Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Use Keywords - Really!

Several site users have reported getting really weird results for certain queries. A search for "linux" turns up the Batman Begins DVD. A search for "blog" turns up a Bloc Party DVD. A search for "Jakob Nielsen" returns a Danish-language "gritty and frank coming-of-age drama". A search for "Matthew Haughey", an author of several technology books, who was kind enough to link to the site, turns up a Golden Girls DVD collection.

Here's what's going on. As you may know, relies on's Web Service API to return results. When no keyword is entered, the Amazon search engine performs a search of all of Which makes sense, except that for reasons completely unknown to me, it doesn't return the same results that a regular search would. I can't find any documentation or exact explanation of how this works, but I've deduced two things. 1) A full-catalog (or as Amazon calls it, "blended") search, skews heavily toward DVD's. 2) There appears to be some kind of "spell-checking" going on when doing a full-catalog search, that can't be turned off. Hence the "blog" -> "bloc" connection.

The solution is simple. In all of these cases, adding the appropriate keyword returns a much more reasonable "best guess". Also, keep in mind that is geared more towards finding a link for something you already know about, rather than finding out what's available for a broad topic. So be sure to enter the complete title of something you're looking for (or as much of it as you can remember). You'll have a much better experience!


Blogger Mark De Carvalho said...

To fix your problem with dvds always being the top results, take a look at the RelevanceRank field that is returned in the xml for each index. You can order the results using that.

11:20 AM  

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