Customer focused site search on Rochdale Borough Council’s website.

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/ service

Delivering a customer focused site search functionality through Semaphore on the council’s website allows us to improve search results to help the right people find the right content by:
– Using sophisticated classification strategies to help leverage the valuable information within our organisation to make key business decisions and improve outcomes.
– Auto-classifying content using taxonomies.
– Adding recommended pages. We decide which content to serve at the top of the search engine results page.
– Loading keywords into the content and for the technology to automatically associate the relevant synonyms.
– Serving a ‘did you mean’ function.
– Weighting the headings so we can load them with keywords/phrases.
– Eliminating costs, time and hassles of manual classification and letting Semaphore Classification Server analyze and auto-classify content.
– Achieving our goal of helping users find the most popular content in the top 5 search results and without having to undertake multiple searches.
– Indexing multiple sites.
– Integrating locally used language with the Semaphore taxonomy through the ease of automation.

Why do you think it should win this award?

There’s been a strong shift in the design and layout of council websites to a more user-centric model with many councils noting various factors that influence how residents use their websites. Our digital services are more accessible, engaging and easier to navigate with the simple aim of delivering a high quality service for customers.
We pride ourselves on constantly developing and enhancing digital services and thrilled to have one of the best council websites in the country. It’s been a team effort and we’ve been determined, passionate and overcome barriers to achieving usable online services.
We’ve achieved much success over the past few years including with the digital content delivered for armed forces and the Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival; this contributed to an invitation to Number 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace respectively.
Some search engines are good at indexing words but not so good at returning a set of pages that you’d be confident are about that topic. Semaphore creates a classification system based on weightings. Poor classification or misleading topic suggestions don’t help the user go from search to find and from find to discover; Semaphore has this depth of capability.

What are the key achievements?

– Website awarded maximum 4-star rating in May 2016
– One of only 13 councils in UK to maintain its 4-star rating from previous year
– In 10% of top performing UK council websites for second consecutive year
– Awarded Best Local Authority Website in the Country for ‘Search, Navigation and A to Z’
– Achieved Internet Crystal Mark
– In 2015 Socitm experts praised several areas of the website including the performance of the website’s search function and navigation
– In 2014 the ‘outstanding’ site was classed to have a ‘faultless’ A-Z and an exemplary site search.
– In 2013 the website was classed as one of the reviewers 8 favourite sites from over 400 websites. The endorsement was as a result of a concerted drive to improve the council’s website to make it easier for residents to find what they are looking for. Reviewers praised the approach and said it was a useful model for other councils to follow.
– Classed as one of the top 10 performers for what the public thinks when using the site search (Socitm). The site search engine is a critical navigational device for finding information and the most likely alternative to using the site’s main information architecture.
*Socitm, Society of Information Technology Management


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