The Swiftype Blog

Swiftype Partner Spotlight: The Web Development Group

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Swiftype is not just a solution for end businesses, but also a partner to many other companies who navigate site search solutions on behalf of their clients. Today we’re introducing The Web Development Group (WDG™), a full-service digital agency based out of Washington D.C., who has been able to leverage Swiftype technology to effectively and efficiently deploy search solutions for their clients. I had the privilege of sitting down with Ab Emam, their Agency Director to discuss the challenges they face as a business and how they’ve been able to make great strides for their clients when it comes to optimizing on-site search.

The Web Development Group

The Web Development Group works in a wide range of verticals, from associations, foundations, and nonprofits to government entities, higher education, and Fortune 1000 businesses.  When clients sign on with WDG for a website redesign, it becomes critical to determine a robust site search plan at the beginning of a project due to the amount of content the typical WDG client normally houses on their site.

The Web Development Group offers both Web Design & Development services as well as Digital Marketing Consulting.  Partnering with Swiftype has allowed them to offer a robust site search solution that is not only easy for their developers to implement but has SEO and usability benefits as well. Initially, there was concern that developers would prefer to develop their own site search solution, but WDG has learned developers have become some of the software’s biggest fans for its ease of installation. WDG has since dedicated several developers who are completely knowledgeable with the implementation and functionality of Swiftype’s solution.

When a company is considering a site redesign it becomes an opportune time to evaluate their existing site search functionality. Many site platforms have built-in solutions or basic add-ons like Google Custom Search. But with such limited customizations available, WDG has chosen to work strategically with Swiftype on behalf of their clients to introduce the advantages a customizable solution offers within the initial exploratory phase of a project. In turn, Swiftype is able to provide comprehensive support to answer technical questions and help WDG implement successful site search functionality.

Customer Success

The City of Alexandria recently relied on the expertise of WDG for a site redesign, which included a new site search solution. As a government entity, the City’s site is home to a significant amount of content that needed to be easily accessible to end-users. While navigation elements remain a prominent feature of the site, an easy-to-use and efficient search feature greatly improved the new site’s usability. The site features a prominent search bar within its redesign as the site needed to deliver content efficiently to a wide range of users – tourists, residents, and local businesses. All these audiences have unique needs and by implementing a prominent search bar as a way of navigating through the site, AlexandriaVA.Gov is able to quickly serve up relevant content.

WTOP.com has also worked with The Web Development Group for a site redesign and, as one of Washington DC’s top news sources, a robust site search was critical for them due to the high volume of content published on a daily basis. Swiftype’s solution is a seamless integration for publisher sites where website managers can adjust search results to feature the newest or breaking content, as well as prioritize sections of their site based on selected keywords. The Swiftype product dashboard also provides publishers with insights into the keywords their audience is looking for which can help to shape news stories that haven’t even been written yet.

These partnerships are just that – true partnerships that allow for clients to benefit from the mutual efforts of expert digital teams. By leveraging the talents from both Swiftype and The Web Development Group, our clients stand to benefit from robust search capabilities with the potential to see exponential returns.

On the Search: Monetizing Search in a whole new way

Search has changed the way our customers do business, and we are on a mission to communicate the value of it. “On the Search” is a new series to help uncover the good, bad, and ugly of what many companies face with search today–and how Swiftype can help.

EOMedia

On the Search:  Travis Clark, EO Media Group

Travis Clark was in a search bind.

As the digital development manager for EO Media Group, Clark needed to improve their search results—and fast. With only three weeks before launching a new ad marketplace platform, he was on the brink.

Here, he discusses the challenges and ultimate success of moving from a “black hole” to new business and revenue opportunities. And it’s all thanks to a transformation through search.

What kind of challenges with search did you face?

We are a small publishing company with 11 newspapers throughout the Pacific Northwest. We built some things with newspaper vendors and used WordPress, but the search for both was awful. Plugins didn’t work very well for us either.

I worked on building a new ad marketplace that is now running on the Capital Press site. We were looking to hit hundreds of thousands of searchable bits of content, and nothing we tried could handle that for us. It was very frustrating.

As a small team, we couldn’t say, “Okay, let’s throw a bunch of money at a developer to build something from scratch.” I wasn’t sure what we were going to do. Then Swiftype was recommended to us to check out.

What was your “must-have” for search in your new ad marketplaces?

Speed was definitely key. When we found Swiftype, we were able to implement it in just a couple weeks and right before our launch. And it had all the power we had been looking for.

It was also a priority to finally be able to do facet searches. The faceting part is super important because we really need to be able to drill down through the content. Now that we have Swiftype we can’t live without the results ranking. We literally need that to do our business.

What has been most surprising with your new deployment?

