This application is a continuation of, and claims the benefit of, U.S. Non-Provisional application Ser. No. 12/941,181 filed on Nov. 8, 2010 and entitled “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR PERFORMING A SEARCH,” which is a continuation of, and claims the benefit of, U.S. Non-Provisional application Ser. No. 10/725,197 filed on Dec. 1, 2003, entitled “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR PERFORMING A SEARCH” and issued as U.S. Pat. No. 7,844,589 on Nov. 30, 2010, which claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/520,845 filed Nov. 18, 2003, all of which are incorporated herein by reference.
The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for assisting a user in performing a search. More specifically, the present invention relates to a novel approach that applies transaction and/or click records to assist a user in narrowing or focusing a search.
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OF THE INVENTION
With the proliferation of vast amount of information on the Internet, it is often very difficult to search and locate relevant information without having to first expend a great deal of time to peruse over many irrelevant search results. Depending on the material that is being sought, the user is often frustrated by having to view many immaterial results.
One difficulty in searching for relevant information on the Web is that the user is often not using the most relevant search term(s). For example, a user may enter very general terms such as “Sony” or “shoes” and the like. Such general terms often produce a very large number of search results. The results are not particularly focused and often require a substantial amount of filtering by the user, where the user may have to enter additional narrowing terms. Unfortunately, the reason that the user may have started the search with a very general terms could very well be that the user is not sure of a more specific search terms to better define the search. For example, the user may be looking for the latest and most popular videogame, but is not sure of the specific title or the manufacturer of the video game. As a result, the user is often required to view many immaterial search results before reaching the proper documents or to further deduce a better or more focus search term.
Therefore, there is a need in the art for a method and apparatus that provides search results with higher relevancy.
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OF THE INVENTION
In one embodiment, the present invention provides a method and apparatus for generating search results with higher relevancy. More specifically, the present invention provides a listing of narrowing or related search terms based upon the search terms submitted by the user. The present invention effectively guides users to narrow their search by guiding users to select or click on highly related search terms. In one embodiment, the listing of the highly related search terms is generated in accordance with sales and/or click information, e.g., via scoring of search terms that is premised on sales and/or click information. Thus, the present invention provides a significant benefit in that the destination page or search result associated with each of the highly related search terms will likely be relevant to the user's search. For example, in the context of shopping the search result will likely present products that are known to be popular and have recently been sold or clicked.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
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The foregoing and other aspects and advantages are better understood from the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment of the invention with reference to the drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating a scoring system of the present invention;
FIG. 2 illustrates a flowchart of a method for generating a plurality of candidate search terms;
FIG. 3 illustrates a flowchart of a method for refining a list of candidate search terms;
FIG. 4 illustrates a flowchart of a method for adding additional candidate search terms;
FIG. 5, comprising FIGS. 5A and 5B, illustrates a flowchart of a method for generating a plurality of related search terms to assist the user in narrowing a search;
FIG. 6 illustrates a screenshot of the present invention;
FIG. 7 illustrates a screenshot of the present invention; and
FIG. 8 illustrates a screenshot of the present invention;
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating a scoring system 100 of the present invention. The scoring system 100 is tasked with scoring a document, e.g., a product, a service, a website or an article, within a search result set generated in accordance with a search term. For brevity, it should be noted that although the present invention is described below within the context of searching for a product, the present invention is not so limited. In other words, the present invention is applicable in assisting a user to refine a search for a document in general.
More specifically, FIG. 1 illustrates a searching or scoring system 100 that is interacting with a network, e.g., the Internet 102, where a plurality of users 105 is allowed to conduct searches. The search is typically triggered by the users who will input one or more search terms, e.g., laptop “computer”, “DVD”, “gas grill” and so on. The search may include a search for products and services desired by the users. The products and services may be offered by an entity maintaining the searching or scoring system 100, e.g., a company that is operating a website that offers a large volume of products and services, e.g., Walmart and the like. Alternatively, the products and services may be offered by a plurality of merchants 107, where the searching or scoring system 100 is deployed by a third party and is only tasked with generating the search results associated with the search term provided by the users, e.g., a search engine application. In sum, the system 100 of the present invention is not limited in the manner that it is deployed.
