Adapting to the Shifting Intent of Search Queries

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 22 (NIPS 2009)

Bibtex Metadata Paper


Umar Syed, Aleksandrs Slivkins, Nina Mishra


Search engines today present results that are often oblivious to recent shifts in intent. For example, the meaning of the query independence day shifts in early July to a US holiday and to a movie around the time of the box office release. While no studies exactly quantify the magnitude of intent-shifting traffic, studies suggest that news events, seasonal topics, pop culture, etc account for 1/2 the search queries. This paper shows that the signals a search engine receives can be used to both determine that a shift in intent happened, as well as find a result that is now more relevant. We present a meta-algorithm that marries a classifier with a bandit algorithm to achieve regret that depends logarithmically on the number of query impressions, under certain assumptions. We provide strong evidence that this regret is close to the best achievable. Finally, via a series of experiments, we demonstrate that our algorithm outperforms prior approaches, particularly as the amount of intent-shifting traffic increases.