SEO News
author-default

Where Tagging Works: Searching for a Good Game

by , Comments

A new site jumps on the tagging bandwagon and actually ends up with useful search results. Why? Because it's narrowly focused on a specific topic and has a large degree of agreement among its user community.

Search Engine Watch regulars know that we're highly skeptical about tagging as a search savior.

For those of you who aren't familiar with tagging, it's simply the ability to annotate pages, images or other web content with descriptive keywords—you "tag" them with terms that supposedly help more precisely describe the page, in theory making it more "understandable" by search engines.

Tagging is a craze, but it's far from new. Meta tag standards for web pages were introduced way back in 1996, and other metadata standards for information retrieval date back to the 1970s. Considered alone, metadata can be a terrific thing, especially if it's created by a trained information professional using well-defined, standard terms (a "controlled vocabulary" in librarian parlance).

The problem with the web, of course, is that most web authors aren't trained information professionals nor do they use a controlled vocabulary when creating tags. Combine that with the subversive use of metadata by spammers to manipulate search engine rankings, and you know why search engines have virtually ignored metadata since day one.

Despite this unpromising history, tagging has exploded as a "new" way for users to annotate content and ostensibly improve the performance of search tools that take tags into account. Yahoo, in particular, has been a strong proponent of tagging, advocating its use in MyWeb, Flickr and elsewhere.

Tagging can in fact be useful for a service like Flickr (Yahoo's photo sharing service) because images are inherently difficult for a search engine to index. Even a few words associated with an image can help it get found far more easily than if it's only identified by a filename. But the lack of controlled vocabulary or agreement on meaning of words among users can also lead to virtually worthless search results.

I have yet to see an example of a generalist site that uses tagging (search engine, social bookmarks, etc) that has impressed me with its use of tags in refining or enhancing search. But tagging can work, especially when applied by a relatively homogenous community to a narrow subject. End of rant—here's a look at a site where tagging actually works fairly well.

Millions of Games

Millions of Games is just what it suggests: A search tool for finding all manner of games on the internet. What makes it different from other similar sites is that users are encouraged to tag games (this is called "mogging" a game). And with Millions of Games, most of the heavy-lifting for creating tags has already been done by the developers of the site.

The site uses controlled vocabulary (called "Gameology") to describe categories (arcade, shooter, puzzle, etc). Although you can also add your own free-form tags, these category tags are well known to most users, so there's little ambiguity about what the tags mean.

Millions of games also measures popularity, both user rankings (from one to five stars) and how frequently a game is played.

And like other community sites that use tagging, Millions of Games allows you to see information about other users that you might find helpful. If someone rated or mogged a game you like, you can see other games they've mogged, as well as other games they've played, and how often. This is a good "peripheral" way of finding new games based on the tastes and behavior of others.

Tagging on Millions of Games isn't perfect, but in general it does seem to work better than other services that aren't as narrowly focused. And the extra information you get on each game, like ratings, the number of people who have mogged a game, its thumbnail image and so on lead to an overall quite good search experience (not to mention a lot of fun new ways to waste time, if you're into gaming).

For tagging to succeed in the way that its proponents envision, this "less is more" approach offers a lot of advantages. Rather than allowing users to tag anything with any words they fancy, adding structure, defining a mutually agreeable taxonomy and relying less on idiosyncratic language seems like a very promising approach. Millions of Games is an example of a good start to a more useful form of "structured tagging."

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

IAC/Interactive and Jeeves...
ClickZ Today Nov 2 2005 1:53AM GMT
How-to Grow through SEM, and How Not To...
dmnews.com Nov 2 2005 1:48AM GMT
Courting Clicks...
Internet Retailer Nov 2 2005 1:47AM GMT
Thomson powers Tiscali local search listings...
Netimperative Nov 2 2005 1:45AM GMT
Yahoo Shopping 2005: Interview with Rob Solomon & Chris Saito...
ComparisonEngines.com Nov 2 2005 1:43AM GMT
Google Gears Up to Resume Book Scanning...
Search Engine Watch Nov 2 2005 1:38AM GMT
Encyclopedia Britannica Offering RSS Alerts...
The Virtual Chase Alert Nov 2 2005 1:36AM GMT
Jacso Reviews CiteSeer and the Time Archive...
Gale Nov 2 2005 1:35AM GMT
Microsoft rolls out online versions of Windows, Office to defuse Google threat...
Canadian Press via Canada.com Nov 1 2005 9:55PM GMT
Beta search engine in works for b-to-b media...
BToBOnline Nov 1 2005 9:44PM GMT
Exalead Brings Search Application To U.S...
Information Week Nov 1 2005 9:18PM GMT
Internet guru expects to link minds at Google...
CanadaIT.com Nov 1 2005 9:09PM GMT
Google Base: What might Google be up to?...
ZDNet Nov 1 2005 3:37AM GMT
Survey: Holiday Shoppers Prefer In-Store Purchases But Online Research...
dmnews.com Nov 1 2005 2:52AM GMT
Use Excel Template to Plot Points on a Yahoo Map...
ResearchBuzz Nov 1 2005 2:46AM GMT


ClickZ Live Toronto Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!

Recommend this story

comments powered by Disqus