Seek and ye shall find.
That’s the theory behind the still-debated benefits of digging through Big Data to uncover new, overlooked, or forgotten paths to greater profits and greater understanding.
Big Data, however, is here to stay (and get bigger). And search is what we do to find and extract useful nuggets and diamonds and nickels and dimes of information.
O’Reilly Media recently has published three new, enlightening books focused on the processes, application, and management of search: Enterprise Search by Martin White, Mastering Search Analytics by Brent Chaters, and Search Patterns by Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender.
Here are short looks at each.
Start with this book if you’re just beginning to explore what focused search efforts and search technology may be able to do for your company.
The book’s key goal is “to help business managers , and the IT teams supporting them, understand why effective enterprise-wide search is essential in any organization, and how to go about the process of meeting user requirements.”
You may think, So what’s the big deal? Just put somebody in a cubicle and pay them to use Google, Bing, and a few other search engines to find stuff.
Search involves much more than that. Even small businesses now have large quantities of potentially profitable information stored internally in documents, emails, spreadsheets and other formats. And large corporations are awash in data that can be mined for trends, warnings, new opportunities, new product or service ideas, and new market possibilities, to name just a few.
The goal of Enterprise Search is to help you set up a managed search environment that benefits your business but also enables employees to use search technology to help them do their jobs more efficiently and productively.
Yet, putting search technology within every worker’s reach is not the complete answer, author Martin White emphasizes.
“The reason for the well-documented lack of satisfaction with a search application,” he writes, “is that organizations invest in technology but not staff with the expertise and experience to gain the best possible return on the investment….”
Enterprise Search explains how to determine your firm’s search needs and how to create an effective search support team that can meet the needs of employees, management, and customers.
Curiously, White waits until his final chapter to list 12 “critical success factors” for getting the most from enterprise-wide search capabilities.
Perhaps, in a future edition, this important list will be positioned closer to the front of the book.
This in-depth and well-illustrated guide details how a unified, focused search strategy can generate greater traffic for your website, increase conversion rates, and bring in more revenue.
Brent Chaters explains how to use search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search as part of an effective, comprehensive approach.
Key to Chaters’ strategy is the importance of bringing together the efforts and expertise of both the SEO specialists and the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) specialists — two groups that often battle each other for supremacy within corporate settings.
“A well-defined search program should utilize both SEO and SEM tactics to provide maximum coverage and exposure to the right person at the right time, to maximize your revenue,” Chaters contends. “I do not believe that SEO and SEM should be optimized from each other; in fact, there should be open sharing and examination of your overall search strategy.”
His book is aimed at three audiences: “the search specialist, the marketer, and the executive”–particularly executives who are in charge of search campaigns and search teams.
If you are a search specialist, the author expects that “you understand the basics of SEO, SEM, and site search (meaning you understand how to set up a paid search campaign, you understand that organic search cannot be bought, and you understand how your site search operates and works.)”
“Search applications demand an obsessive attention to detail,” the two authors of this fine book point out. “Simple, fast, and relevant don’t come easy.”
Indeed, they add, “Search is not a solved problem,” but remains, instead, “a wicked problem of terrific consequence. As the choice of first resort for many users and tasks, search is the defining element of the user experience. It changes the way we find everything…it shapes how we learn and what we believe. It informs and influences our decisions and, and it flows into every noon and cranny….Search is among the biggest, baddest, most disruptive innovations around. It’s a source of entrepreneurial insight, competitive advantage, and impossible wealth.”
They emphasize: “Unfortunately, it’s also the source of endless frustration. Search is the worst usability problem on the Web….We find too many results or too few, and most regular folks don’t know where to search, or how….business goals are disrupted by failures in findability…[and] “Mobile search is a mess.”
Colorfully illustrated and well-written, Search Patterns is centered around major aspects in the design of user interfaces for search and discovery. It is aimed at “designers, information architects, students, entrepreneurs, and anyone who cares about the future of search.”
It covers the key bases, “from precision, recall, and relevance to autosuggestion and faceted navigation.” It looks at how search may be reshaped in the future. And, very importantly, it also joins the growing calls for collaboration across disciplines and “tearing down walls to make search better….”
– Si Dunn