The BBC needs to consider seasonality in its site search strategy

Author avatar

Stephen Kenwright

Early on Sunday afternoon I wanted to know how long it would take for a cheesecake to set so I Googled “cheesecake recipe” and clicked on the second organic result: BBC Good Food’s cheesecake collection. As it turns out it takes longer than I’ve got, so I click the search icon and enter “dessert” for more ideas.

The first result: the best family barbecue desserts. I’m not having a BBQ and I’m actually entertaining grandparents so I scroll down.

Although I’m not having a BBQ it is still summer. So why all the Christmas recipes in the results? Of the 15 results on page 1:

  • 6 are Christmas specific
  • 2 are Winter recipes – gingerbread and toffee apples
  • 5 are appropriate for any season (several even include “for all seasons” in the title)
  • 2 are arguably summer recipes – the barbecue desserts and a lemon dessert recipe guide.

I don’t feel that BBC Good Food has given me any indication that its search function is close to giving me the answer I’m looking for, so I press back and search for “dessert” instead.

Top of the SERPs? Probably the most comprehensive page I can imagine – and it’s not on BBC Good Food.

Dan Barker hit the nail on the head (as he always does) when it comes to the actions that the BBC could take:

If messing around with a site’s internal search functionality isn’t an option then its current capabilities should be factored into its content strategy.

It should be relatively easy to create a content hub for “desserts” that will rank first in its own site search because it’s keyword-based (but a site like BBC Good Food – totally seasonal and with a large, digitally savvy organisation behind it – should be able to serve results relevant on the date of the search).

After searching for “dessert” I returned to and searched for “pudding” to see what happens (for the benefit of our non-British readers – we use the two words pretty much interchangeably.

The intent behind a search for “pudding” should be pretty obvious (think about Google’s related searches feature – Yorkshire puddings are unlikely to be related to a search for desserts and Google would know this).

The BBC is lucky in this situation because if I go back to Google and search for “pudding” the top 2 results are on – but what’s stopping the site search from showing me these results?

But following the first search – I’d entered the BBC’s ecosystem and they gave me up. How many other businesses do this? How much money could a business lose overloading its search results with clothes that can’t be worn for months?


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