Search Ratings

search_results table

column type
query varchar
result_id integer
position integer
rating integer

You’re given a table that represents search results from searches on Facebook. The query column is the search term, position column represents each position the search result came in, and the rating column represents the human rating of the search result from 1 to 5 where 5 is high relevance and 1 is low relevance.

  1. Write a query to compute a metric to measure the quality of the search results for each query.

  2. You want to be able to compute a metric that measures the precision of the ranking system based on position. For example, if the results for dog and cat are….

query result_id position rating notes
dog 1000 1 2 picture of hotdog
dog 998 2 4 dog walking
dog 342 3 1 zebra
cat 123 1 4 picture of cat
cat 435 2 2 cat memes
cat 545 3 1 pizza shops

…we would rank ‘cat’ as having a better search result ranking precision than ‘dog’ based on the correct sorting by rating.

Write a query to create a metric that can validate and rank the queries by their search result precision.


Search results will be the best when rating(DESC) and position(ASC) fields have the correct orders. As in, in the example above, when position is 1 if the corresponding rating was the highest then it would be a good search result.

So I would create a new column to indicate the descending order in rating column first, for each query.

	, ROW_NUMBER() OVER(PARTITION BY query ORDER BY rating DESC) desc_rating
FROM search_results

That would give me the following table;

query result_id position rating desc_rating
dog 1000 1 2 2
dog 998 2 4 1
dog 342 3 1 3
cat 123 1 4 1
cat 435 2 2 2
cat 545 3 1 3

Then I would define the precision metric either Mean Absolute Error (MAE) or Root Mean Squared Error (RMSE). It’s always useful to explain the differences between MAE and RMSE and use the appropriate one depending on your scenario.

Similarities of Mean Absolute Error and Root Mean Squared Error

  • Indifferent from direction of errors
  • Expresses average model prediction error in units of the variable of interest
  • Can range from 0 to ∞
  • Negatively orianted scores. (Lower is better)

Differences of Mean Absolute Error and Root Mean Squared Error

  • RMSE gives relatively high weight to large errors. (Since the errors are squared before they are averaged)

In our case, if we assume that the number of search results are not too many, and the ratings are from 1-5, it would probably not make any marginal difference from MAE to RMSE, so I will go with MAE.

WITH base AS (
    , ROW_NUMBER() OVER(PARTITION BY query ORDER BY rating DESC) desc_rating
    , ABS(position - desc_rating) residual
    , COUNT(DISTINCT result_id) n
  FROM search_results
  GROUP BY 1,2,3,4
  , SUM(residual) OVER(PARTITION BY query) sum_residual
  , sum_residual/n mae
FROM base