The Importance Of Good Search On Your Web Site

Even The Big Guys Can Get Search Wrong

I was appalled this morning when I went to search a magazine web site for an article that I wanted to share on Google Plus, because the results for two searches that should have provided results came up with nuthin’. The web site is for the magazine Sales & Marketing Management. I was looking for the editors column going back to the Nov/Dec 2013 issue. I had the article in hand because I had pulled it from a magazine two days prior, and decided that the five tips in the brief article were worth sharing. The web site has an archive link, so I eventually did find the article I was looking for, but I spotted the search feature right at the top of the web site, right where it should be and thought to myself that using specific phrases in search could locate the article quickly and save me some time. I was disappointed.   The article was “5 Rules For Authentic B2B Branding” and it mentioned Michael Chasen, of Blackboard, the educational management software. First I tried ‘authentic b2b branding’ as a search phrase, and that brought up no results! That was a surprise because those three words are in the article title in that order. Next I tried ‘chasen’ which is a fairly specific term in the body text. That search term also provided no results.

 My curiosity was piqued. What CMS were they using?

I Googled for an online CMS identifier and found several which I opened in new tabs. (As an aside, my browsing behavior probably doesn’t fit the norm, and leaves me suspicious of statistics purported to measure engagement.) Although I suspected the CMS would be WordPress, I was shocked to find that it was Drupal. Yes, Drupal. The darling of freelance web developers has an ineffective search function, at least on the Sales & Marketing Management Magazine web site. It didn’t pick specific terms out of the headline nor the body text.

If User Experience Quality Is Important To You, Don’t Forget This

This may be a configuration issue. That is for the web site administrators to ascertain. I tried looking for a place to contact and advise them, but didn’t see it. Too bad. I guess they missed the advice of Avinash Kaushik to ask three questions about user experience on your web site:

  1. What was the purpose of your visit?
  2. Were you able to accomplish it?
  3. Why or why not?

Site Search Done Right In A CMS

Joomla!, which I use for web site development, because I consider it to still be the superior CMS over WordPress and Drupal (ever since 2007), has a built in search feature that is designed to present search results that are semantically weighted, across all content types, and has adjustable parameters. It’s not turned on by default, and requires some tweaking before implementation. With all that power comes complexity, which is why Joomla! has the reputation of being ‘hard’. Joomla!  isn’t actually hard, and is laid out in a logical way, but it does require that you do a little reading to figure out how to use it. You don’t expect to hop out of your car and into the cockpit of a Boeing 737 and expect to be able to fly it without at least some training.

Learn What To Improve From Search Usage

I want to mention that Joomla! also has an feature of the search components that can log visitor search queries. Monitoring that log can provide insight into what is popular, what needs more coverage, and what may need to be more visible. See how easy it is here.


  • Check the functioning of your web site’s search feature
  • Check the functioning of other features too
  • If possible, monitor search queries
  • Make sure there is a feedback feature
  • Upgrade your CMS if you have to.


I eventually did find the article in the archives and get to share it (Google+ & Twitter)

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