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IBM Documentation SEO and Accessibility

Content Design | Site Analytics

Revised IBM's IMS Documentation and conducted site analytics reports to improve accessibility and SEO.

I was an intern for the Systems' Information Management System (IMS) Content Design squad during summer 2022.*

Google Analytics 360 templates

As a Content Design intern, my main priority was helping the Systems' Content Design squad update and enhance IBM's IMS Documentation. I oversaw the language translation processes, managed incoming revision requests from clients, and uploaded the updated content to the IMS Documentation site.

In partnership with those responsibilities, I also created Google Analytics 360 report templates for the quad to use throughout future business quarters. The goal in building the report templates was to help assist other squad members in "getting their hands dirty," so to speak, with Google Analytics 360. Most of the squad wasn't familiar with the analytics tool, and since there are important hit-scoping and session-scoping precautions to take when generating reports, I wanted to make sure their future metric calculations were accurate and designed appropriately.

One of the reports showcased the languages and browsers used to access the documentation site. For each browser and language, I organized the report to show the appropriate session-based information, such as session amount, users vs. new users, session time, bounce rate, and average pages per session. Once I applied geographic segments to the data, the squad and I better understood which browsers and languages were used the most in specific geographic areas. This led to more questions and curiosities about how development teams in other countries use the IMS documentation, and if there are ways the site can better encourage its users to engage with the internationalized accessibility accommodations.**

Analyzing documentation's usability and findability

Inspired by the enlightenments from building the Google Analytics 360 report templates, I petitioned to run a thorough look into the current IMS documentation's SEO and usability. I sought to compare previous reporting on the site's SEO and reference them to the current ones I just made, juxtaposing the current site statistics with previous ones to better prioritize the squad's future efforts in fixing SEO and accessibility. After receiving the green light, I began research to better understand the site's current searchability and user behavior.

Conflicts with tracking user navigation

Inspired by previous reporting conducted by the squad's senior intern, I wanted to uncover more information about user behavior on the site. The senior intern found that users don't prefer to use the table of contents to navigate if they can help it, which may represent some confusion and inconsistencies within the information architecture. Since most of their research was qualitative, I wanted to confirm their findings with more quantitative means and further validate their suggestions for improving the site's usability. I used site analytics tools such as Google Analytics 360, Google Search Console, and Hotjar to locate the appropriate metrics and information to assist the senior intern's findings.

In finding statistics on user behavior, I uncovered a small roadblock-- Google Analytics 360 can't properly track how people navigate throughout the site. As shown through the senior intern's work, most people choose to open up multiple pages of the documentation at one time, then visit each one to find the information they need. That said, I verified that this user behavior didn't ruin all the session-based information available (because Google Analytics 360 tracks session behavior using timestamps), and let the squad know of this. I suggested that the squad conduct its own usability tests specifically inspecting user navigation if they wanted better information about this navigation style, since the Google-funded analytics tools can't capture this information with enough detail.

The site's searchability

In the senior intern's reports as well, there were issues expressed with finding the IMS documentation website online, which was most likely a consequence of outdated SEO strategies. So, I focused most of my attention on strategies for revitalizing the site's SEO to better fit modern website crawlers. Using Google Search Console, I tracked the most common search queries used to find the IMS site within external search engines. I also focused on the internal IMS search engine, and uncovered that the internal engine rates pages differently than external engines, which may have been a contributor to some of the navigation issues expressed through previous reporting. Those search queries led to some intriguing "eureka!" moments among team members as I presented my findings-- the search queries showed how IMS documentation users, similar to the change in user behavior, aren't suited best for the current SEO strategies of the IMS site, both within its internal search engine and external search engines.

In the end

The Google Analytics 360 reports, paired with the study I presented on the site's current SEO and accessibility, helped direct the planning of future actions and research on the site's information architecture and overall content effectiveness. The squad's quarterly and yearly OKRs and KPIs already focused on improving such topics, and with the information the senior intern and I documented, the squad better scoped their future plans and executions of content strategies to focus on user behavior, information architecture, and search optimization.

*Since most of my work with Google Analytics 360 involved private information about IBM's website traffic, I cannot show any photos or screenshots of my work. That said, if you would like more details about the work I completed during my internship, feel free to reach out.

** While the metrics pulled from Google Analytics 360 may be useful in exposing potential problems with the site, further testing and inquiring is required to fully understand the situations at hand. As shown through the conflicts with tracking user behavior across pages, analytics tools have their limits. Further qualitative research and usability testing is always required to understand why those issues arise, and what the best solution may be.

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