Improving Internal Website Search

Posted: Oct 11, 2019
Content Management Development Sitefinity
Content is king, but it is useless if no one can find it. Keyword search allows a user to quickly and efficiently sift through the fancy layouts and design of a website to go straight to the desired content. Sure, the website’s navigation is a key component and is one method visitors will use to find their desired information. A website’s navigation should be built to match the needs and interests of the users. 
However, it is often the case that the website’s owners add their personal bias when creating a navigation structure based on what they think is important. Therefore, there must be a method to bridge that gap. The keyword search tool then becomes the primary outlet for users to find the information that is important to them.

Searching More than Just Your Website

Sitefinity's web content management software allows developers, like me, to customize the internal search mechanism.  The search is built on the Apache Lucene technology. Lucene is the de facto standard for search libraries. It is a full-featured text search engine. Sitefinity has exposed portions of this technology to allow for customization. As a developer, I can plug in data from other sources outside of a website to include in your website’s search results. This ability allows developers to easily include content from many different locations in one set of search results. A keyword search pulling results from many different locations (often the website and other systems like an AMS, CRS, and/or LMS) is often referred to as a federated search. For each result, all that is needed is the title, content, and the URL of where the content can be found.

Customization by Facets

An additional customization that can be made to the keyword search is the creation of facets. Facets allow users to filter the search results by a particular attribute. For example, a user enters a keyword into the search and receives 200 results. It is unlikely that the user will review all 200 results. In this instance, you will want to present to the user with the ability to filter these results down to only what they are looking for. Maybe the user is only looking for events or blog posts, and therefore would select one of these facets to eliminate the results that do not fall within these content types. Another example of a facet is a date range, giving the user the ability to filter by when the content was published.

Searching by Category

If you have visited websites such as Best Buy or Amazon recently, you might have noticed that you no longer have to enter a search term to obtain these search facets. The reason is that these websites use their navigation structure to define their product categories so the navigation, itself, is a filter. These websites manage a wide range of products, all of which are distinct, yet can have similarities between them. Informative content on your website can be treated just like a product, searching through it in the same way as you would a product. All of the content on a website can belong to shared categories. Sitefinity allows users to setup these shared categories and we can leverage that to create facets in your website’s keyword search.

Customizing Search Results

As an organization, your website’s administrator can predetermine what content should be prioritized on the search results for the user’s specific requests. This is helpful when marketing a product, event, blog post, etc. For example, if a user searches for the term “Red,” the first results can be something that doesn’t pertain to the term, but something your organization chooses to promote. All other results will be ranked by their relevancy to the search term. The goal of this is to give the user a perfect balance of the information they request as well as information your organization would like them to see. 

Deliver Relevant Content to your Users

As you can see, there are many options to guide users to content that is most relevant to them on your website. Given that the layout and navigation of a site may not always get a user to the information that is important to them, you have the option of giving the user more tools on the website’s keyword search by providing more results from more locations and allowing the user to filler by type or category. If you want to learn more about efficiently delivering the most relevant content to your users through custom internal search, reach out to the Vanguard team!
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Ken Anderson

Web Developer