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Most Web Site Internal Search Engines Are Inadequate

Posted Mar 15 2013 12:00am

I have been frustrated for years by the inadequacy of many web site internal search engines. I will use the search engine of the New York Times as one example of my point. After I have read a story in the print edition of the newspaper, I will then often try to access the same story on-line using the NYT internal search feature in preparation for writing a blog note. For search terms, I may use two or three of the exact words from the newspaper headline and then fail to retrieve the article most of the time. I often then include in the search the last name of the reporter. This usually works for me.

By way of contrast, my Google searchs on almost any topic, even with what may be inadequate search terms, almost always satisfy me. Keep in mind that Google, of course, covers all of the information on the web and the NYT search engine covers only what's printed in the newspaper and perhaps some of their on-line information. 

How can you explain how one of the premiere information-gathering companies in the world, the New York Times, fares so poorly in searches on its own web site? I think that the explanation is that it is engaged primarily in the print information business and began to publish on the web relatively late. Google has always been in the web search business.

Why doesn't the NYT simply use Google as its internal search engine? That's how I provide an internal search of this blog. I think that the answer is that the NYT sees e-information companies like Google and Craigslist as competitors (see: Search Neutrality and Why the Cure May Be Worse Than the DiseaseNYT Complains that Innovation Being Snuffed Out by Craig's List ). Better to do a job poorly then admit that a competitor does it better. 

For the rest of us who may be interested in retrieving information from the NYT web site, there is an easy solution. Simply use Google whenever you want to perform such a search. As one of your search terms, include the following: site:nyt.com. No frustration and you can easily get the story you are looking for. Here's a link to the Google advanced search page  that includes this site option.

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