In one embodiment, the system 100 is implemented using a general purpose computer or any other hardware equivalents. More specifically, the scoring system 100 comprises a processor (CPU) 110, a memory 120, e.g., random access memory (RAM) and/or read only memory (ROM), a scoring engine or application 122, a searching engine or application 124, a tracking engine or application 126, a related searching engine or application 127 and various input/output devices 130 (e.g., storage devices, including but not limited to, a tape drive, a floppy drive, a hard disk drive or a compact disk drive, a receiver, a transmitter, a speaker, a display, an output port, a user input device (such as a keyboard, a keypad, a mouse, and the like), or a microphone for capturing speech commands).
It should be understood that the scoring engine or application 122, the searching engine or application 124, the tracking engine or application 126, and the related searching engine or application 127 can be implemented as physical devices or systems that are coupled to the CPU 110 through a communication channel. Alternatively, the scoring engine or application 122, the searching engine or application 124, the tracking engine or application 126, and the related searching engine or application 127 can be represented by one or more software applications (or even a combination of software and hardware, e.g., using application specific integrated circuits (ASIC)), where the software is loaded from a storage medium (e.g., a magnetic or optical drive or diskette) and operated by the CPU in the memory 120 of the computer. As such, the scoring engine or application 122, the searching engine or application 124, the tracking engine or application 126, and the related searching engine or application 127 (including associated data structures) of the present invention can be stored on a computer readable medium, e.g., RAM memory, magnetic or optical drive or diskette and the like.
In one embodiment, the searching or scoring system is designed to address the criticality of improving search relevancy. For example, the present invention exploits the fact that users disclose their preference pertaining to favorite products for popular search terms through purchasing or clicking on products that they like. When users search a term in a shopping/product search site, the site will often return numerous irrelevant results, even in the top result positions. Often, users will simply filter out the wrong results, and only select the results that they are interested in, i.e., relevant results. The relevancy of the search results is significantly substantiated when a user actually purchases a product selected from the search results. Namely, when a user decides to buy the product, then the product he or she chose must be highly relevant to the search term within the context of the price of the product and/or the merchant selling the product.
It has been determined that if the tracking data size is sufficiently large, users\' choices on each given search term tend to converge to several products from several merchants, and all of the results are very relevant to the search term. By learning and applying users\' choices, especially from purchasing and/or clicking, highly relevant products can be assigned with higher score/rank than over text relevant only products. This novel approach will produce highly relevant search results for a search term. In fact, additionally refinements or normalization can be applied, e.g., the ordering of merchants for each search term. These optional adjustments are further described below.
In one embodiment of the present invention, the score assigned to a product in response to a search term that is based on user purchase and/or click information is referred to as a “hotscore”. This hotscore can be used by a search engine in producing search results in response to a search term. In one embodiment, the present hotscore is used in generating the search results or, alternatively, is employed to supplement a search engine that currently employs other parameters, such as including, paid inclusion, paid sponsorship, and text relevancy. An example of a method for generating and using scores assigned to a product or a product-merchant pair that are based on user purchase and/or click information is disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/675,234, filed on Sep. 30, 2003 and is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety.
FIG. 2 illustrates a flowchart of a method 200 for generating a plurality of candidate search terms or related search terms. In one embodiment, the present invention attempts to assist the user in narrowing or focusing the user\'s search. For example, a user who provides a search term “Apple” will be presented with a plurality of narrower or more refined search terms such as “ipod”, “computer”, “powerbook g4”, “apple peeler”, “apple pie”, “apple cider vinegar”, and so on. This ability to assist the user to quickly arrive to a narrower search term will greatly enhance the user\'s searching experience.
In order to provide accurate refined search terms to a user\'s search term, it is necessary to first generate a list of related search terms or candidate search terms. In turn, these candidate search terms are organized or identified as being related to one or more search terms. This process of generating a list of candidate search terms is typically implemented off-line, but it can be generated dynamically as well.
Method 200 starts in step 205 and proceeds to step 210, where method 200 queries whether all search terms have been processed. Specifically, method 200 has access to a list of search terms. These search terms can be collected by monitoring search terms that are used by a plurality of users as received by a website. Alternatively, these search terms can be arbitrarily generated. If the query of step 210 is positively answered, then method 200 ends in step 215. If the query is negatively answered, then method 200 proceeds to step 220.
In step 220, method 200 selects a search term K. A search term may comprise one or more words. For example, search terms may comprise the following terms: “Sony”, “digital camera”, “Sony digital camera”, “progressive scan DVD player” and so on.