The Swiftype Blog

The Importance of Analytics for Digital Publishers

Guest Post by Allie VanNest who works with Parse.ly’s marketing team. She spends her days telling stories about what content draws in website visitors, and why.

In digital publishing (or any form of content marketing), you’ll probably hear the word “analytics” thrown around quite a bit. That’s because many content creators use analytics to determine which posts are resonating most with their audience.

Many content creators have erroneously assumed that analytics are complex, best left to analysts. However, we’re here to tell you that data can (and should) be accessible to everyone. Editors and writers know their stories and content best. They can spot trends in ways that analysts can’t — and they can do it faster, which makes a big difference in the digital world.

Does an increasing reliance on analytics prevent content creators from publishing quality posts? No! As a matter of fact, data not only tells businesses how many people have visited their blog or site, but it also gives insight into the kind of posts that their readers find the most engaging. They can then use this information to craft future articles and develop an editorial calendar that takes advantage of this newfound information.

So what are analytics?

Analytics are more than pageviews

When you think of web analytics, you’re probably thinking about pageviews. And while pageviews do come into play, digital publishers actually look at many other factors when analyzing the success of a piece of content. Engaged time is one example of a metric that helps digital publishers to figure out how long readers spend actively reading their content. However, engaged time — like pageviews and most other metrics — is meaningless if it is not put into context with a publication’s overall audience goals.

Analytics tell you what content resonates with your audience

If you are a digital publisher, then you know that an editorial calendar is a must-have. It is vital to know what articles you are going to publish, and when. Rather than rely on a gut feeling to help fill in this information, analytics provides concrete examples for companies to make actionable, intelligent decisions.

For example: Rockford Register Star (Rockford, IL), a GateHouse Media property, ran a feature on a man who collects hats. The feature really resonated with audiences on Facebook, so editors decided to shoot video of the man the next day. They added the video to the story package and kept it alive for longer than usual. Readers just loved hearing about this local hat collector.

It’s clear that reviewing analytics can help brands and publishers to discover what articles are popular — and let them know which posts deserve a follow-up. Analytics also let companies know which pieces are a good fit for social media, and can help them tailor their posts to what will resonate most with their followers.

Analytics can help you decide where to post content

Often, published articles are technically good, but they fail to resonate with a particular audience. Perhaps the article has not posted on the appropriate distribution channel, or maybe it is positioned in a weird place on your publication’s homepage.

Parse.ly allows digital publishers to access analytics about a post’s real-time audience engagement directly through an on-page overlay that lives on homepages, section pages, and within the on-site article. With the overlay enabled, article pages include an on-page record of total views, visits, and referrals for the last ten minutes. We also provide information on how the location of an article affects the audience’s reaction — this is called position tracking. (This means that analytics can also be helpful for ad placement, especially since you will want to know what sections are more likely to get clicks than others.)

Analytics help drive content strategy

Analytics provide valuable insight into user intent. Think about site search analytics as an example: Tracking how people use a search bar on your site can tell you what information users are looking for. In turn, you can create relevant content that will resonate with them. Understanding trending queries for future stories, or finding content gaps, can all be understood by viewing site search.

The main takeaway? Analytics play a vital role in the content-development process. Not only do they provide valuable data about which posts are resonating best with your particular audience, but they can also help you decide where to post content — and what content to post — for maximum impact.

Alternatives to Google Search Appliance

Google and enterprise search
For nearly twenty years, Google has been the leader in innovating and improving global web search, but searching enterprise data on a public website or internal company database has always been a different challenge. For the last fourteen years, Google addressed this challenge by offering a Search Appliance, but with the recent announcement that Google will be sunsetting the Search Appliance, existing customers and prospects will now need to look elsewhere to meet their enterprise search needs.

