Public & visitor feedback
Site search on Mass.gov
Think of it as a Google search that only returns results from Mass.gov and other state government websites.

How does Mass.gov search work?

You can use the dropdown next to the search bar on any Mass.gov page to narrow your search to a single organization's content.
Use the search on any page on Mass.gov to narrow your search with filters
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
Search results appera in various ways, allowing users to sort custom
In addition, the “News” and “Laws & Regulations” tabs have their own sets of filters. When searching for news, users can narrow it by type of news and date range. Recently posted news will appear on the right in a desktop view.
News & Laws have their own tab filters on search results, with additional sort-by options
Similarly, when searching for laws & regulations, users can filter by state organization, type of policy or regulation, and by date range:
Search data range filter
Content previews that show up in search results depend upon how you set up your content.
Service Page previews include links to your Featured tasks. If you don’t use the Featured tasks field, these won’t appear.
Search results example
The same is true for How-to pages and the Quick actions field:
Search results example
Search results for Organization ages will include contact information and if you’ve included Locations, a link to a Location Listings page.
Search results example
News includes a posted date, an “eyebrow” or label identifying it as news, and whatever you’ve entered in the listing description field.
Law library content (Regulations and Decisions, for example), includes the date posted and an “eyebrow” or label.
Search results example

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 a 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 Mass Digital's 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.

Create a constituent-centered site search experience

As Commonwealth content creators, we often share this challenge: We have important information, and the people it’s for don’t always know where to look for it. Sometimes this is because constituents are used to unofficial terms for government programs and services: “food stamps” v. “SNAP benefits,” or “driver’s license" v. "passenger license.”
This happens outside of government, too. Most people don’t know the official names of laptops they buy, for example. But they do usually know who makes them, and they can find them by searching for the product maker.
This is also a challenge for content creators in government, though, since most constituents don’t know which department or agency is responsible for which content. Maybe they recognize the Department of Revenue, but not the Division of Local Services.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do in the CMS to help constituents find you and your content.

Make sure it's the right content type

The most basic thing you can do is make sure that you're using the right content type. For example, if you're using a Service Detail to publish news instead of a News item, your news won't appear when constituents choose the "News" filter. We've listed what content types appear under each filtered search in "How search works."

Choose Organization(s)

You’ll find the Organization(s) field at the bottom of the first tab in every Mass.gov content type, and in documents. This field tells Mass.gov’s search which pages belong to which organization. This is relevant whenever a constituent searches within an organization’s content using the filter to the left of the search bar:
Search results example
We've automatically populated the vast majority of Organization(s) across Mass.gov content. However, since this is such an important field, it’s a good idea to double-check that the information in it is correct on your most important and most trafficked pages.

Organization parent

Quick version: You can ensure your content also appears when users filter search results by the organization that’s hierarchically above yours in the state government’s structure. To do this:
  • Open your Organization page in “Edit.”
  • Find the Organization(s) parent field under the “Overview” tab.
  • Add the organization whose search results you want your content to be included in.
You should only add state organizations one level above yours. However, if that organization also fills out the Organization(s) parent field on their Organization page, your content will appear in 3 search filters: for your organization, for your parent organization, and for that organization’s parent organization.
Detailed explanation: You’ll find the Organization(s) parent field in the “Overview” tab on your Organization page. This field lets you include your content in searches for a state organization that’s hierarchically above yours, and that is more recognizable to the public. The advantage of this is that constituents won’t need to know exactly which sub-organization owns which content to find what they’re looking for.
To make use of the Organization(s) parent field, you just need to know which organization is directly above yours in the Commonwealth’s hierarchy. We call the organization that is 1 level above yours the “parent organization,” and the one that is 2 levels above yours a “grandparent organization,” and so on. Here’s a visual:
Organization hierarchy
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In the image:
  • Secretariat is the “parent” of Departments A, B, and C. If authors at these Departments added Secretariat to each of their Organization(s) parent fields, their content would appear in searches for Secretariat.
  • Department B is the “parent” of Divisions A and B
  • Division B is the “parent” of Board A Secretariat is the “grandparent” of Division B
  • Division B is the “grandparent” of Board A
Imagine that you work for Division B. If you wanted your content to appear in searches for Department B’s content, you would:
  1. 1.
    Open your Organization Page in “edit.”
  2. 2.
    Find the Organization Parent field under the “Overview” tab.
  3. 3.
    Add Department B.
If you also wanted your content to appear in searches for Secretariat, you would need to ask Department B to add Secretariat to their Organization Page’s Organization parent field.
Here are some real life examples:
  • The Department of Early Education and Care wants their content to appear when users search for the Executive Office of Education (EOE). They would add the EOE Organization Page to their organization parent field.
  • The Bureau of Health Professions Licensure wants their content to appear when users search within the Department of Public Health (DPH). They would add the DPH Organization Page to their organization parent field.
  • Grandparent organization example: The Division of Marine Fisheries wants their content to appear when users search for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA). They would add their parent organization, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to their Org Page’s organization parent field. Then, the Department of Fish and Game would add the EEA Organization Page to their organization parent field.
You can make sure that documents appear in one of Mass.gov's other filtered searches, too. To do this:
  1. 1.
    Find a document in the "All documents" menu.
  2. 2.
    Edit it by clicking the "Edit" button on the right
  3. 3.
    Scroll down to the Category field.
  4. 4.
    Choose the category you want the document to appear under: News, Laws & Regs, or Services
Note: Some documents won’t fall into any of these categories. To make sure that our filters are as useful as possible for constituents, please choose mindfully.

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