Finding what you need: the power of Search

7 min readSep 24, 2018

We’re all used to using powerful and highly functional search engines online, so why should we expect anything less with an intranet system?

Photo by Chase Clark on Unsplash

In this Google-era, it’s easy to take Search for granted. The indexing of the internet, the trillions of algorithms and the democratization of the world’s information have all created a tectonic upheaval which has changed the world. But, not so long ago, alongside the whirr of dial-up and agonizingly slow transfer speeds, navigation around the intranet was based on URLs and hierarchical menus.

The result was a confusing mess that paved the way for some serious re-arrangement.

So as Google turns twenty, it’s safe to say that the behemoth has changed Search forever. But, their influence hasn’t quite extended across the digital workplace. If you really want to be reminded of how frustrating a poorly-performing search engine is, you only have to walk into any organization that hasn’t realized the true potential of intranet software. Even the most digital-savvy businesses across the world are home to badly-performing intranets hampering their progression.

Why is Search so important?

If you’re starting your intranet from scratch, you might not initially put too much emphasis on its search capabilities. You have a few policies and some important company information which can all be found via the menu. But, the longer it goes on, and the more documents, posts, blog, files, and information are added to your software, the greater the need increases for a good search function.

But what’s so important about Search? Why spend the effort on making sure you have a good intranet search feature?

Search can make a profound difference in how your employees work, how your intranet functions and the workload on departments. Great Search helps a business:

  • Find the right results
  • Save time
  • Save money
  • Boost productivity
  • Reduce frustration
  • Decrease admin demand
  • Reduce the workload on other departments

If you have poor Search on your intranet, you risk a decrease in the numbers of employees using the system, getting the right information and being effective in their jobs.

Best Bets

One of the ways Interact has honed its search capabilities is by introducing Best Bets, a feature which allows you to override the normal weighting in the intelligent search and bring your page to the top of listing for a particular term.

We introduced Best Bets as an effective way to stop the majority of bad search experiences and have designed it to perform better than simply using keywords and other metadata.

The feature can normally be assigned by an intranet administrator. However, if a search term is used at least three times within a ninety-day period which results in a user visiting a specific page, that term will be automatically prompted as a Best Bet.

Best Bets is an easy way of increasing engagement of your intranet — the feature attracts up to 20% more employees to the site. It delivers significant time savings, with users getting an immediate response to the information they need. This, in turn, drives greater adoption of your intranet and helps change old habits (such as storing information locally or contacting the appropriate departments directly, both of which risk version issues or an admin drain).

Lydia Jackson, Interact product manager says, “A site without Best Bets can expect to see 40% of users using search. However, sites with over 100 Best Bets can expect to see between 55–60% of employees using search consistently. Best Bets build trust in both the search and the quality of the content on your intranet.”

Best Bets in action

In a common scenario, your intranet may have twenty maternity-related content items; they are all relevant, but you want to control what people see the first time they have a maternity inquiry. HR have indicated that they want all people searching for ‘maternity’ to see the Maternity Overview and a Workstation Risk Assessment Form at the top of their search.

The overview gives people planning a pregnancy, or recently pregnant, a clear overview of all steps required. Meanwhile, the HR team handles numerous Workstation Risk Assessment calls and emails each month — some relating to maternity, some not — and would like people to self-serve, cutting down HR administration.

By making these pages Best Bets against the search terms ‘maternity’ and ‘pregnant’, they can help employees get up-to-date information instantly.

How does great search affect an organization?

Engaged staff results in a happier, healthier business, and an intranet is key to this engagement. But working with other organizations, we’ve seen that around 70% of employees did not use their old intranets, because their search experience was ‘awful’. However, using Interact software and implementing Best Bets has seen 50% of employees using search.

One of Interact’s largest clients, a household name with over 20,000 global employees, has seen incredible benefits from implementing Best Bets into their search function. Since its implementation, it has reported a 50% reduction in HR queries and a 33% reduction in IT tickets within three months of launch through effective search. This organization’s site has 11,000 users, meaning a lot of people are getting the answer they need far quicker, whilst HR and IT are dramatically reducing their admin burden fielding those questions. Now, they can respond to fewer mainstream requests faster now that employees are getting the correct answers through self-serving.

In an average business, customers typically see 35–40% of users using search on a monthly basis. However, those using Interact’s Best Bets feature can expect that to boost to 65–70% search adoption on a monthly basis. This figure surprisingly stands true across all industries from healthcare to manufacturing to finance.


The chain of US convenience stores had major issues with their legacy intranet before approaching Interact. With the old system, 36% of employees spent over an hour a day trying to find content to do their jobs (20,000 users). Many employees instead called Store Support because they can’t find the answers they have to know to do their jobs. As one Sheetz employee told us before the introduction of our software, “I often don’t know everything that goes on in the office or even in my department”

This time spent searching resulted in 7,200 hours across the company wasted daily, and with the average U.S. minimum wage being $7.25/hr, this meant a minimum annual loss of approximately $19,000,000 of revenue for the company.

Sheetz’s replacement intranet, Bob, quickly became the place where quality issues, questions, and experiences were shared online. This saved time, expanded the audience and increased awareness, as well as encouraged knowledge sharing across teams. The new system has allowed issues to be quickly identified and resolved — all saving time and money.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN)

Smaller organizations are also seeing the benefit, RCN report savings of nearly £3,800 per year through their search experience. Their old intranet lost users through its search which was criticized as slow and not containing the right results. Administrators were also burdened with the obsolete 4500+ documents within it.

Adopting the Interact search and in particular, Best Bets now not only saves time but thousands of pounds a year leading to increased productivity and more motivated staff, as Laura Wager, head of Internal Communications at RCN found out.

“I set myself the task of figuring out how much time the Interact search is saving us. A quick very unscientific test that required me to press start and stop on my phone’s timer, revealed that we were potentially saving seven seconds on every search. SEVEN SECONDS!
Our staff completed more than 6,000 searches in the past 30 days… Working out the average pay per hour for staff and the number of seconds saved, then converting these seconds (42,357) minutes (705) and then hours (11.8) told me that just the search improvements from our new intranet were potentially saving the RCN £2,868 a year. Wow.

It’s clear that using a functional and effective search mechanism on your company intranet is a no-brainer. In terms of employee engagement, and allowing the intranet to perform at its optimum, an easy-to-use navigation system is critical. One of the easiest ways to boost your intranet is to deploy Best Bets on to your search, and see the rates of adoption, engagement, and productivity — across the whole organization — increase.

This post first appeared on the Interact blog on Wed 5th September 2018.




Interact is a complete intranet solution that connects enterprises all over the world. We power internal communications.