April 20, 2004

Search Best Bets & Reporting on Search Log Data

Looking for a way to process your search logs (data files that keep a record of each search query performed on a web site)? Check out this helpful article from Jean Ferguson, a Masters student at UNC: Counting frequency in a list of search terms. It does a nice job of explaining how to get Excel to show you your most popular search terms.

If you're managing your search engine, you should keep track of the most popular terms and make sure that people will find relevant results when searching for those terms. Search term popularity follows a "zipf distribution" (think 80/20 or pareto principle), so you get the most bang for your buck by focusing on the most popular search queries. Some search tools allow you to manually point users to "best bets" for a given search term. Here's an example for a search for "support" on the Novell site. Here's another example from the BBCi site - a search for "politics."

See also:
- Lou Rosenfeld, Bloug: 80/20 Again—Critical Architectural Junctures
- Lou Rosenfeld, Presentation called Search Log Analysis for User Research (.5 MB PowerPoint file) given to a local UPA chapter.
- Tanya Rabourn, Pixelcharmer: Best Bets. (Great example of real data from a real site.)
- James Robertson, Column Two: Search tools articles
- Richard Wiggins, Searcher Magazine: Beyond the Spider: The Accidental Thesaurus
- Avi Rappoport, SearchTools.com: Recommending Pages for Special Searches (Covers best bets pretty well with tool suggestions.)


Paula Thornton said...


Link to Novell search needs updating.

Lyle said...

Thanks Paula. Updated it.