Scotts Searching :: Good Search Trick :: Over Searching
Last updated: 8/21/2002; 9:01:31 AM
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Scotts Searching :: Good Search Trick :: Over Searching

A really good search technique which many people often ignore is "Over Searching".  When you over search, you take a query and expand it to be not just what the user asked for but what the user is likely to want.  Here's a step by step example.

I went to the Saturn web site and selected the Find a Retailer link:

Suggestion: Write your web site text the way that real people use words.  Have you ever heard of a Car Retailer?  Probably not – it's a Car Dealer.

This took me to a search screen:

I filled in "Medford" and chose Massachusetts as the state.  Now I know for a fact that there is a Saturn dealer in Medford, Massachusetts so I was expecting to get only this one result.  So I was quite pleasantly surprised when I got this instead:

That's right – three results.  These are (I think though I'm not sure) the closest dealers to Medford.  Now I was wondering if there were only three Saturn dealers in Massachusetts so  I just searched for Massachusetts and got this:

There are clearly a lot more than three Saturn dealers in Massachusetts. 

This was a nice implementation of Over Searching.  What they did was correctly recognize that a person, even if they are highly specific in their search query, might benefit from knowing about more than just that one search result.  If you think about it, it makes sense:

  • They could have a bad experience with a dealer and want another option
  • It tells them where they can get service even if their original dealer is busy
  • It gives the customer a "warm and fuzzy" feeling that there is more than one dealership if they need it
  • It provides them with another option

Nicely done!  Kudos to Saturn for this one.

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