*Update: Whoaaa, this blog post is really old! Check out some more recent posts here.
There are three major ways to find intranet content:
- Click through site navigation
- Enter search queries
- Follow links on related pages
That leaves two aspects of findability related to the content itself: 1) search and 2) links on related pages.
Optimize page titles for search
What's the main difference between finding a page by clicking through the navigation versus a search query? Context!
When you navigate to a page you have the context of your entire click path as well as all of the content you've seen on the pages that lead to the one you end up on. This context helps you know when you've hit the correct page.
For example, when you start on the intranet homepage and then click the top-level "Pay & benefits" link, then the "Retirement savings" link and finally on the "Change my allocations" form, you have a very clear understanding of what should be on that final page. But if you see a page called "Change my allocations" in search results, you may not know exactly what it pertains to. So the page may need a full title of "Change my retirement benefits allocations."
When naming a page it's critical to step back from the navigational context and put yourself in the user's shoes. If an employee is searching for the information on the page, what page title should show up in search results that clearly conveys the page's contents and differentiates it from other material on the search results page?
Add synonyms with keywords or tags
Different people use different search terms to search for the same piece of content. I once had users come to me saying they couldn't find the holiday calendar. The holiday calendar was an important piece of content that I thought we'd crafted in a search-friendly way. So I went to one user's desk and had him search for it exactly as he had before. It turns out he was searching for "holidays" — the plural form of the word. The page title was "Holiday Calendar" and the highly literal search engine didn't connect the singular and plural forms of the word. Another user demonstrated how he searched for "paid holidays" rather than "holiday calendar."
By observing users, I learned of the many phrase variations and synonyms people used when searching for the "holiday calendar." With this knowledge in hand, I added tags to the page for as many variations and keyword synonyms as I could think of.
You can add keyword variations as part of the paragraph text on pages, or as tags that make up the page's metadata. The bottom line is that to improve findability it's important to figure out what the related terms are.
Create links between related content
Do you know what Amazon.com does exceedingly well? It shows you related content that's either just what you need or at least of great interest.
Intranets usually aren't very good at automatically figuring out what content is related. So it's your job to build in a network of links between related pages.
For example, the Performance Review Form should have a link to any related policies. The Holiday Calendar should link to the system where employees can see their remaining paid time off and to any vacation policy.
Don't think you can get all of this right on the first try. Just as you may need to update a page's tags with variations of search keywords and phrases, so you may need to continually update the links between related content.
Good content doesn't just happen
Creating good content requires time, focus and some knowledge of good practices. The tips here can help you transform several common types of intranet content. But more than anything else, they promote a user-centered way of thinking about content that can completely transform your intranet.
Have questions? Get in touch! We're always happy to hear from you.