Alert Relevance: Off the Rails?

October 10, 2013

I signed up for alerts via the service. My topic has been “enterprise search.” In the last month or so, I have noticed that the Yahoo alerts are cheerleading for an outfit called Here’s a snap of the alert I received today:


The top hit is not about enterprise search in my traditional context. The “enterprise search” refers to’s ability to push content to the top of a results list. On one hand, manipulations that give a company focused on spoofing results pride of place in an alert is evidence that Yahoo and other systems cannot detect methods of manipulation. On the other hand, the ability a marketing manager struggling to “prove” that his/her efforts are of value to a company will want to hire these manipulators as quickly as possible.

What does this type of “alert” manipulation suggest to me?

First, the notion of relevance is completely subverted from objective results germane to a query. That’s too bad for those who don’t know the difference between a relevant result and an off-point result.

Second, the endless discussions about whether the results lists bias one site versus another or boost one concept in relation to another are irrelevant. The systems seems to be more under the control of the spoofers than the folks responsible for the search system. I hope self-driving automobiles work better.

Third, the hype about systems understanding context, semantics, and personalization seems to be either unworkable or too expensive to implement. Enterprise search does not connote SEO or search engine optimization to me. Why am I seeing these results?

Answer: One more example of search becoming less and less reliable and useful. You can set up a Yahoo Alert and judge the utility of the service for yourself at

Stephen E Arnold, October 10, 2013


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