How Yandex changed Search for the past year. Update "Andromeda"
Since the last big update "Korolev" more than a year has passed. The ideas included in that release received further development during this time and found new uses. In the Andromeda update, we focused on those aspects of the search engine that allow our users to solve as many tasks as possible quickly and conveniently.
Today we traditionally tell Habr's readers about the work we have done.
In total, this update includes more than a thousand different improvements. For a short story, we grouped them into three large blocks:
- Quick answers . Here are collected implementations that allow you to receive answers directly from the page with search results, without going to any third-party sites.
- Convenience of choice . When a user needs to obtain information from an external site, it is necessary to facilitate the selection process for him and increase the likelihood that the transition will be useful.
- Collections . Found on the Internet on Yandex services you need to be able to easily save to favorites for future use.
Work on the quality of the search is not only the implementation of functionality for specific scenarios. It is also necessary to constantly work on the quality of metrics that measure the usefulness of our product to users.
Over the past year, we have learned much better to understand when it is enough for a user to solve a problem to simply search a page with search results — for example, by reading the answer to his question explicitly; In addition, we have learned to distinguish the “useful” transitions from the Search from the unsuccessful.
Now our users successfully solve one and a half million more search problems every day than last winter. The solution to the search problem can be either a useful transition to the site, or any interaction with the search results page.
1. Quick answers
The ability to get quick answers from search results without going to any sites was and remains a strong point of Yandex. Over the past year, we have more than 1.5 times increased the number of requests to which users can get an instant response from the search results page ( for example ), so now our users use quick responses more than thirteen million times a day.
But now the quick answers are not just text or tables. We have added quick and interactive responses to a large number of new scenarios.
For example, this is how a quick response looks like for a query “a cafe is nearby .”
Each organization can be studied in more detail: access the address, photos, reviews, information about attendance and much more. All this can be done without leaving the search results!
Significantly developed our response to sports inquiries. Now for most football championships a beautiful answer is available, containing the schedule, standings, latest news, and in some cases also links to live broadcasts, recording matches and repeating interesting moments.
By the way, a large number of new quick answers on Yandex search is a direct consequence of the development of metrics, which I wrote about at the very beginning of the article. Previously, when the quality of the Search was mainly associated with the number of clicks made by users, it was difficult to imagine such answers. Now we can measure how much useful information each element contains, and how often users actually use it.
Another feature that makes it easier for users to get answers is the dialogue with organizations. If there is no answer to the question on the Internet, or it is difficult to find it, you can ask it directly to site owners who have supported this feature . Relevant documents on the search are accompanied by a button “Chat with a company”
Finally, in some situations, advice or discussion may be needed rather than a specific short answer. For such cases, we created a service Yandex . Connoisseurs . At the service you can ask questions and receive answers from specialists of various specialties - doctors, trainers, cooks, stylists, lawyers. Now Yandex.Znokov's answers are integrated with Search, so you can often watch them directly on the results page:
The service allows you to respond to any users and, of course, you may wonder which of the opinions should be trusted. Therefore, we give access to all the answers of each user: you can understand in which topics he answers, what is his rating and ultimately form his own opinion.
2. Convenience of choice
When developing Search algorithms, we have always paid attention to the quality of those sites that our users are switching to. Previous versions of the search, however, primarily focused on the response to a specific query, so the overall quality of the site played a rather secondary role in the selection of documents.
In the new version of the Search, this influence has become significantly higher: other things being equal, we prefer sites that provide good service even in isolation from the context of a specific request.
More specifically, we learned how to automatically identify several important characteristics of sites and take them into account in the ranking:
- the presence of a permanent loyal audience;
- balance of useful and intrusive information;
- site index when pairwise comparison with other search results.
The problem is that the characteristics that are taken into account when ranking are not visible to users. To fix this, we have implemented special marks for sites . Now we use three types of such signs.
The first character is a blue label, similar to the labels of verified social network accounts. Such signs are received by the official websites of organizations according to Yandex.Reference, websites of official dealers according to Avto.ru, websites of financial organizations according to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, Yandex services; they can also be displayed for navigation answers and, in fact, confirmed profiles in social networks.
The second sign is “popular site”. Such a sign is received by very popular sites with a huge loyal audience.
The third sign is “user choice”. This sign can get a niche site even with a modest audience if it is loyal and often returns to this site.
We checked that the presence of characters on the search results page helps users navigate and quickly find the results they need. One of our product managers who participated in the launch helped us illustrate their usefulness. He was looking for information about agile-certification and, of course, on this topic there is a huge number of sites with relevant information.
However, among the search results is also an article from habr.com, in which the author describes his experience in training. Far from the fact that this article is the most relevant answer for this request, so it will not necessarily be in the first position. But at the same time the sign informs the user that this is the result from the site, which can be very useful for the user in the future.
Another important aspect of the choice - reviews. Over the past year, we have managed to dramatically increase the amount of feedback and ratings we collect: now users share their impressions with Yandex more than 150,000 times a day.
Good feedback work is impossible without powerful machine learning technologies. We are actively fighting any fraud and spam in our feedback. The speed of the algorithms is extremely important here: it is clear that if the data is processed with a delay of 24 hours, then an unscrupulous user can manage to leave a huge amount of harmful feedback, while other users will have time to see them before we take any measures. Therefore, one of the largest implementations for us was the ability to process data and take them into account in our models with a delay of a few minutes. This means that reviews and ratings on Yandex are almost always in as good condition as possible in principle.
Of course, as is the case with Yandex. Connoisseurs, it is important for users to understand whose reviews they read. We do not reveal the personalities of the authors, but allow you to read all their reviews. In this way, you can get to know a particular author better, understand whether your tastes are similar, and make your own choices after that.
But it is often not enough just to find information, you want to save it for future use - say, after some time, return to the site you are interested in, save a picture or video, and then share it with friends one day. Until now, there was no solution that allows you to conveniently and consistently store information of different types.
To solve this problem, we updated our Yandex.Collections service . Collections allow you to save information of different types: pictures, videos, websites, even movies, TV shows and books. Collections are closely related to our search services: the ability to add to the collection is implemented in Yandex.Kartinki and Yandex.Video: pay attention to the “Add to collection” buttons. Also, this button is available for objects in a large search.
And in the Yandex application, you can add sites found in the Search to collections. Soon this feature will be available to all users of Yandex search on all platforms.
So, users can create their collections on Yandex search services. After the collection is created, recommendations become available: for example, pictures that are similar in style to pictures from the assembled collection. To this end, our technologies of searching for similar images and ensuring diversity work in full force. We want to recommend similar, but not identical objects.
The study of recommendations allows you to further understand the topic of interest. Let's say I have collected a collection of beautiful interiors of just three cards. After that, a huge number of recommendations from other user collections became available to me and, of course, it greatly simplified the search for a variant that interested me in the end.
Collections can be made private so that no one has access to them and does not know about their existence. There you can keep something secret. On the other hand, you can make collections open, and then they will be available to all Yandex users: both on the Yandex.Collection service, and in the large Search.
This example perfectly demonstrates what is being searched for using services such as Connoisseurs and Collections. Users, solving their problems, create new objects, which become available to all users and help those, in turn, to solve their problems significantly faster. Thus, modern Search allows not only to find information in an already existing dataset, but also to create new information that is useful to other people.
We see well how the results of our work affect the search share. Since the previous launch, the search share of Yandex on mobile devices has grown by more than 6 percentage points and this is obviously not the limit.
Of course, we will continue to develop the areas listed here, as well as continue to purposefully develop the quality of the Search in all its manifestations, to improve our methods of machine learning and quality metrics.