The BBC‘s internal website search is ‘not seen as very effective’ by users, according to a review of the site released by the BBC Trust today.
The number of visits to bbc.co.uk pages that were the result of referrals from the site’s internal search engine dropped from 24% during the last three months of 2006 to 19% over the same period in 2007.
In contrast, 70% of search engine referrals came from Google.
“The search just throws everything at you, you would have to spend ages just looking through the pages to find what you need,” one respondent to the Trust’s research said.
The Trust was also ‘disappointed’ with the number of click-throughs generated by external links on bbc.co.uk and criticised the Beeb’s relationship with other content-sharing websites:
“We are also not convinced that BBC management’s ambition to be ‘part of’ the web rather than ‘on it’ by embedding BBC content in other sites (such as Youtube) plays any role in acting as a ‘trusted guide’ to the wider web. Rather, this is mainly a way of marketing BBC content to those who might not otherwise access it.”
The links to other sites form part of the BBC’s role as a ‘trusted guide’ online.
According to the review, there were 6.7 million click-throughs to external sites from bbc.co.uk in July 2007 – 4.7 million of which originated in the UK.
However, the number of click-throughs from sport and news – the most visited areas of the site – have decreased year-on-year since 2006.
BBC management suggested this decline is a result of the BBC site being seen as a ‘destination’ rather than a way to navigate the web. The Trust argued that issues of accessibility and effectiveness were the problem.
The risk of the BBC becoming a ‘dominant gateway service’ is ‘very much alive’ and requires effective external linking to avoid this, the review stated.
As such the Trust has asked BBC management to submit plans on improving linking and other ways to help users navigate beyond the BBC.