Poor Performance Sparks Search Overhaul
By Martin Kelly, Search Engine Room
SENSIS will next week announce a series of initiatives it claims will vastly improve the poor search performance of its much-maligned White Pages site, which has come under vitriolic attack from frustrated consumers.
Spokeswoman Danielle Horan acknowledged the user issues and said the site will soon be overhauled to ensure improved relevancy to search queries.
“The majority of search issues on White Pages are concerned with business search and these have been caused by the technical platform the site runs on,” Horan says.
“We are about to upgrade the site and move it onto a new platform to improve the search results.”
Horan said the upgrade has been a high priority since the beginning of this year and that changes would occur “over the coming months”. Details of these changes will be announced next week, she said.
The search relevancy issue, which has been festering for the past couple of years, was brought to a head by an article earlier this month in the Sydney Morning Herald.
It sparked a frenzy of feedback on its MashUp Blog – more than 180 responses so far.
Emotion has been running high with many saying they prefer to use Google over White Pages for business searches despite Sensis having by far the superior corporate database.
Following are some comments taken from a single page of the blog:
- "The bucket of crap infesting Sensis is more appropriately labelled as a 'search, search and search again' engine, and any positive results produced by it are probably the result of obscure planetary alignments and the disembowelling of a large number of chickens."
- “Yellow pages is just as frustrating. Its a sad statement on the site when users such as myself prefer to go to Google to get a phone number of an australian business.”
- “Try looking up a hospital such as North Shore Hospital or a bank. Even when you give the suburb and street name it gives you the head office details.”
- “White pages is a mess. I made a search last week for a city phone number and entered sydney 2000 in the city and postcode . However it returned pages and pages of names in greater sydney as well.”
- “Horrible. For residential and business numbers. Why put in a suburb if the search engine returns ALL suburbs for a name? Tabs don't work on the page so you have to use your mouse to go between fields.”
- “Whitepages is the worst site I've ever used and now I do a google search to find a business or person before whitepages as I'm more likely to get the decent result in less time.”
- “I have recently commenced a new role, and saw the outrageous amount we were spending on Sensis and the paltry traffic it was driving to our site, and I mean 1% of Google. I've redirected all the savings to SEO and adwords.”
- “Sensis usually returns way too many results unranked by relevance. When you try to narrow the search,it either widens the search or just ignores the additional clues. To see it fail geography, just put in a postcode! Google searches the whole world faster than Sensis searches Oz.”
In response, Horan made the following points:
- "The White Pages site provides people with information on people, business and government organisations for which they know the name and location. It is not designed to be a ‘search engine’ in which you can enter broad searches or keywords.
- "Part of the reason for this is that it is important for us to maintain an adequate level of protection for people and their contact information listed in the White Pages. This is also why we do not provide a ‘reverse search’ capability and allow people to look up the individual listed against a particular phone number.
- "Currently the site requires an exact match for a majority of listings. For some people, this is frustrating as they like to be able to search in a particular way. In addition there are a lot of variables that can get in the way of getting an exact match, such as the business having a different listing to what you might expect. And while we do our best to have more than 20 million listings published as they are provided to us, there are instances where we don’t quite get it right. The work we are doing to upgrade the technical platform will address this and allow people to search more intuitively.
- "The order in which business listed on whitepages.com.au is not determined by whether they advertise or not. They are listed based on their relevance to the search request.
- "The White Pages website and Google are fundamentally different. White Pages information is taken from Sensis’ database of residential, business and government listings. This is built on information people provide to their phone company or directly to us. As an internet search engine, Google searches the web for information. This means the information you're looking for needs to be on the web to be found."
MashUp Blog: Does White Pages search suck?
Search Engine Room: February 29, 2008
Australia's first Group Buying Summit was staged in Sydney on May 7, 2012. It was a good day with 135 delegates and lots great presentations. Speakers included:
Search Engine Room, Australia's original search event, is returning to Sydney in mid November, 2012.
Please subscribe to newsletter for event updates and if you have any queries, contact Martin Kelly.
Meanwhile, check out images from the last Search Engine Room below.