Before we pretty much had a black hole. We could track users, page views, and all the normal Google analytics. But we didn’t have any idea what people were actually searching for.

Case in point is our Capital Press site, which is an agriculture publication. We thought we knew the customers for it, but this changed once we started receiving the metrics on search queries from Swiftype.

There are parts of our audience we never knew existed. Now we can take these metrics to new advertisers who wouldn’t think we are a fit for them. Or, on the flipside, go back to old customers with new pitches and the numbers to back it up. We’re so happy with what we have now.

What new things did you find readers searching?

A couple surprising search terms were “Christmas trees” and “livestock.”

Christmas trees as a term starts popping up in the summer and tapers off after Christmas obviously. We didn’t know anyone was looking to our agriculture publication to buy and price the market online.

Our print publication had always sold to the livestock business. But there are also a lot of searches on livestock online, which we didn’t realize. This is a great example of a wide, open market because most of our advertisers for the digital site are not in that industry. We can now outreach to those businesses in our region and show them a market they haven’t hit yet.

What kind of success have you seen since launching the improved search with Swiftype?

Most telling is that ad revenue has increased 145% since implementing Swiftype. We’ve also seen some really incredible results with an increase in users (43%), sessions (17%) and new (46%) and returning (31%) users. This tells me that the new platform is attracting more people and more often.

The ability to refine the platform and begin seeing classified advertising more like a retail business has been very exciting. We believe powerful search has streamlined our user experience.

We have some really great stories from our customers, too. One has a tractor rental business and, after three months, he had to pull his listings because the booking was so far out. He switched it to used parts he sells and had to pull that because he got low on inventory. It’s pretty amazing.

Meet Zhen Liu: Got Questions? We have Instant Answers!

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We live in a world where the solution to nearly any problem can be solved instantly. When you need the answer to a question, there’s Google, or Siri. If your refrigerator is empty at dinnertime, you have Postmates or Munchery to the rescue. So when you need help for a product you purchased or service you subscribe to, waiting is not an option. As a Customer Success Manager at Swiftype, I help our clients build upon the success of their own customer service departments through the business of instant answers.

Many of Swiftype’s customers use our search software for their Knowledge Base. Knowledge Bases can vary from a FAQ or Help section provided for end consumers as a first stop in the customer support chain, to internal documentation for developers using a product. No matter what the final application looks like, help centers are becoming an integrated part of the product experience today.

Customers are searching now more than ever
Thanks to Google, we’ve all been trained to search. Customers and employees alike expect a self-help channel to service themselves prior to getting on the phone for support. In fact a Forrester survey shows that for the first time in the survey’s history, customers of all ages are using the FAQ pages on a company’s website more often than speaking with an agent on the phone.

This change in user behavior has generated a significant need for our customers to have not only a robust Knowledge Base that they themselves can navigate and find answers within quickly, but the ability for their end customers to quickly search those databases and find answers to their questions instantly.

The need for instant answers is not confined to one industry or solution. Speed and accuracy are critical in a search solution within knowledge bases across the board.

Providing Instant Answers Three Ways
Customer Support teams are using Swiftype as a means to aggregate content in one location. A customer of ours has content that sits in multiple subdomains of their site for developers, designers, their sales team, within their blog, training center and help center. As each individual portal grew, it became increasingly difficult to quickly find the information you were looking for. They’ve successfully leveraged Swiftype to search across all content types, creating a one-stop locale for all internal users when they are unsure of where to locate content.

Another way Swiftype has been implemented by customers internally is to better support call center teams. We are the internal search engine for a global enterprise organization with many call center teams who need to be able to answer questions for their end customers quickly and accurately. If decreasing call time and increasing customer satisfaction are critical metrics for your team, consider ways to make your employees more successful with a customizable search solution.

Lastly, we’ve even been leveraged for instant answers before your customer is even actively searching. Swiftype results are shown to users in a right-hand drawer that slides in when users are in their dashboard for our customer’s product, suggesting answers that are related to the page they are on.

Maintaining a best-in class customer support system is critical to businesses. Knowledge bases are a key component to providing an excellent experience. Gone are the days where your customer is willing to wait 10 minutes on hold with a customer service representative, and another 20 minutes to explain their issue, and hopefully receive a solution. The faster you can provide an answer to your customer, the happier and more satisfied they leave.  And I’m in the business of making happy customers.

3 Tips to Increase Website Conversions with Site Search

As marketers, we’re always looking for ways to tweak our website to improve conversion rates. As a fairly new member of the Swiftype team, I’ve thought a lot about how Swiftype search could have helped me on past projects. I always thought Google was our only option for site search, or that something custom would need to be built. Little did I know there are amazing tools that help marketers focus on marketing without needing extensive IT support. Do you know if visitors are finding the results they expect when they type into the search box on your site? What results are they getting? What if you could control which results they see.

