Configuring the Best Setup for Keyword Searching

Without a doubt, searching using categories/topics will always retrieve the best results. Whether it is the topics/categories on your website or using the API with taxonomy terms or external categories, these searches will always retrieve relevant results. The data curators expend tremendous effort to index each record with the best taxonomy terms using the industry standard AIRS Taxonomy.

With this knowledge in hand, we always recommend having your categories/topics default vs the keyword search.

However, many visitors to your site will still want to use a keyword search. Especially in cases were a specific agency or program is sought and may not be immediately apparent what topic it is in or what taxonomy terms are used with it.

The Data Portal has several features that augment the keyword search to load topic results instead.

Keyword Options – Match Words

In the search results panel of the Data Portal there is an option to match words (or when using the API, setting “TermMatch” to “Words” enables this option). Generally we recommend to have this option enabled (it is also required for AIRS accreditation). This will ensure that the entered keywords match a word and not part of a word. For example if a user searches “aging” and this option is not enabled, results that contain “imaging” will also appear in the results. However with this enabled, it is also important to note that searching for something like “rec” will not match “recreation”, nor will plurals match, for example “service” will not match “services”. We leave this as an option as each website audience may differ and it may be preferential to use one method over the other.

There are also some advanced features provided (may not be visible in your admin panels) that allow you to force exact term matching. The search algorithm will only look for the exact phrase the user entered. This option can be configured for area served/proximity searches or both and is generally only used for specific use cases and not recommended otherwise.

Keyword Search Suggestions and Exact Matches

The search input supports quotation marks to find exact matches. If the user enters a search enclosing their search terms in quotes it will search for only that exact phrase.

When a visitor starts typing in the keywords field, suggestions will appear. Depending on what you have enabled, these can be your topics, names of agencies/programs and your custom search suggestions. For best results we recommend enabling all of these options. The agency/program suggestions are either based on your local record cache or the entire data set. If your web portal provides data from the entire data set (typically for Provincial configuration) this option is the best whereas if your site provides a subset of data or serves a particular geographical region then using the record cache is recommended. The record cache has to be enabled and is populated as visitors use your site.

In the search results panel of the Data Portal plugin, there is an option to use “Exact Search on Suggestions”. Make sure you enable organization names in the keywords panel. When a visitor searches for an agency/program and chooses a suggestion only the matching agency/programs will appear (the same effect as enclosing the search query in quotation marks).

Another helpful option is available called “Check for Exact Matches”. This runs a pre-check to see if the search terms match an exact agency name. If a match is found the search is converted to an exact search.

Using “Exact Search on Suggestions” and  “Check for Exact Matches” helps to minimize non-relevant search results when there is an resource that matches exactly what the user is searching for.

Keyword Matching

When creating or editing a topic, there is a section for keyword matching. If the search terms entered by a visitor match any of these keywords, the topic results will be displayed (vs doing a keyword search).

For example, if a visitor searches for “I am hungry” using a keyword search, very few results come up. The words “I” and “am” are useless and ignored and the word “hungry” doesn’t match in very many agency or program names. Entering in “I am hungry” (case insensitive) in the topic keyword matching section will make these searches load this topic.

This can be extended to the keyword auto-suggestions by adding “I am hungry” into the custom search suggestions in the keywords panel of the Data Portal plugin. As someone starts typing “I am..”, “I am hungry” will appear as a suggestion. This also indicates to the end user that it is a valid search and relevant results should appear.

The more keyword matching and custom search suggestions you have the more intuitive the keyword search becomes.

The keyword matching section within each topic also supports wild cards. This should be used carefully with thought as it could display irrelevant results. In the above example if we were to enter *hungry* to match any keyword search that contains “hungry” we can direct visitors to a specific topic. However if they search for “My cat is hungry” or “I am not hungry”, those will match and also show those results.

Include Coverage Areas

A relatively new feature added to the Data Portals (not yet available in the API) is the ability to include coverage areas into your proximity based search results. This will bring in records that serve the location as well those close by. A Community Table has to be configured to use this option in your search results. Generally this will be set as Ontario,Canada for sites that are based in Ontario so that resources that serve the entire Province or Country are mixed into the results. This is especially important for crisis lines and services with no physical address.