Strike Outs or Home Runs?

In honor of the current World Series, we looked at search capabilities delivered by the most popular sports web sites. Nearly all these sites featured stories about the latest games, so there was sufficient content to discover.

After two games, we would expect to see consistently strong search results. After all, the Series is definitely newsworthy and interest levels are high among sports fanatics and more fair weather fans. The sites would need to meet their needs.

The results were surprisingly inconsistent, based on studying outputs from searching “Red Sox” (our favorite!) and the more generic “Baseball” on these sites. Here’s how they performed:

* When searching for the Red Sox, who reported on the first or second game in their initial results? Home Runs for ESPN, Yahoo Sports; Base Hits for Fox Sports, CBS Sports, AOL Sports, Sports Illustrated; and Strike Out for MLB.

* When looking up Baseball, which sites produced information on this current Series? Home Run for Fox Sports; Base Hit for Sports Illustrated; and Strike Outs for Yahoo Sports, ESPN, CBS Sports, MLB, AOL Sports.

Below are additional Search Notes, for these popular sports web sites.

Search Notes:

Yahoo Sports – Somewhat larger than normal search box was located on upper right side, with both site and web options. When searching for Red Sox on the site, the first result was the relevant MLB official team link followed by decent results from AP and Reuters. Also this page displayed image results of Series players at Fenway. After entering Baseball as a search term, however, we saw that Yahoo returned one relevant result mixed with mostly irrelevant results.

ESPN – Search box was located on the upper right, and offered a site search with options for photo, video, audio, local and TV searches. Putting in the term Red Sox led to a perfect response! It first showed a recent scoreboard for the team, with more stats. Then it linked to an ESPN keyword (their term) and very specific Series coverage. The remaining results came from AP and ESPN news. When searching for Baseball, though, we didn’t see any relevant results appear for the Series. From there, we could select Major League baseball – but even those results didn’t cover the Series.

Fox Sports on MSN – Search box was located on upper right, with both a site and web search. On the site, the Red Sox search brought up a key link to the team including video from the games (since Fox carried them on TV). Yet the rest of these results missed the Series and touched on general team stories, written by Fox columnists or AP. When searching Baseball, the site redirected to its MLB page rather than search results – a good move because it featured the Series and latest game news.

CBS Sports – Small search box (powered by Google) was located at the top right, with both site and web search. The term Red Sox offered up a perfect first result, which linked to a team page with appropriate AP news links and stats. However, the remaining links were quite outdated, with earlier news, message boards and community pages. The term Baseball brought up irrelevant results about fantasy baseball leagues and updates, and no Series links at all.

NFL Internet – Site stays unranked since it’s about football. The search was located on upper right, and defaulted to article results as reported by the NFL or AP. When you searched for a team, there was a nice set of team links which appeared first. There were also tabbed options to search for video and images. All results were sortable by relevance and date (also author for articles).

MLB – Ahh, back on terra firma in baseball again. That being said, the search box was quite small, almost hard to find, and powered by Sun Microsystems. The Red Sox search results were irrelevant, at the MLB site! Results were grouped by news from this year and earlier years, team news, ballpark news and shopping. Most were contributed by writers, rather than news feeds. The Baseball search also brought forth many non-newsworthy results, from team press releases as well as content from writers.

eBay Sports – Site stays unranked since it’s related to sports memorabilia. eBay prominently featured its search box in the upper-center of pages. Like all things eBay, you looked at memorabilia for sale and could refine by categories as well as sort by price, timing, etc. (Of course, all kinds of appropriate Red Sox and Baseball items were for sale.)

AOL Sports – Nice big search box was displayed at the top and centered, with web search as an option along with site search for images, video, news, local and more. When searching for sports, the results come from news sources. The Red Sox search produced just a few AP headlines about the second Series game. The Baseball search turned up irrelevant results, even with relevance and recency sort options. All results came from AP feed, and we’re still wondering why these results were poor.

SI – Small search box was on homepage, then a more prominent search box on search and article pages thereafter. The Red Sox search was passable, producing relevant Series news in positions 4-6. We didn’t know why the first three results had nothing to do with the Series. Most results came from AP, and some others from SI writers. The Baseball search provided better results, as the first six links were about the Series so far before trailing into irrelevant ones.

Turner Sports (NASCAR, PGA, etc) – Sites stay unranked since they’re about racing and golf. The NASCAR search was located on the upper right, and produced stories written by NASCAR as well as video matches on the side. Results were sortable by date versus relevance. For the PGA, there didn’t seem to be any search present on the site.

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