A Different Kind of Search Engine Optimization

Magnifying GlassI really hate it when I go to a website, especially a complex one, and try to use their search box to find something that I know is there.

This has happened to me a lot lately, and it makes me wonder who is making the mistake.  Or maybe I’m just too “googled” to put up with poor search engine results these days.  I mean, really, when I go to google and put in a search term, I usually get what I’m looking for within the first half-dozen results.

If you can’t match that level of accuracy, why are you even bothering?

Recently, I attempted a search for an on-campus conference on a college website.  The particular conference has happened every year for 20 years.  You would think a quick search using the college’s own search engine would have returned a result.  You’d be surprised to find out that it didn’t.  In fact, no amount of me putting in various terms and combinations of terms got me a result I could use.  Oddly enough, when I went to google and tried there, it gave me an immediate link.  The problem, as I can tell, is with the bazillion sub-domains on this particular college’s website.  None of these sub-domains seem to know the others exist.

The other place I’ve seen this issue is on news website.  They are using various search engines, none of them google-driven, and the results are very very poor.  It is frequent that I am looking for an article I read recently (within the last two weeks or so) and instead of dragging through my history on my browser to find it, I just go to the site and type in key words that should bring up the article.  I get a list of articles, usually over six months old, with those key words, but not what I’m looking for.  Continuing to refine the search terms doesn’t seem to help.

If you’re going to bother to have  search box on your website, at least bother to make sure it actually works as intended.  If it doesn’t work, figure out why it doesn’t, and fix it.  There is no point in offering false hope to users in providing the box if it’s not going to work as intended.

This isn’t 1993, when the best search engine available was Alta Vista.  There are plenty of choices, and part of your web site design should be checking for the accuracy and effectiveness of your search engine.  If you’re not going to do that, why bother?