Most of my clients want their website search to work–they really do. But they aren’t sure how to get all the folks who create the content all over their organization to do it right. There is a simple organizational method to improvement–one that you’ve probably applied other places–that you can use to get an organization to work together to make website search work.

You get what you measure.

You’ve probably heard that quote before, but how does it apply to website search? If you create the measurements around the right things, you’ll create an incentive for good behavior that can improve website search. Your scorecard should reward the measurements that indicate success–higher volume of searches, fewer searches that yield no results, more search results that get clicked, fewer searches that bounce back to the search result page, and more searches that result in conversions.

You can calculate all of those numbers, but just running the calculations won’t be enough. If you announce to everyone that 23% of our searches get no results, they will say, “Aw, what a shame,” but it won’t make them do anything.

If you take it one step further, you will get action. If you announce that 22% of searches for Product A get no results, but 24% of Product B’s searches get no results, now the competition is on. If you go even further and announce that you are expecting that all product groups get their percentage of no-result searches under 20% by the end of the year, well, now you are cooking. I guarantee you that if you put some teeth in that announcement–such as execs get higher bonuses if their search numbers are good–you’ll suddenly see no shortage of execs prioritizing search improvement for their charges.

Don’t stand around hoping people will fix their content. Set up the metrics and the friendly internal competition to make it happen.