Russian search engine provider Yandex is now offering its users search personalization as part of a new search platform Kaliningrad.

Search personalization means Yandex will track the search preferences and behavior of individual users to provide links and search ranking tailored to their interests. In order to accurately understand what users are actually looking for when they enter a search term, Yandex analyzes previous behaviors such as search history, clicks and language preferences.

According to Yandex officials, personalization improves the quality of results for search queries by 75-80%, since two different people using the same search keyword are not necessarily looking for the same thing.

The Kaliningrad platform which makes Yandex’s advanced search personalization possible builds upon earlier efforts by Yandex to improve individual search results. Last year, Yandex launched a search platform called Reykjavik that recognized user language preferences. During the year since, Yandex has added personalization features such as tracking a user’s prior searches and website visits. All of these features and more are included in Kaliningrad.

Search personalization is now a default feature on Yandex, but users can disable it in their settings if they choose.

Making Search Relevant

The new Kaliningrad platform is evidence of a general effort by search providers to make their results as relevant as possible. Users have a number of search options available and to prevent market share loss providers need to provide them with valuable information reflecting their interests, even in response to vague queries.

Yandex has been actively pursuing relevancy for a while. In addition to the personalization features it has been building for the past year, in February 2012, Yandex licenses Twitter's full public tweets -- the "firehose" of data that features every public post made by users. As such, the search engine can index and push this content in relevant searches. A search across public tweets are also directly accessible via twitter.yandex.ru, where over 2 million users' tweets are currently available. These are mostly in the Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian or Kazakh languages. Other top languages are likewise included. According to Yandex, the search also supports username- and hashtag-search, adding to the service's ease of use and flexibility.

Interestingly, Google had previously included the Twitter firehose in its results but publicly parted ways with Twitter not long before the Yandex partnership was launched. Yandex is not widely popular in the US but is the number one engine in Russia (a computer-literate nation of more than 140 million people) and a leading engine throughout Europe. It’s hard to imagine Yandex becoming a serious Google competitor in the US, but increasing relevancy certainly gives it more of an edge against the overall global search leader in Europe.

Personalization Also Benefits Groups

In addition to benefiting individuals, search personalization can also benefit groups, according to an article about Yandex’s personalization efforts in Search Engine Land. “Tailoring (search) to users’ real needs actually means serving some results popular with the whole community, rather than just the individual user,” states the article. “Technically, the approach has the advantage that some queries require more personalization and others less, with navigational queries like ‘Facebook’ requiring no personalization at all.”

Search Engine Land also states that Yandex has found that users click 37% more often on a top result which is personalized and save around 14% of the time they normally spend, resulting in the average user reportedly saving eight minutes per week