University Web Developers

University Web Developers

We know that a well-functioning search tool/appliance is a key factor on college websites.  However, we struggle (as we suspect many others do) with making sure we have the correct tool, and with configuring it
to be most useful for our Web audience  -- particularly in light of the
too often-outdated nature of the college's thousands of pages of Web
content. 

 

Question: Which search appliance are you currently using on your college's site?  What steps are you taking to ensure search optimization in light of page volume and uneven content quality?

 

Many, many thanks!

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We have a Google Mini, and it has been more than adequate for our needs.

 

We do have a lot of SEO issues though on pages, and the only thing we can really do is just deal with it when people complain about results.

Fienen, when you say that you just "deal with it" when people complain about results, does that mean that you go in a do a content review? adjust metadata? customize search results? 

 

We're currently using iSIS for search but the results are, frankly. really problematic.  It's one of the most complained-about things on our site, according to our user surveys and tests.  Our content IS a real problem and one we're working through but it's a long slow process.  We're trying to determine some best practices out and about in higher ed -- what's worked, what hasn't -- and then set up a protocol to do an evaluation of the tool.

Yeah. If someone says "X is way down in the results," we'll look and see first off if the positioning makes sense given the context of the query and results (just because it's not where one person thinks it should be, doesn't necessarily mean it's actually a bad result set), and if indeed the results aren't ideal, we'll look at why that is and suggest content changes. More often than not, the issue is that there's just nothing of search value on the page - A picture, title, and address of the office, for instance. I only have limited control of the actual search results themselves, besides, I'd much rather fix the context of the pages themselves since that fixes the actual problem.

 

I recently saw SearchBlox, which looks interesting. It's a free Java search engine that has a lot of functional overlap with a Google Mini. It might be worth grabbing to test out, since there's no cost.

We currently use Google Mini with customized front ends and onebox modules that allow us to integrate data from other systems into the results provided to users. We face the usual SEO issue; however, we have added dates to a meta tag that allow us to use result biasing for our results.
OneBox was a killer addition to the Mini a couple years ago. I proof-of-concepted a couple for here, but sadly never got to use them. Wanted to integrate people search, courses, books, etc.
What has been the road blocker?
Well, originally it was an issue getting access to the necessary data sources to feed the OneBox (POCs were made using dummy sources). Ultimately, our search results page evolved to just use the Mini as a service, feeding XML to a results page in our CMS, so we're no longer using any of its front end capabilities at all. Ultimately, OneBox is cool, but the basic functionality isn't anything we can't readily do via our CMS.

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