This post is the first in a series on how to use internal search data as a basis for continuously optimizing your website. As this is the introductory post in the series on utilizing your visitors' search queries, we will start out by establishing what exactly is the link between web governance and internal search.
Web governance and website search
If you look at your website search from a web governance perspective, there are many areas of responsibility for which you will need to have procedures and clearly appointed responsibilities. There are strategic decisions about what types of content you want to be available through the search function and how different content types should be prioritized. You also need to consider maintenance of search results, individual page searchability, and analysis of search statistics including the presentation of findings.
You will typically have many different people and roles sharing these responsibilities, and not just one person who is responsible for everything search related.
Take individual page searchability as an example. On the one hand, it is about ensuring that the technical structure of the page makes it easy for the search engine to read and understand it. But it is also about making sure that the content on the page is written in a clear language so it is obvious what the page is about, and how it differs from other pages on the website. These are two very different tasks, but they have the same overall purpose. This is an example of why clear areas of responsibility and procedures are important, and it leads us to the first step you can take toward improving your website based on search data.
Do a check-up on your search function and optimize it
1. Build bridges between the terms that your users use and the terms on the website.
There is often a difference. What you call "bin collection" might be called "rubbish" by your users. One way of dealing with this is to integrate the terms used by your audience on the webpage. If a term should not be used on the website, the search engine can be set up to expand a search query for that term and search for the synonym present on the website as well.
2. Give the search results relevant and specific titles.
The best place to do this is on the page itself - either in the title or the heading. If that is not possible you might be able to adjust the titles shown in your internal search tool.
3. Make sure the most relevant pages are being ranked highest.
Your search tool should be in line with the strategy for the website in general. If the goal for your website is for the users to use self service options, self service pages should be ranked highest, followed by pages with background information about the service. If your websites main goal is to promote the skills of the people working there, employee profiles should of course be ranked highest. Sometimes there will be a need to refer to an external website or one your subsites that is relevant to the query at hand. In most cases minutes, forum posts and old news should be ranked low, so they only display if no other information is relevant for a query.
The next post in this series will focus on how to evaluate whether your website delivers the content your visitors expect to find.In order to dive into your visitors' search and behavior, you'll have to know web analytics - but don't worry! It doesn't have to be complicated. Download our guide "Web Analytics: Where to Begin" to get off to a great start.