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Internal search - an untapped resource | Alan Ferguson | BrightonSEO conference 12 April 2013
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Internal search - an untapped resource | Alan Ferguson | BrightonSEO conference 12 April 2013

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Alan Ferguson - Web Manager, Central Bedfordshire Council. Alan spoke recently at BrightonSEO about how the www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk has been improved using internal search analytics.

Alan Ferguson - Web Manager, Central Bedfordshire Council. Alan spoke recently at BrightonSEO about how the www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk has been improved using internal search analytics.

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  • Alan Ferguson Web Manager Central Bedfordshire Council Twitter: @alanfergs E: alan.ferguson@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/alanferguson2008
  • A few years ago, we had a large website with 2900 pages due to a merger of 3 councils. The positive of starting with a lot of information is that it gives you a wealth of knowledge, about how your customers using the website, showing which areas interest them and which are a turn off. Our website statistics showed us that 80% of our visitors were looking at just 7% of our pages. That’s 200 pages out of 2,900.
  • Why did we need 2900 pages if customers were really only interested in the top two or three hundred. We needed to cut the crap. Or to give it a posh term, we needed to carry out a content review. I prefer cut the crap!
  • We focussed on the top 80% highest viewed pages to give us a starting point. We removed “nice to have” pages and pages which didn’t have an owner. This left us with 760 pages – a 75% reduction. We re-launched our website and added a new internal search engine. We use Zoom. Off the shelf. Good value for money.
  • The real value with using Zoom was that for the first time, we could pull out the log files. This showed me in the customers own words what they wanted from Central Bedfordshire Council. All of a sudden I had a LOT of information. How could I use it? I got recommended this book about internal search. I got to page 21 and had that moment of clarity we all love. Let me take you to that moment….
  • There were over 260,000 searches on our site last year. That means about 1 in 5 customers used search. A lot of customers perform the same search, so breaking this down further gave me 82k unique searches. Sorting these by most popular showed that the top 20% of all customer searches accounted for just 141 search terms. That’s 141 searches out of 82k.
  • If you give bad service in a restaurant, you run the risk of losing that customer for good plus getting slaughtered on any number of social media sites. If you give bad service on a website, it’s pretty much the same story. I wanted to check our customers service, so I acted like a customer by doing the same searches on our site. I checked what came up in position 1 and what should have been in position 1. If there was a gap in the results then I had a problem. I recorded the difference between the rank and score of the two pages – our search gives a score for each search performed in terms of relevance. I found out that about three quarters of the searches were returning bad results. That meant bad results for about 40,000 customers.
  • Next – I spent some time fixing it. I optimised pages to give customers what they were looking for in their language, not Council speak. No-one ever does DIY then thinks “I must take this to the local Household Waste Recycling Centre.” They think – right sooner I get to the tip, sooner it’s feet up and beer time. We now call a tip a tip. I rechecked the results after making the changes. I made 40,000 unhappy customers…happy. That’s a better user experience for 3% of our customers, for very little effort. That’s what great about this work – it’s all measurable.
  • When first preparing this talk I spotted this quote on Twitter which really stuck with me – you can feel the pain Tim is feeling, explaining how important search is! Search is hugely important, but navigation is too. They work together. Using the information I had, I tweaked our main navigation to give the most popular topics the coverage they needed. Again, I used words and phrases which customers were using.
  • In March 2013, 80% less customers searched for the phrase Council tax on our website, just because we lifted this to the top level of our navigation. The traffic to the web pages was up by 15%. Council tax is an area were we have dug a lot deeper into the search terms. We clustered the top 80% of search terms associated with this to build our pages. Our aim is to return a correct result for any search relating to council tax. If I had more time I’d go even deeper into search patterns over time of day and week. But, that’s for another day! We want to give the customer what they were looking for on a plate.
  • Anyway, enough about the council. Let’s give this some real world context. Every week we shop online. A few years ago, on Tesco, I used to type in my search for potatoes and I got this. I mean every week. I’d be swearing at the computer, thinking that would make a difference. I tried other sites – they were worse….and still are. I did a search for milk on ASDA’s site a few weeks ago when preparing for this talk. Yes. I got offered milk. But ASDA kindly suggested other products which customers bought.
  • Yes, their search suggests customers who bought milk might want to buy some Jack Daniels, Milk of Magnesia and flea tablets. I like a drink, but I cannot quite relate buying milk for my cereal and washing it down with a JD and Coke. If I did, I’d probably want some Milk of Magnesia. So maybe I’m the one who is wrong here…. Someone with a logical mind in ASDA needs to sit down and do their weekly shopping on their own website.
  • Anyway, back to Tesco. They sorted their search out and get our business every week. About £5,000 a year. We’ve been shopping online for 6 years. So we’ve spent about £30k with them and maybe £100 on the odd visit to ASDA. I’d say perfecting internal search is time and money well spent when you see those sort of figures for 1 family! Hopefully you can relate those figures to clients or companies you all work for.
  • To finish off, the book I mentioned once again is Search analytics for your site. It’s on Amazon. You’ll see a review from me. I’m not related to Lou, nor am I on commission. I just think that its worth a read if you want to take internal search as seriously as I do.
  • Thanks for listening today. Feel free to fire any questions through twitter.

Transcript

  • 1. Alan Ferguson Web ManagerCentral Bedfordshire Council @alanfergsCentral Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 2. Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 3. Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 4. Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 5. Search analytics for your site Louis Rosenfeld @louisrosenfeldCentral Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 6. 141 = 20%Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 7. Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 8. Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 9. Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 10. Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 11. Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 12. Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 13. Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 14. Search analytics for your site Louis Rosenfeld - £23.95 I’m not on commission – honest!Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
  • 15. Thanks @alanfergsCentral Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk