Perficient Digital Transformation Blog


Posts Tagged ‘Search’

The Changing Nature of Search

CMSWire has a thought provoking article about the “Changing Nature of Search” The author Gerry McGovern notes that search changes over time and changes based on our behavior with applications and sites.  Once we find a site to apply to a specific task like cheap airfare, then we stop hitting Google or Bing for example.  But most intriguing was the relationship in how you modify your site based on insight gained from search analytics.

shutterstock_140412928The BBC intranet used to analyze its top searches and then place the Top 10 on the homepage and other relevant pages. Once people could now easily find this Top 10, they stopped searching for them. So, over time, a new top 10 search queries emerged. And this caused a vicious circle because once they replaced the “old” Top 10 with the “new” Top 10, the old top 10 started getting searched for again.

Most site search is like a poisoned well: nobody wants to use it if they can at all avoid it because it’s just so bad. Thus, much site search statistics (particularly on intranets) are quite misleading. They give you a very skewed picture of what people need to search for, because people are only using them as an act of desperation.

What I see here is that it takes thought and effort to improve search.  Much of that thought and effort revolves around actually improving the user experience of the site itself and not just a search tool.  I can’t agree more with that concept.  I also know that our Experience Design (XD) folks at Perficient agree with it wholeheartedly.  They focus on defining that user experience, and it does make a difference.

That said, I also believe that search can be improved with type-ahead search, faceted search, etc.  Our reality is that so much information exists that we cannot address everything through a better information architecture or better labeling.  It’s a combination of it all that will bring success to your site, whether it be an intranet, partner portal, or customer facing site.

What is the answer – structure or search

Earlier this week, Gartner hosted a debate to determine whether structure or search are more important to organizations data needs. Some insights I wanted to share with you from this debate are:

Gavin Tay from Singapore – Structure
Hans Galler Kuller from Germany – Search

End-users want the Google search experience inside their organizations.

Search is about having the first result being the most relevant based on context (personalization).

Enterprise Search Magic Quadrant

  • 18 vendors
  • and their market position
  • search technologies
  • key word
  • structure, meta-data & taxonomy
  • send you stuff based on past experience when you need it
  • HAL and Knight Rider
  • are there classification tools that can help categorize content / data
  • ontology tools

Search challenge: finding the right stuff and relevancy = information over load

Challenge of structure: maintaining structure and the changing nature of content

combining structured data with unstructured data
to get a more complete picture

The debate ensured with more weight given to search, however it was noted that structure may be as important when considering taxonomy and ontology, as well as data retention policies.

Ultimately an organization needs to have both. My view is inline with this, and when you look at portal platforms, a common theme is how is this site laid out, how will end-users find the information or tools they need (i.e. can it be found in two or three clicks)? This applied particularly for commonly accessed information and tools. However search is also required to find adhoc information and tools, but may be used for daily processes to. It can depend on the unique nature of the work, or the individual concerned.

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Posted in Best Practices

Adobe Summit: The Convergence of Search and Social

Marc Blinder, Director of Social Marketing at Adobe and Jon Beeston, Director of New Product Innovation at Adobe presented on the trend of search and social convering.  Twitter is a great example of that where we share but also search.

Theme: Search and Social platforms are converging – which  means successful marketers musth have one unified team with one set of data.

Key takeaways from this session

  1. Connect: facebook to offline experience. feed the metadata
  2. Bring: search and social teogher. People, process, and technology
  3. Expect: social SEM data unification and all our war among Google, facebook, and twitter for ad dollars


Paid, owned, and earned are converging.  Look at facebook where you can have your owned pages, people who like you and you also buy ads. They might even be on the same page.  Google search results even shows paid and owned assets together, especially with Google + and it’s continuing growth.


Quote: “There’s no free lunch”

Quote: It could be argued from a consumer point of view that the better the search engine is the fewer advertisement  you will need. (Google)

Note that they followed that with a picture of a Google results page with TONS of ads.

  • Social will become more like search and search will become more social.  As social becomes more like search, you will pay for it in some form or fashion.
  • Search is improving within facebook and users are starting to use the natural search.  The results are like a combination of Yelp and Bing
  • Point, you should search for your company or product to see if the results look good or if you need some work.
  • Google Hummingbird search uses natural language processing.  They actually followed facebook on this
    • Google is trying to tie in Google+ as much as they can.  There’s a lot of
  • Twitter has marketing events but it will depend on real time interactions and key words. You social guys should be talking to your search team.
  • Look at all the reviews on facebook.  Although there seems to be some major rate inflation.  It could become the best way to find a restaurant.
    • Note that Google moved their reviews to Google plus so you’ve got something similar going on.
  • The clunky: three results for Thornbury Castle on the facebook search right now.  It needs some cleanup.
    • natural language search on facebook is still a bit clunky
  • Stalker: Can now search for divorced women over 30 years old. (Creepy)
    • Or divorced women who like a specific tv shows
    • key learning, watch out what you like. It will come back to you.
  • Political implications: Femen is illegal in Tunisia but it’s a piece of cake to find people who like Femen in Tunisia.

