Web Support Blog

October 15, 2006

When to Focus on Findability (Instead of Content)

Filed under: General, Search — Chris @ 12:06 pm

Recently I heard someone say that content is king – and I agree. But he said content is king, and that is where you should focus the majority of your attention on your site. To take that at face value would be a mistake. If you do not have any content on your site, of course you need to establish a process for creating and publishing content – a topic all on its own. The point I want to make today is that no matter how much content you have, if you cannot find your content, you might as well have not invested the resource to create it.

Take this a step further – you can focus your resources to develop high quality content, which can be expensive, and yet if your customers are not finding the content, you will have invested precious resources on developing content that no one is using. Consider your success rate for users ability to find your content – if it is 50% of the time, then one of every two content items will be found.

Here is how I look at this. Of all your content, how many have been viewed within the last month (or quarter). Do not confuse this with your success rate – if you had 100 content items, with 50% success, yet only 20 items were viewed, you potentially have an 80% findability (search or browse) failure. Of course since you only missed 50% of the time, your problem is no more than 50% — the rest is unnecessary content.

I will break this down further. Begin with this question: how many of the failed 50% could have been solved with the 80% that were not viewed? Assuming another 30 content items could have solved problems, then you have a 60% failure (and a 50% of unnecessary content). Therefore only 40% of your content is being found.

Findability1

Realistically you probably do not have all the answers for all of your customer needs. So assuming you could solve another 25% of your customer queries if your customers could find the content; and assume it took another 10 content items, then you would only have a 30% failure (10/30), with 70% of your content being waste.

Findability2

So we can see that putting the majority of our focus on content is not always the right approach. Instead, figure out how successful you site is doing with findability, and use it to drive your investment. With this new information, there are some strategies for dealing with this. Typically if you do a good job with findability, you can maintain that with minimal effort, so once you address these issues (search and browse), you can put most of your effort on content.

Perhaps you do not have the skills to address your findability issues, well… due to findability being more of a one-time effort (and then monitor for issues), you can conceivably outsource much of the work. This is especially true for search. There are many folks that can do great on site design and architecture, and you may already have one of them on staff, but search is a completely different issue.

In future posts, I will talk more specifically about search, and recommended approaches. For now if you look for outside help, here are some issues to explore: 1) keyword vs. natural language search (hint: Google uses keyword); 2) tagging vs. no tagging: balance resources for tagging vs. performance without tags.

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