Xavier University Story Continues: Creating the Most Distinctive Home Page in Higher Education
What did you do to ensure that your “search” function
worked well enough to make this change?
Nailing the search was the key to making this work. We
decided to enhance our current Google CSE (free version) by implementing our
own, manually-maintained autocomplete script on top of the Google search. This
gives us the fine-grained control that we desire.
To start off with, we automatically added every academic
program to the search suggestions. The analytics tell us that this is one major
area that prospective students are looking for. We also added all of the
university offices, in their own category, with a lower priority than the
We also added general search terms. We have been tracking
search for years and know what people are looking for during different times of
the year. We set minimum annual and monthly thresholds for search counts and
used that data to add important search terms to the suggestions. This data is reviewed
on a regular basis, with slightly lowered thresholds each time, and new items
are added as needed.
Lastly, we told everyone on campus what we were doing,
asked them to search for items that are important to their department, and let
us know if there is anything we need to do differently. We did not receive much
feedback from this round, but I think it was an important part of the process.
Over the past few months we have added several items to the
search as needed. This is an important ability that allows us to adjust as
needed and as requested by the departments on campus.
How will you measure success going forward? Who is
responsible for monitoring results?
We measure success in two ways:
Are people using the results? We have extensive analytics
on the search box and we track if people are using the search suggestions or if
they default to the standard search. It should be noted that we also display up
to 4 suggestions on the traditional results page, in case people make it that
We are also looking at user behavior over time, tracking
how many site visitors, especially external, use the search vs the traditional
The new information architecture of the whole site requires
regular review and looking at the search box will certainly be part of that.
This process will be run by the Office of Marketing and Communications, in
collaboration with other departments on campus.
Marketing Opportunity: Learning more about Top Tasks and Carewords