The Search function is probably one of the best-known but least understood features of Associate-O-Matic. It’s obvious to everyone what the search box is for, but how it works and what the options are that govern it are shrouded in mystery. Hopefully this explanation will shed some light on the details.
At first glance, the ability to search your site should do just that – search your site for any keyword(s) you enter. However, the reality is that the searching ability is very strongly governed by the limits set under the Search tab of your control panel. The best way to explain the Search function is to examine the options, one by one.
First up is Search All Products. If the Display Search All option is selected (under the Display tab), then you can choose here what will be searched with ‘All Products’. Either Blended (all of your store categories) or a specific store category. If you decide to use the second option, you can use the default node, or a subcategory node.
For example, if your site is about televisions, you can search all of your categories, OR the default Electronics node OR the Television & Video subcategory node. This can be handy if you don’t want the ability to search through accessories or TV cabinets, or books about TV shows (if you have them in your site). Another important thing to note is that All Products does not mean All of Amazon. We’ll get to that ability later.
After that is the option to Search Within Results. If this is set to on, an additional link is added to the search bar. This allows you to enter a second search term and search again through the initial results. So if you search for the word ‘horse’, you can then enter a second term (like ‘doctor’) and click this link to append the second term to the first (ie; search for ‘horse doctor’).
Advanced Search allows you to search through specific filters depending on the categories. When you click on the link, a new page is opened with various parameters to use. For DVDs you can search through ‘Actor/Actress’. With books you can search for ‘Authors’ or ‘Title’, etc. ISBN/ASIN (International Standard Book Number or Amazon Standard Identification Number) is allowed for any category, and will always appear. The ISBN/ASIN Search will search all of Amazon, regardless of if the category appears in your store or not.
The next option, Search Combo, determines whether or not your site/category keywords (if any) are included in your searches. If set to ‘yes’ then the SDK or any category keywords are appended to your search terms. If set to ‘no’, then just your search term is used.
For example, let’s look again at the television store we mentioned earlier, with Search Combo turned on. Your category is ‘Electronics’, and your keyword is ‘television’. You search Electronics for ‘Sony’, and what you really search for is ‘Sony television’. Your results should be a list of Sony TVs and accessories, etc. With the Search Combo turned off, you search Electronics for ‘Sony’ without ‘television’. Meaning your results will be an array of Sony devices – TVs, radios, cameras, etc.
So if you want to keep searches focused within your store’s niche, and/or use keyword results for your categories, you can leave the Search Combo turned on. If you want search results that reach past your niche and/or don’t use keywords to focus categories, set this to off. The results of the Search Combo are influenced by the Search Priority option, discussed below.
The Search Recovery option determines how many extra ‘passes’ the search function takes, using various combinations depending on your settings. The search term you enter is always the first thing looked for (‘horse’, ‘Sony’, etc.). If that fails to find any results, the Site Default Keyword is used next (if you have one specified), followed by any Category keywords. You can determine the number of passes (from 0-3) allowed. If you select ‘0’, only one pass is made (no recovery passes). The default setting is ‘1’, which allows one recovery pass if nothing is found in the initial search.
The AOM Online Documentation includes some charts to show the various combinations used in recovery searches, and the priority order used.
Our final option is the Search Priority. This determines which keyword has priority in recovery searches – the term entered by the user, or the ones you set when you created the categories. This option is obviously dependent upon how many Search Recovery passes you allow (see previous option, above), as well as your Search Combo setting and if you have a Site Default Keyword and/or Category keywords. Most of the time you’ll want to leave this at the default setting, to allow user keywords to take priority over your own keywords.
The remaining items under the Search tab determine how many pages you want to allow for Items, Marketplace links and Reviews. As these are not really part of the search feature, and self-evident in how they operate, we will not discuss them here.
As you can see, the search feature can be adjusted to provide varying degrees of functionality, depending on the settings available. Most of the time, the defaults are perfectly fine. But if you feel the results of a search are not what you expect, you can change the options discussed above to give you (and your customers) a different set of responses.
I search for something, and it’s not found. But it’s on Amazon! – Are you searching in Blended mode, or against one of your categories? Try it both ways to see if one gives better results than the other. And do you have keywords limiting your searches (check your Search Combo setting). Also, some items may be excluded from the API, and thus not available in a search outside of Amazon.
When I search in Blended mode, the results match the search term. But if I click the ‘See all items’ link, why do I get the default category without my search term? – Try setting Search Combo to ‘on’.
Why do I only get 12 results, say, when the same search in Amazon returnes 145 items? – Your search may not include all the categories Amazon searches, since items may be cross-matched to different category nodes. Also if Search Combo is ‘on’, try turning it off.
Why can’t I use logical operators like ‘and’, ‘or’, etc. in my searches? – The AOM search function operates in the same way as Amazon’s, which doesn’t use ‘and’ or ‘or’. However you can use negative keywords in your searches, such as Sony -Panasonic, which would look for ‘Sony’, but exclude ‘Panasonic’ from the search results.