Web content management: Improving intranet search results
Web content management, when applied to a corporate Intranet, means more than buying into an expensive or feature-rich content management system (CMS) software suite. Just like the vastly broader Internet, a corporate Intranet presents company information for internal consumption by its employees and trusted business partners. One of the most often-heard complaints from Intranet users is, “I can’t find what I’m looking for.”
In the modern era of Intranets, the issue that plagues most organizations is an over-abundance of content being available. Search technology has advanced greatly in recent years; however, inaccurate and irrelevant search results are continually being presented to queries no matter what CMS software suite is being used. The lack of a proper taxonomy with keywords and metatags as well as removal of obsolete content is often the cause of poor search results.
Without going into search scopes and refiners, this post will address the more basic elements of improving content relevancy from a Taxonomy (information classification and keywords) standpoint rather than an CMS’s Information Architecture (visual grouping and navigation).
Simply uploading a piece of content into a CMS doesn’t help improve relevancy. Properly tagging the item can go a long way toward improving search results when the item is indexed by the search crawler – the process in which the CMS indexes its content. These keywords are used to boost the content’s relevancy when matched against search queries. For example, a company’s Human Resources department publishes a PDF file with the current year’s vacation policy to their Intranet. This is tagged as ‘Vacation Policy’ and indexed by the search crawler. Users who search for the term ‘Vacation Policy’ (or variations of it) would see this item higher up in the corresponding search results.
Not all content published in a corporate Intranet should live indefinitely. Events come and go, information on webpages become outdated, and company policies require updating. These are just a few examples of what could clutter search results. Continuing with the previous example, the following year an updated version of the company’s vacation policy is published. A new PDF file is uploaded by a different HR user to a different library within the Intranet. This is also indexed by the search crawler. However, if the previous year’s policy is not deleted or archived to be excluded from the search crawl/index, both documents may be returned in a user’s query for ‘Vacation Policy.’ Now imagine this scenario across all departments within a large organization, year over year. Now you can begin to see how the problem can become overwhelming.
With more powerful content management systems available, we can now publish content almost as easily as we are able to delete it. Without proper governance controls and enforcement of the use of metatags with our content, we increasingly make search results that end up being much more difficult to decipher. It’s easy to blame the search engine, but often we should be focusing more on cleaning up the content rather than the search mechanism – the cleaner the content that goes into a CMS, the more relevant the search results will be.
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