WordPress search sucks

I really like WordPress, I’m glad I moved to it from Blogger.  I think with the right templates it’s pretty flexible, I wish I had a) more time and b) more css/layout skill to do some template work.  However, WordPress search sucks.

It sucks for a few reasons,

  1. results come back in reverse date order (which makes sense for a blog but is too inflexible)
  2. there’s no indication in the search results which words matched the article
  3. the search just takes all the terms and does a basic sql query for any of them, so if you search for ‘i like bacon’ you get posts with the word like and then posts with the word bacon
  4. the standard navigation doesn’t tell you how many pages of results you got, just that you can read the next page

For blogs, I guess it’s ok as a basic tool, but really it should,

  1. return posts by most relevant first
  2. do proper searches based on the phrase you submit
  3. indicate which words matched the post
  4. show how many posts matched
  5. list the posts by just title, or summary or full and allow you to switch
  6. show which page you’re on, if there are more than one page of results

I’ve looked at various plugins, but not really had any luck finding one which fixes all the problems.  I’ll keep looking.

Google searches

As anyone who reads this blog already knows, I’m addicted to web stats.  I’m fascinated by how people find the blog on the web.  Here’s a selection of my favourite searches used to find the site over the last few days.

On Google,

  • can tooth extraction result in another tooth moving down into space (link)
  • LEGO perception (link)
  • tesco superstore halloween stock (link)
  • cracking a rib when coughing (link)

Hmm, Google SearchWiki, cool or chaos?

Wiki’s are cool if everyone buys in and collaborates in a compatible manner.  Google is adding collaborative ‘editing’ of search results with SearchWiki.  It looks like the changes are specific to your own Google account, but you can also see what other people have added if you like.  You can add notes and promote or remote search results (using little icons next to each search result).  The little video says it won’t directly affect how others see searches or even how you see searches if you’re not logged in.

You can add websites you expected the search to return, but didn’t – which seems like it might be an interesting addition.

Is basic searching dead?  Is this really a Wiki (since it only truly affects your search results when you’re logged in) or just an attempt to hijack a currently popular terms?  Who knows.   But the little icons have appeared on my Google searches, and I plan to have a play and see how effect it is.

Maybe it’ll turn the entire Google search engine into the biggest set of bookmarks I ever had?  I guess at the back end, Google is collecting which results are removed and which are increased in rank and maybe using that to tune their pagerank algorithm?

I promise, no more Google posts for a few days from me.  Just wanted to let you know in case you don’t normally log in to use Google searches since you won’t see the little icons if you don’t.  It took me a few moments to realise there’s no new search page to go to – this stuff has been added to the main Google search pages.

Update: Thinking about it a bit more, this could be quite exciting.  It’s a bit like Reddit or Digg, but with all the world’s URL’s already submitted.  I guess it depends on whether the promotion or removal of URL’s eventually affects pagerank and if the notes people are adding become useful.

Google Insights

I posted recently about why search means something, and about Google tracking the Flu.  Here’s another site from Google that’ll waste three weeks if you’re not careful, Google Insights.  It lets you see who’s searching for what and how it’s changed over the years.  There was one fascinating search that amazed me.

And that was “apple in the Food and Drink category in the US“, over time you can see people are more interested in Apples during the end of Summer and the start of Autumn, and that it’s the same every year.

In case the link doesn’t work or the info goes away, here’s a screenshot (click to bigginate it).

Why ‘searching’ means something

Google have unveiled the Google Flu Trends website.  Basically, if you start searching for ‘aching muscles’ or ‘flu symptoms’, and lots of other people in your area are doing the same thing, it’s an indicator that people are starting to feel ill.

Using that, Google is predicting how much flu activity there is in certain areas.  If we assume people aren’t cynical on a big enough scale to ruin the data, this is a pretty amazing example of why searching isn’t entirely passive.  Why collecting data about what people are searching for is an active thing.  If you know what people are interesting in finding out, and you know what they’re finding, you can fill empty markets or predict trends.

Google – it’s the beginnings of a collective conciousness, a gathering of minds all asking the same question.  A billion people all pondering vital questions.

Like, “Is Angelina Jolie still as sexy as ever?”