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Using AutoSuggest in

Search Engines

Whenever you start typing on Google, you may have seen that after a couple of letters, the dropdown starts showing exactly the thing that you are looking for. Amazing right. It’s like Google knows you so well. Well actually it does. A search engine captures a lot of information when a search happens. And based on that it comes up with accurate predictions in the future. 


On July 14, 2019 was the Cricket World Cup final. And if you had typed “En” on that day, most likely your first suggestion would have been “England vs New Zealand scorecard”. 


Today, June 02, 2021, if you go on Amazon and type “Au”, most likely your first suggestion would be “Automatic Sanitizer Dispenser”. And I am certain, this wouldn’t have been the first suggestion on June 02, 2019.


Google, Amazon and any search engine for that matter has a dynamic Autosuggest algorithm. One that works on retrieval and ranking approaches. The algorithms are obviously different based on context, complexity and business logic. But the underlying concepts remain the same.



The retrieval mechanism is simple. Given an input, it finds a possible set of outputs. Here the input is a letter, a couple of letters, or a partial string. And the output is a set of search queries matching that input.



Once the retrieval part is done, there are thousands of matches. But which ones to show and in which order? Here the ranking mechanism is applied. This may take into consideration my personal information. I drive a car. I may be looking for a car wash. Or maybe the context information is considered. My previous search was “car servicing”. So now I may be looking for a car wash. Or maybe geographic and demographic details are considered. When most people in my age group, my gender search “ca” in my region, my city, my country they are looking for a car wash. Or may be based on current affairs. Because of the recent cyclone, most people who start with "ca" end up searching "car wash". 


I have just highlighted 4 parameters. Complex ranking algorithms take into account many more parameters, assign them weights. And it's so dynamic that "car wash" may be my top suggestion at 9a.m. in the morning but by afternoon it may have changed to "car bomb near Parliament" based on a political incident.

Benefits of using AutoSuggest

Now that you have a basic understanding of how Autosuggest works, let me tell you how this helps your users.


  • It shortens the time needed for search. Users find what they are looking for much faster; leading to better user experience and increased customer delight.


  • When a user selects the suggestions there is an increased probability of successful search. Autosuggest shows keywords that have shown relevant results in the past. The ranking algorithm takes past conversions into consideration. And hence, when the user selects one of the suggestions, the probability of the user finding what he was looking for is higher. Which implies a higher chance of conversion.


  • When the Autosuggest dropdown shows Category or Image along with the search term, it helps the user to narrow the search to his / her specific liking. For example, if a user is searching for “oil” and the dropdown shows Categories like - “Oil in Kitchen Essentials”, or “Oil in Machine Parts & Repairs”, etc. then the user will look only in the category preferred. This helps in more relevant results. Again adding to customer delight and conversion chances. 


According to Nacho Analytics, having a good Autosuggest in Search boosts conversions and sales upto 24%. If you are not paying enough attention already, you should start today.


That’s all folks. Until Next Time.

AuthorJoydeep Sil

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