Yahoo’s Mayer bets on contextual search

12 Feb 2014


With its back-end search operations handed to Microsoft, Yahoo has not given up on it search feature.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer believes there is work to be done on mobile devices, particularly around contextual search.

Contextual search was aimed at giving people the right information, at the right time, by looking at signals including their location and the activity they were engaged in such as walking or driving a car. Mobile devices tended to provide a lot more of those signals.

Mayer said yesterday at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco, that when she looked at things like contextual search, she got really excited.

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

According to commentators, the idea behind contextual search was not new though companies were still striving to get there.

It was a goal shared by Google, which was trying to do some of the same things by incorporating more human language processing into its search algorithm.

It also provided more contextual information through Google Now.

It was just one of the areas, Mayer was excited about. She hoped to achieve her objectives in part through some of the company's many acquisitions.

Yahoo had recently acquired Aviate, which had an app that provided contextually relevant information on Android smart phones. Mayer said Yahoo would use Aviate technology to provide contextual search results on mobile devices, showing results based on things like user location and activity.

Mayer further said at the conference that  Yahoo would keep an advertising sales force even as new technology automated more of the online ad buying process.

Mayer was asked during a keynote talk at the conference by a former Yahoo employee whether the company would replace its large ad sales force, given the rise of programmatic ad buying technology.

Mayer replied, she did not think so as there would always be an opportunity to run large ads on Yahoo's homepage that guaranteed advertisers this valuable space for an agreed amount of time, she added.

Citing recent large Visa promotions that Yahoo ran as an example, she said it was hard to imagine that kind of custom placement would ever be sold by machines.

Looking to the future, Mayer said Yahoo would try to bring together its email service with its instant messaging service in an effort to create a seamless communication experience.

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