Are these strange queries on our webstore legitimate?
June 23, 2011 7:58 AM   Subscribe

I work at an internet store. When I look at the search terms used within our site's internal search engine there are a number of items and brands that are searched for, but with the words in reverse order. For example there are hundreds more searches for "Kanteen Klean" than there is for "Klean Kanteen". Likewise, there are many more searches for "curtain shower" and "case pencil" than there are for "shower curtain" or "pencil case". What is going on?

Do people actually search this way? Is there some kind of bot that would be searching our site? And if so, why? I want to know if these are searches by people actually interested in these products.

If it's relevant, we are based in Canada and sell only to the United States and Canada
posted by Midnight Rambler to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I do that kind of thing all the time. Believe it or not, you sometimes get different results in some search engines if you flip the order of your search terms in Google. For example, you get these results for "case pencil" and those for "pencil case".

Couldn't tell you why you see more of one or the other, but it does seem to make a difference.
posted by valkyryn at 8:03 AM on June 23, 2011


In all three of the examples you've listed, the words haven't simply been swapped, they've been rearranged into alphabetical order. Is it possible this could be an artifact of the search engine and/or whatever tracking system you're using?
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:04 AM on June 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


It seems like the search words are being alphabetized. If there were a search for something like "apple peeler", with the second actually being the second alphabetically... is that coming up in the correct order?
posted by smalls at 8:06 AM on June 23, 2011


Are these searches issued by humans? Could they be some sort of spider or scraper?
posted by novalis_dt at 8:10 AM on June 23, 2011


Half the search terms that come up from our stuff is mostly robots trying to scrape old pages that no longer exist. Since our website automatically searches the store for any 404'd page, we have a lot of junk to filter out.
posted by msbutah at 8:24 AM on June 23, 2011


i do this all the time. i start with the subject and modify with adjectives after. french works the same way! and is almost as annoying as google.
posted by patricking at 8:24 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do this all the time. My thought process is something like 'It's a "curtain" and in the subcategory "shower" '. Or a "clock", not "grandfather" or "kitchen", but "alarm". Maybe it's leftover from tables of contents or indexes where things would be listed this way?
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:28 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Noun-Adjective sentence structure is common in other languages, but is probably more along the lines of hydrobatidae's thinking.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:34 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've checked and all of the odd searches are in alphabetical order.
I considered the noun-adjective sentence structure, possibly from Quebecois customers however there are more than just weird 2-word searches, for example "Bronner dr s" instead of "Dr. Bronner's".

Is it possible this could be an artifact of the search engine and/or whatever tracking system you're using?

If it is an artifact, how could I tell?
posted by Midnight Rambler at 8:48 AM on June 23, 2011


Are you using a common CMS or some kind of proprietary system? It's entirely possible that, as Faint of Butt (awesome name, btw) pointed out, this is just an artifact of how the results are being reported.

Also relevant might be what you're using to track these searches. Is it Google Analytics, some other third-party tool, or part of your site structure?
posted by graphnerd at 8:49 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am getting this data from our POS software, not Google Analytics.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 8:57 AM on June 23, 2011


To test if it's an artifact, perhaps try a couple of search strings that you know would not show up on your site, and in reverse alpha order, since that seems a common occurrence. For example, try things like "elephant butt" a few times, then check your reports to see if "butt elephant" comes back.
posted by slogger at 8:59 AM on June 23, 2011 [28 favorites]


People give their names in ordinary writing and conversation 'first last', but when you're looking them up in any kind of directory, they're listed 'last first'.

Could some program be trying to find all the names of people in your searchable database for some reason?
posted by jamjam at 9:09 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Butt Elephant" is now the most recent term on our site. It is definitely just our software displaying search terms in alphabetical order.

Thanks a lot!
posted by Midnight Rambler at 9:10 AM on June 23, 2011 [42 favorites]


People give their names in ordinary writing and conversation 'first last', but when you're looking them up in any kind of directory, they're listed 'last first'.

I'd love to have the ability to name a child "Style Directory," but first I'd need a child.
posted by tzikeh at 1:37 PM on June 23, 2011


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