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2023 in review

Overview is a search engine supporting one third of federal domains. This gives us a bird's-eye view of how the public interacts with government when searching a wide range of topics. This report presents our observations on government search during 2023.

The topics people search most on government websites remain fairly steady: taxation, benefits, passports, etc. They also need trustworthy information on topics that affect their daily lives, such as health, weather, and employment. Some years have atypical spikes of interest, such COVID-19 in 2020. And people always seem interested in’s information on space exploration and research.

Last year, we released a special report on website modernization, which told the stories of many of our customers as they moved through the phases of redesign. We also reported about how the redesigns interacted with search experiences and search engine optimization (SEO). This year, we are returning to a focus on search data.

  • 246 million searches queries
  • 32% of federal domains, including 54% of top domains
  • ~2,200 gov websites
  • 13 top topics
  • 365 days of connecting people with what they need

The top five search topics in 2023 were:

  1. Space
  2. Benefits
  3. Health
  4. Banking and finance
  5. Forms

Emerging trends in government search

The influence of artificial intelligence (AI) and related tools expanded significantly during 2023. As technologies change rapidly, searches on government websites remain a customer experience issue. We look forward to sharing more information over the coming months about:

  • Artificial intelligence in government search: We will explore the intersection of technology, website governance, and public privacy.
  • Search engine optimization: We will dive deep into strategies and techniques for improving SEO, tailored to the government context.
  • Our methods in search design and customer care: Our success is our customers’ success, and we will share our approaches to running our large, government shared service.

2023 top topics in search

The most common search needs in 2023 represent topics we see almost every year. (There were no spikes of interest recorded.) Each of these topics is discussed in detail on the next page.

We are pleased to share examples of how last year’s redesigns have improved the public’s process of finding information. Search patterns showed the redesigns resulted in meaningful change. Specifically, analytics showed a dramatic decrease in the number of searches for two common topics: benefits and replacing identification cards.

That means people are finding what they need more quickly and easily in the improved websites. Their need for search was reduced because of the upgrades.

Topic 2022 search total 2023 search total Percentage change
Benefits 33 million 13 million 60% decrease
Lost card 800 thousand 350 thousand 55% decrease


The decrease in search traffic around benefits directly reflects the Social Security Administration’s successful redesign that launched in December 2022. SSA focused their efforts on usability testing and supporting users’ ability to find information. Their goal was to get people to the right place as quickly as possible to conduct their transactions. They studied their website metrics and search data, and made sure the most frequent searches were prominently available in the new design and architecture.

The search traffic shows that SSA’s efforts paid off: As soon as the new site launched on December 6, 2022, their search traffic patterns immediately dropped to a new steady low level. People are now arriving at and finding what they need without searching as much.

The navigation experience is not only quicker and more direct at, the search experience is more effective, too: People clicked on search results more often, indicating it’s easier for people to identify what resources are most useful after they have run a search.

Lost card

“Lost identification card” has been a common search theme for years, whether it’s a lost passport, Social Security card, or other government issued identifier. Thanks to the redesign of, search traffic related to lost cards in 2023 was 55% lower than in 2022. “Replace card” is a prominent option on the homepage, and the first option on the Number and card page available through the main navigation. This is a victory for public sector usability.

Update on’s “renovation”

In last year’s special report we shared several of our projects to expand and improve our service. This work is supported by the American Rescue Plan.

Search filters

Most people have interacted with search filters on e-commerce websites. We built search filters for general websites that will work across multiple websites. To date, this has only been available to database-driven search experiences, like catalogs, or within individual websites using content management systems.. It will allow searchers to narrow results to their interests, based on tags that government experts have applied to web pages and resources. We were very excited to support as they became the first agency to launch this feature. We will build the interface and customer controls next.

Results page redesign

The majority of agencies who use elect to use the results page we provide, instead of building their own. During 2023, we focused on completing our results page redesign, and released it in beta at the end of the year. This redesign implements U.S. Web Design System (USWDS) components, and brings our look and feel into alignment with standards being applied across government.

Highlights include:

  • Choice of desktop header style, either the USWDS Extended or Basic headers.
  • Search tabs for selecting different results types are now below the search box, in alignment with all commercial search engines.
  • More specific color settings.

Sample of the new results page design.

Search results on for the term 'modernization'

Indexing improvements

To provide search results, we need to index data from websites. To index that data, we need to know what pages and files exist on the websites. In 2023, we resolved many backend processing quirks that made indexing some websites challenging.

  • We support more formats of sitemaps now, including RSS feeds and plain text files. Sitemaps, feeds, and plain text lists all help search engines know what URLs to visit for indexing.
  • We investigated and prototyped a spider, to support discovering URLs on websites that cannot post a sitemap, feed, or flat list.
  • We began exploring Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based solutions for improving content matching (recall) for searches, especially those containing strings of letters and numbers that are hard to provide spelling corrections for. After prototyping the tool most likely to achieve our objectives, we found that it was not performant at scale, and so early in 2024 we changed tack to use simpler approaches. We will continue to explore AI tooling in the future for different language-handling use cases.


The impact of user-centered work during website redesigns is clear. The data shows significant improvements in findability when customer experience is the foundation of the work. People can access important information more easily, either through navigation or search.

Over the course of 2024, we will share our experiences at the intersection of customer experience and search engines in a series of posts. Although search engines are complex, they are not magic.

If you are interested in integrating with, reach out to us at We offer support from the early stages of trying our service, through implementation, and beyond.

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