By Timo Selvaraj
Customers have been challenged with the subjective nature of search relevance for the last decade or so. As the volume of search results returned is enormous with every search query, the question that is increasingly posed to search vendors is how relevant are the search results and what can be done to tune them? Self scoring algorithms mostly have a failed and bruised history even though many search vendors claim to have them in their search engines.
Within SearchBlox our belief is that search relevance has a direct correlation to the context provided and content available. To provide the most relevant search results, it all starts with a relevant search query typed in by the user. Most users prefer 2 or 3 search terms and are provided with a list of ten results with or without faceted search filter options. If a search result that is available within the top 5 results is defined as highly successful recall of the information through search then some vendors describe that as successful in relevance. There are multiple schools of thought on what is defined as a relevant search result and variations abound in corporate organizations.
What can your organization do to ensure the most relevant search results are delivered with every search query?
#1 Audit your indexed content
Good results start with good content within any search engine. Simple audits to remove unwanted, old or outdated content go a long way in ensuring relevance of what is available for the user. Good titles, descriptions and meta data about a file help ensure the facet filters can be used in an optimal manner for filtering and/or sorting based on the user defined fields.
#2 Synonyms can help
SearchBlox provides a synonyms file to help connect the user terminology to the content where there is a disconnect. Often there are several ways to refer to the same information or data. Synonyms bridge the gap of making the connection and work in many ways to reduce the time spent in trying different search queries and in improving the user satisfaction.
#3 Check your search query reports and click-through reports
Only seeing the most popular search query report provides only half the journey undertaken by the search user. Until you know what search results were clicked from what search queries, there is not a whole lot that can be done to improve search relevance. SearchBlox provides full cycle reporting on every search query to show what was searched for and what was clicked on (if any).
#4 Educate the search user
Google has trained search users to typically use one or two search terms and few users know the advanced syntax provided by search engines when looking for content. There are many roads to reach highly relevant content and knowing the search query syntax helps a great deal. Even simple syntax operators like + or -, phrase search using ” ” and wildcard searches can help bring the most relevant results to the first page or even to the very first position.
#5 It’s a process
And finally search relevance and tuning are a continually evolving process with feedback loops from the end users and actions initiated on both the content and the search application sides to ensure they work well together. Search tuning is not a project or annual exercise but a process that is done periodically to ensure the right metrics are being tracked and course corrections implemented to stay on target to deliver the most relevant search results.
Contact us to learn more about implementing a highly relevant search application for your organization.