Marissa Mayer 'very excited' about contextual search

The Yahoo CEO explained her vision of search based on context

If you think Yahoo has given up on search, think again. The company may have handed its back-end search operations to Microsoft, but Marissa Mayer thinks there's work to be done on mobile devices, particularly around contextual search.

Contextual search aims to give people the right information, at the right time, by looking at signals such as where they're located and what they're doing -- such as walking or driving a car. Mobile devices tend to provide a lot more of those signals.

"When I look at things like contextual search, I get really excited," the Yahoo CEO said Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco.

"The amount of information available to build a service on is just incredible," she said.

If contextual search sounds familiar, it's because the idea isn't new, but companies are still striving to get there. It's a goal shared by Google, which is trying to do some of the same things by incorporating more human language processing into its search algorithm. It also provides more contextual information through Google Now.

It's just one of the areas of search that Mayer is excited about. She hopes to achieve her objectives in part through some of the company's many acquisitions.

"We're long on search," Mayer said during an on-stage interview, meaning the company sees it as a good area for investment.

She pointed to Yahoo's acquisition of Aviate as an example. Yahoo announced last month it had bought the company, which organizes the home screen of a person's Android device based on what they're doing at the time. So if a person is walking into a gym or pulling away in a car, the technology uses signals from things like the GPS and accelerometer to push related apps onto the home screen.

Yahoo is interested in technologies like that to make searching for apps -- and information -- easier. The aim is to go "beyond core search," Mayer stressed.

"Aviate gives us a nice building block in terms of what we can do with context, and improve search," she said.

Yahoo has a multi-year agreement in place with Microsoft whereby Bing powers Yahoo's search engine on the back end, but Mayer seems to have search ambitions of her own beyond that.

Yahoo was eager to look at new opportunities around the Microsoft arrangement, she said, but she also sees opportunities to evolve mobile search into something more contextual.

Since taking over as CEO in 2012, Mayer has said mobile will play a key role in Yahoo's efforts to build a suite of products for people's "daily habits." In addition to search, those habits include news, finance, email and photos, Mayer has said.

Yahoo has roughly 800 million monthly active users across its core sites, Mayer said Tuesday, and about 400 million of them are active on mobile devices.

If Yahoo can get more daily users on mobile, it could help it to expand its advertising revenue.

Mayer talked at length Tuesday about Yahoo's efforts around "native advertising," in which advertisers provide content that looks like editorial content. She also talked about its programmatic ad-buying technologies, which can target ads based on user data.

Getting more data from mobile apps could help Yahoo in both these areas, she suggested.

"If you're a brand advertiser, the notion to get your brand on a two-by-three inch screen and see the interaction with that brand on a daily basis ... the opportunity is huge," Mayer said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

3 marketing mistakes to overcome when courting prospective customers

Marketing that urges respondents to ‘buy now’ is a little like asking someone to marry you on your first date. At any time, only 3 per cent of the market is looking for what you’re selling, so the chances of your date randomly being ‘The One’ is pretty slim.

Sabri Suby

Founder, King Kong

Why are we dubious about deep learning?

The prospect of deep learning gives those of us in the industry something to get really excited about, and something to be nervous about, at the same time.

Katja Forbes

Founder and chief, sfyte

Why you can’t afford to fail at CX in 2019

In 1976 Apple launched. The business would go on to change the game, setting the bar for customer experience (CX). Seamless customer experience and intuitive designs gave customers exactly what they wanted, making other service experiences pale in comparison.

Damian Kernahan

Founder and CEO, Proto Partners

Red Agency YouGov Galaxy Report, February 2019 Predictors Study. https://redagency.com.au/re...

Vanessa Skye Mitchell

DNA-based marketing: The next big thing?

Read more

RIP holden

Max Polding

Marketing professor: For Holden, brand nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

Read more

Where does the claim that 2 million Australians have tested come from ? Anecdotal information suggests that this is way off the mark.

David Andersen

DNA-based marketing: The next big thing?

Read more

Thank you for the info , being part of a digital marketing agency in kerala , this proved handy and get to know with upcoming trends. htt...

Dotz Web Technologies

Predictions: 9 digital marketing trends for 2019

Read more

So who then is correct? The Research or The skilled Digital people.

Anene

Report reveals Australia faces digital skills shortage

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in