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Tips for Better Search Results in Your Policies and Procedures

Tips for Better Search Results in Your Policies and Procedures

Accessibility is one of the biggest barriers when applying policies and procedures to streamline business processes. If your employees can’t find the policy or procedure they need—when they need it—you might as well not bother writing policies and procedures in the first place.  Follow these tips to improve search results for your policies and procedures. 

Let's assume your operations content is digital and stored on a network, intranet,  SharePoint, or policy and procedure software like Zavanta.  If you are still working with hard copies in a binder on a shelf, this post is not for you!

Tips for Improving Search Results for Policies and Procedures

Optimize content for the search engine

You are already familiar with Google.  When we want to know the answer to a question, we Google.  It's not just a search engine; it's become a verb for  the word "search." Search engine optimization is a strategy marketers use to create content in a way that Google shows the content in the search results.

You can create operations content in a way that is also optimized for the search engine in your system. You may need to talk to your IT team about how the search engines work if you are using SharePoint or your intranet. Combine this knowledge with your users' feedback and how they search for operations content. Gather intel about how users come up with the keywords or document topics they enter into the search feature.  Are they using nicknames or company jargon? How often do they get unusable, unrelated results with no hits at all?

We were talking just the other day with a client whose organization had implemented SharePoint to improve access but found themselves still experiencing difficulties with keyword searches. Searches returned confusing results or none at all. People had difficulty guessing the right word or phrase to find the necessary information.

Poor search results in your policies and procedures happen when you don’t have controls in place to enforce consistent terminology for authors. Should I search for the vacation policy, annual leave policy, PTO policy, paid time off policy, or holiday pay?  Are these the same thing or all different things?

Standardize naming conventions

You see how challenging this is.  You can have the most robust search engine on the planet, but if your terminology is inconsistent in your content, you will be disappointed with the results. That’s why we designed our Zavanta software to ensure consistency right at the start so that easy and accurate searching is built right in. Authors have the tools and controls at their fingertips to ensure accurate search accessibility right when they are writing.

Work with your administrators to standardize naming conventions of documents to improve search results. Should it include the department name or abbreviation?  HR vs. Human Resources.  Should it include a document number or date? 

More tips to improve search results for policies and procedures:



As you are naming your documents, think through synonyms for the topic explained in the document.


Software programs like Zavanta offer this feature so you can tag a document with a term that will help support better search results. Synonyms make intuitive tags. 

Structured Content

Zavanta is built on a structured content model. Your P&P content is stored in logical chunks, so it's easier to find, manage, update, translate, and monitor.


Organizing your content into logical categories also supports better search results. Users can begin their search under the related category in your portal.  Categories might include department, location, or regulation. Zavanta categories fields are a powerful way to locate and index content.


If you organize your users into groups, you can streamline the content search results. Many of our clients use this approach to organize their content to only display content related to that specific group. Why should an employee in Ohio have to sift through compliance content for California?


A search filter requires upfront planning when organizing your content.  Instead of searching 100% of the documents in your system, a user can apply a filter based on pre-set terms, categories, etc., to filter the results. 


Allow your users to "favorite" documents they frequently access. This eliminates the time spent searching, and users can quickly get back to work. 

If you are currently using a plain word processing-based approach for writing policies and procedures, you’ve probably already run into problems with the searchability of your documents. Unless you are applying rigorous, labor-intensive reviews and clerical clean-up, consistency and standardization quickly evaporate. Because the process can be so expensive and often impractical, many organizations abandon the word processing template approach and begin researching tools like Zavanta. 

Please contact us to learn more about Zavanta policy and procedure software, our structured content approach, with guided authoring and operations mapping. 

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