A day in the life of BBCi Search - part 2

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 27 March 2003


The first quality I looked for was the UK-ness of a given search term.

Some searches are specifically about the UK, for example: "dvla", "edinburgh fire" and "first aid courses london". On the other hand, some searches can't be about anything other than world wide events or interests, for example: "estate agents in south africa", "hotels world wide" or "nyc transit strike".

There are a third class of searches, which I have termed 'fuzzy UK' searches. These are searches where I suspect the user was UK based and looking for UK material, but they have not provided a specific enough search term to be sure - examples of these include "disability discrimination", "newspapers" or "film news".

For the purposes of this classification I only counted searches that were unequivocally UK focussed.

I found that 40% of the searches on the service were specifically and unequivocally looking for UK based information, either in the language they used, the topic they searched for, or the geographical qualifiers added to a search. Further examples of these included: "lanark medical centre", "hattersley crime prevention centre", or "david blunkett".

In addition, many of the search terms fell into the ambiguous category, where I felt the intention was to find UK based information, but the user was not explicit in their search. Examples of these include "engineering recruitment", "hysterectomy support", and "stationery mail order". In nearly all of these case I believe the intention of the user was to find UK specific information.

Regional searches

I also classified a selection of 2,000 search terms used on the regional sections of the BBCi site, from the national sites of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to the smaller 'Where I Live' sites covering areas of England.

I found that the searches were not any more explicitly regional than on the service as a whole, but with the smaller data set I was able to classify the 'fuzzy UK' element.

I found that 39% of searches on these services were specifically UK focussed - and that an additional 11% of searches were of a 'fuzzy UK' nature.

50% of searches were not geographically or culturally focussed on the UK at all.

In the third part of this article, I will look at the extent to which people attempted to use advanced search syntax.

Keep up to date on my new blog