How search works

Increase the visibility of your pages and learn how to sort and narrow search results.

How does Mass.gov search work?

You can think of Mass.gov’s search as a filtered Google search: A Google search that only returns results from Mass.gov and other state government sites.

You can use the dropdown next to the search bar to narrow your search to a single organization's content:

You can also narrow search results by clicking one of these tabs at the top of the page:

  • News — shows News items (news, press releases, speeches) relevant to your search

  • Laws & Regulations — shows Advisories, Decisions, Executive Orders, Regulations, and Rules of Court relevant to your search

  • Services — shows Service Pages, How-tos, Service Details, and Guides relevant to your search

  • State Organization s— shows Organization Pages relevant to your search

You can also sort your results by

  • Date — orders results from most to least recent

  • Relevance — orders results according to what Google believes best matches your search

In addition, the “News” and “Laws & Regulations” tabs have their own sets of filters. When searching for news, users can narrow by type of news and a date range. Recently posted news will appear on the right.

Similarly, when searching for laws & regulations, users can filter by state organization, type of policy or regulation, and by date range:

How does Google know what’s relevant? (Does it think my content is relevant?)

You might wonder how Google determines which pages are most relevant to which search terms. Since Google does not publish how it figures this out, it’s hard to know exactly. However, here are few generally accepted guidelines:

  • Include keywords and terms in the title, short description, and throughout the page. Think of the search terms your users would use.

Examples: Use “get” instead of “obtain” and “stop” instead of “terminate” or “cessation.”

  • If you have to use a technical term, define it early in your content using the language your user would use.

Example: “Fill out a Form 3B, or the form that helps you apply for _________.

  • Make sure it’s easy to distinguish your content from other Mass.gov content. Some words, such as “license,” “apply,” and “form” are important for lots of government organizations. It’s also a good idea to Google your own content to see what comes up. You might even find a legacy page that should be redirected.

  • Google is allergic to broken links. Make sure yours work.

  • Google likes well-connected sites. It can be helpful to add appropriate links to related links and related services.

If you need help improving your search engine ranking, meet with one of Digital Services’ content strategists.

Why aren’t my pages appearing in search results?

There are several reasons your page might not be performing as well as you’d like in search results. If you’re following the basic guidelines described in the “How does Google know what’s relevant?” section, then the problem might be that Google hasn’t indexed your page yet.

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