In mid-September last year, we added a new search engine to the public website. Our existing search wasn’t very good. In fact, at times, it was downright awful. So this was a priority piece of work to get live to make sure that customers could find content quickly.
We ended up adding a Cludo search engine. This product enables us to configure a range of search functionality, and also allows us to effectively monitor the usage of search within our site.
As we now have a good few months of data on how customers are using the search, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at how the search is working, and what changes we can make based on the usage and what customers are looking for.
Usage of search
In terms of search usage, internal searching is not that popular. Mostly people tend to search from within Google. However, despite affecting a relatively small percentage of our site users, we do need to make sure we understand how search is used and how we can help customers struggling with it.
In the last three months of 2018:
- 69% of site traffic came via organic search
- 7.41% of traffic visited one of our search pages (up from 3.55% in 2017)
- 44,869 searches
Where do customers search from?
When they do get to our site, it’s really interesting to see where customers search from, and the types of search they make on particular pages. The page searched from most is, as you might expect, the homepage. After that, it looks like this:
|Page name||Total searches from page|
|View or comment on planning applications||1026|
Along with this information, one of the great things about Cludo search is that we can see what customers searched for from these pages. This helps us make content decisions to improve the experience for customers.
For example, a large number of searches from the planning applications page relate to addresses or particular planning application numbers. To help customers get to the right place for this search, we could consider changing the text on our top tasks. At the moment, it reads ‘View or comment on planning applications’. However, perhaps we need to include the word ‘search’ somewhere in there as well.
From the libraries landing page it gets more interesting. From this page we get a lot of searches for search engines and email clients. My suspicion is that as this page is used as the opening page on the library computers, customers don’t think to navigate to a search engine before making their search. (We’ll be carrying out some user testing in the libraries in the coming months and this is something I will be watching out for!)
To help with this issue, we’ve added the banner below to try and point customers in the right direction if they do try to use our site search as an external search engine.
From the contact us page, we again have quite the variety of searches. The top one was complaints. We’ve since added a link to our complaints section from this page. It will be interesting to see whether searches for complaints from this page drops in the next few months.
One of the main features of Cludo that we have been implementing is banners. We have these for a range of services, such as the above ‘search’ example.
Other banners we have added that have proved useful include one for planning application reference numbers. This banner appears if a matching reference part is searched for:
Handily, we can also monitor the usage of these banners. For example, 41% of customers who see the planning banner have gone onto click on it. The ability to tell that banners are being used allows us to make decisions about whether a banner is doing its job. It might be that the wording on this banner is not quite clear enough to encourage customers to use it. This is something that could be tested further to see what helps boost usage of this.
We have also made use of temporary banners to promote primary school admissions and Christmas opening hours. Cludo allows you to set timed banners, so you can set them to turn on and off at appropriate times. This is really useful for those late night or early morning changes!
Using banners is an ongoing piece of work and we are continuing to investigate how best to use these banners within our search. Each week we are checking the ‘ineffective’ search results from Cludo and seeing where we can add banners to help customers carry out tasks. We’ve also been looking at what other councils do with their search banners to get some inspiration for the type of banners we might use. For example, Surrey County Council also use Cludo search and have some good ideas for banners, such as this one:
If you are using a similar functionality within your search, we’d be interested to discuss what you have found works for you! We’re still very much in the early stages of using banners and would be open to discussing this!