Last year I wrote a blog post that generated a bit of offline feedback – Search Lessons. Or rather, it was explaining The Google™ Effect that sparked a debate.

¨Why can’t our enterprise search just be like Google?¨

People are used to Google when searching the Internet – simple (and single) user interface, fast results. Relevance varies depending on the search but is usually good enough for most queries. When it comes to searching for information within the boundaries of your organisation, the answers are not so easy to find…

There’s one simple answer: Intranet ≠ Internet.

They might look similar, thanks to web standards, but looks can deceive. A mushroom looks like a toadstool but one is edible and the other isn’t.

On the Internet, pages want to be found. The same is rarely true within the enterprise.

On the Internet, if your site doesn’t appear in search results, it doesn’t exist. That’s a huge incentive to ensure anyone publishing content uses tags and any other tricks to attract the attention of a search engine. Enough of an incentive to create a whole new industry – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The same incentives rarely apply within the enterprise and few organisations budget for in-house SEO. Added to that, the search vendors have to continuously optimise the index to balance any negative effects caused by SEO. In-house? You need to do both! Enterprise search is a continuous improvement process, not an isolated project.

On the Internet, there is no relationship between the search engine and the end-user. If you don’t find what you are looking for, you try a different query or look somewhere else. There is no contract stating that the Internet must provide you with answers. There are no guarantees that what you find will be accurate or useful. When an enterprise search engine fails to perform, the IT department usually hears about it.

On the Internet, all users are equal (and anonymous). You can’t login to Google with a different ID and suddenly access previously hidden search results. In the enterprise, security is rarely considered optional.

The Internet doesn’t care what you do with what you find. An enterprise search engine should.

When an enterprise search engine fails to deliver, the technology usually gets the blame:

¨Our search engine is rubbish, the results it finds are never relevant.¨

But is it really the search engine that is to blame? When it comes to calculating relevance, it all depends on the content. Jenny Everett, over on the SharePoint Blogs, published the results of a survey that clearly demonstrate the real challenge facing enterprise search solutions.

Source: SharePoint Search is not Psychic by Jenny Everett

85% of search issues had nothing to do with relevance ranking. The numbers may vary by organisation, but I would wager that the top two issues are consistent. Imagine if you performed a search on the Internet and the first page of results consisted of items with the title ‘Blank’.

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