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Queries That Fail to Retrieve Useful Results

When can you tell that a search has failed? (Aside, of course, from the case we’ve just described, where no results were retrieved.)

The answer, of course, depends on a variety of factors that are difficult to predict. The search algorithm may not do a good job of parsing the searcher’s query. The query may have retrieved good results, but the results aren’t presented in a usable way. The results might be usable, but your site’s searchers are an impatient gang who are unwilling to scroll or click through long lists of search results.

The first two examples are, respectively, examples of challenges that are technical and design-related. They’re areas that are within your control, and as such, you can address ...

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