What are the alternatives to Google Search Appliance?
There a host of alternatives to the Google Search Appliance, but they generally fall into three categories:

  • Build it yourself: Use open-source software or an open-source variant to build an internal solution that replaces the Google Search Appliance.
  • Legacy search solution: Use another legacy search solution from vendors who predated the Google Search Appliance.
  • Switch to Swiftype: Swiftype is a modern, cloud-based enterprise search company that offers innovative technology that outperforms existing solutions.

How can Swiftype help?
Swiftype is a modern, cloud-based enterprise search company with years of experience handling enterprise level clients. With industry leading relevance technology and patented, intuitive web based control over search, our technology has been adopted by thousands of customers, including:

Over the past three years, leading brands have relied on Swiftype to power their search for four main reasons:

  1. Relevance and control: Swiftype has spent years refining an advanced search algorithm that outperforms the competition. This relevance model delivers superior results upon installation, and Swiftype users retain an unprecedented level of control over their search results and relevance model through the user-friendly Swiftype dashboard.
  2. Flexible, real-time indexing: Aside from Google, only Swiftype offers the option to index your content with a web crawler. This option, coupled with an already robust API and an extensive series of third-party adaptors, makes the move from GSA to Swiftype the easiest on the market. At the same time, all of these indexing options ensure that your search results are always up to date, reflecting the current state of your organization’s content.
  3. Enterprise scalability: For the last four years, Swiftype has proven its ability to handle enterprise level amounts of traffic and documents, with search indexes containing hundreds of millions of documents and serving millions of queries per second. With Swiftype managing search, scale is not an issue, and your search index can grow alongside your company.
  4. User-friendly dashboard: In addition to Swiftype’s core relevance and indexing technology, the Swiftype dashboard provides an intuitive interface for all team members—regardless of their technical background—to analyze and control search. From query level control over search results to technical monitoring of indexing schedules and maintenance, the Swiftype dashboard makes managing any aspect of your search experience easy.

To learn more about the power and simplicity that Swiftype can bring to your enterprise search, schedule a personalized demo with our search experts today.

Three Companies With Awesome Knowledge Base Search

A 2016 report by the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) shows an enormous trend in users wanting self-service online support for product issues over traditional support channels such as phone, email, social media, or community support. Providing an awesome user experience for self-help resources such as knowledge base articles, videos, blogs, training materials, and community forums is critical to keeping users happy. So how can companies effectively keep users from filling out a support ticket without giving off the impression that they don’t want to talk to them? Enter the case deflection strategy.

Implementing case deflection is a growing trend amongst companies that offer a self-service support experience. The goal is to provide the user with the answers they are looking for before they decide to file a time-consuming support ticket. In this pursuit, the search box is a critical component. If implemented correctly, great search will ensure that users have a much easier time finding the answers they need. Here are 3 examples of companies that deliver a great knowledge base search experience.

HubSpot AcademyHubSpot’s search box is prominent and prompts users to search with the phrase “Search our docs and learning resources” . The autocomplete experience is fast and includes many types of content (quick answers, sales guides and video trainings to name a few). The results page also does a nice job of giving users the chance to filter to all content types and this page also tells users when the content was last updated.

ChartboostChartboost’s knowledge base search experience is front and center at the top of the page. Their search bar uses has a creative animation showing example questions to ask. When the user does begin their search, their autocomplete experience begins after the third character. Finally, their results are delivered fast.

SurveyMonkeySurveyMonkey’s help center allows you to browse by topic or type in your query with a search bar. When using the search bar, a drop down menu pops up and you can click on links or the list of topics to be redirected to article topics and summaries. The footer also includes a choice of multiple languages to help in the search.

Across all three examples, search is prominent, friendly, and most importantly, effective, making it easy for users to find the content they need. To see more examples of companies with great search across their help centers, check out our case studies.

“100 Companies that Matter in Knowledge Management”

Today, we are honored to announce that Swiftype has been named by KMWorld among the “100 Companies that Matter in Knowledge Management.” Given our recent focus on refining our site search solution for corporate knowledge bases, this recognition validates much of the hard work our team has put in over the last months.

