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  Problems with Keyword Searches

This page explains the problems of using keyword searches at large online bookstores, such as Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

A. Not all books will display that should display

Each book has particular keywords attached to it. However, sometimes these books are missing needed associated keywords. Therefore these books will not come up in the keyword search. For example, if you searched on the keyword "infertility," on 9/15/01, at two major online bookstores:

At Barnes & Noble, the following books did not display, yet they are about infertility and they are carried by Barnes & Noble:

  1. Inconceivable: Winning the Fertility Game

  2. Rewinding Your Biological Clock: Motherhood Late in Life, by Richard J. Paulson, Judith Sachs

  3. The Rollercoaster, by Julia Masters

  4. Wishing for a Baby: A Preconception Journal, by Julie A. Watson, Corinne Greenberg

At Amazon.com, the following books did not display, yet they are about infertility and they are carried by Amazon.com:

  1. Hot Flashes, Warm Bottles, by Nancy London
  2. Infertility: Psychological Issues and Counseling Strategies - 1997
  3. IVF Revolution, by Robert Winston

B. Many wrong books will display

For example, if you are a consumer and you enter the keyword "infertility" on Amazon or Barnes & Noble sites, the result list will also contain many books you would not want to read, such as: animal infertility or professional infertility books.

C. Too many books might display

If you enter the keyword "infertility" into Amazon and Barnes & Noble Web sites, they would display the following results:

  • Amazon - 565 books
     

  • Barnes & Noble - 610  books

How could you possibly review all those books?

D. You won't know all the possible keywords to search on

Assume you were interested in a book about donor egg. If you entered the keywords "donor egg" into Amazon and Barnes & Noble Web sites, here are the results that displayed (on 10/26/01):

  • Amazon - "found 0 books" - this is not enough books, the search missed three books about donor egg that are carried on Amazon site
     

  • Barnes & Noble - "found 196 books" - this is way too many books; all except three of the books are unwanted. There are books about eggs, donor boards, philanthropy, donor insemination, etc.

The reason you would not get a good list when searching with "donor egg" is that the books on those two sites have the keyword "egg donation" attached to them.  If you didn't know that, you would not find the books.

Here are a couple of examples of variations (with the best keywords listed first):

  • donor insemination, sperm donation, artificial insemination, human insemination
     

  • egg donation, donor egg, egg donor
     


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