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Search Blog — Feb 2009

  • February
    24

    Stefan Weitz on Farecast

    Welcome back! This week we’re going to focus on something we all need to do — save cash. True story: I’m about to head to New York City for the rest of the week for a wedding. When I was booking the trip I had many decisions to make: what airline to fly, where to stay, what car to rent (OK, that’s a total lie — it’s Manhattan!). Because I had no flexibility in my dates, I couldn’t use the cool sites that let me pick cheaper flights based on different dates. And hotels — forget about it. There are hundreds in Manhattan, but I was at a loss to find the best deal (not just the cheapest — I’ve stayed in those, and they aren’t pretty, believe me). I am a discerning traveler, however, and make my decisions taking both quality and price into consideration. Enter Live Search Farecast. Check out how it tells you when to buy your ticket based on computer science that is about 40 grade levels above my head. It also helped me pick out a sweet hotel in midtown that also happened to be 60% cheaper than it is normally during this time of year. Bottom line? Not only did it help me decide, it gave me confidence in my decision. There’s... Read More Welcome back! This week we’re going to focus on something we all need to do — save cash. True story: I’m about to head to New York City for the rest of the week for a wedding. When I was booking the trip I had many decisions to make: what airline to fly, where to stay, what car to rent (OK, that’s a total lie — it’s Manhattan!). Because I had no flexibility in my dates, I couldn’t use the cool sites that let me pick cheaper flights based on different dates. And hotels — forget about it. There are hundreds in Manhattan, but I was at a loss to find the best deal (not just the cheapest — I’ve stayed in those, and they aren’t pretty, believe me). I am a discerning traveler, however, and make my decisions taking both quality and price into consideration. Enter Live Search Farecast. Check out how it tells you when to buy your ticket based on computer science that is about 40 grade levels above my head. It also helped me pick out a sweet hotel in midtown that also happened to be 60% cheaper than it is normally during this time of year. Bottom line? Not only did it help me decide, it gave me confidence in my decision. There’s... Read More
  • February
    24

    Get Immersed (in Search) at TechFest 2009

    Today hundreds of researchers from Microsoft’s worldwide labs in China, England, India, and the United States will gather in Redmond to exchange ideas with colleagues, show off their latest projects, and provide a glimpse into the future of computing. There are some pretty cool search technologies being shown that we wanted to give some love to here on the Live Search team blog. GeoLife 2.0: A Location-Based Social Network GeoLife is a GPS-data-driven social network on Microsoft Virtual Earth. It is not only a Website where individuals can manage, visualize, and understand their life experience using their own GPS trajectories; it’s also a social networking service that enables people to build connections with each other based on location histories. Opinion Search The Opinion Index in Live Search today is built off of research started in this project. The current project takes that work to the next level, collecting, storing, and organizing opinion data such as user reviews of computers, electronics, software, video games, restaurants, and hotels. That information will ultimately be used to help searchers more easily make informed purchase decisions. Renlifang: Web... Read More Today hundreds of researchers from Microsoft’s worldwide labs in China, England, India, and the United States will gather in Redmond to exchange ideas with colleagues, show off their latest projects, and provide a glimpse into the future of computing. There are some pretty cool search technologies being shown that we wanted to give some love to here on the Live Search team blog. GeoLife 2.0: A Location-Based Social Network GeoLife is a GPS-data-driven social network on Microsoft Virtual Earth. It is not only a Website where individuals can manage, visualize, and understand their life experience using their own GPS trajectories; it’s also a social networking service that enables people to build connections with each other based on location histories. Opinion Search The Opinion Index in Live Search today is built off of research started in this project. The current project takes that work to the next level, collecting, storing, and organizing opinion data such as user reviews of computers, electronics, software, video games, restaurants, and hotels. That information will ultimately be used to help searchers more easily make informed purchase decisions. Renlifang: Web... Read More
  • February
    20

    Be in the Oscar know...instantly!

