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Why is web site search disappointing?

I’ve mentioned before that Jared Spool’s studies show that people who use Web site search succeed just 34% of the time. Why are searchers so disappointed in Web site searches?

Blame it on Google. Fifty-nine percent of U.S. Internet users employ an Internet search engine (such as Google) every day, according to Pew Research. Such high usage has developed because Internet searchers succeed—one study shows that 97 percent of Google’s Internet searchers find what they are looking for all or most of the time. In fact, your visitors already think they are good searchers from their experience with Google. One survey says that 92 percent of Web users are “confident in their searching abilities”—52 percent are “highly confident.”

With so many successful experiences in Internet searches, it’s no wonder that a big problem for site search facilities is one of expectations—Google raised ’em and searchers expect your Web site search to work as well as Google. Why doesn’t it? And why shouldn’t you just replace your site search technology with Google? Wouldn’t that fix everything?

Probably not. The sad truth is that Google (or any good search engine) may do a better job searching the whole Web than it does searching a single Web site. Internet search engines use link analysis to find the the pages with the best links from other sites. But that information economy does not exist on a single Web site. That’s why a search engine designed to search the entire Internet may not do the best job for your Web site search.

My company makes a free search engine designed to provide high relevance on Web sites, but many other companies do, too. The more you know about how search engines work, the easier it is to find the right one for you. Or you can just pick the one with the big name.


Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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