June 2023 Newsletter
Search.gov Special Report
For the past several years, we have released a year-end report on search trends across government. This time we take a different approach, and tell the story of our many partners who launched redesigned websites, outlining the impact of redesigns on search and SEO. We also share the experiences of nine partner teams as they worked through their redesigns. Their stories represent the journey we are all on, and we’re grateful for their participation. In case you’re curious, 2022 looked like this in numbers: 291,392,854 queries
- ~2,200 gov websites
- 13 top topics
- 365 days of connecting people with what they need
Public needs for government information are fairly consistent year to year. In 2022, searches related to finance and banking emerged as a top topic. Some of the most searched query topics were:
- Savings, treasury bonds, and banking
Upcoming changes to our web results sourcing
Transitioning to our in-house index: more details
As we mentioned in our May newsletter, we will be accelerating our efforts to move search experiences to our in-house index in the coming months.
How to tell where your search results come from
Results API users: you are already using our in-house index. You can skip to the next section.
Hosted search results page users: run a search and look at the bottom of the results page. If you see “Powered by Search.gov” there is no action for you to take, and you can skip to the next section of this newsletter. Otherwise, these changes probably affect you. Read on for more information.
Our in-house index offers many benefits, including:
- Controls costs and maintains predictability in our budgeting process; allowing us to remain available at no cost to agencies
- Allows more and better quality control over search results
- Allows better maintenance of the index
Who is affected?
Going forward, we will use our in-house index for your search results if you receive 30,000 searches a year or more. This is a significant decrease from the previous threshold of 150,000. If your site receives fewer than 30,000 searches a year, we will consider leveraging a commercial search engine for your results. However, we encourage everyone to post an XML sitemap using available plugins for your websites, so we can index them easily ourselves as well as to facilitate more effective indexing by commercial search engines.
When are these changes taking place?
We are beginning analysis of all domains in scope of our service to determine how easily they can be indexed, including scanning for core Search Engine Optimization (SEO) elements. Any domains with a current, comprehensive XML sitemap, and good SEO will be transitioned this summer. We will reach out to you if we have recommendations or requests for technical changes to your website.
Resources for good SEO:
- How to get search engines to index the right content for better discoverability
- Metadata and tags you should include in your website
What do you need to do?
We encourage you to review the SEO resources above and plan updates if any elements are not already in place on your websites.
On the indexing side of things, we will take the technical steps necessary to support this transition, and if we have recommendations or need you to make a change on your website, we will be in touch with specifics.
Universal Analytics is Going Away
ACTION REQUIRED: Time to switch to Google Analytics 4
We want to remind you that starting July 1, 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits. If you still rely on Universal Analytics, we recommend that you prepare to use Google Analytics 4 now. Read more about this change.
How does this affect your search site?
Search.gov is connected to the Digital Analytics Program federated Google Analytics account by default. You have the option to include an independent Google Analytics tag on your search results page. If your search site still has the old UA tag, you will need to replace it with your new GA4 tag.
You can find your current live tag(s), and add your new tag in the Admin Center here: https://search.usa.gov/sites/YOURSITEID/third_party_tracking_request/new Reach out if you need help.
Search.gov annual survey closes June 26!
Every year our parent organization, GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, conducts a customer survey. This is one of the main ways we can learn your feedback, and let our leadership know what you think. You should have received an email with the subject line “How are we doing? Let us know!” from GSA’s address firstname.lastname@example.org. If you haven’t seen it, we would appreciate it if you could search in your email to locate it.
Please note that this survey is sent on behalf of Search.gov and other GSA programs, so it’s possible that the survey you receive may ask about a different service than ours. Regardless of the service you rate, we all appreciate your participation. It’s our understanding that reminders will be sent to those who don’t submit their responses. The survey closes on June 26, so if you haven’t had a chance to complete it, we ask you to please take a moment to do it. Also, please note that if you only recently set up an account with us, you may not have received this survey.
Review/Update Your List of Users
We will be conducting a review of our search sites’ authorized users, to be completed by the end of September. Similar to a user recertification process, we will be asking you to please confirm that the users’ names and email addresses listed on your search site(s) are correct, and if this is not the case, to make any necessary updates.
Like last year, this confirmation process will be managed using a Touchpoints form that we will email to you. New this year, the form will ask you to indicate for each user listed on your search site whether they are federal employees or contractors.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to help us with this request!
Want to learn about the latest features, fixes, and focuses of the Search team? We post monthly Release Notes on our website.