How to improve your search and your social?

  • Update your metadata
  • use checkin to your locations
  • encourage offline customers to go mobile with likes, checkins, and recommendations
  • Great idea: everyone checks in when they upload a picture.   So put something photo worthy in it.
  • Don’t forget stickers like rate us on trip advisor, etc.
  • It will be easy to get yourself to the top of a list by checking in a fair amount.
  • Be careful and remember that Facebook is still working on this. Graph search isn’t even available on mobile.
    • It’s early in the game. They’ve got a lot to do. they just had to index 1 trillion pieces of content.  So something has to slide
  • Publish at least one per day on Google+
    • Find something to push out once a day to get decent looking results.
  • use Google + social to put content in display advertising in Google ad network
  • Twitter strategy
    • Conversation analytics
    • keyword strategy
    • creative development
    • bid optimization
    • Looks a lot like search ad strategy doesn’t it……….

Integrate Search and Social

You need to evolve your approach.

  • Disparate teams with social, search etc need to come together.  Adobe uses a hub and spoke framework
    • Other options for approach include centralized, distributed, and holistic
    • Don’t just use a PR agency for your social. Become social yourselves
  • Inconsistent KPI’s need a common framework across teams
    • and if you aren’t doing a good job tracking then start.  You need analytics and key measurements
  • Siloed tracking and report becomes common tracking and reports
    • Common tracking will push you to channel optimization
    • Which will push your towards attributions.
    • Which will lead you to media mix modeling
    • It must become unified between social and search.  Of course, that’s the whole point of campaign management services.
  • Volume, sentiment need to become something that proves value to the business
  • In evolving, define what you want to do. Recognize the role of social in YOUR organization
    • PR and communications?
    • Marketing and ecommerce?
      • Search probably belongs mostly in this bucket.
    • Customer service and support?
    • Product innovation?

The ultimate aim is to get to the right mix of search, ads, email, and social media.  Doing that depends on how well you converge it all.


Why We’re only in the Early Days of Social Search

Mashable’s Samantha Murphy has an interesting article on “Why We’re in the Early Days of Social Search“.  She correctly notes that we haven’t seen anything yet from social search. While I personally use Google about 90% of the time.  I find that I hit twitter about 5% of the time for very specific searches that involve more trend types of information.   What I found very interesting was her description of Bing’s approach to social search

For example, Bing has been an innovator with social search. In fact, it was the first search engine to incorporate Facebook and Twitter into its core results.

“What we saw from customer research and feedback was that people were a bit overwhelmed at first with social results, so we wanted to make it easier for them to navigate and get the information they wanted,” says Lisa Gurry, senior director at Bing.

In May, Bing redesigned it social search strategy by pulling people from your social networks of search results and placing them in a dedicated social column via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn integration. For example, when doing a search for the TV show Breaking Bad, it now pulls up your Facebook friends who like the show, as well as relevant blogs and even the Twitter accounts of some of the cast members.

Bing Search with Social















Link through to the rest of the article for a deeper dive and a cool video of what Google does to personalize it’s search using info from your gmail for example.

Horizontal vs Vertical Portal: Search

You may be interested in the other parts of this series:

  1. Kickoff
  2. UI
  3. Integration


Search lately has become very important to almost every single portal client.  Most users still complain about how bad the existing search is. They complain about it’s counter-intuitiveness.  They complain about how you can’t find anything. Really what they are saying is that they want search to be as good as your internet searches.  Here’s the thing, internal search may never be as good as internet searches.   You can’t use the same algorithms to determine what’s relevant and what’s not.

That’s not to say that you can’t make search better.  Relatively recent improvements on the consumer side of search has introduced some great possibilities for your company search.  Think of:

  • Tag based search: tags or keywords can become the missing ingredient in your bad internal search today.  The good news is that it’s not just the people who create the content who can tag content.
  • Faceted search: This is the idea that you do a search and the left navigation area breaks down your content.  You have images, you have documents, you have items related to operations, you have items that are press releases, etc.  Instead of having to deal with 50,000 results in .017 seconds. You have those results but broken down. It’s easier for you to drill down.
  • Using search to automatically get you to maps, etc: Google, Bing, and others have done fantastic things in figuring out what you want to do when you type in a search term.   No longer do you just get a list of possible results.  You may automatically get a map or a dictionary definition.  The same possibilities exist for your .com or intranet site.

Vertical Portals and Search

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Google Plus’ Value as a Search Ranking Tool

I just read an interesting article about Google Plus as a search ranking tool by Kelvin Newman. He posted it back in July but for it’s age it’s still very interesting.  I’ve wondered myself why Google decided to join the fray and compete against a facebook behemoth that already has the advantage of millions of users who form many social networks.  Kevin posits that Google is just as interested in gaining insights from Google Plus that help improve its search as Google is interested in creating a new social networking tool.


There’s a group of people who Rand Fishkin affectionately calls the linkerati, these are the people who own and maintain websites and who have the ability to link to sites. These people are also very often the early adopters of technology and social networks.