    Awards season is an exciting time, especially when it comes to the Oscars. Who will be the big winners this year? Frost/Nixon, Milk, or that movie Slumdog Millionaire that I keep hearing about? Unfortunately, here at Live Search we haven’t yet invented an algorithm that will predict the winners of the Oscars. Believe me, several of our engineers would love to work on a project like that. But what we can do is make sure that you have instant access to answers to your burning questions about this year’s big event. Searchers are often looking for very specific information about the Oscars — the majority of the time, who has been nominated and, of course, who has won. No one wants to waste time scanning a bunch of site summaries and trying to guess exactly which site will give you the right info. Now you can simply type “ Oscars ” or “ Oscar nominations ” in the searchbox, and you get a list of the nominees leading off the list of results. After the awards, come back and type “ Oscars ,” “ Oscar winners ,” or “ Best picture winner ,” and our instant answer will tell you who won. You also can get an instant answer... Read More Awards season is an exciting time, especially when it comes to the Oscars. Who will be the big winners this year? Frost/Nixon, Milk, or that movie Slumdog Millionaire that I keep hearing about? Unfortunately, here at Live Search we haven’t yet invented an algorithm that will predict the winners of the Oscars. Believe me, several of our engineers would love to work on a project like that. But what we can do is make sure that you have instant access to answers to your burning questions about this year’s big event. Searchers are often looking for very specific information about the Oscars — the majority of the time, who has been nominated and, of course, who has won. No one wants to waste time scanning a bunch of site summaries and trying to guess exactly which site will give you the right info. Now you can simply type “ Oscars ” or “ Oscar nominations ” in the searchbox, and you get a list of the nominees leading off the list of results. After the awards, come back and type “ Oscars ,” “ Oscar winners ,” or “ Best picture winner ,” and our instant answer will tell you who won. You also can get an instant answer... Read More
  • February
    17

    Stefan Weitz on Image Search

    Stefan here - long time reader, first time poster. I'm one of the new folks on the Live Search team that Betsy has told you about , and you'll be seeing more from me in the next few months. Seeing is the operative word in that sentence because the Live Search blog is getting some extreme-video-love courtesy of myself and the good folks at Channel9. Video, you ask? Everyone knows video viewership on the web is going nowhere...oh wait, never mind, wrong strategy deck. Video is HUGE and does something that text blog posts can't: allow me to talk to you without that pesky act of using a keyboard. While I was CES this year, I noticed that people weren't aware of all the functions search companies (like us) actually build into their engines. Most people still look at search as something into which they type a keyword to get a URL. And while I'd say this is a tremendously useful function, people are missing out on much of the innovation that we've spent years developing. Now if you're like me, you already have approximately 42000 RSS feeds, tweets, Diggs, and text messages coming at you every day. While I strive to read and absorb all of them, sometimes I just want someone to tell... Read More Stefan here - long time reader, first time poster. I'm one of the new folks on the Live Search team that Betsy has told you about , and you'll be seeing more from me in the next few months. Seeing is the operative word in that sentence because the Live Search blog is getting some extreme-video-love courtesy of myself and the good folks at Channel9. Video, you ask? Everyone knows video viewership on the web is going nowhere...oh wait, never mind, wrong strategy deck. Video is HUGE and does something that text blog posts can't: allow me to talk to you without that pesky act of using a keyboard. While I was CES this year, I noticed that people weren't aware of all the functions search companies (like us) actually build into their engines. Most people still look at search as something into which they type a keyword to get a URL. And while I'd say this is a tremendously useful function, people are missing out on much of the innovation that we've spent years developing. Now if you're like me, you already have approximately 42000 RSS feeds, tweets, Diggs, and text messages coming at you every day. While I strive to read and absorb all of them, sometimes I just want someone to tell... Read More
  • February
    12

