Internal search – I’m paying attention – are you?

Back in November 2011, we re-launched the Central Bedfordshire Council website search engine to Zoom. It is not expensive, it does not have a flash look to it (though it can do!), but it does one thing…the job. That is, if you know how to make your internal search engine work for you.

I was recommended a book specialising in internal search – Search Analytics for your Site: Conversations with your Customers by Louis Rosenfeld. This book walks you through the well of knowledge you have at your fingertips from the searches your customers are performing.

It explains how to analyse the results and make the most from them. You can then use this knowledge to amend your page structure / content in order that the most relevant pages are coming up in the search. Do you know what the most popular search is on YOUR website? Do you know how many customers are using your website search engine?

I set to find that out and make improvements based on this knowledge.

In 2012, 143 unique search terms represented 20% of the most popular searches. Council tax was top with 2.48% followed by jobs at 1.27% and libraries at 0.41%.

I did two things with this information:

  1. I tested our search to make sure the right page was coming up in position 1 – if it wasn’t I fixed the content to ensure the right page came up
  2. I changed our navigation so customers did not need to search for these key phrases

Change based on solid customer insight

Fast forward to 2014 stats. Council tax is still a popular term to search for but it is dropped to position 4 and there were 75% LESS customers searching for it. The top searched term ‘Planning’ had just 0.54% of total searches performed on the site.

256 unique search terms now represent 20% of the most popular searches. We don’t have a huge peak at the top of the chain with a large number of customers unable to find key information.

We also do not have the same reliance on search as we have constantly tweaked our navigation to improve the user experience.

A large number still choose to use search as a quick way to navigation around the site. However, I am ok with that. It was the previous reliance on search, which I was not happy with.

We get 65% of our traffic via Google searches so there is a lot less reliance on our internal search these days. However, I find it invaluable to check search terms every week to see what our customers are looking for and then plugging gaps in website content and / or amending the navigation.

I have also been lucky enough to get a few top tips along the way from the author of the book, Louis Rosenfeld via Twitter and email. Louis – as ever, I couldn’t have done it without your wise words!

If you’d like to know more about what I have done over the past few years on our search engine, then watch my Brighton SEO talk – An untapped resource for optimising your website.




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