Improve your site conversion rate in three easy steps, just by optimizing one seemingly small, but mighty feature on your site – the search box.

Actually deliver the results your visitors are looking for. How frustrating can it be to find what you’re looking for on certain sites? If your site is returning poor results, you’re leaving your visitors frustrated and unlikely to return. Teams spend a ton of time optimizing site navigation and structure for usability, but your visitors may still be aimlessly clicking through pages looking for what they want. Look for a search solution where you can customize your results or let visitors filter what they’re looking for.  Take control of key information that already exists on your site, and guarantee that your most recent content is included in search results thanks to real-time indexing.

Pin your best performing offers on top. Consider what offers are best at driving meaningful conversions on your site. You can pin these to the top of your search results pages to drive more traffic into that content.  What if your awesome product demos always showed up at the top of search results? Or your best selling products?  Give your customers what they’re looking for, right at their fingertips. You know what converts best on your site, why make it hard for your visitors to find the good stuff.

Create the content of the future. Depending on the solution you’ve used in the past, you may not have been able to track your customer’s search queries, or what results pages they clicked on.  Wonder no more, with a complete dashboard of actionable insights. When you know what your customers are looking for, you can build content or products around the missing pieces.  Your content marketing team will thank you, and your customers will leave your site with the information they need.

As a marketer in charge of driving improvements to our conversion rates, I know I’m always looking for new ways to optimize our site experience for our visitors. Site search is so often overlooked in exchange for testing landing pages or navigation structure, but with the right tools you can make search have a meaningful impact on your conversion rate. Finding a tool that allows you to be flexible and have total control of the results your site displays goes a long way and in the end will help you generate more leads.

To Crawl or Not to Crawl: How to Index Data for Site Search

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If you’re considering an enterprise search solution like Swiftype, you’re probably already
aware of the benefits of upgrading your website’s search experience—things like
greater control over search results, a better user experience, and the ability to gather
analytics from user searches. You also know that taking your site search to the next level
will increase conversions and positively impact your company’s bottom line.

But before you can start enjoying the benefits of enhanced site search, there’s one
important decision to make: how to index the content on your site. Indexing lays the
foundation for your search engine by taking inventory of all your site data, then
organizing it in a structured format that makes it easy for the search algorithm to find
what it needs later on. Essentially, if your website is a stack of thousands of papers, the
search index is the mother of all filing cabinets.

There are a few different ways to go about indexing site content, but the two main
options are using a web crawler or a search API. Both choices have pros and cons, so it’s
helpful to understand which one is the best fit for your situation. Here’s the lowdown on
each.

Web Crawler

You may be familiar with Google’s web crawler, Googlebot, which perpetually “crawls” the internet, visiting each available web page and indexing content for potential Google searches. Swiftype’s crawler, Swiftbot, does the same thing for individual websites like yours.

Using a web crawler to index site data has a couple of key advantages. For one thing,
it’s extremely plug-and- play. Rather than pay a team of developers to build the index,
simply select the crawler option and let it do its thing—no coding required.

A crawler also allows you to get your new site search up and running very quickly. For example, Swiftbot creates a search index within minutes by simply crawling your website URL or sitemap. And it stays on top of changes to your site, immediately indexing any new information so that search results always reflect the latest and greatest your business has to offer.

In our experience, the web crawler option works best for the vast majority of our customers. It’s fast and easy to use, yet also creates a powerful, comprehensive search experience that’s a huge improvement over a fragile plugin or other antiquated site search solution. However, there are some situations where the customer needs a greater amount of customization, and in those cases, an API integration might be the way to go.

Developer API

The main advantage of using an API for search indexing is that it gives you full programmatic control over the content in your search engine. There are infinite ways to build a search experience, and an API (like the Swiftype Search API) lets you choose your own adventure and make changes as often as you like.

For example, if you want to index sensitive data that cannot be exposed on your website such as product margins or page views for a particular article, you may want a more custom indexing setup than the one that comes with the web crawler. The developer API allows you granular, real time control over every aspect of your search engine.

Unlike the web crawler option, using an API usually requires a fair amount of coding, so
we usually see this option used by large businesses with bigger budgets and/or a developer team on staff. Also, since an API integration is custom, the initial indexing process can take time to set-up, so it’s less attractive to customers who are anxious to get started.

Which one is best?

The choice between the web crawler and the developer API will come down to your specific situation. Most Swiftype customers are extremely happy with the crawler, but some do require the flexibility and control inherent in the API. We offer both options so that you can choose the best one for your site and business.

No matter which option you choose for indexing data, the ultimate outcome will be an enhanced site search experience that’s more relevant—and more profitable—than your current solution.

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.