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Search Tools Analysis

Search Suggestions: Leveraging Human Judgment

Search engines use statistical and lexical analysis to match query terms to indexed text, but often, human judgment is more effective. Many search queries are for names, items or even ID numbers. For the most frequent queries, manually identifying the best page or pages, and presenting these the search results as suggestions avoids any need to tweak the algorithm, while still generating excellent results.

Adding human understanding to makes the results more useful for the common cases, while the search engine's dynamic retrieval and relevance functions handle the unique and unusual search terms.

Eight Principles for Good Search Suggestions, analysis by Avi Rappoport,


Dell does a pretty good job of this: they make sure that a bunch of appropriate introductory pages show up when users type the query "linux" on their site. As shown the example below, if they had not done that, the search engine would have shown them only the Large Business Linux pages first, and people in other situations would have thought that there was no Linux solution for them.

Another way to approach this is to consider the most common searches on a site as candidates for a Knowledge Base, and the manual links in the search results as pointers into that database or FAQ.

The 2001 Forrester Search Report quotes a telecom company site administrator as saying "About half of our visitors come to the site looking for a specific product." When a site visitor searches by a code, such as an error message or product ID, the search engine should recognize the pattern and make sure that the appropriate types of pages, such as product specs, troubleshooting or FAQs, come first in the search results.

For example, at the Sharp USA site, searching for a laser printer using Atomz search and promote tools brings up a special offer:

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Examples of Sites with Suggestions


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