Stepping up its efforts to challenge rivals Google and Yahoo in the search arena, Microsoft has released a major update to its Live Search service, which will improve how search requests are interpreted and deliver four times the number of search results.

Microsoft says it has improved its analysis of clickstream data so that it can better rate the relevancy of sites based on which links are most often clicked by users. The Live Search Answers platform has also been further integrated with Live Search to provide more specialized answers to users’ queries such as weather, stocks, sports results, et cetera. In addition, Microsoft's mapping service is also integrated into web searches in which location is a key attribute.

With 40 percent of searches falling into the categories of entertainment, shopping, health and local search, the company has also invested effort into offering better-specialized results by pulling data from multiple sources to offer a richer experience that combines web results, photos, and other media when searching for products, celebrities and other vertical search areas.

While the changes to Live Search are significant, Microsoft appears to be catching up with Google rather than bringing something new to the table. The changes should be available to all US customers within the next week, according to Microsoft, and globally by the end of next month.