    Optimizing your very large site for search

    We get asked it a lot. “How do I get more coverage for my site?” Over the past couple of weeks on the Webmaster Center blog , we have been sharing strategies for large sites to help them optimize their sites for search. The series, called “Optimizing your very large site for search,” covered four important areas we believe a large site should look at to improve its relevance and coverage: Part 1 We started by focusing on reducing the surface area of your site by removing and canonicalizing your URLs. Reducing URLs that are redundant or unnecessary will make room for the ones that are. This post offers some practical suggestions on how to make fewer URLs a reality. Part 2 After removing redundant URLs, we focused on the need to optimize for crawl by ensuring you are compressing your site and telling us which content is new or recently updated. This helps us focus on crawling the latest and greatest content. Part 3 The third post is all about producing content in a way that ensures it is crawled. Despite improvements in Silverlight and Flash, it is still difficult for us to ensure all of your content makes it into the index. This post offers some suggested workarounds and advice when... Read More We get asked it a lot. “How do I get more coverage for my site?” Over the past couple of weeks on the Webmaster Center blog , we have been sharing strategies for large sites to help them optimize their sites for search. The series, called “Optimizing your very large site for search,” covered four important areas we believe a large site should look at to improve its relevance and coverage: Part 1 We started by focusing on reducing the surface area of your site by removing and canonicalizing your URLs. Reducing URLs that are redundant or unnecessary will make room for the ones that are. This post offers some practical suggestions on how to make fewer URLs a reality. Part 2 After removing redundant URLs, we focused on the need to optimize for crawl by ensuring you are compressing your site and telling us which content is new or recently updated. This helps us focus on crawling the latest and greatest content. Part 3 The third post is all about producing content in a way that ensures it is crawled. Despite improvements in Silverlight and Flash, it is still difficult for us to ensure all of your content makes it into the index. This post offers some suggested workarounds and advice when... Read More
  • February
    10

    Search User Behavior at SMX

    This week at SMX West you can see members of the Live Search team speaking on a range of search topics . I’ll be there as part of a panel on search user behavior called “Just Behave – A Look at Searcher Behavior”, at 3pm on Wednesday the 11th. It should be a fun session, with some great people from Yahoo, Comscore, and Enquiro. My primary job at Live Search is Group Program Manager for Search Relevance – making sure the results we return for your query are the right ones. It’s a fun job with a lot of unique challenges, great people, and uniquely cool technology. It’s fun to be in the race as an underdog. At the same time, I’m the kind of guy who is always asking “why”. The “why” of a search engine is to help people find the information they’re looking for as quickly, easily, and confidently as possible. If you want to do a good job at that, you need to understand the people you’re trying to serve and the context in which they’re using your tool. We’ve learned a lot over the last few years about how customers behave with search engines. But there is one key insight that really sticks out in my mind that I’ll be talking about at SMX: searches don’t occur in isolation – they are... Read More This week at SMX West you can see members of the Live Search team speaking on a range of search topics . I’ll be there as part of a panel on search user behavior called “Just Behave – A Look at Searcher Behavior”, at 3pm on Wednesday the 11th. It should be a fun session, with some great people from Yahoo, Comscore, and Enquiro. My primary job at Live Search is Group Program Manager for Search Relevance – making sure the results we return for your query are the right ones. It’s a fun job with a lot of unique challenges, great people, and uniquely cool technology. It’s fun to be in the race as an underdog. At the same time, I’m the kind of guy who is always asking “why”. The “why” of a search engine is to help people find the information they’re looking for as quickly, easily, and confidently as possible. If you want to do a good job at that, you need to understand the people you’re trying to serve and the context in which they’re using your tool. We’ve learned a lot over the last few years about how customers behave with search engines. But there is one key insight that really sticks out in my mind that I’ll be talking about at SMX: searches don’t occur in isolation – they are... Read More
  • February
    09

