Thursday, December 07, 2006

Losing a Battle

I love this company! But I'm saddened to say we're losing the search battle. The problem is simple: we're trying so hard to do cool things that we do the fundamentals poorly, if we do them at all.

Case in point: When MSN Spaces went live, or should I say, beta, I quickly signed up. I like the idea of having blogs, a photo library, links and stuff all in one place, hosted by my company. In fact, I was so excited about it, I moved my blog from Blogger to MSN Spaces.

I set up my space, created a blog entry and sat back. I love soaring, that is, flying gliders, so I wanted to find others with the same interests. I went to the search field, which wasn't on the page. I could accept that since MSN Spaces had barely launched in beta. But I went to the top level domain and found the search field. Alas, I was going to find more Spaces.

I typed in "soar" and then "soaring". No hits.

I tried "glider". Nada.

I tried "gliderjockey". Nothing.

“glider jockey”. Nope.

My curiosity was piqued because that was the name of my space. The words were on the page. But it wasn't indexed. So I figured I'd wait a day or so and it would show up. After all, it was beta software. A week or so later, I tried the search again. Same results, or lack thereof. Obviously a bug, and wanting to help make the product better, I tracked down the blog of one of the people responsible for the site. He assured me it was a bug and was being fixed in a few days. Fast forward two or so years to today. I still can't find my own MSN Space using MSN/Live Search.

Between when I created my site and today, I've been told various things as to why it doesn't show up: bugs, indexing algorithms, relevance ranking, no back links, etc. But why does Google find it? How did it find it a year ago? Two years ago?

To me the cause is simple. We don't index our own properties. Sure, we crawl a web of hyperlinks and that's great for discovery, but we own these properties. We know we have content there. It's a slam dunk to index the content. It's so obvious. It's a slam dunk.

It's a shame we don't do it.

Do you know what is more shameful? The feedback was given via both internal and external channels and it has fallen of deaf ears. Meanwhile, in this race we call Search, Google will lap us by indexing faster, keeping the user experience simple and getting the fundamentals right. It's a foundation that can be built upon.

It’s like musicianship. Those who know the fundamentals make better players.