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Why intranet search is not Google

Ellen van Aken wrote in a blog post about why enterprise search is not like Google. You can read it here.

Ellen came up with some very good reasons why internal search engines don’t match up with the expectations employees have. I want to add one very simple reason which I believe can be good explanation for employees asking for a Google alike search experience on Intranets.

There are two main search patterns:

  • first pattern search
  • known item search

First pattern means, you are happy with any search result that gives you a good answer. For example: searching for a recipe with having specific ingredients in mind. The first result shown in Google which is a good match with the ingredients you have in mind, is a good result for you. There might be thousands of good results.

Known item search means, you are looking for that one exact document or information and of course the actual version of it. So with the recipe example it would mean: you are looking for that one recipe how your grandmother always made the dish. You won’t find it in Google easily (even if your grandmother would have put it online somewhere).

You use Google a lot for first pattern searches whereas Intranet search is way more often used for that one single truth type of information. So Intranet search is more often a known item search.

Actually about 70% of searches inside the organization are known item searchs whereas just around 30% in web search are that pattern. Of course, every search engine has much more troubles finding the single truth information rather coming up with thousands of somehow alike documents.

Maybe that helps understanding why intranet or enterprise search is often rated bad in comparsion to web search.

Some literature


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