In the past Google has been able to rely on this group to act as arbitrators of quality content online, if they linked to it, then the search engines could be confident of something’s quality.

The problem is that fewer of these people are actively maintaining websites as their attention is drawn towards social network sites that Google can’t really glean insight from.


This is an absolutely tiny sample of just fifteen articles, on just one website, which I imagine is far more likely to have Google + users than most. But the correlation was there.

Between G+ and FB 0.97

Between G+ and Tweets 0.94

Between G+ and LinkedIn Shares 0.95

1.0 is a perfect correlation, and this kind of correlation is pretty much unprecedented, and with more data I’m pretty sure the relationship would become weaker, but based on this miniscule sample, Google can already know a lot about how socially popular a piece of content is based on Google+ shares.

Please read his entire post for it to make complete sense. That said, I find it fascinating that because Google can control Google Plus better an even though it has far fewer users than facebook millions of users still give you enough data to understand trends and improve search.  According to Paul Allen, Google Plus probably gained 50 million users in late September.  I think that’s more than enough to gain insight into content.

Oracle Buys Enterprise Search Company Endeca

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about Oracle buying another company.  Endeca has a great search engine.  Years ago, mostly commerce sites running WebSphere Commerce and ATG used it but recently a lot of other companies have used them because they make faceted search easy.  I’ll be curious to see how this Oracle acquisition affects Endeca’s use in WebSphere Commerce projects.

Oracle has acquired Endeca, a company that powers enterprise search for large companies. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Endeca has raised a total of $65 million from Bessemer, Venrock, Intel, SAP, Ampersand Capital Partners, DN Capital and Lehman Brothers.

Endeca’s core technology enables companies to correlate and analyze unstructured data and provides enterprise search for large companies including Borders, Boeing, the Census Bureau, the EPA, Ford, Hallmark, IBM, and Toshiba. The company specializes in guided search, and auto-categorizing results based on the keywords someone enters. Endeca charges from $100,000 to more than $10 million per installation.

SharePoint FAST 2010

Search is one of the most compelling features of a true enterprise SharePoint deployment.  In the last 6 months, our clients have expressed more and more interest in looking across the entire spectrum of search options available with SharePoint.  The question normally asked: SharePoint or FAST?  In some cases, the choice is clear.  Large document volume or particular functional requirements mandates use of FAST.

Our experience with FAST has been positive.  Its important, however, to be aware of the learning curve associated with a FAST deployment (“with great power comes great responsibility”).  Its ironic that those with SharePoint experience can, in some cases, find the first implementation of FAST more challenging than a SharePoint novice.  Things that appear to work the same do, in some cases, work differently.

In subsequent postings,  I will explore these similarities and differences.  For now,  I’ll summarize these along with some hints for getting started.

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Document Previews and Thumbnails using SharePoint FAST 2010

More organizations are investing greater portions of their Intranet deployment budget on improved search functionalities.  Within the SharePoint 2010 product stack, the FAST for SharePoint option provides a whole host of enterprise search capabilities.  FAST for SharePoint not only supports more robust search results but more visual results including visual “previews”.   In the case of MS Word documents, a thumbnail representation of a document’s first page can be included in search results.  In the case of a MS PowerPoint presentation, a clickable preview is supported.

Recently, one of our clients requested that this preview functionality be included in their FAST for SharePoint deployment.  I wanted to share what we learned in the process of honoring this request (as there were a few surprises along the way).

Dependency on Office Web Applications (OWA)

It turns out that these visuals are dependent on the installation of OWA within the SharePoint 2010 Farm.  OWA must be installed on each and every web front end within your SharePoint 2010 Farm.  In our case, the decision to include OWA was made AFTER completion of the Farm configuration, so a very specific sequence of steps needed to be followed to get OWA configured and working.  Fortunately, the steps are well documented here but must be followed exactly.  Unfortunately, the configuration has a surprising side effect of disabling the SSL connection between the SharePoint web front end and FAST.  The Windows PowerShell script used to install the certificate (provided as part of the FAST setup) needs to be re-run to resolve this issue.

OWA Post Install/Configuration

After installation, the OWA feature needs to be activated (or not) for each existing site collection.  If OWA is activated for a site collection, a choice of default document rendering – client or browser – must be made.  In our case, we wanted to minimize the changes to the end user experience, so we choose  to continue to display the documents using the MS Office client.  Regardless of client default choice, a “view in browser” link will appear in both search results and document library views.      Read the rest of this post »

Gartner PCC: Enterprise Search That Works

Whit Andrews is a great presenter whose focus is on search, video, and a number of other topics.


Enterprise search is now mature.  The number of Google searches for the term enterprise search peaked over 4 years ago. The point is that search is now an adult technology which should be granted a level of maturity.  Question though, now that it’s all grown up, how can it achieve it’s potential.

Trends and future of search

Conversation – The conversation doesn’t start with the search result. It’s just reporting on it.

Transparency – why did I get these results back. In other words, how did these results get back to me? What drove that result

Federation – this is the recognition that it’s worthwhile to mesh different search results together in an overarching exercise. This can be very difficult.

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