Findwise has recently published its annual report about Enterprise Search and Findability. We can see that a lot of people are complaining that the search engine is running poorly. There were 36% dissatisfied (users) in 2015. Is there any simple recipe for that? I bet there are some things that can be applied almost immediately!
It is quite common that the reason for bad results is content quality – there is simply no good content in a search engine!
Solution = editors and cleaning: Educate editors to produce better content! Decide on the main message, set informative titles and be consistent with internal wording and phrasing. Also, look over your index, archive outdated content and remove duplicates. Don’t be afraid to remove entire data sources from your index.
If you already have data indexed, it is much easier to search using additional filters. Let’s say, when we are looking for a new washing machine on any good online store we can easily filter out the features such as energy class, manufacturer, price range etc. The same can happen to corporate data, provided that our documents are tagged in a consistent manner.
Solution = tagging: Check tags and metadata consistency for documents, which we search through. If the quality of the tagging leaves much to be desired, it should be corrected (note: this can be done automatically to the large extent!). Then you should consider what filters are the most useful for your company search and implement them in your browser.
Users’ expectations are very important. If they ask and search, they usually want and need, eg. current lunch menu, financial settlement form, a specific procedure for calculating credit risk, sales report for the previous quarter, etc. This unique need of each user is expressed through a simple query. And here we encounter significant problem: these queries are not always well interpreted by the search engine. If you don’t see the desired document/answer in the first five slots of the search results list, even after 2-3 trials by using various queries, you quickly come to the conclusion that the search engine doesn’t not work (well).
Solution = user feed-back: It is fundamental to regularly collect users feed-back on the search engine. If you receive signals that something does not work, then you absolutely need to examine what specific search scenarios aren’t functioning well. These things can be usually fixed pretty easily by using synonyms, promotions or by changing the order of results display.
It is not easy to gather the opinion of everyone in large organiations, as there might be thousands of them. A search engine, like everything else, sometimes breaks down, answers too long for queries and gives silly results, or even no result at all. Additionally, it’s not certain if such a thing contributes to our organization or not, and who makes the use of our search at all.
Solution = logging: Log analysis gives a lot of information about the real use of search engines by the users. Logs tell us how many people are looking for something, what they are asking for, how fast search engine responds, when it gives zero results. It’s priceless information to understand what works, who really benefits, what are the most popular contents and questions, what needs to be improved. It’s crucially important to do it on a regular basis.
And now, when you fixed all these four points related to the search engine please tell me that it continues to be malfunctioning. I’ve yet to hear such a case 🙂