Swiftype named among “100 Companies that Matter in Knowledge Management”

“Being named to our list of 100 Companies That Matter in Knowledge Management is a prestigious designation because it represents the best in innovation, creativity and functionality,” says KMWorld Editor Sandra Haimila. “The 100 Companies offer solutions designed to help users and customers find what they need whenever and wherever they need it … and what they need is the ability to access, analyze and share crucial knowledge.”

Over the last year, Swiftype has begun powering knowledge base search for several leading companies, including SurveyMonkey, HubSpot, and a Fortune 500 Technology and Entertainment company. These recent clients expand Swiftype’s already extensive base of knowledge base search customers, which includes Shopify, Asana, and many others.

For companies interested in learning more about the value of fast, customizable search for their knowledge base, check out Swiftype’s Knowledge Base Guide to Site Search Analytics, which discusses how agile customer support teams can leverage search analytics to make both their customers’ lives and their own lives easier.

Analytics Update: Insights

For long time users of Swiftype, our analytics dashboard has been one of the best places to go to learn more about what users are searching for, finding, clicking on, and even what they’re not able to find. While this information is all important, our latest update to analytics is designed to provide more actionable recommendations through what we call the Insights tab.

The Insights tab is located below the regular analytics tab within your Swiftype account, and some of the information available on the insights page is also surfaced on the main analytics page where relevant.

insights tab

The main goal of this page is to point out key areas where your search can be improved, including our traditional list of “top searches with zero results,” along with some new signals we’ve built in, such as “results with no clickthroughs” and “searches resulting in multiple clicks.” By presenting these new instances where search can be improved, along with a direct comparison to how these figures correspond to the time period that precedes it, the Insights tab emphasizes the value of steadily improving the performance of your search engine over time. With this intel in hand, you can take advantage of Swiftype’s core customization tools, including Custom Result Ranking, Synonym Sets, and algorithmic adjustments in the Weights tab.

insights on main analytics page

no results

While the specific meaning and importance of each of these insights will vary from site to site, our primary hope is that by presenting search analytics with a focus on steps for improvement rather than just a static data dump, we can make this section of the dashboard a page that you will continue to revisit on a regular basis. This update, along with a redesigned and improved weekly analytics email, should help our users keep a closer eye on what their users are searching for, how search is performing, and how search can be improved.

We encourage you to take a look at the Insights tab today, and as always, if you have any questions or feedback, please let us know.

Parse.ly and Swiftype Partnership

Swiftype is excited to announce a new partnership with Parse.ly

In our continued efforts to better serve online publishers and media companies, we are excited to announce a new partnership with Parse.ly—a leading provider of analytics and audience insights for digital publishers. Since hosting our first joint webinar in August, we have been continually impressed by the people, research, and insights that Parse.ly brings to the publishing space, and we’re excited to join forces with a clear industry leader.

As we’ve worked with the Parse.ly team, they have helped us better understand the publishing space and improve our product. At the same time, we’ve given Parse.ly an enriched perspective on the value of powerful site search for publishers. Through the collective power of our broad client base, this partnership will help both companies improve their offerings and keep our digital publishing companies happy.

“Partnering with Swiftype means that we’ll be even better equipped to help our clients meet the needs of their readers, whether through content analytics, recommendations, and now through a great search experience.”

Sachin Kamdar, CEO, Co-Founder, Parse.ly

With a wide range of product developments, joint research projects, and events planned, we’re excited for what this partnership will bring in the coming year. To learn more about Parse.ly’s unique analytics platform, visit their website.

New Help Center Search Implementation Checklist

Adding powerful search to your company knowledge base or help center is an essential step toward helping users resolve issues without filing tickets, but the process of implementation can often be a daunting first step. To make this process easier, we added a new resource to our website for customers looking to improve search on their help center or knowledge base.

