Site Search Versus Web Portal Search
Last Updated Jan 2009
By: Mark Bennett
When you are responsible for running a pubic web site, one of your primary concerns is to make sure your site shows up properly on the public web portals such as Google, Yahoo, AltaVista, and others. An entire industry has formed to provide information on the best use of meta-tags, titles and headers to help optimize your content positioning.
Sadly, many of the things you need to do to get good portal placement can actually end up making your own site search less effective. For example, webmasters will often overload the meta tag section on every page of a site: every product, service, trade name, and company and division name is included on every page on the site, in an effort to get good ranking. Sadly, this means that those very terms which can help visitors to your site find the right information become less unique and therefore less useful when they use your search engine.
What can you do to solve the problem?
One thing some webmasters do is to include hidden fields on their own site which are used by enterprise search. For example you can include a custom tag - say PRODUCT - and where your product name appears on a page, wrap it with the PRODUCT tag. A snippet of HTML illustrates the point:
<H1>Configuring <PRODUCT>Search Tracking</PRODUCT> on your Server</H1>
As long as you've defined the field or zone correctly, most enterprise search engines will let you search for terms within PRODUCT. In the script that processes user queries, append a search for the term within the PRODUCT field/zone to whatever search the user enters; and give the new field search a higher weight. This will tend to make the correct product pages rise to the top.
What you do not want to do is utilize color tricks to make the text invisible to humans. Most public web search engines not only are aware of this trick to make a page seem more relevant; many, including Google, actually can disqualify your pages because of the hidden text. Therefore, do not use this kind of font matching which makes the term invisible on a page with a white background:
If you are running an Intranet or Extranet site, you have a much easier time, since the public web portal spiders do not generally have access to your site. Use meaningful meta tags along with special fields to enhance your search capability!