    New tweets at SMX West this week

    We want to do a quick shout-out post to all of you — some new additions to the Live Search outreach squad and another way to virtually join us at Search Marketing Expo West (SMX) this week! First off, let’s reintroduce the existing members of the team… If you’ve been to any developer-oriented Search conference, you’ve likely run into the highly youthful looking Nathan Buggia (who’s speaking at SMX ) and Jeremiah Andrick, the “ best smelling dude in search .” (Hey, in a crowded conference room, you know who you’d want to stand next to!) And you might have also had the good fortune to meet Aya Zook, product manager for Live Search and the man always in possession of bar tickets and other helpful items. But the new people aren’t as well-known among the Search crowd — Stefan Weitz, sometimes known as “ Mega Microsoftie " on Channel 8, and then there’s me, his new minion, Betsy Aoki , who’s coming back to the Live Search blog from Xbox and the XNA Community Games team. You’ll see Stefan and me at conferences, on the Interwebs, and lurking around for you if you need to ask questions, get problems... Read More We want to do a quick shout-out post to all of you — some new additions to the Live Search outreach squad and another way to virtually join us at Search Marketing Expo West (SMX) this week! First off, let’s reintroduce the existing members of the team… If you’ve been to any developer-oriented Search conference, you’ve likely run into the highly youthful looking Nathan Buggia (who’s speaking at SMX ) and Jeremiah Andrick, the “ best smelling dude in search .” (Hey, in a crowded conference room, you know who you’d want to stand next to!) And you might have also had the good fortune to meet Aya Zook, product manager for Live Search and the man always in possession of bar tickets and other helpful items. But the new people aren’t as well-known among the Search crowd — Stefan Weitz, sometimes known as “ Mega Microsoftie " on Channel 8, and then there’s me, his new minion, Betsy Aoki , who’s coming back to the Live Search blog from Xbox and the XNA Community Games team. You’ll see Stefan and me at conferences, on the Interwebs, and lurking around for you if you need to ask questions, get problems... Read More
  • February
    09

    Live Search headed to SMX West '09

    Going to California holds a special meaning for those of us up in Vitamin D Deficiency , USA (a.k.a., Seattle). So it’s with double-the-pleasure giddiness that we attend SMX West this year. (Talk about search and catch rays on the side? Dude. We’re there.) Invited by the leading search minds of Danny Sullivan and company, Live Search will have the pleasure of participating in a number of panels, covering such topics as tips on building SEO into the development process, recent findings in searcher behavior, and what’s new with our engine. You’ll also catch us hosting the Expo Hall Reception (2/10 5:45–7 pm), in a booth (#410 — raffling off an Xbox!), and giving a theatre talk on our open Search API .   Panels we’ll be speaking at are: Tuesday, February 10 Marketer to Developer Translation 1:15–2:30 pm Nathan Buggia, Program Manager Lead, Webmaster Center, Live Search Expert Technical Review of Your Website 4:30–5:30 pm Nathan Buggia, Program Manager Lead, Webmaster Center, Live Search Wednesday, February 11 Just Behave, A Look At Searcher Behavior 3:00–4:15 pm Ramez Naam, Group Program Manager, Live Search Thursday... Read More Going to California holds a special meaning for those of us up in Vitamin D Deficiency , USA (a.k.a., Seattle). So it’s with double-the-pleasure giddiness that we attend SMX West this year. (Talk about search and catch rays on the side? Dude. We’re there.) Invited by the leading search minds of Danny Sullivan and company, Live Search will have the pleasure of participating in a number of panels, covering such topics as tips on building SEO into the development process, recent findings in searcher behavior, and what’s new with our engine. You’ll also catch us hosting the Expo Hall Reception (2/10 5:45–7 pm), in a booth (#410 — raffling off an Xbox!), and giving a theatre talk on our open Search API .   Panels we’ll be speaking at are: Tuesday, February 10 Marketer to Developer Translation 1:15–2:30 pm Nathan Buggia, Program Manager Lead, Webmaster Center, Live Search Expert Technical Review of Your Website 4:30–5:30 pm Nathan Buggia, Program Manager Lead, Webmaster Center, Live Search Wednesday, February 11 Just Behave, A Look At Searcher Behavior 3:00–4:15 pm Ramez Naam, Group Program Manager, Live Search Thursday... Read More
  • February
    06

    Searching for snow? We can find it.

