Public & visitor feedback
Creating searchable content
This resource provides tips for making your content easier to find and rank higher in search engines. In general, these tips are about anticipating the terms or keywords your users are most likely to use when they look for your content.
This piece focuses on content in the Data Hub. However, much of this advice also applies to content that is not focused on data and reports.

Key fields in the CMS

If you want to make your content easier to find in the Data Hub, the 2 most important CMS fields are the Title and Short Description (subtitles). These are also crucial for search engines such as Google and Bing.
You’ll want to create titles and short descriptions that include terms your audience is most likely to associate with your content (keywords). While there’s no formula, here are some guidelines:

Titles

  • Use a phrase that summarizes the purpose of the page as succinctly as possible using words your audience will know.
  • You might also consider what first-time users might search, too. Users might see page titles before visiting your other content (including an Organization or Service page), so it’s important that page titles stand on their own without added context.
  • You want your title to be unique among Mass.gov pages. One way to find out if it is unique is to run a filtered Google search like this one: site:mass.gov Your Page Title.
  • Aim for fewer than 70 characters. Search engine previews truncate titles that are longer than 70 characters:
Google search result shows title being cut off
Example: Revising a title for specificity
Imagine a page titled “2019 Annual Report.” This is too vague to rank highly in a search, as neither a person nor a search engine algorithm will know what the report is about.
Slightly better would be “2019 Accidents Report.” However, this title is still vague: What kind of accidents?
Better still is “2019 Industrial and Workplace Accidents Report.” This includes keywords that people who are looking for information on workplace safety would use, and it lets people who are looking for data on traffic accidents know to look elsewhere.

Short descriptions

  • Add meaningful, high-level details and context that doesn’t fit in your page title
  • Short descriptions should complement titles. If a title summarizes what’s on the page, a short description provides more description of what the page is for and what you can use it to do.
  • Keep them to 1-2 sentences

Example: Using the short description to complement a title

The title “Annual Waterfowl Harvest'' has 3 keywords, but these are not the only keywords that visitors will search for. Many are probably looking for more specific information, such as the count of ducks taken in an annual hunt (or pheasants or partridge). You can use the short description to provide more detail: “See the number of ducks, partridge, pheasant, and other game birds taken by hunters each year.”

Examples of content where the title and short description work together.

Title: Data & reports on Serious Reportable Event (SREs) in health care
Short description: Massachusetts keeps track of events that result in harm to patients. You can download data that hospitals collect annually about SRE counts and types.
Title: Data on addiction services
Short description: View reports containing summary statistics about people who received services for substance use.
Title: Parole Board Reports
Short Description: Find annual reports from the Massachusetts Parole Board with data on hearings, releases, supervision, and more.

More ways to make data content more findable: Overviews, headings, and document titles

In addition to titles and subtitles, search engines place extra weight on content higher up the page and on headings. If your agency publishes content in files, then file names are important too, since they may appear in search results out of the context of the page(s) you post them on. Here are some tips for thinking about these components of your content.

Overview

Most Mass.gov content types include an overview field. For data content, the overview can be very useful, as it provides space to explain why the data has been collected. You can also list and describe the different datasets or reports that users can find on a page and define technical terms that are critical to understanding the data. All of this language is also helpful to search engines, because it helps them categorize your pages and decide when to show them to users.

Here’s an example of an Overview that builds on the page’s title and short description.

Title: Life-threatening allergies and anaphylactic events in schools
Short description: Download data about life-threatening allergies in public schools, including demographic characteristics of people who experienced anaphylaxis.
Overview: These data briefs describe counts of students and staff with life-threatening allergies, anaphylactic events, and epinephrine administration in public schools. Data includes breakouts by allergy type (food, latex, and insect sting), and the number of students with each allergy. Data summaries also include the demographics of students and staff treated for anaphylaxis, such as age, race/ethnicity, and gender.
The above overview describes some of the specific aims/details of the data. It also uses keywords that help the search engine identify the page if users search for things like "food allergy," "insect stings in school," or "latex allergies."

Headings

Where your title is a phrase that summarizes the purpose of the whole page, a heading is usually a phrase that summarizes the purpose of a section of a page. Like titles, headings should be descriptive and contain keywords that your audience would use.
Headings help us scan content more easily. They’re also an important component for assistive technology like screen readers. Users of screen readers may cycle through headings to navigate your content.

How to create headings

For content focused on data, there are 2 main ways to create headings: chronologically and thematically.
First, for pages that include long lists of reports, you can organize chronologically. Perhaps your headings might read:
  • Fiscal Year (FY) 2022
  • FY 2021
  • FY 2020
If you have many years of reports or datasets, you might also consider clumping them:
  • Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-2022
  • FY 2017-2019
  • FY 2014-2016
If possible, it may be even cleaner to combine datasets so all data is in the same csv or xls file.
Second, you may prefer to organize your content thematically, where each heading acts as a headline. An example of this technique is the 2020 Rideshare Data report, which includes such headings as “Impact of COVID-19 on Massachusetts Rideshare,” “Speed and Length of Rides,” and “TNC Travel Patterns across Massachusetts.” Readers can use these headings to more easily determine where on your page the content they are looking for is.

Document titles

It’s easy to forget that documents sometimes appear outside the context of the page(s) you post them on. But files can also appear in search engine results by themselves. For this reason, their titles need to be self-explanatory. A document titled “data report,” for example, might make sense if viewed on a page, but won’t make much sense to someone who sees it linked in Google or search.mass.gov.
You can revise document titles in much the same way you revise page titles. Start by imagining what your users would need to know if they saw the document in a search results (and not on a page). You can also try the same technique with a Google search to see if there are many other files or pages with the same name: site:Mass.gov My Document Title

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