Longer Search Strings

I have been involved in search for a while (on quite a while), and first heard about search string lengths at the 1993 SIGIR conference at Pittsburgh. I believe it was Doug Cutting who was presenting some data on that (my memory is hazy here) and how we were slowing getting up to 2 search terms per search. I think this was an ad-hoc presentation so I have no reference for that, but I know that Amanda Spinks has done a number of studies on search lengths (Google search).

Steve Arnold believes the current number to be around 2.5 which I think is on target, and the trend is up.

Steve points to this study on Hitwise which show those trends, though I would have liked more depth to the figures so we could really see the trend.

Which is, in fact, hard to see, because the change is so slowwww.

At Feedster we were seeing around 2 terms per search, and I put in code to boost the relevance of documents where terms were very close together (ie a phrase) to get better results.


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