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Big Brands Clueless On Site Search

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Visiting the website for a major consumer brand should lead people to a useful, easily found site search if desired. Vivisimo’s VP of Marketing, Rebecca Thompson, gleefully mocked several big name brands for their unimpressive site search efforts.

Big Brands Clueless On Site Search
Big Brands Clueless On Site Search

When you see something with “Seven Deadly Sins” in the title hit the inbox, and the old Bayesian filter doesn’t toss it out with extreme prejudice, it could be an entertaining read. That seems to be the vibe Vivisimo wanted to generate with its look at The Seven Deadly Sins of Site Search.

Our phone chat with Rebecca touched on how major brand name companies in the Fortune 500, presumably with the resources to do site search properly, have made a pig’s breakfast of it instead. “Site visitors have a search expectation when they reach a site,” she said.

What they are getting can vary well away from the expectations they have based on their experience with general search engines. Without search, a site like the one for Yum! Brands loses the opportunity for a conversion activity, Rebecca said.

Sites that don’t do e-commerce have been poor site search performers. Whether it’s the apathy of a ConocoPhillips, America’s number two oil refinery, delivering woeful search results, or the complexity of too many search options (hi Archer Daniels Midland), regular followers of the search industry would be aghast at what passes for search technology.

Imagine what the typical Internet user thinks when faced with Bank of America’s search, which requires the person to know exactly what question they want to ask. No simple keyword searching at BoA. The answer that comes back may be accurate, as in a response to ‘accounts for minors’, but not very useful if the answer concerns custodial accounts rather than a basic savings account.

Cadillac’s site search is a lesson in egoism, Rebecca noted, with a lengthy set of instructions about Boolean operators displayed. The visitor only gets to see that if he or she stumbles upon the search link on Cadillac.com (it’s on the bottom left of the page.)

The potential for brand confusion exists if a company, in this case United Technologies Corporation, uses a vendor to provide search results. At UTC, queries redirect to utc.mondosearch.com, a URL that doesn’t reflect the company’s true identity.

Some of these search no-nos could be the result of a controlling corporate mindset. A company may be too wedded to its idea of how people should navigate their sites without considering how those same people actually want to do so.

Rebecca said these companies have ten seconds to engage the visitor before they back out and hit a Google or a Yahoo to search for what they want to find. Schering-Plough’s Claritin displays all kinds of nice visual elements on its microsite. Those same elements vanish when one performs a search.

Fortune 500 companies shouldn’t let their visitors disappear like Claritin’s elements do. They can afford to enable enterprise search for their web presence, and ought to do so at the most optimal level they can build or license for it.

Big Brands Clueless On Site Search
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  • Miles Kehoe

    Rebecca Thompson tells a great – and true – story. Most corporate site search is awful. Context is the key to making enterprise search great; and most sites do not do the job. The folks at her company agree: Jerome Pesenti, Vivisimo’s CTO writes a March 29 blog (http://searchdoneright.com/2007/03/no-search-is-not-broken/) that metadata is what makes or breaks search.

    Now, ‘gleefully mocking’ any site’s search is pretty easy – but the implication is that Vivisimo’s search engine is perfect at all of this tough stuff. Now perhaps they are better at taking advantage of the metadata that is there, but they too, according to their CTO, use metadata (we call ‘context’) to make search good – and in fact Jerome implies that everyone needs to do that to improve the quality of search.

    So leave the marketing people to mock gleefully – meanwhile, smart companies are listening to Jerome