Optimising for the internal search engine

Internal company search seldom works as well as Google, because so few people optimise the findability of their content.

Image from Wikimedia commons

People often cite Google as the gold-standard in search, but partly Google works so well because of the prevalence of search-engine optimisation in the World Wide Web. Anyone who uses the web as a market place or a means of making publications available, knows about the issues of Search Engine Optimisation. And if you own a website, you probably receive 10 emails a day from people offering to improve your SEO ranking.

As far as internal sites on the Intranet are concerned, there probably is little thought given to optimising search. Metatags may be missing, document titles may be poor or unhelpful, documents may be filed in unhelpful ways (see my post on “a haystack is no place to store your needles“), and the whole issue of findability is often ignored.

I remember in the mid 90s when BP introduced their first Intranet, and the manager of BP Norway (my boss at the time) set up a BP Norway home page. It went live, and the next day we went onto the Intranet, typed in the search term “BP Norway”, and ………. got no results!

It turned out that the words “BP Norway” only ever appeared in banner graphics, which had no Alt tags (I don’t know if this was even possible at the time) and were therefore invisible to the search engine. Therefore this whole site had become unfindable, or search-engine-impaired.

Part of the role of the Knowledge Management team, in any organisation that makes extensive use of codified knowledge combined with search, is to educate the owners of the knowledge stores about how to ensure findability and about the need for optimising codified knowledge for the internal search engine.

Maybe in this way we will get a little closer to Google. 

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