“Can our site search be like Google?”

When we discuss site search with clients they often say they want it to work like Google. The problem with this is not that they don’t understand that Google plays in another league when it comes to resources – of course they do. The main problem is that the clients often doesn’t understand the main differences between how Google works and how internal site search works – that they are two totally different beasts even though the goal to help visitors to find is the same.

We have found that the following analogy really helps explaining things for the clients.

Do you remember IBM:s chess computer Deep Blue, the chess-playing computer developed by IBM that defeated world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997? Deep Blue, with is capability of evaluating 200 million positions per second, was the fastest computer that ever faced a world class chess champion.

But did you know that already in the 18th century a machine had won most games played against humans. It was called the Turk or the Mechanical Turk and had defeated many challengers including statesmen such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin. How could this be possible before the computer age?

Well, the Mechanical Turk was of course in fact a brilliant mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine. And it was impossible for the audience to see, even when the hatches were opened in front of the audience before every game. It created the illusion of a super intelligent machine.

These two machines illustrates the differences between Google (IBM) and the internal site search (The Turk) in many different aspects.

While Google crunches the whole web with advanced self learning algorithms your site search needs a skilled operator. Google constantly learn what is relevant from all the billions of searches, trillions of links and other massive data sources it has access to. And in the same way Deep Blue had billions of previous chess games stored in its memory, Google has indexed enormous amounts of information and therefor always find some piece of information that is popular, well formated and relevant.

Your site search on the other hand doesn’t have access to all these data. Instead you need to jump into the box like the chess operator and get started working hands on.

As an operator you must implement a content strategy to make sure the information is findable. For example you need to make sure the information is tagged properly, is up to date, not trivial and not redundant. And of course you must understand the rules of the game as well, i.e. how your site search relevance algorithm works, how your visitors behave and what information they demand.

By using this analogy we have noticed that the clients definitely get other expectations of the site search. Excluding search analytics and tools to govern the search results and encourage them to frequently use it is like putting a blindfolded operator into the Mechanical Turk without any ability to move the pieces. It is just not gonna play.

This is why we have developed Visitors Voice. Visitors Voice helps site owners understand their visitors search behavior and to operate site search on Drupal.

Why don’t you try our demo and see for yourself?

Succeesful site search projects

Learn what it takes to be succeesful with your site search.

In this guide we share our experience from more than 100 site search projects.

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