15 Steps to Help Center Search Implementation

Last week, we added a new resource to our website for customers looking to improve search on their help center or knowledge base. Written with a non-technical audience in mind, 15 Steps to Help Center Search Implementation introduces readers to the most important questions that companies should familiarize themselves with before getting started, including:

  • What are the pros and cons of building search internally?
  • How long will implementing search take?
  • What team members are required to implement new search?
  • How can I evaluate the performance of a new search experience?
  • What ongoing work is required after implementing search?

With a step-by-step checklist that clearly lays out each phase of implementation, this resource will be an invaluable guide. Implementation is often an intimidating prospect with any new software, but with this guide in hand, your team will start with a much clearer sense of what needs to be accomplished and what team members will be involved.

To access the checklist, follow the download link below. To receive a personal demo of what Swiftype can do for your knowledge base or help center, contact us today.

Four Secrets to Extending the Shelf Life of Viral Content

Congratulations! You’ve got an article that is gaining lots of attention online and going viral. As you start wondering how to keep your article top of mind for as long as possible, consider taking advantage of these four web optimization secrets that take no time to implement.

1. Use your site search analytics to see which queries are generating the most engagement for your viral content.

It is now easy to find out what search queries your users are typing into your search box before they click on your viral article. Because this data is readily available today, you can now click into those queries and understand where your viral article is ranked in that search query’s results. Because this data is changing in real time, you can change your data range to get a better sense of which search queries are generating the most engagement with your article over time.

2. Placement of sharing buttons is important.

The only way a piece of content goes viral is if it’s shared. If your shared buttons are only in the header and footer, then you’re missing out on an opportunity for the reader to share your content WHILE they’re engaging with it. Make sure that this is done tastefully as users will quickly discount your content if you push it in front of their face too much.

3. Add top performing site search queries to your SEO strategy.

Even though this tactic is more acquisition than optimization, it’s important for you to consider taking your site search analytics data and conducting research to see where you rank for your top performing site search queries in Google.

4. Meaningful content evokes a willingness to share.

Readers only share content when they experience an emotion so strong that they just have to let someone know how they feel. For example, the ice bucket challenge went viral not only because it was so simple to do, but because it made everyone feel good because it was for a meaningful cause. But tapping into your audience’s emotions with meaningful content will get you well on your way to a long shelf life for viral content.

New: Knowledge Base Guide to Search Analytics

While personal customer support remains an essential ingredient for attracting, retaining, and creating loyal customers, this level of individualized attention is expensive to support difficult to scale as your company grows. In response to this challenge, creating a comprehensive user-facing knowledge base that enables customers to resolve support issues without contacting your team can save companies time and money while also improving the overall user experience.

Read Swiftype's new knowledge base guide to search analytics.

Once in place, any steps that a customer support team can take to optimize this knowledge base and create a more efficient user experience can substantially decrease inbound support volume. In this pursuit, creating a centralized search experience that allows support center visitors to quickly and easily find the content they are looking for is vitally important.

Still, while the importance of search across knowledge bases is fairly self-explanatory, customer support teams often overlook the valuable insights available from user search behavior—insights which include:

  • What are the most pressing issues my customers are facing?
  • What issues are users unable to resolve on their own?
  • What new support content needs to be created?
  • How relevant are the results for users who search across my knowledge base?

To give support teams a clearer sense of precisely what information they should be looking for from their search analytics and to provide actionable recommendations about how they might improve their on site search, Swiftype has created the Knowledge Base Guide to Site Search Analytics.

To access this guide and learn how customer support teams can leverage knowledge base search analytics, follow the download link below.

Teaching Swiftbot to Intelligently Index Images

When creating search engines, the first and arguably most important step is indexing website information in a structured format that is optimized for a specific search algorithm. The specific information you index and the structure by which you organize this information (also known as the schema) dictates how your search engine will determine relevance, what your users can search by, and what information you can display in search results.

