User:Deskana (WMF)/Proposals/Zerorate


Reduce the number of searches that give our users zero results[edit]


Dan Garry, Product Manager, Discovery Department.


Some quite simple typos lead to the user getting zero results. Let's fix that.

As a user that searches, I'd like my search queries to always return relevant results to me, so that I can easily search Wikipedia.

The aim of every search engine is to take a question from the user, and answer that question. Traditionally, the user would type in keywords, and search engines used those keywords to serve the user a list of websites that answer the user's questions. More recently, search engines have been experimenting with trying to directly answer the user's questions using features such as Knowledge Graph. Regardless, the central idea remains the same: search engines answer questions.

Initial analysis done by the Discovery Department shows that the rate at which we return zero results for queries is currently around 25%. Some of these errors result from simple typos like those shown in the image to the right. By definition, the user has not found what they're looking for if they do not get any results.

The goal of the Search Team within the Discovery Department in Q1 2015/16 (July - September 2015) will be to significantly reduce the rate at which queries return zero results through whatever means possible, in order to greater serve our users who search. By improving the search backend to return fewer empty result sets, all clients (desktop, mobile web, mobile apps, and third party users) will benefit from our work, and everyone will be able to search Wikipedia more easily.


Enhance the experience for our users that search by significantly reducing the number of search queries that return zero results.

Key result[edit]

The metrics that will determine success is:

  • Zero results rate cut in half, from approximately 25% to approximately 12.5%.
  • No decrease in user clickthrough rate from search results.