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July 31, 2003

Tough nut to crack

It's interesting comparing Martin Belam's thoughts on the revised BBCi (UK-focussed) Search and what happens when you do a search, say, on 'blog'.

Blogger obviously ranks highly, but is William Gibson's blog really more important than the Guardian's onlineblog? A blog in Polish ranks above not.so.soft?

They've done a lot of good work, and I've certainly seen traffic to my site from theirs increase recently, but I'm not sure it quite lives up to the hype.

There's also an interesting editorial challenge - in the elastic internationality of blogs, where do you draw the line? The current A-list bloggers would almost certainly want it to be as wide as possible, picking up the Corys and Docs.

But do ordinary people?

I think most UK licence fee payers would get far more out of Richard Herring's blog than they would out of Matt Webb's.

BBCi Search, because of the unique demands of its audience, will probably end up being a leading light in how the current A-list slowly change from being the BBC1, to the BBC2, to the BBC4.

(In fact, is that how they should start thinking about search now? Will search via a brand give the context to provide greater relevance to that audience?)

Posted by Tom Dolan at July 31, 2003 10:55 AM

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Interesting - a search on Google for obvious shows me No.2 after Stating The Obvious but on BBCi despite ranking Stating The Obvious no1 I gave up looking the The Obvious?

Posted by: Euan at July 31, 2003 01:38 PM

Well it was actually the new version of site search we rolled out this week, the current web search iteration went live back in March when we switched from Google as supplier to Inktomi

...but picking up on the example of 'The Obvious?' - this is what some people would consider to be a classic case of Google succumbing to "blog noise" because it places so much weight on incoming links and the anchor text in them.

[If you haven't read Andrew Orlowski's rant about blogs ruining his searches it is at http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/30621.html]

I often have to deconstruct why search is ranking a particular page in a particular way to deal with irate email feedback from webmasters accusing the BBC of censoring them - not that I am suggesting you are an irate webmaster :-)

Picking over the source code of your homepage Euan you'll find that the only time 'the obvious' appears in the HTML is in the title tag, and your Dublin Core title metadata. I don't believe the latter gets factored into the index.

Inktomi places a much higher store by the on-page factors rather than the off-page factors (although it does take linking into account in its algorithm).

The fact that so many web pages point to your homepage using the anchor text 'The Obvious?' is why it ranks so well in Google. The fact that you only mention 'The Obvious' once in the indexed HTML is why it doesn't with Inktomi.

Now, we could argue philosophically for a long time about whether people typing 'the obvious' into a search engine are looking for your blog or not [imho probably]....but thats the mechanics behind why....

Posted by: martin at July 31, 2003 03:37 PM

oh my bad - ignore the first paragraph, i got confused about what had sparked this off

Posted by: martin at July 31, 2003 03:44 PM

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