What are the Search Quality Analyzers?
Building on our several years long experience of AnalizeThis.ru, a Russian project, based on independent automated evaluation of search engines' quality, we are now launching a similiar Chinese one. The idea was conceived and realized by Ashmanov & Partners Company. The project is a technological one: the search quality is not assessed "by hand", rather we find such search parameters as can be measured automatically. Since the start of the project in 2007, we have detected dozens of such automatically comparable parameters (so far only a part is available in Chinese). Daily measurements make it possible to closely watch the search engines' highs and lows, their rivalry and their struggle for web search improvement.
So, what actually is an analyzer? Well, basically it is a program with a two-fold function: first, it sends the search engines a specially selected set of queries and collects the output; next, it checks the extent to which the output meets specified formal criteria (for more details please refer to the "How Do the Analyzers Work" section). These criteria are, of course, identical for each search engine.
The results of the analysis are published, so that at any moment you can see not only the points obtained by a search engine this or the other day (here are, for example, those of the Navigation Analyzer of September 21, 2013), but also the queries asked, or even the output yielded by a specific search engine to a specific query on that day (for example, that by Google in response to "东莞富华电子" (Dongguan Fuhua Electronic Co.), the correct result is highlighted with green). All this guarantees a high degree of objectivity in our evaluation.
To the best of our knowledge, our project is unique in both Russian and Chinese sectors of the Web. And, possibly, beyond.
How Do The Analyzers Work?To see an analyzer's description please go to its page. Besides, all the descriptions can be found here.
Let's take a closer look at how the analyzers function using the example of the very first and, probably, the simplest of them, the Navigational Search Analyzer. It checks how often a user looking for a specific website actually receives the link in the output.
Every day each search engine receives a set of 200 queries, the same for each SE. For other analyzers the set can consist of another number of queries, usually, 100. Then specific templates process the output and extract the SERP (top ten results). For each result, the program saves the link to the web page found (often, when the explicit link is absent from the search results, it has to be specifically sorted out), the title and the snippet (the text fragment representing its page). Then the links are compared to the standard link previously assigned for this query (usually there is one standard link, but there can be more). Thus, every one out of the queries provides data concerning the number of standard links in the SERP and, even more than that, concerning their position among the top ten results of each search engine. Having calculated the percentage of the queries with the correct answer to the overall number of queries, we obtain the search engine's navigational search quality grade. Other analyzers can have different methods of control, like presence (or absence) of certain words in the title of the site, in a snippet or on a site page. But the main algorithm of compiling a set of queries, finding appropriate standard answers and assessing their presence or absence in the output remains the same for almost all the analyzers.
Yet, that does not mean that there is little to do beyond the automatical control. To set a new analyzer going, we have to define its working principle (and in particular, the method of controlling the results), to find appropriate queries and assign appropriate markers (i.e., standard answers to these queries), to check the results and to correct the queries and the markers accordingly. After the analyzer has been launched, we have to watch out lest our markers get out of date, as it eventually happens, for example, in the above-mentioned Navigational Search Analyzer, whose markers tend to become inaccessible, change the address, get new "mirrors" and so on.
There are also such analyzers that demand more 'handwork'. Such is, for example, the Search Spam Analyzer (not yet available in Chinese) where the never-ceasing inflow of new results makes a regular check by our analytic team indispensable.
But even with such analyzers we try to minimize the necessary amount of handwork and to maintain the objectivity of evaluation: those who assess the relevance of results or the amount of spam never know which search engine has yielded this or the other result.
Beside the main parameter to be assessed, some analyzers measure additional search features that are in some way connected to it, but may be of independent interest. Sometimes, this can involve stricter or looser count of results.
What Do We Need the Analyzers for?Thanks to technological progress, people today have an instant access to immense amounts of information. This creates a serious challenge for information retrieval, so the existence and the quality of search engines becomes a crucial factor. As for existence, the search engines present on the Web are numerous enough. But how to understand which one is worth using?
Our project is meant to answer this question by demonstrating the strong and the weak sides of different search engines. Thereby we shall give any interested user a possibility to choose his search instrument conciously, not being driven by habit or prejudice.
Indeed, to know strong and weak points of Google, Baidu, Qihoo and other search engines may be both useful and curious, not only for the terminal users, but also for anyone engaged in the search industry.
Web masters and optimizers can develop deeper understanding of the search engines' 'nature' and closely trace changes in it by using the Updates Analyzer, already very popular among the SEO folk in Russia, or by looking at sudden leaps that occur from time to time in the ranking of the output in other analyzers.
It is self-evident that the objective data on the search engine's functioning can be of great use for investors, who can rely on them when assessing the risks of investing into a search business. As for journalists and bloggers, our analyzers can give them some diverting stuff to write about in their weekly columns or analytical reviews.
But there is one category of users for whom our service is just indispensable, and these are search engine developers. The analyzers will help them to make a true to life comparison between them and their competitors, to gain a fuller comprehension of their pros and cons and, ultimately, to reach a higher level of user-friendliness.
A word for the wise: we strongly advise any search engine developer against using the analyzers' data for immediate tuning, fixing, correcting their search algorithms. In such case the data instantly lose their objectivity, and the first person to suffer from it is the search engine developer himself: instead of a true picture he only gets a false and contorted one.
So, What Search Engine is The Best?It is pretty tough to give a definitive answer to this. Moreover, we do not intend to find such an answer. We just compare search engines from different points of view and publish the results on a daily basis. Yet, as there is no avoiding the choice, we'll venture a cautious statement.
FeedbackWeb search is a constantly changing thing, and its changes cannot but intervene with the work of our analyzers. Sometimes we have to put in additional features or even replace algorithms to stay tuned to the retrieval procedure. Some queries are subject to regular manual check, the other queries and markers are checked automatically on a day-to-day basis.
Nonetheless, it may happen that you notice some mistakes we have overlooked. If that is the case, we'd be very grateful if you let us know about it. We'd also like to receive your comments or ideas regarding our service on firstname.lastname@example.org.