Last week, we quietly launched a new version of the Alacra Store that includes a new Ajax user interface for our keyword search results page.  We have also added clustering of our search results by publisher and category, as well as the ability to dynamically display your "keyword in context" (aka KWIC).  The official announcement can be seen here and the early feedback has been very positive. 

It is still a mystery to me why more sites’ search results pages are not Ajax-driven yet.  The ability to seamlessly refine your search criteria, narrow down your choices, and interact with your results is exactly what Ajax was made for.  Within a matter of a few clicks, someone searching the Alacra Store for the simple keyword [yahoo], can now go from over 6,500 premium content results (all from the past 12 months!) to the four most recent Yahoo conference call transcripts they’re looking for.  Or, someone searching on [web analytics], can quickly view all of the latest market research on the web analytics industry.  For sites that are indexing hundreds of millions (or billions) of documents, this ability to easily go from thousands of "results" to a few potential "answers" is critical.

Yahoo Premium Search

Due to the raw power of the Google algorithms, users have been trained to enter as few keywords as possible and expect to get their answer right away (do you "feel lucky"?).  An old iProspect study found that 88% of search referrals are generated by searches for one- and two-word keywords.  With this as a fact of life in today’s search world, and as the amount of digital information continues to expand, it’s impossible to accurately predict what the user’s intent was based on a 1 or 2 keyword search phrase. 

It is this "intention identification" (in my best Walt Clyde Frazier voice) that is paving the way for the Vertical Search opportunity.  If someone is on searching for [cayman islands], they are looking for something very different than someone on searching for [cayman islands].  And, just by the very nature of these sites, they know the user’s intent and can better meet the user’s needs.  This is a conundrum Google has yet to solve.  When someone searches for [apple] on Google, what are they looking for?  The fruit?  An iPod?  Fiona Apple’s latest album?  Without involving the user and asking them to clarify their intent (and giving them the tools do so), we will constantly be searching for a better algorithm

(Posted by Jarid Lukin, Director of E-Commerce, Alacra)

P.S.  Keep an eye on the Alacra Store for more Ajax-driven features in the near future…