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Large item product search, why can't search engines get it right?

     
6:15 pm on May 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I've been looking into the search results for products you buy that are too large to ship easily. It appears that search engines have a long way to go for these types of searches.

I've asked my friends what they would expect to see when they search for such a product (not a specific brand, but the item type). People expect a mix of:
1) Big national chains
2) Local shops with large selection
3) Discount retailers
4) Options for luxury items
5) Options for professional grade products
6) Review sites
My friends would like to have the search results ranked by reputation, price, selection, and how easy it is to navigate the web site. They really don't care how well keyword targeted the site is. They don't care how many inbound links it has.

It appears that the search engines are actually delivering:
0) Paid advertisements -- usually for sites without a famous brand
1) exactphrase.com
2) A national brand, if the brand contains the product type
3) The closest local shops (google)
4) The best keyword optimized local shops (yahoo/bing)
5) yourcityexactphrase.com (yahoo/bing)
6) Online only retailers
7) SEO savvy affiliate sites
8) Scraper sites

blekko has a /safeshop tag that gives a good list of national brands, but it isn't the default option.

Bing puts local shops directly into the serps where google tends to use differently formatted listings next to a map.

Both Google and Bing have a "related searches" section near the bottom of the page that often contains the biggest brands, even though those brands don't appear in the search results.

It really looks to me that there is a huge opportunity for one of the search engines to take the ball and run with it in this area.
8:49 pm on May 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm on track with your statement of user results expectations, but need some help with
products ... that are too large to ship easily.
. Can you provide some examples?
2:17 am on May 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I was thinking of furniture and household appliances mostly.
5:39 am on May 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I've been looking into the search results for products you buy that are too large to ship easily. It appears that search engines have a long way to go for these types of searches.

In my experience, when search engine results are really bad (particularly when it's all the search engines and not just one), the problem almost always lies with what's on the web rather than with the engines themselves. Very often in such cases, there aren't many pages that satisfy the query. You might want to do some exact searches and allintitle searches to check this out.

With regard to products too large to ship, if they're too large to ship, it's likely that they're not easy to sell to searchers in far-away places, and not high priority for web retailers. Thus, it's likely that not many people are selling them online.

I have a friend who is a widget manufacturer who showed me a wonderful widget his company made, but which unfortunately is too long to be shipped via UPS. It wasn't a heavy duty big-ticket item... just one whose designers hadn't taken shipping into account. As a result, he decided to discontinue the widget... There was no economical way of delivering it, and he felt it wasn't worth the catalog space.
 

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