Friday, July 22, 2011

Tea, Tea Party Movement, Texas Education Agency, and Web Searches

There are a lot of things that pollute web search results, or at least, make it more difficult to find what you're searching for. Besides tea spam, which I wrote about some time ago, websites that are about tea but are low-quality sites looking to somehow make a fast buck, there are legitimate entries clouding the search results.

What clouds search results for tea?

In the world of tea, the biggest of these is the tea party movement, a political movement that has nothing to do with tea. If you want to know what I think about this movement, I actually wrote a page about the tea party movement on, a site where I share writings about politics, religion, and other controversial subjects. But other entities also cloud the results...the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Tennessee Education Agency (also TEA), or the Tea Collection a line of designer clothing for children that has, you guessed it, nothing to do with tea. Another "tea" that is so esoteric that it does not usually appear in my search results is the town of Tea, South Dakota.

Numerous tea bloggers have written about these various subjects which crop up in their searches. Katrina recently wrote a post Stop stealing my tea! which references an earlier post by lahikmajoe, anything but a Tea Party? And I'm sure I've missed many other great posts on this topic.

How to search effectively:

Fortunately, there are easy ways to filter out these unwanted search results from your tea searches. I want to offer a few tips of how to effectively search for tea, filtering out unwanted results, without overzealously removing legitimate results.

In google (which is used both for google search and google alerts, something that many tea bloggers and others in the tea industry use) and in fact on most search engines and even many local search features of websites, you can include a minus sign (-) before a word or phrase in quotes to exclude things. For example, I often search:

  • tea -party -partiers

  • tea -"Texas education"

Note that you might not want to search for tea -texas or tea -education because there might be relevant tea-related searches that include the terms "Texas" or "education" but do not refer to the Texas Education Agency. Sometimes I include the term -bagger, as a lot of anti-tea-party rants refer to "tea baggers" without ever mentioning the term "party" or "partiers".

These same principles are also useful if you are an advertiser who is buying pay-per-click advertising through a keyword-based service like google AdWords. In this case, the excluded words are called "negative keywords": they can help you better reach your target audience.

Filter your searches only if necessary:

My advice though is to not use these sorts of filtered searches unless they're necessary. People may write about an actual tea party, or there may be an interesting news item about tea on a page that contains the text "party" somewhere on the page, even if the page itself is not about the tea party movement.

If you're sorting through pages of irrelevant results to find one or two relevant ones, then consider filtering things out. But if you just see one or two irrelevant items in a page of highly relevant results, you're probably better off just skipping over them manually.

What have your experiences with irrelevant results in tea-related searches, alerts, or advertising been?

Are there any major topics that show up in tea searches that I missed here? Have you found any effective ways to filter your searches beyond what I mentioned here?

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