A Machine Learning Architecture for Optimizing Web Search Engines

Justin Boyan, Dayne Freitag, and Thorsten Joachims

Indexing systems for the World Wide Web, such as Lycos and Alta Vista, play an essential role in making the Web useful and usable. These systems are based on Information Retrieval methods for indexing plain text documents, but also include heuristics for adjusting their document rankings based on the special HTML structure of Web documents. In this paper, we describe a wide range of such heuristics--including a novel one inspired by reinforcement learning techniques for propagating rewards through a graph--which can be used to affect a search engine’s rankings. We then demonstrate a system which learns to combine these heuristics automatically, based on feedback collected unintrusively from users, resulting in much improved rankings.

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