The Swiftype Blog / On the Search: The City of Portland Levels up Their Website Search

On the Search: The City of Portland Levels up Their Website Search

The following is a Q&A with the City of Portland’s Richard Davies about his experience implementing and managing Swiftype Site Search.

Portland: A well-cultured city on the rise

With a population well over 600,000, Portland is the largest city in Oregon and the second largest in the Northwest. Known as a city with great parks and vibrant beer, food and coffee cultures, Portland is both a popular place to visit and live. Over the past 20 years, Portland has seen a significant boom in the the technology and creative marketing industries, and its GDP per person has grown by 50%.

As the government of a large and innovative city, the City of Portland strives to provide high-quality service to its citizens. Two key ways they do this is by maintaining a high-quality website and leveraging technology to keep their citizens informed. On a daily basis, Portlanders visit their city’s website for information about city codes, community events, utilities, and many other things that impact their lives.

The City of Portland implements Swiftype

Earlier this year, the City of Portland turned to Swiftype as a replacement for their Google Site Search installation. Portland was able to get up and running very quickly with Swiftype and their citizens have been happy with their new search solution. Recently, we took some time to chat with Richard Davies, a web application developer for the City of Portland, to hear about his experience implementing and maintaining Swiftype for Portland’s website. Here’s what he had to say.

Question and Answer with the City of Portland’s Richard Davies

Q: Why did the City of Portland decide to use Swiftype?

A: Our website needed to migrate off of unsupported Google search solutions to a more modern and powerful search solution. Swiftype has been very easy to implement and is faster and delivers more relevant results and advanced functionality that was not available with our previous search solution.

Before implementing Swiftype, we looked at a number of search solutions ranging from self-hosted to cloud-based, open source to proprietary, and Swiftype hit the sweet spot for us between features and cost and ease of use/configuration.


Q: How does the City of Portland use Swiftype? What is your use case?

A: We use Swiftype Site Search to provide search functionality on our main website, This site contains 200,000+ pages and is used by all of the bureaus and offices within the City of Portland to host both public and intranet content, as well as various web applications supporting such things as online payments, business license registrations, and stormwater calculations, etc.

With such a large, diverse website, searching is a critical feature because it’s one of the primary means our users use to locate desired information on our site. Our experience has been so positive that we will keep it in mind for use with future projects/sites.

Q: What are the best Swiftype features?

A: Some of the critical features for us are:

  • Quick-and-easy setup/configuration/maintenance
  • The ability to index and search both public and private content on our website and deliver an appropriate set of results to public users and authenticated users
  • Ability to index PDF and Word documents
  • Ability to customize rankings and search results
  • Customizable meta tags and content inclusion/exclusion tags
  • Developer APIs


I think this is a good indication of how Swiftype has greatly improved the accuracy and relevancy of our search results, thus enabling our users to find what they’re looking for with fewer searches.

Richard Davies
Web Application Developer


Q: In what ways have you utilized data from the Swiftype Search Analytics dashboard?

A: We have used the list of most popular searches to help us identify pages where we need to customize the search results to ensure that we’re returning the most relevant information for these frequently requested topics.

Also, although we only have a limited amount of time to compare, the total number of searches has gone down dramatically since our move to Swiftype (about half of our previous total average). I think this is a good indication of how Swiftype has greatly improved the accuracy and relevancy of our search results, thus enabling our users to find what they’re looking for with fewer searches.


Q: Do you think Swiftype Search has made it easier for your website visitors to find the information they need?

A: Yes, I touched on this a little in my previous answer. I believe the following factors have all contributed to making major improvements with our search experience:

  • Searching with Swiftype is remarkably faster than our previous solution
  • The HTML attributes for content inclusion/exclusion allow us to focus the index on the relevant parts of a page and deliver more relevant results
  • Customizable meta tags allow for improved filtering
  • We can customize search rankings ensure that the most relevant results are at the top

We were aware that many users were frustrated and unsatisfied with our previous search solution and we received many positive comments after we switched to Swiftype. We were able to do a seamless migration and suddenly it was as if the search had just “magically” started working way better for our users. Everyone was much happier!

Shout out to Richard and the City of Portland

Big thanks to Richard for taking the time to chat with us! We’re really excited to know that our technology is being used to help Portlanders find information more easily. If you would like to learn more about Swiftype Site Search, you can download the Ultimate Guide to Website Search for Government or sign up for a 14-day free trial.

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