relevant content greatly improves your UX and can bring in additional revenue to eCommerce sites.

3. Search engine evaluation - query categorization

Query categorization is how your search engine learns to differentiate between similar queries. It is also one of the factors that differentiate a strong search engine from an average one. If a customer searches “apple products” on your eCommerce site. How does the search engine know if the user is looking for fruit or products made by Apple? Training data created from search query categorization teaches the algorithm the indicators that help it differentiate between similar queries.

Evaluators can categorize the different queries relevant to your site. This helps ensure that your search engine recognizes the correct user intent when more than one result appears relevant.

4. Search evaluation — captions

Apart from the technical side of search engines, there are also services that evaluate the content of your search results. Caption evaluation is done by sourcing evaluators who reflect the demographic of your users. Evaluators should understand the cultural references and buying intent of your target market. With caption evaluation, analysts determine which captions entice users to engage with your content. Furthermore, you can receive valuable insight into which captions or taglines don’t convert and why.

This first step of search relevance is providing users with the best results. The second step is enticing them to click those results. Whether it be for eCommerce sites, blogs or service pages, captions and taglines are of utmost importance.

5. Ad evaluation

For search engine developers, one very important aspect of the user experience is ad relevance. Some businesses pay to place their company’s landing page at the top of search results. Businesses that pay for search ads target certain keywords relevant to their business. However, if these ads are irrelevant to the user’s query, they can greatly harm the UX of your search engine.

With ad evaluation, analysts determine whether or not the ads are relevant to the query. Evaluators can also check whether the ad landing pages are relevant to their copy. By ensuring both the advertised results and regular search results are relevant, you create a strong search engine with a friendly and professional user experience.

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