How does indexing work?
While there are numerous ways to customize and control the information you index in your Swiftype search engine (for example, via our API or one of our platform integrations) we aim to make this process as simple as possible for non-technical users by automatically indexing website information with Swiftbot—our high performance web crawler designed to index information from a specific URL.

Swiftbot allows non-technical users to get up and running with a working search engine in minutes by simply entering their website URL and letting Swiftbot index their website for them. A major component of Swiftbot’s technology is the logic that our engineering team has built in to parse website HTML and index it in a structured format that works with Swiftype’s advanced search algorithm and information retrieval method. (To learn more about the technical challenge of building a search engine, read our white paper on the subject, written for a non-technical audience).

Building an intelligent web crawler
Because almost every website is built and structured in a different way, teaching Swiftbot how to effectively read, sort, and organize information from a website’s HTML base is an ongoing challenge. While we do allow site owners to completely customize the default information Swiftbot indexes from your website with custom <meta> tags, not all users have the technical resources or knowledge to do this on their own, so Swiftbot is also built to make many of these indexing decisions on its own.

HTML windows

With every website structured differently, how do we teach Swiftbot to intelligently index this information?

Still, with websites differing so dramatically from one another, indexing the right information in the right format from each page is no easy task. In particular, identifying the most important image from a web page and associating that image with a search result is a multifaceted problem, since there are many images on every page and these images often have different filename structures and/or occupy different locations on a page.

images in search and autocomplete

Adding images to search results pages and autocomplete menus can create a much more engaging search experience.

Nevertheless, indexing images allows site owners to create much more engaging search experience, adding thumbnails of varying sizes to their autocomplete and search results that let users see a preview of the page content before selecting a result. So, in a recent update to Swiftbot, we’ve built in conditional logic that automatically indexes images from your website pages (provided there are no Swiftype specific image tags already in place).

How does Swiftbot decide which image is “best”?
To teach Swiftbot how to index the “best” image from web pages, we had to build in logic that would overcome a series of challenges that result from the varying nature of website pages.

  1. As a starting point, we decided to leverage existing open graph <meta> tags (such as Facebook and Twitter <meta> tags) that many site owners use to prepare their content for sharing on social media platforms and other content distribution networks. By teaching Swiftbot to obey these <meta> tags if no Swiftype specific <meta> tags exist, we created hierarchical indexing logic that more intelligently sources images from existing website metadata.
  2. Secondly, we know that many websites have a large number of images that repeat across many, if not every page on their website (for example: a company logo, images in the header, footer, and sidebar, author headshots, ads, etc.). To ensure these images are not considered the “best” image for a specific document, we built in logic that identifies and rules out these repeating elements as candidates. Similarly, we do not want to index advertisements, so we run any images on the page against an ad server blacklist to ensure these remain out of consideration.
  3. Thirdly, we compared data in the alt attribute of each <img> with the url and <title> of that page, assigning a relevance score to those images based on how closely the alt description matched this page information.
  4. Lastly, Swiftbot looks for common CSS classes and id’s to locate the main content area of each page—another step that helps rule out extraneous information such as the header, footer, and sidebar.

Taking all these pieces of information together, Swiftbot assigns the images on the page a relevance score and indexes the image it judges to be the “best” image for that document. As this new indexing process gains wider use and we gather feedback from customers, we will continually work to improve our image extraction technology over time.

Adding these images to search
Once these images are indexed from your website and in your search engine, the question becomes: how do I display these image thumbnails in my search results and autocomplete dropdown? While there are many ways to style your autocomplete and search results (including using Swiftype’s web components or jQuery library) the best choice for users with very little technical experience is the Result Designer, which allows users to style their search results entirely from the Swiftype dashboard without writing any additional code. To learn more about the Result Designer, watch our dedicated webinar explaining this tool and offering best practices advice from the Swiftype customer success team.

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