As I was developing concepts put forth in the report Enterprise Search Markets and Applications – Capitalizing on Emerging Demand I bounced around the Internet a lot to verify information I had previously noted about products listed in the vendor directory. As I did so, evidence began to emerge about the ease with which I could resurrect an earlier retrieved bit of content. It mystified me that vendors of products to aid retrieval of content would make it so difficult to find information on their own web site. One assumption of mine has been completely debunked, that vendors would use their own search product to help site visitors discover more about their products and services. It made me wonder why they would not be showcasing the full flavor of their offerings.

The report was not written to evaluate specific products but rather to give a more holistic view of how the markets for products break down and how products themselves can be categorized. In order to do the latter, it required reading about many products with which I had no hands on experience. I wanted to understand how vendors were positioning their products, what markets they felt their products are most suited to satisfy, and what search problems were best solved with their technologies. Coming up with generalizations, trends, and differentiators was one purpose for my research. When I realized how difficult it was to dig out specifics from many vendor Web sites, I moved on, probably leaving stones unturned but time was not on my side.

Now I am going back to learn more about the problem with researching search, something complained about by a number of buyers I interviewed. Vendors are not making it easy for buyers to narrow their search for search, and shame on them. This should be a “no brainer.” If you are a vendor pushing a product that is easy to install, implement and deploy, there is no better way than to put it to work on your own site. On the other hand, if you have products that are more sophisticated in terms of offering complex retrieval by leveraging refined ontologies or rules, you had better take the time to make it work well for finding nuggets on a few hundred pages of your Web site.

I am going to be writing more about this because the deeper I dig, the more interesting the results. For starters, of the first 28 vendor on my list, twelve have no site search. Of those that do, several use a third-party search engine, not their own. One major vendor’s search result count displayed nearly a hundred records that matched the search while also displaying the breakdown of records by category. The trouble was the category numbers totaled less than 20. Hmmm!

Perhaps the trouble in “searchland” is that no one wants to take the time to implement, deploy and maintain search to satisfy the user. I keep saying, “it’s not the technology; it’s the thought and skill that goes into the back room implementation.” Or is it? Stay tuned.

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