Enhanced Search Capability: Customizable Dictionary and User Logs

We have developed a more robust and customizable search framework for Directions. The new search builds a dictionary of words used on the website – these words come from item and category titles, copy, keywords and meta data.  The dictionary for the case study contains almost 40,000 unique words.  This dictionary will continue to grow as new words are used in copy on the website.  The dictionary also contains misspelled words and will allow you to find the items or categories to be corrected.

For example:  the list should be reviewed to make sure that both the singular and the plural of nouns are in the dictionary.    They should be linked to each other, so that the singular form entered in the search will pull up items that have the plural form in the description or copy and vice versa.  In other words, “dish” and “dishes” are both in the dictionary, but if we link them as a Primary and an Alternate, then the search will yield more results.  We are working on doing this automatically using a process called stemming.  We’ll have more information on this in the next few weeks.

We can use this same linking of a Primary and an Alternative, to strengthen the search for proper names and their derivatives.  The Primary word, “Robert” should be linked to the Alternatives “Rob” and “Robb”.

Second, we added a log of searches done on the site.  When a customer searches for “rustic mugs” we return 13 items.  This search shows in the log with the results count of 13.  Of special interest are the searches that returned zero items.  These tell us what people are searching for but not finding any items to buy.   The number of zero searches will decline over time, as the search criteria is refined.

By including common mis-spellings in the dictionary, the search gets better.  By linking, “calendar” with “calender”, the customer gets back results with either spelling.   You can build these links by reviewing the log searches with zero results to see what customers are mis-spelling and then enter the misspelled word in the dictionary.   “Seive”  was also searched and found 23 item hits.  Enter it correctly, “Sieve”,  and it results in 654 hits.  That means that 23 times, someone build the mis-spelling into the Keywords for particular items.  A link in the dictionary between the correct spelling and the misspelling, will result in a much better search for the customer looking for that individual’s work, without having to set up the incorrect spelling in each item’s keyword.

The dictionary can also be used for proper name misspellings and sound alikes.  In one of the searches in the log, “Aldrich” was resulted with zero hits; it would be a sound alike for “Aldridge”, which was the correct name in the database.

Connecting words in the dictionary can also yield better search results for customers looking for seemingly simple searches that currently yield no results.  In the log, someone searched on “swan pictures” and got zero results.  We tested other options: “swan images”, “swan canvas”, and “swan print” came up with zero or few results.  Searching for “swan art” gives the most.  If we link the words “image, images, canvas, canvases, print, prints, picture, and pictures” to each other and also to “art”, we should get robust results no matter which word is used by the customer.  This will yield the relevant items whether they are looking for swans or bears or elk.

It may not seem important to correct spelling mistakes unless you see them over and over. The other side of that argument, is that it takes so little time to link the incorrect spelling to the correct spelling.   We are getting the customer what he is searching for without making him re-enter a search. That is where the benefit in doing the spelling/typo corrections and links comes.  In the log, we saw “whre” for “where”, “seaons” for “seasons”, and “refections” for “reflections”.  We added the misspellings in a couple of minutes and now those will never happen again for any customer.

The log also showed a customer struggling with the search for “Rusty Refuge I”, using the roman numeral.  That points out the need to include the number ‘1’, in the keywords for the item.  Roman Numerals will need special attention when considering the search.  The customer was searching “Rusty Refuge 1” and got no hits.  There is no way to have the dictionary link “I” with “1”.  or “II” with “2”.  Keywords are the way to handle this.

Marketing Idea.  In this case study, there is a unique use of the log.  They can use the log and staff knowledge, to link artists that Wild Wings doesn’t carry,  to Wild Wings artists with similar style and/or subject matter.  In the log, you can see a customer searching for “Manfred Schatz”.  They tried different spellings and different first names—no hits.  A Google search of “Schatz artist”, brought up an artist with wolves hunting a moose (Rogallery.com).  Marketing could add his name ‘Schatz’ as an alternate in the dictionary for artists “Hultberg” and “Grende” (just examples).  Next time someone was looking for “Schatz”, instead of coming up with a no search results, we could show them something they might like.  It’s better than giving them nothing to shop for, and might invite them to keep looking.  There seem to be 4 or 5 artists searched every day that come up with zero results because Wild Wings doesn’t work with them.  The links could generate interest in Wild Wings artists.

Another example of that is the customer who made three attempts to search for “toy box”.  The company doesn’t really sell a toy box per se.  But  the person who has a beautiful home decorated with many items from the company, could use storage chests, quilt chests and cabin chests.  A quick couple of entries into the keywords for those items and now if that person came back, there would be something for them to look at after searching for “toy box”  (It will also generate a hit in a Google Search for “toy box”.)  The log can keep you on the pulse of your customers, and let you simply add and link words to lead them to the items closest to their requests.

Why work so hard on the search criteria?  It is all about getting the customer to the “shopping” part of their experience, instead of the “searching” part.  We want to limit the frustration level that they will have on our site, and lead them to the items on which they are searching-and maybe throw a little marketing in at the same time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *