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KIP & CAF Projects

No Uncertain (Search) Terms: Unburying Webpages with Google Mini


Website Search Improvement Project

Fortified with new capacities provided by a Google Mini search appliance, AU’s revamped website search service promises to make information on AU’s website much easier to find.

The biggest advantage of the new service, scheduled to launch in spring 2011, is that it gives staff the power to refine search rankings and results, says Hume.

“If there’s a degree program or a page or a department that’s not coming up for a relevant search term, we’ll be able to help them figure out why,” he says. “And if we can’t get it to rise to the top of search results, we can actually push it to the top.

“We hope that over time this will make the programs a lot more discoverable, because we’ll be able to ensure that a broader range of potential search terms will bring them to the top of search results.”

This is a new feature for the website search service, and Hume says it has great potential to benefit programs and places in the site that are currently harder to find.

Another big improvement is the service’s ability to provide detailed search metrics such as what webpages are coming up for particular search terms. “Metrics can tell us what people are looking for and what they’re not finding on our site,” says Hume.

In addition to providing the information that will help staff refine search rankings and results, the metrics are useful for other purposes. For example, says Hume, search metrics can be useful in analyzing how well your site’s navigational structure is working. If people keep searching for a particular thing with your search service, it could mean your site structure is failing to lead people to this information.

“One of our goals for this project is to gather those search metrics we don’t have at this point,” says Hume. He and his team will then use the metrics to improve the search service and other aspects of AU web content on an ongoing basis.

The new search service will be accessible from the home page of the myAU web portal for students and staff, the home page of the public AU website, and the automated FAQ service Questions? Ask AU (formerly known as askAU).