AltaVista Adds Related Search Prompter
AltaVista debuted a new "Related Searches" prompter in December that is designed to help users be more specific in their queries.
To see the feature in action, do a search, then on the results page, look just below the search box. You'll see text that says "Related Searches" followed by hyperlinked topics related to your original search.
For example, a search for "cars" brings up related queries such as "new cars," "rental car" and "cars for sale." A search for "travel" brings up terms including "travel agency" and "air travel."
Clicking on any of the related searches automatically reruns your search using those terms.
Ideally, listing related topics in this way will painlessly help users be more specific with their searches, which in turn should provide better quality results.
For instance, imagine a novice searcher who is looking for information about the famed "face" on Mars. They might start off too broadly, and simply search for "mars."
If so, AltaVista would suggest "face on mars" as a related search. Clicking on this suggestion reruns the search using those words. In response, AltaVista presents results that are specifically about the face -- and results far better than those that appear in response to the more generic "mars" search.
As you drill down, even more specific topics may appear. For example, "mars" suggests "face on mars," which in turn suggests "face on mars picture."
Another feature is that if a search includes words such as "picture" or "photo," the user is given results from the AltaVista Photo Finder service, rather than the web index. So clicking on "face on mars picture" brings up actual pictures of the Martian "face," which can be found via the web.
Using Related Searches doesn't always guarantee high quality results, of course. For example, going from "cars" to "new cars" does find pages that are about new cars, but the pages probably won't be useful to most people.
But overall, the search prompter is a great addition that will likely be appreciated by novice and advanced users alike.
AltaVista Debuts New Search Features
The Search Engine Report, Nov. 4, 1998
Related Searches is just one of many new features AltaVista has added to help searchers. This review covers other recent changes.