OPAC search cloud and failed searches

Seeing as I’ve got my head in the clouds at the moment, here’s one showing the most popular keyword search words used on our OPAC during the last 6 months…
To be honest, there aren’t too many surprises in there — students studying business & law and the health sciences are the heaviest users of the library.
Unlike Yahoo, not a single person has done a search for “Britney” on our OPAC in the last 6 months …and “yes”, you would get a relevant hit if you did ๐Ÿ˜‰
I’ve also separated out words that appear in failed keyword searches (i.e. they produced no hits) and removed those which did appear in other successful searches — this gives a list of keywords that probably don’t match anything on the catalogue:

  1. newspapermen (96)
  2. socail (90)
  3. buisness (84)
  4. brantingham (74)
  5. renew (74)
  6. metalib (73)
  7. reserach (72)
  8. mortor (67)
  9. vehclos (66)
  10. gieber (63)
  11. thoery (63)
  12. writting (62)
  13. psycology (59)
  14. contempory (58)
  15. donky (51)
  16. facism (47)
  17. reserch (46)
  18. reasearch (39)
  19. ans (38)
  20. hypodermic (38)
  21. ielts (38)
  22. televison (38)
  23. estimation (37)
  24. priciples (36)
  25. superficial (36)
  26. immanual (35)
  27. infomation (34)
  28. ligament (34)
  29. tuberclosis (34)
  30. centuary (33)
  31. resourse (33)
  32. topshop (33)
  33. treetment (33)
  34. devlopment (32)
  35. petherick (32)
  36. proffesional (32)
  37. quantitive (32)
  38. stamps (32)
  39. theorys (32)
  40. enviromental (31)
  41. pschology (31)
  42. statistic (31)
  43. syringe (31)
  44. hanbook (30)
  45. simnet (30)
  46. stratergy (30)
  47. intoduction (29)
  48. pestel (29)
  49. physio (29)
  50. pratice (29)

The words in bold are valid spellings (according to Microsoft Word) and the figure in brackets is the number of separate searches that contained the word.
Compared to the cloud, this is much more interesting…
1) many of them are simple typos — another good reason to add a spellchecker to your OPAC if you haven’t got one!
2) the fifth most common word is “renew” — are our users trying to renew their books by typing the word into the OPAC, or are they expecting the OPAC to work like a search engine and return something like “How to renew your books” as the first result?
3) the sixth most common word is “metalib” — it looks like a lot of people are trying to find help on using MetaLib in the OPAC… maybe we should create a dummy catalogue record that contains 856 links to MetaLib and our Electronic Resources Wiki?
4) “mortor” is an oddity in the list… but the entry for “pestel” near the end makes me wonder if people were searching for “mortar and pestle”?
Outside of the top 50, there are some other interesting failed keywords (with links to Wikipedia or other sites when relevant):

6 thoughts on “OPAC search cloud and failed searches”

  1. this is fascinating reading Dave,
    I think theres more credit due, students want command line interfaces ‘renew /all’
    heh @ asbo and chav, I like the way youv’e provided wikipedia links for your international readership

  2. Nice, Dave! If I’d been keeping up with my reader, I would’ve read this before I posted! ๐Ÿ™‚
    I didn’t go so far as to weed out searches that yield no result, though that’s not a bad idea at all. What I have found, however, is that even the “bottom” of the top 500-1000 searches still has a count of 40-50 which seems to leave the no-result searches in the dust.

  3. John — I found similar results, although the total number of failed keywords was over double the number of successful ones… that darn long tail again!

  4. I LOVE seeing the failed searches. Well, I don’t really – because it means we’ve failed users somehow – but it gives us such great information on how to correct what we’re doing. (In an ideal world, anyway).
    I looked carefully at 1-only searches done in our database locator and found things like: lexus nexus … infotrack … hamlet insane … adopted children of same sex couples …
    โ€œwhy doesnโ€™t the us have a eurpean-style welfate state?โ€
    … where the RIGHT answer is *only* names of databases that are spelled correctly, like LexisNexis (with proper punctuation, too) and PsycINFO.
    We used the logs to guide in the redesign of the database locator. This stuff is sooo interesting!

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