November 17th has now passed, and so we’ve begun migrating new search boxes on to the UCL site. These new searches work with our Google Search Appliances, and allow us to customise and refine UCL search results.
One advantage of using the GSAs, which we didn’t mention in the previous post, is that they can give us far more information about how visitors use our search boxes. For instance, we were surprised to find these terms being the most popular search queries after we first began to migrate the new search boxes:
4. squirrel mail
7. term dates
Where were department names, news items, or members of staff? Generally, these were far lower in the list. It seems that the majority of searches at UCL were queries relating to specific IT services – particularly email. More amusingly, the top 100 queries also featured ‘squirel mail’, ‘squirell mail’, ‘squirelmail’ and a good number of other misspellings of the webmail system. Still more people are searching for these terms than almost anything else in the university, and assuming they’ve spelt ‘squirrel’ wrong, they’re not going to receive helpful results.
Thankfully however, the GSA allows us to add key matches to such queries (a bit like the sponsored links on the main Google searches), or simply arrange results listings to give more useful information for these quirks. There’s still lots to learn about how best to arrange the search engine results, and with users searching for over 50,000 unique queries in the last week alone, this could be a massive job. But if it helps users consistently get the information in as efficient a time as possible, it could be a genuinely useful tool for many in UCL.