LGSearch update

LGSearch is something of an anomaly in my ‘portfolio’ of stuff I’ve made in that is actually works and is useful. I built it a couple of years ago while working as Risk Management Officer at a County Council. Essentially, I found it a pain in the neck to find relevant material online using traditional search engines, so I put my own together.

It’s based on Google’s Customised Search service, which requires you to provide a list of sites you want the search to be limited to. What I did originally was find an online list of all local authority sites and plug that in. This way, searching for a term generated results only from local government.

Later I developed things a bit further, adding in a variety of other public sector sites, such as those in central government, police, fire and health authorities and some of the organisations in and around government. Google helps here too: by categorising sites under the headings mentioned, users can then drill down into results by clicking a link to produce results from just, say, central government. Nice one.

The site has been pretty popular, with usage increasing as word gets around. Some councils have even embedded it in their own sites. There is a Google Group set up to manage requests for change, etc, which if you visit it, will show how terrible I am at keeping on top of it. Now I have some more time for this stuff, that will improve. There is also the list of sites searched, which could well be out of date. If you need changes made, email the list or just me.

Anyway, after all that introduction, I have today made a significant change to the site, long overdue, which has included various bits of social media to the search, including a load of blogs. These have all been added under the category of ‘social media’ so if you just want to search these sites, you can. The blogs added are (just pasting URLs as I am lazy):

Any heinous ommissions, let me know.

Google gives an insight into search

One of the key things for any website is findability – in other words, it’s great having a site packed full of useful content, but it’s pointless if no one knows where it is. So, it’s about having good navigation on your site, but also being search engine friendly. Many people’s first port of call will be a search engine, and more often than not, that search engine will be Google. If you want people to visit your site, then, it’s a good idea to know how your site fairs in searches, and to find out how you can improve its performance.

This stuff can be called SEO, of course, although findability is a nicer, if clunkier term, that doesn’t make you think of black hats and registering thousands of Blogger blogs. There are some notes I took at an interesting talk at WordCampUK on the issue of SEO/findability here – essentially the message is “if you write it (well), they will come”.

To help monitor how well your site does in search engines, there are a number of tools to use, including traditional webstats services such as the remarkably free Google Analytics, amongst many others. Google has just released another, though, which looks like it could be really interesting to use, especially on high-profile, high-traffic sites.

Google Insights for Search is a tool to allow you to track and analyse the use of search terms in Google, allowing you to filter by location, date ranges or categories. So, you can whack in the name of your organisation, and track how many times it has been searched on over a number of years, comparing each year. This is useful because you can identify seasonal spikes – and the reverse – so you can anticipate demand, for example.

You can also compare the performance of two keywords alongside each other, again allowing you to track the two and see which are most popular in the searches people are performing. This is a better bet than using traditional metrics, which tend to show what search engne terms people use to find your website – it’s useful to know what related terms people use to find other website, to see if you can include content to pick up some of that traffic.

As I said earlier, this tool really is best used on sites with lots of traffic, as smaller site searches (like “DavePress” as a keyword) don’t register at all! I can certainly see value here for local authorities and government departments though, to see what people search for within their area of interest.

It will be interesting to see how people put this service to use, and how much value is does add in the end. Anyone tried it yet to track their organisations results?