    February is upon us, and for many of us snow addicts, this is one of the most exciting times of the year. And what great luck we have this year! From the Pacific Northwest to Colorado to the Northeast, snow is dumping from above. While others are out ripping up the fresh powder, we’ve been working on ways to make it easier to find the snow. Our snow “instant answer” shows you a quick overview of ski conditions at a given resort. For example, type in Vail and you’ll get: Make sure there’s snow before you make your next trip up the mountain! Theo Vachovsky, Instant Answers Product Manager, Live Search February is upon us, and for many of us snow addicts, this is one of the most exciting times of the year. And what great luck we have this year! From the Pacific Northwest to Colorado to the Northeast, snow is dumping from above. While others are out ripping up the fresh powder, we’ve been working on ways to make it easier to find the snow. Our snow “instant answer” shows you a quick overview of ski conditions at a given resort. For example, type in Vail and you’ll get: Make sure there’s snow before you make your next trip up the mountain! Theo Vachovsky, Instant Answers Product Manager, Live Search
  • February
    05

    Searching for love...at a 40% discount...

    If you thought you were the only one looking for that special place to take your sweetheart on February 14th, we’ve got some bad news: you’re not alone. Last year searches for the term “ Best Places to Kiss ” was up over 2,500% on Valentine’s Day. But if you’re serious about finding that special place, we’ve put together some info for you on some of the more well-known places to share the moment. Take a look at our Live Search Maps bird’s eye view of “Best Places to Kiss ” for some ideas. While planning your date, don’t forget one important item on your to do list: order flowers. Whether they're for your mom, grandma, or just a friend, there is a great deal being offered through one of our Live Search cashback partners, FTD.COM: 40% off your order (offer good for a limited time only). Here's how it works: 1. From www.live.com , search for “buy flowers” and look for the cashback gleam in the sponsored listings. 2. Click on the associated FTD.COM link at the top of the page. 3. Sign in to cashback and you’ll be taken to the FTD.COM site. 4. Complete your transaction with FTD.COM, and you will receive 40... Read More If you thought you were the only one looking for that special place to take your sweetheart on February 14th, we’ve got some bad news: you’re not alone. Last year searches for the term “ Best Places to Kiss ” was up over 2,500% on Valentine’s Day. But if you’re serious about finding that special place, we’ve put together some info for you on some of the more well-known places to share the moment. Take a look at our Live Search Maps bird’s eye view of “Best Places to Kiss ” for some ideas. While planning your date, don’t forget one important item on your to do list: order flowers. Whether they're for your mom, grandma, or just a friend, there is a great deal being offered through one of our Live Search cashback partners, FTD.COM: 40% off your order (offer good for a limited time only). Here's how it works: 1. From www.live.com , search for “buy flowers” and look for the cashback gleam in the sponsored listings. 2. Click on the associated FTD.COM link at the top of the page. 3. Sign in to cashback and you’ll be taken to the FTD.COM site. 4. Complete your transaction with FTD.COM, and you will receive 40... Read More
  • February
    04

    Fly like a bird…over Paris

    Grab a baguette, a little cheese, a bottle of wine, and head to Paris. It’s a click away with the new bird’s-eye images of Paris (and a long list of other locales). These new imagery updates are brought to you by the Virtual Earth team. The Digital Globe satellite imagery and the new bird’s-eye photos are magnifique and make the visuals at Live Search Maps almost as good as being there. Find the full list of updates and details on the Virtual Earth team blog .   Kristin Meldahl, Senior Product Manager, Live Search Grab a baguette, a little cheese, a bottle of wine, and head to Paris. It’s a click away with the new bird’s-eye images of Paris (and a long list of other locales). These new imagery updates are brought to you by the Virtual Earth team. The Digital Globe satellite imagery and the new bird’s-eye photos are magnifique and make the visuals at Live Search Maps almost as good as being there. Find the full list of updates and details on the Virtual Earth team blog .   Kristin Meldahl, Senior Product Manager, Live Search
  • February
    03

