Search Cake - Enterprise Search for the Javascript Platform

Searchcake is a search technology stratup focused on making enterprise search technolgy available to the mass market.

Why does a business need a search engine?

a business might need a search engine for a number of reasons. The most obvious one would be to increase the usability of their website. For a small website with five or six pages, it may not be necessary; you can reasonably find the information you’re looking for. But as websites grow, it becomes harder and harder and harder to find information on them. We find that if a website doesn’t have an effective search within it, people tend to revert back to Google to find that information, and very often they find themselves in other websites.

The market leaders in almost every field of ecommerce and online business put a search bar at the center of their experience – not in the top right-hand corner, but actually in the center of the screen. This is because on, for example, Amazon or eBay, if you want to find anything, it doesn’t matter how many products are in the database, searching only takes a second. And that is the key, I think, to their success.

But businesses might need search for other experiences. They may benefit from having a search functionality in areas where Google can’t go. For example, in a log-in area or in an intranet or for private or privileged information. They may also need search functionality within their office, because I think that most of us at work actually spend a large portion of our day researching and trying to find information. And when that’s in the public domain, where public search engines can access that information, we’re all quite effective, and I think we’ve all learned to use Google incredibly effectively as a culture.

However, when it comes to looking in our own office for a document or looking on our own website for relevant information, we can’t always find it. That leads to an awful lot of duplicated thinking going on with organizations, and that effect increases as they grow. So a business might need a search engine for many end uses, but underlying that is usability and access to information.

How important is search technology to an online business?

I think anyone who has owned an online business is vitally aware that their business actually is entirely dependent on search. This goes in several directions, and the most obvious one is that most people find products and services online by using public search engines like Google and Bing. And from those search experiences – third parties actually experience this – people find products and become aware of ecommerce marketplaces and what’s on offer. They’ve researched products. So a presence not only in the ecommerce setting, but in the backup material and its visibility online is very important. Every online business is aware of that.

I think the aspect of search that most ecommerce website owners who are not major players like eBay and Amazon forget is that the key to success doesn’t stop at people landing on your website. They also need to find the products, and we find that ecommerce market leaders, whether they be Baidu in China or Amazon in America or eBay globally, are actually search engines. If we look at those websites, they’re not really traditional carts. You don’t click through a lot of categories to find something. There’s a giant search bar with some promotions around it. And you’re searching with the intent to spend money. That’s a very lucrative place to be.

But the quality of your shop now is not to do with necessarily just how good it looks, or what you offer, or even the best price; it’s to do with usability. And search technology is usability. As a website grows beyond even a thousand pages, the effectiveness of its search is actually its defining characteristics.

There are a few exceptions for this. If you look at Wikipedia, for example, it doesn’t have a functional search within its website, and so it has learned to piggyback on Google. They’ve appropriated the key phrase “wiki,” and I think everybody is familiar now with typing the word “Wikipedia” and the subject name or “wiki” and the subject name to access information on Wikipedia specifically, because there’s so much information there, there’s no way of drilling through it through clicks that would be efficient to find what you really needed to know.

But why do I need a search engine if Google is free is free, and I think we need to appreciate that Google is a modern wonder of the world. It has revolutionized the way people access the world’s public domain information. It’s changed all of our lives. It’s made us all more informed, and I think it’s really the gateway to the internet for nearly everybody who uses the internet that I know. Either Google or Bing.

However, Google only searches the public domain. It only searches what it wants to search and what you wish to disclose to the world. We don’t always wish to disclose everything to the world. So if we have a log-in on our website, a members area, private information, legally privileged documents, sensitive financial documents, or corporate knowledge, internal culture – that’s outside of Google’s scope. The contents of your file server at work is outside of Google’s scope.

That poses a problem for intranet developers, as 10 years ago, 20 years ago, most businesses who had business systems, the leaders were using things like Fortran and Cobol intranet. These were kind of like green screens which you typed on and you got some information out, like a plane ticket booking. That’s no longer the case. Whether you work for a government agency or work in a corporation, there’s a likelihood that the majority of your organization’s accumulated knowledge is accessed through a web browser internally, and yet we can’t find it because it’s hard to search.

We should qualify that: very often, these technologies do have search functionality. The problem is, the search functionality is not working for people. Developing a really good, content-driven search engine is very expensive and very complicated, and outside the budgets of most organizations. It’s like being at the start of the car industry, where everybody’s building their own car. Every one is different, every one is expensive, and every one breaks from time to time. I think it’s time for that to end and to go into mass production, for there to be units of search functionality which aren’t separate from a website, are not custom-made, but just slot in and become part of everyday life, so that when you’re at work and you’re accessing organizational information, you can actually find it.

Another limitation of Google from the business’s perspective is if you are, for example, running an online business, you don’t want people necessarily to leave your website to research what you’re talking about. Amazon don’t let you leave Amazon to find products on Amazon. eBay don’t make you leave eBay to find other products. Search is integral to their business model, because if you’d went back to Google, they probably would’ve lost your business.

As a leader within an organization, you need a search engine because you want people to act for one of two reasons: you either want your employees to have access to private information that Google cannot see in a search format that they’re familiar with, or you run an online business, and you want to retain customer loyalty. You don’t want people to go off to Google to find things.

And I think you’ll find that within most ecommerce websites, if you look at usage data and analysis of user interaction, if people see a search bar in the top right hand corner, they expect that it does not work. And that’s not surprising; search generally doesn’t work. The implementations within common ecommerce packages are just not sophisticated enough to match the experience users find from Google. So they go off to Google, type the product in, and maybe they find it on your website. I’ve seen this a hundred times before. Things I couldn’t find on a website’s own search was found in Google. This is a learned habit, that ecommerce websites’ search doesn’t work very well.

Or you may leave the website entirely and find a better price online. So it becomes about brand loyalty and the ability to grow from your ecommerce store. If you have one product, it’s fine, but if you have tens of products or hundreds of products and your search is not comparable with the service Google can offer, that’s a mistake.

I think this is really unfortunate, because a custom search within your website should be better than Google at finding your own content. It knows more about the content. It’s more contextual. It has more recesses available to it. Your own search should be better than Google’s search at driving sales. It should be better than Google’s search at finding your information. It should know the information more intimately. Yet this isn’t yet the case.

And that’s why we’ve built Search Cake: to bring search technology to the places Google can’t reach, like inside a business, and to provide a Google-equivalent search experience within ecommerce settings.