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1) Page titles: Use the words that the staff type in the search engine
It is common for the staff to, for example, search the intranet with the term "credit card", even though the finance department thinks it is definitely a "payment card" or a "card application". As a result, users are of the opinion that the search function of the intranet doesn't work, but the finance department disagrees, because they think intranet finds their content just fine.
The problem, therefore, is not the search engine, but different terminology between the users and the people responsible for the content.
In theory, there are several solutions for this. We could, for example, tune the search engine to understand synonyms. We could create manual search results, or we could add keywords to the pages and so on. However, one solution stands above the rest.
The words that users actually use must be included in the titles of the pages. In this example, the best solution would be to simply title the page as follows:
- "Credit card, i.e. payment card - apply here"
Let's continue with this example.
On the actual page, you can just talk about the payment card or any other term that is the most natural term for the finance department. So it is not worth it trying to persuade the finance department to change their terminology, but they can be encouraged to think about the page titles more from the users' point of view.
This solves the search engine problem very quickly, because search engines place a lot of emphasis on words in page titles. In this case, it doesn't matter if the word "credit card" is not mentioned in the text at all, it is enough that it is in the title.
Sometimes the solution can be to enrich the content text with different terms that are known to be used by users. For example, "parental leave" is a term that future parents may not be familiar with, but instead they write "paternity leave" or "maternity leave" into the search engine. In this case, it can be useful to use these terms in the actual content text, so that users can find the Parental leave page with these terms as well.
2) Solve only one problem per page
With intranets, the tendency of units to produce pages in the way things are organized in their unit is often a challenge. This can lead to strange combination pages with unrelated topics such as cell phones, employee benefits, and foreign travel mixed up on the same page.
When designing the pages, you should always study the terms searched from the search engine and think about the different usage situations of the users. The content of the pages should be as clear and simple as possible. Pages that clearly have several different topics on the same page should be avoided.
The basic rules are:
- Only one problem or group of problems per page
- If you cannot include all the issues on the page in the title, you should consider splitting the page into several pages.
- Even if there is a lot of content about one topic, it's worth keeping it on one page, even if it turns out to be a long page. Search engines appreciate long pages, as long as the page deals with only one theme.
This instruction is similar to public web search engine optimization. Pages dealing with several different themes are difficult for search engines. The operation is significantly facilitated when the pages deal with a specific, limited theme. In this case, the search engine knows how to bring the right page to the top in the right situation.
Of course, content creators must use their own judgement in this matter. You shouldn't break up the content into too small entities, because then browsing the intranet can become tedious for users, when everything has its own little page.
It is generally not worth producing pages that are only a few sentences long. In this case, there would also be too little content for the search engines to understand what the page is really about.
For example, "Instructions for travel" is probably a far too big and broad topic for a reasonable content page. "Scanning a receipt when returning from a trip" is probably too small a topic to have its own page. The best working model can be found somewhere between these extremes.
3) Page content: Include words related to typical problems
Users often look for solutions to their problems from the intranet, and in the midst of the rush they don't have time to think about what the name of the solution is. Instead they write something related to their problem into the search engine.
For example, if a person has a problem with lights, they might not think to search the intranet with "property maintenance service request". Instead they might use terms such as "fluorescent tube", "lamp replacement" or "service contact information". This kind of problem-related search usually requires a bit of creativity from the content creators in order to include the right terms in the content. There are ways to do this though.
In this example, it would be worthwhile to write a list that directs to the property maintenance service request. The list can give examples of problem cases when to contact property maintenance. You can for example list 30 most typical problem situations that the service deals with. When these are listed on the page, the search engine will also find them, and can respond to the "fluorescent tube" search with the top result of "Property maintenance service request".
Various example lists can be written from a problem perspective or just from the perspective of typical topics. For example, the legal department can write a list of examples when to contact the legal department on their contact page.
Intranet reforms are an excellent opportunity to train content creators
Whether you are doing a content restructuring of the intranet or a major renovation, it is always a good idea to offer intranet content creators training on the basic principles of good content production when the reform is done. Even content creators often have a different attitude to the intranet than they do to website content without realizing it. They don't necessarily divide their content into concise pieces in the same way as they are used to on the public websites. That's why it's always worth reminding people of these things from time to time!
Many organizations also curse their bad search engine, when the real problems are in their content: too much overlap, poorly titled pages and too few example lists of issues that people search. By improving the content, many search engines that have been given a bad name can come to life in a whole new way!
(This article has been translated from the Finnish original. Read the original article.)