    The most popular how-to searches of 2008

    Search is increasingly becoming a tool to help people accomplish certain tasks. We took a look at some data from 2008 and want to share our findings. Last year people in the U.S. were learning to cook turkeys and to brine them. To argue with their spouses (maybe about whether to cook or brine the turkey) and to improve their marriages (probably after getting too worked up about the turkey). They wanted to learn how to make money and how to save it, how to lose weight both in general and in specific places, and how to lose their tan lines. In that way, 2008 wasn’t a lot different from the years before. But look a little closer and you might see some unusual trends. Here were the leading searches in 2008 using “How to” questions in the U.S. market: How to lose back fat How to tie a tie How to avoid tan lines How to save money How to write a resume How to lose weight How to make money How to improve your marriage How to save on home heating bills How to cook a turkey How to pronounce palahniuk How to brine a turkey How to argue with your spouse How to choose a pediatrician How to reduce stress in your life How to be happy at work How to make gravy How to recycle cell... Read More Search is increasingly becoming a tool to help people accomplish certain tasks. We took a look at some data from 2008 and want to share our findings. Last year people in the U.S. were learning to cook turkeys and to brine them. To argue with their spouses (maybe about whether to cook or brine the turkey) and to improve their marriages (probably after getting too worked up about the turkey). They wanted to learn how to make money and how to save it, how to lose weight both in general and in specific places, and how to lose their tan lines. In that way, 2008 wasn’t a lot different from the years before. But look a little closer and you might see some unusual trends. Here were the leading searches in 2008 using “How to” questions in the U.S. market: How to lose back fat How to tie a tie How to avoid tan lines How to save money How to write a resume How to lose weight How to make money How to improve your marriage How to save on home heating bills How to cook a turkey How to pronounce palahniuk How to brine a turkey How to argue with your spouse How to choose a pediatrician How to reduce stress in your life How to be happy at work How to make gravy How to recycle cell... Read More
  • February
    03

    Instant Answers in your IE8 search box...

    IE8 users can now get Live Search instant answers, including financial information, weather conditions, movie show times, calculations, equations, conversions, and definitions directly in the IE8 search box. To see the stock quote answer in action, type MSFT in the search box; you’ll get the current stock information, plus the performance graph supplied by Comstock. If you want details, just click on the image and you’ll go to moneycentral.msn.com for more info. To see the latest weather forecast, type weather in the search box and you’ll get the weather icon, current temp, as well as the predicted high and low temps from Foreca. Want to try a few of your own? Use the queries below (in bold )  to see more: 2+2 (calculations) x*5=7 (equations) 71 degrees F in C (conversions) define alert (definitions ) bella bottega (show time info for a theater ) The Uninvited (show time info for a movie) Instant answers are available by default with IE8 when you're using Live Search in the U.S. Enjoy! - Alfred Liu, Senior Development Lead, and Beatrice Oltean, Program Manager IE8 users can now get Live Search instant answers, including financial information, weather conditions, movie show times, calculations, equations, conversions, and definitions directly in the IE8 search box. To see the stock quote answer in action, type MSFT in the search box; you’ll get the current stock information, plus the performance graph supplied by Comstock. If you want details, just click on the image and you’ll go to moneycentral.msn.com for more info. To see the latest weather forecast, type weather in the search box and you’ll get the weather icon, current temp, as well as the predicted high and low temps from Foreca. Want to try a few of your own? Use the queries below (in bold )  to see more: 2+2 (calculations) x*5=7 (equations) 71 degrees F in C (conversions) define alert (definitions ) bella bottega (show time info for a theater ) The Uninvited (show time info for a movie) Instant answers are available by default with IE8 when you're using Live Search in the U.S. Enjoy! - Alfred Liu, Senior Development Lead, and Beatrice Oltean, Program Manager