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I'm currently working on a news website and have a question regarding the search interface:

should search results be ordered by relevancy or date by default?

I've checked out a couple of websites and I've seen both settings. Personally, I think results should be ordered by relevancy by default because I assume the user searches for the most accurate result first.

What do you think of this?

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as a user, i would always want to see relevant data.. sorting can be provided with results. –  Awesh Aug 8 '13 at 14:00
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I assume by 'relevance' you actually mean textual similarity (a la tf-idf, etc)? True 'relevance' to the user would include date as a variable. –  Brendon Aug 8 '13 at 14:26
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For news website in particular, I think ordering results by date alone is counter productive. If I want to search among recent news, I'd be better off browsing the list of recent news. I'd typically only use the search function in a news site to look for something in the old archives. –  Lie Ryan Aug 8 '13 at 16:33
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7 Answers 7

The best thing is a relevance & date algorithm. The 'new' and 'relevant' should pop in front of the 'old' and 'as relevant'.

Actually, the age of the news is part of the relevance.

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+1 particularly for "age of the news is part of the relevance": there's a reason old news is an idiom in English. –  msanford Aug 8 '13 at 14:59
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+1. OP need to distinguish between "textual relevancy" (a statistical analysis of the frequency of search keyword in text) and "actual relevancy" (an ordering rule that is specifically designed to optimize the goal of the task at hand). Actual relevancy typically incorporate textual relevancy, recency, popularity among similar searchers, among various other metrics. –  Lie Ryan Aug 8 '13 at 16:26
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My gut here says you should go with date as the default ordering. If you're browsing outdated information, then even if the results are relevant, you're still not getting good results.

A more proper answer probably would ask what kind of news you're presenting, and what kind of searching you're expecting users to do. If you're a tech news site, there's a high probability that old news is no longer relevant, so date is even more important.

But if you're, say, a science news site, then date isn't quite as important. In that case relevancy would be a better choice because older news is more likely to be still viable.

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+1 for considering the type of news. I'm a software developer and Google has an annoying tendency to give more relevancy to really old software development content that is no longer applicable. –  17 of 26 Aug 8 '13 at 19:32
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Would certainly align them with "Recency" rather "Relevancy" - one main strong reason would be that in a largely "Immediate Gratification" as trend would put sites (news site) more towards Recency as top priority.

Readers would want to position and look out for the latest update on any particular news ofcourse its said that somehow "Twitter feeds" are helping news based sites to gather information up-to-date. With the behavior and trend is more of "Contextual" as environmental noise - definitely readers would be looking up this front, with a hope to switch to Relevance if in need (as option provided for that to handle).

I think - if Relevancy is mapped with some form of scores or rate (trying to intelligently combine) then your Recency can start binding these two in unison.

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After reading the original question more carefully, I would say let the user choose between the two sorting type before they submit. Personally, I prefer showing the most recent article first when it comes to news.

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Let the user decide!

He might not look always for the "most relevant" result (or whatever you define as relevant) but may as well try to find something that happened ~3 months ago; and not 2 hours ago.

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You could always give the user an option, like on Google. You can either sort by "Most recent" or 'Most relevant". However what's relevant must be recent - otherwise it's something of the past, irrelevant. It's called "news" because it's "new" information, recently available.

However because the user is specifically searching for something as opposed to browsing the latest news, it might be appropriate to display more relevant information first. In saying that, you should still try your best to show recent results first. So if two items are about equally relevant - then resort to date as a sorting method.

If you're new to SEO, you may want to read Google's starter guide:

http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.co.uk/en/uk/webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf

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As someone who has worked on news sites for the last 4 years, there is no straight answer.

Using an algorithm that weights both of them makes the most sense. Although giving a user a toggle after search is probably ideal.

Think about the intent.

It's either I want the most recent news on this topic.. or.. I want the most relevant news on this topic. You can split it down the middle but you will always be leaving some users out. Most news sites do not do this well.

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